Origins of Fear: Silent Hill Interview
We go straight to the source to get the scoop on this spooky PSP game.
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Any company thinking about making a game for the PSP these days must first ask itself if it would be better to tread fresh ground or if it makes more sense to revive a classic from generations past.
Even for a company as highly thought of as Konami, the answer isn't immediately obvious, says William Oertel, producer of Silent Hill: Origins for the Sony portable:
"Initially when we were looking at this project and thinking how to bring this to the PSP, one of the early ideas was to take Silent Hill 1 and put it on this platform," he told Kikizo recently.
And it might have happened, were it not that, when you get right down to it, the PSP is a very different beast compared to, say, the PlayStation 2.
"The PSP is not a game console so we had to find other ways to increase the intensity and the atmosphere of the game, or at least make it equivalent to what people have experienced in previous games."
It's the relative ease with which Climax could translate that atmosphere that made the PSP a good fit. Oertel says a Silent Hill game on the DS would require a "really compelling" concept that would let the developers maintain consistency with the main series. But, he says, "I don't think anything is impossible."
While the series has flirted with various themes in the seven years since Silent Hill debuted on the PlayStation, the overarching one that extends throughout the games is tension.
Origins is being developed not by Konami itself, but rather by the Los Angeles arm of British developer Climax. The team is relishing the idea of telling an original story in such a respected franchise, but the freedom they've been given can be daunting.
"It's easy when someone tells you, 'This is your box that you can play in - don't go outside this box,'" says Oertel. There's no grand grimoire that the Japan-based Team Silent consults to keep the experience consistent. This leaves Climax with the tough job of trying to please not only the bosses at Konami but also the legions of Silent Hill fans around the world.
But there is an advantage to adding another chapter to a successful franchise: you can pretty much count on the audience having a certain level of knowledge, which gives you the opportunity to delve deeper by building directly on that.
True to this vision, the game gives players a chance to explore parts of Silent Hill they know while still giving them plenty of new areas to discover. Around two-thirds of the town is new, and the team is building the game with discovery of these unknown bits in mind. And since it's for a portable system, easy access is key.
"There's a lot of pressure on this project," says Oertel. "People shouldn't think that it is something Konami is taking lightly. A lot of people are working really hard to make sure we're setting a bar for survival horror on the PSP."
"When a special game or movie or piece of art comes together, it's the collaboration of many people, but it's more than just the output of their collective hard work. There's a certain spark that connects it. What comes out is more than just them putting in all their effort.