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Interview about Silent Hill: Shattered Memories

by Neal Ronaghan - December 8, 2009, 7:21 am EST

Tomm Hulett, Konami producer, reveals that there are no load times in Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, and that the game had healthy pre-order numbers.

We got to talk with Tomm Hulett, associate producer at Konami, about the Climax Studios-developed Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. The re-imagining of the first game in the series comes out today and is the latest survival horror game exclusively on Wii.

Nintendo World Report (NWR): What are the origins of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories? Why did you decide to go back to the original story?

Tomm Hulett (TH): There were a few reasons why going back to "the start" made sense.

First of all, we definitely wanted to make a Silent Hill game for Wii. We had a lot of cool ideas, so we just had to make it happen. However, it dawned on us that since there hadn’t been a Silent Hill exclusively for a Nintendo platform (outside of Japan), there would be a lot of consumers on Wii who maybe haven't ever been to Silent Hill before. It wouldn't be fair to throw them headlong into a continuing storyline, or the deep lore of the series, without giving them a starting point. So we decided to revisit the first game.

However, on the other hand we knew there would be returning fans–and they're very familiar with the original storyline, as it was at least touched on in three games and the movie. So how do we please both groups?

Well, we decided to re-imagine Silent Hill. It starts at the same place the series as a whole did–with Harry Mason searching for his daughter in a lonely, creepy town. But beyond that, we've completely changed the game so that returning players will have a whole new experience. We really play with their expectations. For example, the lead antagonist in the original game was Dahlia, the leader of the cult (and a haggard old woman). You can see in our trailers, Shattered Memories has a "Dahlia" but she's a hot young party girl. What's that all about? This is the kind of twist awaiting returning Silent Hill fans.

NWR: How was Shattered Memories affected by the other games in the series?

TH: Silent Hill is a very beloved franchise–and I'm one of its biggest fans. So are all the fine people at Climax. There are definitely nods to most of the classic Silent Hill games throughout Shattered Memories. I can't say too much, but in re-imagining the original, we did choose to focus on a lot of the psychological elements that entered into the storylines from later titles in the series.

NWR: Are there any plans to remake other games in the series?

TH: Not at this time, but anything is possible if people want it!

NWR: Why did you choose to not have any combat in Shattered Memories?

TH: When survival horror games started, they all had pretty terrible controls, and so fighting monsters was really hard to do. So that made it scary. And everyone pointed to that and said, "Look how scary it is!" But it was kind of a cheat. As technology got better and you couldn't get away with "purposefully" bad combat, survival horror as a genre slid further into action game territory. And now a lot of horror games are mainly about shooting ugly monsters with big guns. Not scary.

So the challenge was finding a way to scare players with good control systems that didn't empower them as much as a shotgun and scattered ammunition did. We settled on a sort of a "being chased by an axe murderer" system, based on horror movies that feature extended sequences of high tension action. Our creatures are far more capable than anything in Silent Hill's history. And you're trapped in these Nightmare sequences with a whole lot of them. They're all chasing you, and nothing is going to stop them from catching up to you unless you can somehow escape the Nightmare altogether.

It's a change from the old games for sure, but we're thinking it's going to be just as frightening as ever.

NWR: The Silent Hill series is well known for its disturbing creature design. Will Shattered Memories include any monsters aside from the child-like creatures in the E3 demo?

TH: We don't have a stacked bestiary like the old Silent Hill games, but the creatures we do have constantly evolve and change appearance based on the profile the game creates for your psyche. This means the creature chasing you will be unique to your own mind.

NWR: Will the game feature any bosses? Without combat, how will they be dealt with?

TH: I think when most people think of a boss they think of a giant monster that you have to hit a bunch of times. However, a boss is really a situation where everything you've learned up to that point is tested.

NWR: What aspects of the Wii's technology did you use to enhance the horror the Silent Hill series is known for?

TH: We tried to use as many of the Wii's cool features as possible. We obviously use the motion control for Harry's flashlight. At all times, moving the Wii Remote will direct Harry's flashlight. It's also used to throw off monsters if they grab onto you. Harry has a cell phone, which you can hear through the Wii Remote's speaker. This works both when you're calling people and for the series' trademark static effect. It should feel like Silent Hill is really invading your living room. Our goal was to make this the most immersive Silent Hill ever.

NWR: Would it be a good game for people who have never played a survival

horror game at all?

TH: I've actually seen a lot of comments from people online who generally avoid survival horror saying they are excited because the Wii features sound really cool in Shattered Memories. Hopefully they can work through their fears and experience a brand new genre to them! Anyone who enjoys horror films should easily transition into Shattered Memories, whether they've played all the other horror games or not.

NWR How do you feel Shattered Memories compares to other horror games? Does it have anything in common with the haunted house simulator Ju-On: The Grudge? Or does it have more in common with other games in the genre?

TH: I haven't had the chance to play Ju-On yet (I was busy finishing up Silent Hill), so I can't say too much about that game directly, but I think Shattered Memories is a bold new direction for survival horror. It focuses on player immersion and atmosphere rather than, as I mentioned, big ugly monsters to shoot with a big gun. There's also a very personal, mysterious story–which is something the series is known for. In the horror genre in film, there are so many different types of movies: zombie movies, slasher movies, thrillers, classic monster movies, etc. Hopefully we can reach a point where the horror genre in games can be just as diverse.

NWR: From what we've seen so far, the particle effects are really nice. How did you get them to look so good? Were there any challenges along the way?

TH: Thanks! The most challenging thing was probably getting the game to stream one-hundred percent of the time. Something people may not immediately realize until they go play another game after Shattered Memories is that we don't have any load times. We don't want players to remember they're playing a game and get knocked out of the experience, so things like "Now Loading" are gone.

Still, we've got a lot of data going on at any one time, so making this all work fluidly was a big challenge.

NWR: The game has been delayed several times. Can you elaborate on what the

extra time was used for?

TH: We wanted to make sure Shattered Memories was of the best quality it

could be.

NWR: After having spent lots of time with the Wii while developing this game, do you feel you pushed the system to its capacity? Is there more you would like to have included but didn't have time to implement? Is it possible that those features/elements could make their way into the sequel?

TH: There are small ideas that you always wish made it into a game, but I think all our big ambitions were achieved. A sequel would likely be refining these ideas before expanding them to new and exciting places. As for pushing the Wii to capacity... I don't know. It's a powerful little box. We'll have to see! :)

NWR: Now that you are done working on this game, what is next on the agenda? Will your next project also see a release on the Wii?

TH: For the near future, I'll be knee deep in Rocket Knight, which isn't for a Nintendo platform. After that, we'll see. I'm hoping to work on the Wii or DS again; they're platforms I'm very passionate about.

NWR: Are there any secrets (alternate paths, hidden items or characters) to be

found in the game? Anything that would call for a second playthrough to find?

TH: Of course! We have a ton of hidden things throughout Shattered Memories which a lot of players will miss when they first go through the game. Of course, we also have the psych profile changing various elements based on the player–so if you deliberately play differently you should have a new experience. We also have five different endings, so replaying the game is never a bad idea.

NWR: What are your thoughts on the apparent low sales of Mature-rated titles on Wii, and how did this affect the development of Shattered Memories?

TH: I think in general we see a lot of companies watering their games down for the Wii, instead of creating a compelling experience like they would on any other platform. But that tide seems to be changing slowly, so hopefully we can start seeing more fully fleshed-out games on the Wii. There's a lot of untapped potential there for immersion.

NWR: What are your expectations for sales of this game? How many copies need to be sold for you to consider this game a success?

TH: I don't think I'm allowed to comment about that! Our pre-order numbers looked very good, though.

NWR: What do you think of the state of third party affairs on the Wii? Which third party games would you yourself like to see developed on the Wii? What other games are you working on that you think would be a good fit for Wii?

TH: All the usual big franchises are probably games I'd like to see on Wii. Maybe a [modern] Mega Man game? In general I think the Wii is great for point-and-click adventure type games and first-person shooters. I'm surprised there aren't a lot more games in those genres available on Wii.

Hopefully Shattered Memories can help pave the way for full, "real" game experiences. Then everyone is a winner.

Special thanks to Tomm and Konami for the interview and their time!

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