Interview with Adam Tierny and Tomm Hulett (Destructoid)
Date published: 2012.06.05
Silent Hill: Book of Memories certainly turned heads when it was first revealed, but the attention was not entirely welcome. The idea of a top-down dungeon-crawler set in the Silent Hill universe drew more than a little rage from purists, and ostensibly puzzled everybody else.
Konami, unfortunately, did not help matters. Very little has been seen of the game was due to launch last month, with many gamers not knowing a damn thing about it. We've seen a few brief clips and a couple of pictures, but no meaningful information.
Until now, that is.
Destructoid hit the E3 showfloor and sought out WayForward director Adam Tierney, as well as Silent Hill series producer Tomm Hullett, to get the full story on Silent Hill: Book of Memories. The wheres, the whys, and the hows, we've got the full scoop. It's everything you need to know about one of the strangest -- and most promising -- directions ever taken for Silent Hill, and it's right here.
The most pressing question would probably be ... why, exactly? It's a bold concept, potentially even alienating since it's a far cry from the survival horror people are used to. What prompted the decision to produce a dungeon crawling Silent Hill game?
Hulett: Well, to speak to the Insane Cancer in the room we didn’t start with "Hey, let’s do a dungeon crawler, what property can we stick on there?" It came from a much more organic place, with us brainstorming what a "Silent Hill on PS Vita" would mean. What features should we take advantage of? What fits? What is the PS Vita about, and how can we build off of that? So Multiplayer was the immediate no-brainer, and it gave us somewhere new to take things. And to keep the experience fresh as long as possible, we wanted multiple Otherworlds, so then the question is ... how do we accomplish that in the universe? That put us in this idea of the game taking place in your Dreams/Nightmares. How do you portray dreams? Well they’re random ... and on down the road.
Throughout that process, I was the hardcore SH guy screaming about how off the rails we were, and "oh think of the fans!" However, the themes we were uncovering (both from a gameplay and story perspective) were very compelling. Fun is what games are about (perhaps “enjoyment” is a better word with SH) and in the end that’s all that matters. So I ate my share of crow and here we are, with a dungeon crawler.
... but really, name a good dungeon crawler that ISN’T kind of scary. NetHack? Etrian Odyssey? Nope -- I can’t think of one either.
Tierny: I've been chasing after the opportunity to work on a Silent Hill game since I got into the industry. When WayForward finally got the chance to work on one, I have to admit I was a little surprised at the concept. "Wait, you're asking us to make a Silent Hill RPG Dungeon Crawler? What? Okay seriously, where are the hidden cameras?"
But the more WayForward discussed the idea with Konami, the more excited I got about the project. Metal Gear Acid works. Final Fantasy Tactics works. So why NOT an RPG dungeon crawler Silent Hill game? And this is a game that would play to WayForward's strengths, because what Konami wanted was very solid gameplay fundamentals, which are always at the heart of our games.
What is the narrative premise of Book of Memories, and how does it fit into the series' universe? Will players have their own storylines, perhaps even their own unique reasons for coming to the town? Is it a pure non-canon spin-off or will there be elements tied to the existing fiction?
Hulett: To your second question, this is a spinoff as far as gameplay is concerned, but it very much takes place in the canonical universe. We operate under the same rules as Silent Hill proper (rather than the SH:SM approach), and you’ll find notes that relate to the history of the town and its inhabitants. Fans don’t like to hear this because they worry it means future SH games will adopt BoM’s gameplay -- but hopefully Downpour has now proven that isn’t our intent.
That said, our core concept from the very start, was this is YOU in Silent Hill. Your PS Vita is somehow a portal into the SH world and this is YOUR experience. The plot hook is, Howard Blackwood shows up on your birthday with a package return addressed from Silent Hill. There’s a weird book inside, and when you open it you realize your entire life is written in its pages. Every memory you have, from birth to Howard showing up at your doorstep, is there in black and white (or sepia). You take the next logical step: you erase a line about work that morning and write in your own version.
Waking up the next day, you realize that your change has actually affected reality. Crazy! What else can you change, and will there be consequences?
Tierny: In addition to producing the game, Tomm was our writer and he did a really fantastic job with the story. The entire thing's dynamic, so what you name yourself, how you create your character, even your actions in-game all dynamically alter and rewrite the story continuously. We have the SH-standard multiple endings (including the joke ending, which takes some clever thinking to trigger), but this time those are being determined by a myriad of story systems that are in turn determined by your moment-to-moment gameplay. I think fans are going to really enjoy playing with the storytelling systems we've put together.
Are any gameplay elements from traditional Silent Hill games going to appear? Weapon durability, radios, environmental puzzles. What has been preserved from the main entries, gameplay-wise?
Tierny: Absolutely. WayForward made a tremendous effort to ensure that in spite of the different camera perspective and multiplayer focus, this would still be a very deep, faithful Silent Hill experience. Puzzling is done by collecting odd little trinkets throughout each zone, then organizing them in a particular way to open the exit door. All weapons have durability and/or ammo counts, and you can even swing firearms as melee objects when they run out of bullets.
At the same time, we didn't just keep everything from the previous SH titles out of reverence. This is a multiplayer horror action title, so we made content choices based on what would work best for a game in this genre. However, I do think fans will be very happy when they see just how many classic Silent Hill elements are in this game. Whatever your favorite previous SH weapon was (Hyper Spray, Great Knife, Sword of Obedience) it's mostly likely in here. The best enemies from the previous games, the best artifacts -- this game is a celebration of all things Silent Hill.
Hulett: To keep the game from being just a complete mess, we really approached the “SH factor” from two directions. One, what elements of Silent Hill can we bring over? Things like Scare Rooms, environments, sound philosophy, etc. What works in our game world? The other is, of course, here are good ideas that work well in a dungeon crawler ... how do we make them fit into Silent Hill? So it’s not baseless nostalgia and it’s not painting “Silent Hill” over unrelated gameplay. It’s firmly Silent Hill, but it’s DIFFERENT Silent Hill.
It’s kind of interesting as Adam and I have different approaches to Silent Hill. I’m very much the plot-centric, canon minutiae, let’s not screw this up cause the fans will KNOW guy. Adam is the “experience” guy -- he loves Silent Hill because of the times he’s had there, and he just wants to provide more experiences like that. I think both approaches are very evident in Book of Memories. We’re both Silent Hill nerds, but our different approaches balanced and enhanced one another.
As for the new gameplay, what can it be compared to? Is it Diablo with perverse sexual symbolism? Is it open-world, with main quests and sidequests? How far do the RPG elements run with things like leveling and loot?
Tierny: Oh man, where to begin ... I guess I would characterize the game as saying it's traditional Silent Hill gameplay, mixed with the dungeon-crawling of Diablo, the traditional RPG stats of something like a Final Fantasy (STR, DEX, AGI, etc.), and the weapon management of Dead Rising. But these different elements weren't all just tossed in a box labeled "Silent Hill." Everything was carefully filtered through the SH aesthetic and lore. So you don't wear armor, you collect 'artifacts' which are little trinkets and talismans you stuff in your pockets to boost your player stats. These objects were an opportunity to bring in even more SH lore, so some of the artifacts you collect include Mira's Dog Tag, a vial of White Chrism, and the Channeling Stone. It was fun to think about what sort of effect items like these would have on your character, based on their uses in the previous games.
Each zone in the game has its layout auto-generated, ensuring a completely unique gameplay experience each time. As you move through zones, you stumble across challenges, which are essentially single-room enemy gauntlets (sometimes with specific goals or rules). Completing these earns players puzzle pieces, which are then used in a very SH-traditional puzzle system (complete with obscure, poetic clue) to open the exit and move onto the next zone. In addition to this, however, there are plenty of additional goals such as completing a zone-wide mission, locating notes and TV broadcasts, finding loot (Memory Residue) which can then be spent in shops on items and weapons, hunting down particular creatures, experiencing strange special rooms, and more. All of these elements are also auto-generated (including the puzzles and their clues), so that the game remains fresh for players, even after potentially months of gameplay.
Hulett: My friends ask me what the game is like and I find myself namedropping their favorite RPGs, but it’s actually true. If you really searched you’d find similarities to Shiren, Vagrant Story, Persona 3, Phantasy Star Online, Diablo, and more ... but we didn’t arrive at this place by saying “Hey, let’s emulate X, Y, and Z cause those games are rad.” (At least not from the Konami end -- it’s possible WayForward did in their secret meetings but what do I know?) We designed a cool new Silent Hill experience and just ended up with all these mechanics that remind me of some of my favorite games.
Here’s an example, in creating our elemental system we found there are two colors that form an undercurrent throughout the franchise: white and red. Every single game, intentional or not, plays very heavily on these themes. So the two opposing forces at the core of our game universe are Blood and Light, indicated by your on-screen Karma Meter. And yes, it factors into the story like a morality meter but it goes much further than that.
As you move through the game the creatures you encounter will be aligned with either Blood or Light (and Steel, but those are a completely different beast altogether). Killing them spills out pools of the opposing element -- the messier the kill, the more Karma spills out -- and these will push your Meter toward one side. Once you’re firmly in the Blood camp, you’ll unlock very destructive abilities which allow you to decimate your foes. If you trend Light instead, you’ll unlock special abilities to heal or protect yourself and your friends. So while solo players will be more focused on how Karma affects the storyline, in multiplayer it creates a fluid class system, so players can kind of decide who will be the DPS guy and who will take a more supportive, healer role.
Tierny: In fact, most of our gameplay systems feed back into this "karma alignment" in some way. For example, you can unlock special skills in the game, which are used to manage enemies. One of the first skills you learn is the "Karma Flip" which allows players to turn every blood enemy into a light one, and vice versa. This skill proves essential in keeping your K-Meter filled up in one direction.
And I know the reaction of everyone reading this right now. "How is this Silent Hill?" Well, it is and it isn't. It's not exactly the same genre as the previous games, but it is 1000% at its core a Silent Hill experience. For example, we have 'Forsaken Rooms' which are bizarre little rooms in which the camera changes to a traditional SH view, and the player has to deal with whatever's occurring in there, in whatever way they choose. In the first Forsaken room, you find yourself in a child's bedroom. There's a little girl across the room, crying into her hands. You walk over to her, and she screams, vanishes, and reappears elsewhere in the room. So now what do you do? Do you leave her alone? Do you try to attack her? Do you chase her around making her vanish over and over?
Each Forsaken room has 3 different outcomes, based on the player's actions. Those rooms act like kind of a psych test for the player, as well as a sort of puzzle, requiring the player to experiment in order to accomplish all three outcomes. And that's fairly indicative of our approach with the game at large. Forsaken Rooms aren't lifted from any previous SH titles, but they're completely in the spirit of those games.
Hulett: Remember in Silent Hill 3, you’d walk into a room and there was a doll in a wheelchair, or a guy hanging upside down bleeding into a pail, or the infamous mirror room? Our Forsaken Rooms are reminiscent of those, but with much greater depth and gameplay to them.
What does the multiplayer entail, and are you attempting to still create an atmospheric, scary game despite the online features? Will co-op be drop in/drop out?
Hulett: Multiplayer and Silent Hill is an equation we’ve been thinking over for a long time. Early design docs for Downpour actually had a rough approach that would meld “playing with friends” into the traditional Silent Hill mold. What we realized is that it would take an immense development effort to pull off such a thing properly -- and we didn’t want to half-ass it just to have a bullet point on the back of the package.
Since BoM is on the PS Vita and has more of a gameplay-focused experience, it allows us to create a much more traditional multiplayer game. Think of it as sharing each other’s Nightmares. After all, the story doesn’t necessarily dictate you are the ONLY person to receive this weird book, and it’s all about exploring what effect such a ‘gift’ would have on the people around you. Multiplayer is just another extension of that theme.
Co-op isn’t drop in/out, you set up hosted sessions, however players should take note that you can switch between single and multi as much as you want. You aren’t locked into solo play just because nobody was online, and you don’t have to round up your friends every time you want to progress either. Silent Hill has never been more friendly ... ?
Tierny: In regard to making the game scary, that's definitely been one of the major challenges on this title. How do you make a multiplayer game, especially one with a zoomed-out camera, genuinely frightening? Unsettling? Atmospheric? How do you give players a God's eye view and still make them afraid? Early in development we tried more traditional SH camera perspectives, but they just didn't work for the type of game this was becoming. So once we settled on a Diablo-esque camera, we started to look into what we could do to make players feel as vulnerable as they do in any other SH game. This game does occur in a dream, and people are often empowered in their dreams (a theme we play with), but in order to succeed as a SH game we knew it was critical to make players feel a little overwhelmed and never too confident. And that generally came down to three things: atmosphere, dread, and threat.
Atmosphere was the easiest to nail of the three; just create creepy, subtle, detailed environments with plenty of implied story in them. Have creatures emerge in unsettling ways that catch players off-guard and make players unsure about where they can safely step (traps play a big part in that as well). Silent Hill games have always featured the most atmospheric, creepiest locations in gaming, so we really just looked to the previous titles for what worked and what didn't. We also vary the light values substantially from room to room, making your pocket flashlight pretty critical to advancing safely (just like the previous games).
Next was dread, which is absolutely key to the SH franchise. In SH2 when James drops deeper and deeper into the open graves, you get this overwhelming sense of "I don't want to do this, but I know I need to." You force players into situations where they're required to press on, in spite of their own insecurities and fears. You never let them get comfortable. In this game, the only way for players to survive the nightmare (or dream, depending on your interpretation) is to search for those challenges and puzzle pieces. A player might be down to 10% HP, have no remaining health packs, holding a weapon that's about to shatter. They hear their character's heartbeat racing (literally) and they know that breaking the challenge orb could unleash four Needlers that will very likely slaughter them. But they have to do it. There's a lot of those deep-breathing, "Okay, I can do this. I can do this," sort of moments in the game. Forcing players to push on in spite of their fears, uncertainties, and lack of preparedness is very true to the original SH games, and so this was very important to this product as well.
Finally, there's threat. How do you make Pyramid Head scary when he's seen from a topdown perspective? You do it by having him SHRED through your HP with every swipe. In this game, we start players off slowly at first and baby-step them through the first few zones as we teach the basic mechanics. The bubblehead nurses and double-head dogs they encounter cause damage, but not too much, and they're easy enough to put down. But eventually, you begin running into the "Heavies" -- Pyramid Head, the Butcher, the Bogeyman -- and these guys mean business. Just when players start to get confident in their abilities, we throw a brutal encounter with one of these guys their way to make players truly start to fear death. That's where the fear comes from in this game. Not just creepy fear (although there is plenty of that), but also the fear of running into one of these enemies, because every time players do, they know they're risking their life (and any progress they've made since their last save point). You're always one bad encounter away from losing 20 or 30 minutes of progress, and that's genuinely frightening. And of course, just when players start to learn the patterns of each enemy, and how to survive encounters with them, that's when we throw something even more brutal their way.
Hulett: I want to stress, the dungeon crawler is probably the single scariest genre without “Survival” or “Horror” in its description. That’s really the thrill of them, to be 20 minutes from your last save, down on resources, at a threshold where you must decide whether to turn back or keep exploring. After all, another save or rare loot could be behind that next door ... Of course, so could three Ghosts and a Bogeyman.
How does the character creation work? Is it just visual appearance, or are there character classes and stat fiddling? Will there be in-depth physical tweaks, or more a mix-and-match of pre-set body parts?
Tierny: There's a light class system. Basically, characters are broken down into everyday school archetypes: jock, bookworm, rocker, goth, and preppy. Selecting each of these changes your appearance, but it also changes what types of artifact slots you have. You can assign any artifact to any slot, but if you assign an artifact to a slot with the same stat, you get a boost. So the bookworm begins with more mental stats (Mind, Intelligence) while the jock begins with more physical ones (Strength, Agility).
Once you pick a class, you can customize your character's gender, face, hair style, hair color, outfit, skin tone, and accessories. Accessories are purchased from the in-game shops and range from traditional fare, like eyeglasses, to crazier, more fan-service items, like Robbie masks and Princess Heart earmuffs. And yes, for the people that have asked online, you can give yourself a "Pyramid Head." You're also able to name your character whatever you want, and that name is then pulled into all story components throughout the game. As Tomm said, you're playing YOU.
Hulett: Silent Hill is all about STORY, right? So the customization does cater further in that direction. This isn’t the difference between Male and Female Shepherd, for example. Every single class has its own unique voice, so you’ll actually feel like yourself in Silent Hill rather than just your gender with different clothes. And if you choose a name that’s already used in-game ... then the game will change and use an alternate name for that NPC. I think I really annoyed WayForward with the length I tried to cater to the player here, but hopefully it pays off after the unforeseen amount of work it took to fit 10 different character voices in and out of every possible scenario.
The different class personalities really shine in multiplayer, though. Similar to the online Metal Gear titles (among others), we have some pre-recorded communication messages that you can trigger to speak to one another (voice chat is supported as well, but some people are shy). Every single class has 40+ messages that communicate the same ideas, but in uniquely flavored ways. I worked at Atlus doing localization before I came to Konami, so it was nice to stretch those old muscles again.
Tierny: For the record, WayForward wasn't annoyed, heh. But it was certainly a big undertaking. And this is coming from the studio that wrote 19 different versions of the game script on Aliens: Infestation, and over 300 pages of dialogue on Batman: The Brave and the Bold. But you can't deny how critical story and script is to a series like Silent Hill. Even in a more action-focused entry like this one, we knew that it was essential to have that component as developed (and as organic) as everything else in the game.
Early images and artwork reveal a lot of references to older titles, with monsters like Nurses, Air Screamers, and even Pyramid Head being shown. Is the game going to be one big fan-service ride? Also, will there be any narrative justification for the inclusion of creatures specifically tailored to existing characters (such as the creatures of SH2 being inventions of James' mind) or are we going to just put such questions from our minds and roll with it?
Hulett: The long, canon answer is: yes, there is a plot explanation for why you are encountering creatures from past SH games (though it shouldn’t be such a wild concept. Walter Sullivan saw “the red devil” when he committed suicide, which is the time he became one with the forces of the town, but I digress).
The short, “go away, kid” answer is: this is YOU in Silent Hill, right? What kind of monsters do you think of when Silent Hill is mentioned? Nurses, Air Screamers, and Pyramid Head of course!
Joking aside, though, it’s worth mentioning our bosses are all-new creations that tie in specifically to Book of Memories' unique storyline. We’re keeping them under wraps for now, but they are definitely memorable.
Tierny: We decided to pick roughly two creatures from each of the previous SH titles, and those were selected based on a mix of which were memorable and expected (Nurses, Pyramid Head) and which had mechanics that would work well with the other enemies (Air Screamer, Needler). That said, the gameplay in Book of Memories isn't a carbon copy of any of the previous titles, so we evolved and adjusted the behaviors of each enemy, mixing what the fans loved about them with what would work best for the game.
The perfect example of this is the Butcher, from SH: Origins. In that game, he essentially served as a Pyramid Head replacement: slow-moving, powerful, methodical. But we already had Pyramid Head in this game, so we needed to give Butcher a new identity. We decided to turn him into our 'fast heavy.' So our Butcher has the same strength and power as Pyramid Head, but he's far quicker and more aggressive. He has some of his original attacks (like lifting the player up and stabbing them in the stomach) and he's got brand new ones that fit this style of game (like cleaver-tossing and a ground-slam).
It's a little more 'gamey' but taking into consideration the camera perspective, speedier world exploration, and multiplayer aspects, that's exactly what was needed. It was fun to find that balance with each enemy between the new and old. The end result is a fun blend of enemy behaviors that all complement each other well. You might be in a room where a Needler is backing you into a corner, while an Air Screamer circles the perimeter, a Ghost materializes from behind you, and a Straight Jacket vomits acid balls at you from across the room.
And our bosses (each brand new to this game, as Tomm mentioned) are pretty awesome. I've worked on a lot of cool boss battles at WayForward (it's one of the things we're known for) and the seven bosses in this game are the ones I've been most proud of. I can't wait to see the fan reactions.
Also, just because I'm a huge fan of him -- any chance of seeing Valtiel?
Tierny: Definitely! I'm a total Valtiel fanboy as well (someone PLEASE buy me the KonamiStyle statue!) Since his role in SH3 seemed to be caretaker of the Otherworld, we kept that theme going, making Val our 'quest giver' of sorts: assigning players missions at the start of each zone, and delivering a reward at the end (don't worry, he still doesn't talk.) Completing Valtiel's missions is the only way to unlock certain weapons and artifacts, and they're typically some of the coolest in the game.
What's the overall tone and theme of Book of Memories? Are you going for psychosexual depression a'la Silent Hill 2, or more of a straight up cultist/mythology vibe like SH1 and 3?
Hulett: The game has both actually. The core storyline is more psychological, as seen in SH2 and Downpour. But there’s plenty of lore relating to the cult and the town’s history as well. SH fans of any stripe will find a lot to obsess over and debate. I would say the feel of the game trends a bit more youthful (so maybe something like SH3), since our player is aged roughly at “college” age, but that doesn’t mean it’s a lighter game. The SMT series, after all, is plenty dark.
Tierny: My favorite character in the entire series is Heather Mason (Tomm can attest to my unhealthy obsession), and I found the characters in Book of Memories to be pretty reminiscent of Heather in their tone and reaction to the Hell around them.
Daniel Licht is providing the main score. Is it going to be similar to his excellent work on Downpour?
Tierny: I LOVE what Dan came up with for our game's soundtrack. This is the first time we (WayForward) worked with him, and the soundtrack he composed really impressed me. There are some similarities between the scores of this game and Downpour, but overall I'd say that Downpour's score was a quieter, more traditional SH soundtrack, while this soundtrack is a little more rocking.
Guitars tend to drive most songs, which works really well as the players are pretty constantly moving around. There are seven different worlds in this game, and Dan essentially created a completely unique musical style for each. My favorite of the bunch are the tracks associated with Blood World, which are absolutely haunting and yet very epic at the same time.
Hulett: I’m really psyched about the soundtrack, and I’ve had it playing in my car nonstop for a few weeks. I would actually disagree with Adam and say this is MORE what fans were expecting from the score that Downpour deviated from. While Murphy’s journey trended a bit more cinematic (which fit for that game), Book of Memories is more rough, crunchy, and “gamey”, which places it in a place more familiar to fans of Yamaoka’s work on the series.
Since Licht doesn’t really do video games (until Silent Hill obviously) I was a little worried, but he jumped right in and understood the game and the sound it needed. Adam and I were in the same room when Dan delivered his first track, and we were both blown away. (And, for the curious audiophiles out there, it’s available now! To Amazon!)
How long is the game going to run, and are there plans for post-game content such as DLC?
Tierny: I'm not exaggerating when I say that it's genuinely endless. Every element in the game (missions, enemies, challenges, puzzles, layouts, weapons, items) is programmatically constructed and distributed to ensure endless gameplay possibilities. Here's a perfect example of what that means: there are around 15 standard enemies in the game, each of which has its own checklist entry. But each of those enemies has 3 potential alignments (Blood, Light, and Steel). On top of that, there are rarity attributes that apply to any enemy, such as "combustible" (they explode when dying), "corrosive" (they wear down weapon durability much more quickly), and "dark" (completely silhouetted, and they kill your flashlight). There are 8 rare-type attributes. AND any individual enemy can have up to any two of those attributes at once. 8 rare-types, multiplied against the remaining 7 rare-types (plus the possibility of no rare-types) equals 45 rare-type combinations. So doing some quick math, we have 15 x 3 x 45, which gives us around 2,025 different enemies in this game. Now take that mentality and apply it to everything else in the game and you can see where the endless experience comes from.
That said, we framed the first 21 zones a little more traditionally, with an ending when you complete them. Even though each zone's layout and contents are randomized, you're progressing through 3 zones in each world type, followed by a boss battle. Playing through the first 21 zones of the game the first time through will probably take players around 15-20 hours, depending on skill and grinding. Then from zone 22 on, the game is completely randomized, and continues getting harder and harder the deeper you travel.
We also put great emphasis on providing players with both long-term and short-term secondary goals. The titular Book of Memories can be accessed anytime by pressing the Start button, and inside players will find a Pokédex-like catalog of every enemy (complete with rare-type checklists), every weapon, every artifact, and every story element they've encountered or acquired in the game. 100%ing each of these checklists earns the player a Trophy, and beyond that we have over 50 Trophies that offer players a wide variety of fun and challenging gameplay objectives (aka 'the Dead Rising achievements model').
Hulett: We do have some DLC planned for shortly after release. If the game sells well enough there of course can be more, and we have a huge wish-list of things to include, from really awesome series nods to crazier fanservice. But we need YOUR support! Do you want to fight Fukuro as Kid Dracula? Only YOU can make it happen!
Tierny: SEXY BEAM SHUPPATSU!
Book of Memories is a controversial game, and fans have already reacted quite venomously to it since it was announced. Was that daunting for you, to create a game for such a protective fanbase? Do you fear many fans writing the game off, and did you feel you had to be incredibly careful with the universe when contributing to it?
Tierny: Haha, I think Tomm's used to it by now.
Hulett: It’s practically a running theme in my career. When I localized SMT games fans were CONVINCED they would be censored. When we announced Contra 4 fans were CONVINCED it would be some kind of disaster. When I revived Rocket Knight fans were CONVINCED it would be terrible. And here we are, my fifth original Silent Hill -- we know how that goes. It’s like I feed off the hate. I of course went down my list of Silent Hill dos and don’ts during our initial kickoff meetings, and tried to impress on the development team what Silent Hill “meant”, and what made it tick. I’m the living breathing series bible -- it’s what I’m paid to do.
At the end of the day, I’m obsessed with lore. I was the kid on the playground discussing Mega Man backstory, the guy fitting the “Celda” debate into his college papers, and the nerdy friend who wouldn’t shut up until you spent an hour with him on MGS conjecture. I get the fanbase (any fanbase, really) and the last thing I want to do is betray what they love about whatever series it is.
At the same time, I’m slowly adjusting to the fact that these games HAVE to evolve or they will die, and as a hopeless fanboy -- I don’t want my favorite games to die. For the fans just outraged at the very thought of Book of Memories I want to remind them: the original SH ended with a blooper reel where Dahlia’s “actress” ran up and kissed the camera. That’s right there, at the origin of the entire franchise. I know Silent Hill is serious business, but that doesn’t mean it has to be SRS BSNS all the time.
Tierny: As for WayForward, this is our first Silent Hill title (obviously), although we've been dying to work on this franchise for some time. We actually came pretty close to developing a Silent Hill game on Nintendo DS that, sadly, was not meant to be (although a demo exists). Silent Hill is my favorite gaming franchise of all time, and Silent Hill 2 is one of my top personal games. So we were very excited (and honored) to be given the chance to work on this series by Konami. At the same time, we were well aware early on of the fire we would be stepping into with some of the more hardcore fans. I remember in one of our earliest meetings, Tomm told me, "Prepare to be hated." But you can't really argue with fanatics that say, "I love this series so much, I hope they never make another one." What can you say to someone like that? They've already made up their minds before they even saw the game.
I think what we came up with is going to please the majority of SH fans. No, it's not the same experience as Silent Hill 2, but then again what is? What we made is the most engaging Silent Hill game we could imagine. This is exactly the kind of portable, multiplayer Silent Hill experience that I (as a hardcore SH fan) would want to play. And accomplishing that required thinking very carefully about what a game like this needed, and not remaining beholden to what the earlier SH games did or didn't do. Everything that's in this game is here because it works well for this gameplay experience, and I personally feel that Book of Memories features some of the tightest, most enjoyable gameplay in the series so far (something that WayForward fans have come to expect). It's not your typical Silent Hill game, but it's not trying to be, and it's not replacing more traditional SH experiences like Downpour. Book of Memories is Konami and WayForward trying something new in the Silent Hill universe, and we're extremely pleased with the end result.
Finally, I heard something about the Konami code. Any clues on that?
Tierny: Well, it IS a Konami game.
Hulett: Let’s just leave that as a dangling carrot for rabid fans.