Interview with Silent Hill 2 Team (Computer and Video Games)

Date published: 2001.07.09
Source: Computer and Video Games

Silent Hill 2 is storming towards launch, looking for all the World as if it has genuinely got one over on an army of development houses blithely claiming its projects scream innovation. The newly named Team Silent has created a monster, using contemporary Japanese music, some filthy imagery, subtle lighting and atmospheric sound to invoke the feature that has to be one of the hardest to attain in videogames: fear.

Adult gaming, the one aspect of the field so cruelly and criminally overlooked for so long, has never been so hot. Speaking in Paris last week, the KCET horror team finally showed categorically that its game will be the first in the interactive fear genre to be truly dubbed as "benchmark". Konamiis direction with the title points towards an area practically untouched by the rest of the gaming world.

"Whatever the media, people enjoy being scared whether itis in a movie or a novel," said Dave Cox, European product manager for Konami. "Classic Hollywood horror is as popular today as itis always been. Vampires, haunted houses, chainsaw wielding maniacs chopping up young virgins; itis movies such as cult classics Jacobis Ladder, David Lynchis Eraser Head and indie favourite Delicatessen that have really taken the dark route over traditional Hollywood fare.

"In turn horror games have been released already to varying degrees of success. But itis that deep, dark, creeping, insidious terror that has not been tried in videogames before… Silent Hill 2 takes the horror genre, and videogames themselves, into a dark and new territory where the imagination is free to run without limits. This is a grown up game for grown up people."The original Silent Hill was released in 1999 to critical acclaim. Fog-laden and tense, the game spawned what will undoubtedly be a truly sick sequel on the back of sales of over 1.5 million copies. Boosted graphically by PlayStation 2, the title features a completely new, branching storyline with multiple endings as it charts the unfortunate adventures of love-torn James Sunderland.Producer Akihiro Imamura, sound director Akira Yamaoka, and CG and character artist Takayoshi Sato answered questions from assembled journalists, confirming a November release date for the largest launch Konami Europe has ever attempted and casting serious doubt over the possibility of an Xbox version appearing this year.

You used the radio and the beating of the heart to create a feeling of fear in the first game. Will these appear in Silent Hill 2 or will there be something new?

Akihiro Imamura: We have incorporated new technology to create 3D sound, as well as the normal heart beating for the second game.

Akira Yamaoka: For the first time we have been making sounds that humans cannot hear, such as very high frequencies or very low frequencies and from this aspect we are creating fear. In answer to your question, in this title we are using the radio to create fear as well and thanks to the new hardware the sound quality has been improved in general and the radio noise is now really contributing to creating fear.

Can the team tell us about their personal nightmares? Do the memories of their dreams make it into the game?

Akihiro Imamura: Personally I suffer from sometimes from nightmares, but mostly we take inspiration all kind movies and novels, so to make it really appealing to the people, we get ideas from movies and novels.

You said at E3 you said that you'd support the release of Xbox in America with Silent Hill 2. Is that still the case, considering the release is going ahead in November?

Akihiro Imamura: We're doing our best to support the launch of Xbox.

Dave Cox: That's a "hopefully".

Does making the game affect the way of life of the team?

Akihiro Imamura: I always think how to make a game really fearful and evil, so I don't get too obsessed when working on this kind of title. I just think about how to make the game fearful for the player.

Why do like nurses so much? Also with Silent Hill 2, will there be the switching between two worlds, like in the first game?

Takayoshi Sato: Firstly, it's not like we love nurses, but the hospital is an important theme in the game. I don't think there are many doctors in the house: that's why there are so many nurses.

Akihiro Imamura: As for the second question, we do have a dark and a light world in Silent Hill 2. The answer is heavily connected with the scenario.

Are there going to be any more Silent Hill games?

Akihiro Imamura: Fortunately Silent Hill was a major hit for us so we decided to make Silent Hill 2. Now we are at the end of the development for Silent Hill 2, if we get a good reaction from the games players, we have to consider making Silent Hill 3.

The graphics are fantastic. Did you use actors and motion capture for the facial expressions or are they completely computer generated?

Takayoshi Sato: For the running portion [in-game play - Ed] we used motion capture, but for the facial animation and expression; we just thought how to convey human emotion. We did all of the facial animations by hand. They are not computer calculations.

How have you used surround sound to compensate for lack of visibility in dark areas?

Akira Yamaoka: We are incorporating 3D sound in real-time, so when you are playing you can hear a monster approaching from behind you. You can hear the 3D sound in real-time.

Do you not think that with all the CG animation that goes into these games that you're getting further away from making games and progressing towards making movies?

Takayoshi Sato: Generally there are movies, and there are games. I think this is a different medium. The technology, the expressions and the quality of the visuals n in terms of quality it will be just like a movie. However, a videogame offers a different type of entertainment than a movie. So, the content we will be offering you will be entertainment other than a movie.

Dave Cox: I think the fact that you're actually taking part in a videogame and in a movie you're simply a passive observer is the greatest difference between the two.

What are the primary differences between developing on Xbox and PlayStation 2?

Akihiro Imamura: Basically, we only began working on Xbox hardware recently so it as this moment it's very difficult to say which one is easier or harder. But the Xbox version is taking shape right now, so it's fair to say that developing on Xbox is easy compared to PlayStation 2.

How long will the game take to play through and how will players influence the different endings?

Akihiro Imamura: How long the game will take to play through depends on the player, but it'll be just like the previous version. We have previous endings in Silent Hill 2, just like the first game, but now the endings have different themes. So you will want to play the game over and over even though you are scared of the game.

Dave Cox: My understanding is that the endings aren't as obscure as in the last game.