Interview with Tomm Hulett (Siliconera)
Date published: 2011.08.26
Yesterday, senior associate producer Tomm Hulett spoke to Siliconera about Silent Hill: Downpour. Our interview picks up with discussion about the games puzzles before moving on to other Silent Hill games and what it’s like to for Konami USA to lead the franchise.
Siliconera: You know it’s been awhile since we talked. A long time ago we did an interview and you were talking about Devil Summoner and the 20′s slang. Did you write any creative dialogue in Silent Hill: Downpour?
Tomm Hulett, Senior Associate Producer: Yeah. I’ve been a Silent Hill fan since the beginning, so for me the series sounds a certain way. As senior associate producer, when we’ve got scripts if its from Tom Waltz (writer on Silent Hill: Downpour) or Brian (design director) or there are story objects people have written they pass though me for an editing pass. I am able to make sure they sound like Silent Hill should sound, to add legitimacy for fans of the series.
It would be kind of a letdown if they played this new game made by the same developer and it sounded different or it didn’t feel like Silent Hill. So, I’m kind of making sure that feeling is still in the game. I’ve written a lot of the story objects myself and that’s where I have fun stretching my creative writing muscles like I did with Devil Summoner. We have a difficulty level for combat that’s separate from the difficulty level for puzzles. Players who really like puzzles can turn that up or down and do puzzles the way they want.
So, we need different clues for different level of puzzles. I was able to write normal level for puzzles and then the easy level written as if a child had written the clue and the hard level written like an adult written the clue. It’s kind of fun to explore different ways when you’re writing three different versions of the same document.
Siliconera: Let’s talk about the puzzles and how you can dial the difficulty up and down. Can you elaborate more on how that works in Downpour?
Tomm Hulett: It’s something the old games did, [Silent Hill] 2 and 3, then it kind of went away for some reason. Some Silent Hill fans are in it to fight creepy monsters and some Silent Hill fans are interested in it for puzzles and exploring. Having two separate difficulty settings let you do that.
At the beginning of the game you can choose it. We may have it in the options screen, so if you’re in the middle of the game and the puzzles are too hard or easy you can tweak it. Generally, if you don’t like puzzles you put it on easy. The puzzles will be simpler, they will all still be in the game, but you may find elements there instead of having to search for them. The clues will be less vague on easy. Whereas on hard you might have to work out – Here’s a poem, what’s it trying to tell me? What do I have to work with? What does it mean? It might be really obscure. On easy it might just tell you yadda-yadda-yadda.
But, it goes beyond the puzzles in this game. Sort of a modern game concept that didn’t exist back then is objectives. You know I reach this point and a little thing pops up in the corner of the screen that says you need to go to the radio station. So, I’m like OK sweet I know that’s what to do. What we did here is because some players want that, they don’t want to wonder where to go. If you choose easy puzzle difficulty you have a lot of objectives that tell you – you should be doing this, go over here, get this item. If you have it set to hard there will be far fewer objectives. It’s not just a matter of puzzles getting harder, but the game as a whole will require more critical thinking on hard than easy.
Siliconera: How do you feel about heralding the Silent Hill series since Team Silent disbanded in Japan?
Tomm Hulett: Well, I like it because I’m a fan of Silent Hill! It’s a lot of pressure, obviously. Not just because of the legacy of the series, but also the fanbase is kind of insane, in a good way. I’m not insulting the fanbase, but they are very critical of anything. The slightest bit of news, if it’s worded the wrong way, you have two months of angry message board posts until you can clarify it. That’s hard because you have to really be careful.
It’s also good because we got to take it a lot of new places. I don’t know why it shifted in development, maybe they did all they could. By having it here in the West, plus using different developers we’re able to get a lot more ideas out in the open. It’s important to note, that Konami and myself on that end, we’re driving those games. It’s not like Konami is handing off the license and saying, "Give us a game in two years, I hope it’s good!" Everything goes though us and we really set the tone and theme of the game. It’s kind of scary because of the fans, but hopefully they can see we’re trying really hard and we’re trying to take it new places. You can’t just rehash the same game, so you have to stay true to the franchise, but do new things with it.
Siliconera: What’s scarier the fans or Pyramid Head?
Tomm Hulett: Fans dressed as Pyramid Head. [Laughs]
Siliconera: What can you tell us about Silent Hill: Book of Memories for PlayStation Vita?
Tomm Hulett: It’s just for the Vita and I’m heading it up, so I’m pretty excited. The key difference between that and other entries in the series is that it is multiplayer. For the very first time you will be in Silent Hill with other players controlling characters of their own. I can’t go into too many details about how that works, but it has been something we have been thinking about it for a long time. We were waiting until we could do it right. We didn’t want Downpour with a two player mode that was a deathmatch or something like that. We needed to have a concept that really worked as a multiplayer concept in Silent Hill.
Siliconera: Will we see familiar characters?
Tomm Hulett: You will see familiar characters.
Siliconera: How about augmented reality? It seems perfect for the Silent Hill series.
Tomm Hulett: We haven’t explored that fully yet. It would be really cool. Augmented reality is really exciting. It’s cool for me, so maybe we can put something in, but I can’t say one thing or another.
We’re also doing Silent Hill HD Collection is Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3, which were originally on PS2 remastered in HD. We’re also redoing the audioscape so you’ll have 5.1 [surround sound] music. We’re also redoing the voice recording for the whole game and that’s being direct by Mary Elizabeth McGlynn who was a vocalist on the old games songs and she is also in one of the games as a character.
Siliconera: Why wasn’t Silent Hill 4 included in the collection?
Tomm Hulett: We really wanted to focus on what we knew fans cared the most about since we needed to put in the effort to put them in HD, redo the sound, and do all these things, we didn’t want to give them something we weren’t sure they wanted 100%.
If you’re a Silent Hill fan you either love 2 or 3 the best. Here, you get both of them. Everyone’s happy. If they like the HD treatment, maybe there’s more in the future, but for now that’s all we’re concentrating on.
Siliconera: Since Silent Hill already has a game coming to Vita, are you planning on a 3DS or Wii U game?
Tomm Hulett: 3DS, I love. I’m actually really happy with the console. We could do something cool there. Downpour is in 3D, it has that option. Hopefully, if people like that we can explore it more on 3DS. Wii U, I haven’t had a chance to check out yet. I was driving to LA during the press conference and I couldn’t see it at Nintendo’s booth. I heard some things about it. I was in charge of Shattered Memories which was designed for the Wii. I thought we did really cool stuff with motion control, so I’m sure there are some cool things we can do a touch screen in front of you and you can take it with you. Hopefully, in the future I will get a chance to see it and we can come up with some cool stuff for Silent Hill.