E3 2001: Interview with Akira Yamaoka, Takayoshi Sato and Akihiro Imamura (IGN)

Date published: 2001.05.17
Source: IGN

Silent Hill 2 is coming very soon, and it has us very excited. Metal Gear Solid 2 may be stunning, and Devil May Cry may be cool, but Silent Hill is scary, possible the most frightening game we've ever seen. And that's just speaking from brief trailers – lord knows what the final experience will be like.

IGNPS2 was lucky enough to sit down with three of the leading staff on Silent Hill and Silent Hill 2 today, to talk about what they've done and what they're going to do – sound director Akira Yamaoka, CG and character artist Takayoshi Sato, and Team Silent producer Akihiro Imamura. The conversation was a little disjointed, as such things tend to be with such a large language barrier, but the team's commitment to creating a classic of interactive horror came through regardless. Here follows, then, some of the more interesting aspects of our brief Q&A.

IGN: Horror came back to a certain degree in American movies and culture in the last four years – what did you think of some of the movies and such that came out of that trend? Are you influenced by some newer specimens of horror, or older stuff?

SH2 Team: Well, we started Silent Hill more than three years ago, before most of what you're talking about. We draw our influences from all over – fiction, movies, manga, new and old. There's a manga by Morohashi...the title would translate to "Whirr," that sound, or something like that, that's a particular influence.

IGN: So what do you do to create the kind of fear you want to inspire?

We use the fog, and the darkness, to create a situation where you don't know what is out there. The fear is of something abstract – it's there, but you don't know what it is.

IGN: Can you say a little more about the S-FORCE sound library, how it works and what you're doing with it?

I can't say exactly where it happens, but we used it to give the feel of where enemies are coming from, even when you can't yet see them. For example, if there's a monster behind a door, you'll hear the sounds coming from the direction of that door.

IGN: What is it about a game that you think can make a more effective horror experience than movies or fiction?

A game is interactive. You don't just see it, you feel that you're part of it, you're in it, and so you invest more of your emotions into it.

IGN: Have the controls changed at all in comparison to Silent Hill?

Yes, we've added two sets of controls. One is the familiar R/C type of system, but there's also a Mario type, where you go in whatever direction you point.

IGN: What has the PS2 hardware been able to do for you as far as new ways to express the experience you want to create?

The machine is difficult to program for, but its abilities are almost limitless for what we're trying to do. In Silent Hill, we used the fog, darkness, and so on, and in Silent Hill 2 we use it as well, but the PS2's power lets us tweak the graphics with many small effects. You can add a little bit of something like motion blur, or particles, and it all becomes something that is even more frightening.

IGN: We don't mean to pry too much, but are the two games related in any way as far as their stories are concerned?

We do have to conceal some things, you know, but we can say that some aspects are related, and some are different. In the first game, we didn't mention much about the background of Silent Hill, but in Silent Hill 2, we add some more details to that background, and the history of the town.

IGN: Related to that, you had to play through Silent Hill a few times, so you could get all the endings and fully understand the story. Is Silent Hill 2's story progression set up in the same way?

No, it's a little different. In Silent Hill 2, we prepared a couple of different types of endings, but they're all "real" endings – each ending will give you a complete story. Your actions affect what type of story you see, though, and what some events mean – at some points, you'll make a decision, and that will send you down one way, where you could have gone another. These decisions tweak your perception of the story, though, more than actual events. Depending on which way you go, your emotions could differ greatly, and your point of view on the story could be different.

IGN: This is a bit of an odd question, but the developers of System Shock 2, an American PC game, always joke about how some members of the development team are too scared to finish the game. Has anything like that happened to you?

Well, our artists and programmers can never get their girlfriends to play it [laughs]. As for us, we're the most familiar with the Silent hill "gimmick," how the game works, what it does, but yes, parts of it still scare us. We enjoy getting scared...

IGN: Do you have nightmares about some of the scenes in the game?

We do have nightmares, but most of them are about developing Silent Hill, not playing the game...

IGN: One last question – who composed the guitar music in the trailer? Everyone always asks us where they can get a copy.

Yes, that's an original composition – all the music in the game is original, made by our sound director and sound team. The thing we want to make clear more than anything is that Silent Hill 2 is nothing but a horror game. But elements like a romantic story, love, human emotion, that can be part of horror, and music like that helps to make that element of it.