Alien: Isolation – Review

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(Reviewed on Xbox One)

In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream…With Joy!

You’d have thought that after the release of the pretty much universally accepted train wreck that was Aliens: Colonial Marines back in 2013 that it was a very real possibility that we might never see another game set in the Alien franchise ever again, let alone get a spectacularly good one in the near future. However, within approximately the space of two years, we were collectively proven wrong. Creative Assembly delivered Alien: Isolation in November 2014, and it’s one of the freshest, most inventive, and cruelly difficult survival horror experiences to hit PC and consoles in recent years. To cut right to the chase; I absolutely love it.

The fact that we even have a decent game set in the Alien franchise following the toxic aftermath of Gearbox’s abortion makes Creative Assembly’s excellent efforts even more incredible in my opinion; fair enough, Creative Assembly’s game had already been long in development when Colonial Marines launched, but Gearbox’s game left such a sour taste in fan’s mouths that it seriously felt like it had totally killed off any remaining appetite for another game in the Alien franchise.

That was before Isolation had chance to punch out of its incubating development chest cavity and terrorise the survival horror crowd.

But before we delve under the lovely smooth, sleek, glistening carapace of Creative Assembly’s excellent experience, let’s take a few moments to further explore the toxic context the game launched in. That’s right, the aforementioned big white elephant (or Xenomorph) in the room, Gearbox’s Aliens: Colonial Marines.

Game Over Man! Game Over!

Gearbox Logo

Back in February of 2013 when it launched at fan’s wallets like a money-grabbing Facehugger, Gearbox Software’s Colonial Marines delivered on none of the overblown and overhyped potential it promised, and displayed a disgusting level of dishonesty and deceit in the process. The game became the go-to industry standard example of appalling bait and switch tactics, underhand last-minute day of release review embargoes and before the glut of broken and unfinished games that washed up in the latter end of 2014, it was one of the most universally derided games in recent memory.

Whilst it’s by no means the worst game I’ve ever played (hey, wouldn’t that be a fun piece to write), it certainly isn’t anywhere near what I’d consider a good game, and certainly not one that lives up to the pedigree of the Alien franchise or the James Cameron film it’s supposed to follow (yes, you read that right, follow – it’s actually considered a legit part of the Alien cannon – fuck knows why). What made it so offensive in particular was down to the way the game was marketed; how drastically different the finished product was from all the pre-release footage and gameplay sections that Gearbox kept excitedly trundling out for both press and fans to see.

With the pre-release materials showcasing fantastic looking lighting effects, intelligent Xenomorph AI, awesome looking powerloader combat scenes and, can you believe it, lifelike marine squadmates to fight alongside, the game looked great. It was basically everything you could ever hope for in an Aliens game, and it looked like one that appeared to show a great respect for its source material. Yeah, I know, from what we saw in the E3 demos prior to release, that the game was not exactly doing anything drastically different or breaking new ground per se. It probably wasn’t going to be redefining first person shooters anytime soon or providing anything other than a cheesy rehashed plot of the film with even cheesier characters and dialogue. But all of that didn’t matter; it simply looked like a great marriage of a decent first person shooter experience mixed with the Aliens franchise in an exciting and respectful way – something fans had been clamouring to get their hands on for years.

With Gearbox at the development helm, things were looking very exciting indeed. A development studio with a strong history stretching back to the early ’90s 3D Realms days of Duke Nukem, and with a known pedigree for quality most recently affirmed with the highly-acclaimed FPS shooter/RPG looter Borderlands 2 which released mere months before Colonial Marines‘ launch, they seemed like the perfect choice of developer to finally do the Alien franchise video game justice.

In particular, it was the studio’s early work on the Half-Life expansion packs that garnered them a reputation among gamers for treating external franchise source materials with the utmost respect, diligence and care it deserves. In fact, Gearbox Software’s very first major project was 1999’s Half-Life: Opposing Force, a great expansion to the original Valve classic which basically was Aliens: Colonial Marines in all but name; you play as a soldier of a crack US marine platoon who drop into the Black Mesa Research Facility of the main game to wipe out the alien invaders running amok. Sound familiar?

With all these advantages behind it, what on earth could possibly go wrong with Colonial Marines?

Unfortunately, the answer was a lot. Things went very fucking wrong indeed. FUBAR, you might even say if you were a colonial marine.

Motion Tracker

In the end, Colonial Marines, for all its hype and hyperbole, was nothing more than a clumsily cobbled together series of Alien-themed shooting galleries, with mediocre…well, everything really. Aside from a couple of decent one-off horror/stealth themed sections, the game was a gloopy mess of poor writing, hopelessly inadequate AI, weak Call of Duty corridor shooter sections, massively mis-represented graphics, dull lighting effects and poorly-implemented co-op features to name just a few of its plethora of faults. Finally, to top it all off, if you did manage to heroically slog your way through the entire campaign, an unfinished bolt-on DLC tease ending was your final reward; adding yet another insult to a by now very much gangrenous injury.

Overall, there was just this great big lacklustre feeling of disappointment permeating every aspect of the game’s design. The final game looked nothing like what had been previously shown; in fact, it was a hell of a lot worse than anything we’d been previously shown. Amazingly, the short E3 2011 demo looked more entertaining than the final game, and it actually looked like progress had been going backwards between that demo and the finished product, with many features and scenes that had been stripped out completely.

Obviously, things are of course subject to change during the course of a game’s development – it’s why it’s called development after all – and tech demos and E3 presentations are typically small, highly polished vertical slices of the finished thing. But when there’s such a huge divide between the final game you buy in the shop or online and the work-in-progress materials that the game was shown off with – worse, the game looks far worse than the work-in-progress materials – then you know something has gone horribly wrong.

What made the whole debacle so offensive to fans though was the way that Gearbox appeared to have been blatantly lying through their teeth as they falsely advertised a product they knew was nowhere near what they had so eagerly promised for so long – they pulled the classic day of release review embargo trick, which is almost always a sign of something rotten afoot.

Today, if you go back and revisit some of the Gearbox Vidocs and PR interviews that were filmed during the development of the game, they’re just laughably bad and downright dishonest. Perhaps most amusingly, the Wii U version of the game, which was heavily promoted in the run-up to release as the ideal way to play the game (using the Wii U’s gamepad as a tactile motion sensor), and was purportedly going to be the “the best-looking console version of Aliens: Colonial Marines” was quickly scrapped only months after the negative reception of the PC and other console releases. The benefit of hindsight eh?

Unsurprisingly then, much like the wild spray of the Xenomorph’s acid blood from a close-quarters 12-guage shotgun blast, Gearbox Software’s Colonial Marines burned a deep bitter hole in the hearts and minds of many Alien fans; leaving a sizzling wound that can still be felt in the gaming community’s collective consciousness to this day.

Alien

It’s true; ask any gamer today what they think about Aliens: Colonial Marines, and they will likely hiss loudly at you, Xeno-style, before trying to scurry off into a nearby (because they’re always nearby) ventilation shaft. Okay, maybe not the ventilation shaft bit, but you get the idea. It’s really not a good game by anyone’s stretch of the imagination. Admittedly, all of this pain could have been avoided by fans holding off to read the reviews before purchasing, but as the press sites were embargoed until the actual day of release, many gamers (including chumps like me) excitedly (read: stupidly) rushed to pick the game up or had it pre-ordered like the fools we are. It became an industry standard reason why pre-ordering games is not a good idea.

Looking to the future, I don’t know if we’ll ever see a decent standalone tribute to Aliens in video game form, and, quite honestly, I’m not sure that we even need or really want one nowadays anyway. So many of the popular gaming franchises we have today have already borrowed so liberally and successfully from the Aliens action film blueprint – Halo, Quake, Gears of War, and Doom to name a few – that a specifically tailor-made Aliens shooting/action game feels almost unnecessary by this point.

Plus, like it or not, it’s kind of been largely done already in the Aliens Vs. Predator games. Unlike the AVP films that were released, some of the Alien Vs. Predator series of games were actually pretty good, usually on the human marine side of things at least (Aliens Vs. Predator 2 being my personal favourite). While not a dedicated Aliens game per se, the marine campaigns usually manage to offer some fun shooty-shooty bang-bang Xenomorph sections, which although they don’t exactly re-invent the shooter rulebook, are nonetheless entertaining if you’re a fan of either of the two mega Fox franchises.

Anyway, to wrap this prelude section up, that’s enough about my stupid spendings for today, but on a final point, I’ll leave Angry Joe’s humorous and spot-on review of the game here for more of the disappointing details (and, to be fair, some of the things the game did get right):

Get Away From Her You Bitch!

Ironsights

So a whole year before Isolation had even been announced, the damage had already been done to the Alien franchise in the gaming space; both to Colonial Marines itself and any lingering hopes for a future Aliens-themed game had been effectively nuked from orbit by critics and fans alike.

Not exactly ideal conditions for making a brand new creative endeavour in the Alien franchise then. However, much to everyone’s surprise, Creative Assembly were able to facehug the massive writhing body of disappointment and cynicism that was left in the wake of Colonial Marines, incubating a brand new experience in its predecessor’s still warm corpse (I know Facehuggers don’t attach to dead bodies, but just work with me on this one okay?)

Out from that mass of uncertainty ripped forth something amazing and new; a plucky and triumphant Hadley’s Hope in the dark looming shadow of the crashed promethean wreck of Gearbox’s failure. Developed by Creative Assembly, the game is, in my humble opinion, the finest game in the Alien franchise to date, and without a doubt the best Alien game you can play.

After such a commercial and critical failure, fans and critics needed an awful lot of convincing that Isolation wasn’t going to be just more of the deeply disappointing same. Far from it; Isolation is, if you will, the hulking jet black phoenix of claws, teeth and acid blood that’s risen from the carcinogenic flames of Colonial Marines, and in my opinion, it’s easily the best game of 2014, hands, claws and vicious spiked tail down. In a way, Isolation is like the hybrid Newborn creature at the end of Alien: Resurrection; it’s the dark and brooding sci-fi of the Alien franchise mixed with the tense scares of the survival horror genre – but unlike the Newborn, it’s a beautiful mix of styles that compliment each other so well.

If, like me, you get your masochistic kicks from being locked in what’s essentially a giant game-long horror house, then you’re in luck. In the words of the late great Donald Duck, “Boy oh fucking boy!” – you’ve come exactly to the right place. Alien: Isolation is an absolutely incredible game, and absolutely essential playing if you’re a horror game fan. The game is exceptional; in its vision, in its design, in the way it really manages to pull you in and really makes you feel right there and part and parcel of its horrifying universe. Whilst there are some aspects to it which I found to be slightly problematic, and places where the glossy finish of its finely polished exoskeleton fall away a tad, overall, my thoughts on Alien: Isolation are…well, I think some crude paraphrasing of the words of Ash are in order: It’s a damn near perfect organism, and truly one of the most unique and exhilarating horror experiences available in gaming today.

Perfect Organism

Alien Game Republic

“You still don’t understand what you’re dealing with, do you? Perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility. I admire its purity. A survivor…”

Purity is exactly the right word to use when describing the brave vision Creative Assembly had for Alien: Isolation, and just how well they managed to pull it off.

The game is a first person horror simulator, aimed at delivering a hardcore horror experience chiefly centred around the hardcore horror player. It’s a bold and risky move, particularly considering that this is Creative’s first go at a horror title, especially in an era when most mainstream horror titles tend to opt for tried and tested action/adventure gameplay simply dressed up in a horror skin to make it somewhat visually scary – i.e. The Evil Within.

It’s a risk that was well worth taking however, as Creative Assembly have not only managed to create a fantastic experience in Alien: Isolation in its own right, but also repaired a lot of the colossal damage that Colonial Marines wreaked upon the franchise in gaming circles. Like I say, I’m of the opinion that a straightforward Aliens first person shooter is probably a bit uninteresting and unnecessary by this point, but for those who do want such a game, Isolation will have definitely removed a great deal of the horrible aftertaste that Gearbox’s effort left in both fan’s and publisher’s mouths last February.

Ripley

Anyway, enough about that piece of hot mess, and let’s talk about the awesomeness that is Isolation. In a bold divergence from previous Alien video game efforts, Isolation by and large strips you of the atypical space marine power armour and pulse rifles you’re familiar with, and plants you firmly in the cream coloured Converse Hi-Tops of a civilian engineer. But not just any engineer – and no, it’s not Isaac Clarke in his civilian attire before you ask. You play as Amanda Ripley, the daughter of Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley – incidentally the same Amanda Ripley that you see as an old woman in the photograph at the start of Aliens. And no, as entertaining as the thought might be to square off against the alien as an elderly OAP, Alien: Isolation thankfully takes place quite a number of years before Amanda starts drawing her pension and clattering about on her zimmerframe.

Set fifteen years after Ellen destroys the Nostromo in Alien, the twenty-six year-old Amanda (who now works for Weyland-Yutani as an engineer) is sent along with a recovery crew to retrieve the Nostromo’s flight recorder, which has been picked up by the decrepit Sevastopol Station (operated by a Weyland-Yutani competitor, Seegson, who deal primarily in second-rate synthetics), and hopefully find out what happened to her missing mother in the process.

Naturally, things quickly spiral out of control, and Amanda and her team discover that things have been going horribly wrong on the Sevastopol for quite a while. There’s frightened and dangerous humans scuttling about, terrified out of their minds and ready to shoot anything that darts out of the shadows. A multitude of murderous, malfunctioning Seegson synthetics – a cheaper line of synthetics that are of a much lower quality than Weyland-Yutani’s models – are strangely going berserk and coldly killing off survivors and anyone they consider to be breaking Sevastopol ‘protocols’. Last but certainly not least, there’s something else thudding around the cold, dark corridors of the Sevastopol…something not right, something…alien.

Not Just Another Bug Hut

Sevastopol

In a refreshing change from past games based on James Cameron’s gung-ho sequel film, the design and creative vision for the game is an overtly big love letter to Ridley Scott’s original film. Rather than the objective being to shoot your way out guns akimbo, your aim in Isolation is beautifully simple; survive.

Alien: Isolation is designed to be an incredibly stressful survival experience, a painstakingly crafted virtual simulation of just what it would be like to be in that awful nightmare of a scenario yourself – trapped, alone and afraid whilst totally stressed out. As a result, it’s an extremely immersive and especially enjoyable gaming experience, one that’s full with horrific tension and dread pervading every moment.

The game is exceptionally difficult, and this is coming from someone who masochistically (read: idiotically) plays a lot of horror games on their top whack difficulty…well…when I’m feeling particularly brave that is. I’m not saying that trying to come across as some boasting dude-bro douchebag, it’s rather that I find that horror games in particular usually benefit from being played on the highest difficulty you feel capable of tackling, as you’ll often have an experience closer to the developers original intentions. For example, playing through something like Shinji Mikami’s The Evil Within on the Nightmare setting makes that game significantly more challenging and fun to play than on the easier difficulties, and, to draw from another Mikami example, Resident Evil feels like an entirely different game depending on what difficulty you play on.

The same can’t really be said for Alien: Isolation. For the most part, the game still sets the bar pretty high when it comes to difficulty, no matter what setting you pick (although technically there is now a recently patched in exception to this, but I’ll discuss that mode a bit further in).

Ripley Side

In this sense, I consider Alien: Isolation to be the Dark Souls of the horror genre (okay, look, I know that’s a rather hackneyed expression these days, but just go with me here). It’s punishing, frustrating, and at times, seemingly impossible. But, just like how From Software’s acclaimed series has become evangelised in the eyes of its devoted fans for its unforgiving difficulty, I can’t sing high enough praises for Creative Assembly’s bold decision with Isolation to focus on delivering a hardcore Alien experience for diehard fans, potentially at the cost of losing the casual audience’s interest. Creative Assembly were determined to make their game the most fiendish and realistic simulation of being stalked by an Xenomorph; it’s a nightmare gauntlet of stress, tension and blind panic – which to be honest, is certainly not for everyone.

The gameplay takes the shape of a first person survival/exploration horror game, very much in the style of games such as Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Outlast. While some first person shooter elements are thrown into the mix from time to time, the emphasis is firmly on stealth, hiding and exploration over shooting. Amanda is an engineer, therefore not combat trained and armed to the teeth for extensive intergalactic combat like your average colonial marine, no, instead she relies more on her wits and technological wizardry to navigate the crumbling Sevastopol Station in one piece.

Blowtorch

In fact, at times, it’s almost helpful to try and forget that you’re playing a survival horror game, and to pretend that you’re, once again, donning Big Boss/Solid Snake’s skin-tight sneaking suit, and playing a first person stealth title. Only without the cardboard boxes, chaff grenades and risqué adult magazines to distract the alien with, unfortunately. However, being an engineer, Amanda is rather good at MacGyvering together rudimentary devices to help her survive, such as smoke bombs to blind humans, EMP mines to short-circuit Working Joes and noisemaker grenades to lure the alien away from her current position.

Noisemaker

As a result, whilst playing, you’ll need to be constantly collecting scrap and machine parts and cobbling together the right devices to survive each perilous situation the game throws at you. The games resource system has a similar feel to The Last Of Us, where the same sets of resources are required to build multiple devices, requiring you to pick and choose the right item for the right context. Just like in Naughty Dog’s magnum opus, where gambling with the short term needs versus long term strategy was vital to getting through Joel and Ellie’s journey, it’s essential to help Amanda survive her’s as well. Do you save those sensors and blasting caps you’ve been hoarding for a bigger, more costly specialised projects such as pipe bombs or EMP mines, or is it better to make more of the smaller, cheaper throwables which are a bit more generally suited against all enemies?

Unlike Metal Gear Solid or The Last Of Us however, detection in Isolation is practically synonymous with death. Get caught by the alien and you’re absolutely screwed, but even just getting cornered by a synthetic or even spotted by a gun-toting human is still very bad news, and it’s practically lights out. In particular, the early hours of the game, where you’ve practically got no actual firearms and usually not enough resources to make an abundance of jerry-rigged survival items pack some of the most intense and pulse-pounding panic-inducing experiences that I’ve experienced in a horror game for a long while.

Flare

On this note, one of the common misnomers about the game that I think is worth pointing out early on is that though it’s marketed as a scary and really frightening game, it’s not really. If we’re getting nit-picky, I’d personally describe Isolation as more of an intensely stressful yet exhilarating experience rather than as a prototypical spine-tingling fright-fest.

While there certainly are moments in Isolation (both dynamic and scripted) that will make you leap out of your skin, personally, I don’t think that it is a particularly scary game. Not that that’s a bad thing by any means, it’s just that it’s simply not designed to be your typical monster-closet party or jump scare fright-a-thon, nor a brooding dark psychological horror mind-fuck. It’s pretty special in this regard I reckon, as it feels quite unlike any other horror game I’ve previously played.

Alien: Isolation is extremely good at being able to quickly ratchet the tension up to absolutely unbearable levels, making it both nerve-rackingly uncomfortable and electrifyingly exciting to play. The way Isolation manages to whip you up into an unbearable pressure cooker of stress is nothing short of incredible. As I mentioned above, its closest counterpart is probably Red Barrels’ excellent Outlast; both games rely on creating an overwhelmingly powerful build up of dread, one that’s so intense in its execution and release that you end up getting so worked up and stressed out that you actually stop being scared and just start blind panicking. Isolation makes you panic to such a degree that you’re having to fight your screaming instincts and reflexes just as much, if not more so than the horrors pursuing you.

In other words, from my own point of view, the age old fear of the unknown is what typically (and predictably) gets my teeth a-chattering in horror games, and with a creature like the alien, which has become such an increasingly popular cultural icon over the years since it’s debut, I actually find it quite hard to be genuinely afraid of it to the same degree that I originally was when I first saw Alien. Plus, the clue is in the title, so it doesn’t exactly come as a shock to find that you’re going to be spending a lot of time being stalked by H.R. Geiger’s beloved creation. However, the first few hours of your Isolation will definitely test your survival horror mettle to the extreme.

But just why exactly is the game so hard, stressful and intense then, I hear you ask? Well, unsurprisingly, it’s because of that ingeniously devious Xenomorph AI. In fact, that’s a slightly wrong distinction; all the AIs in the game run under the same umbrella system as it were, and therefore they are all impressive in their own special ways. But it’s that damn Xenomorph AI that will naturally have you the most worried and on edge as you play.

Clever Girl

Clever Girl

The alien is, of course, the star of the show. From the second you first encounter it, you won’t believe just how clever and cunning its AI is. In fact, the first time I came across the Alien in the game, I was extremely cocky and naively unprepared.

To put it another way, I didn’t last long.

The first time that the creature gracefully unfurled itself from the overhead vents of the Sevastopol, I was absolutely spellbound with dread. Instantly freezing to the spot, I watched its sinuously sleek black musculature ripple and slide out from the vent and pad gently down onto the cold metal floor. Pausing for a brief moment under the harsh strip lighting, as if to admire its own liquid grace, the creature slowly raised up off its ribbed haunches, its elongated head rising as it let out a long sustained sibilant hiss. It was an utterly terrifying moment that I’ll probably have burned onto my retinas for the rest of my gaming life.

As it took in the cold dark environs of the Sevastopol, it started to prowl around the room in search of its prey. Despite my silent horror/reverie a few seconds earlier, foolishly, I wasn’t all that immediately concerned, thinking that with it being so early on in the game, I’d be okay if I didn’t do anything stupid. Being a rather precocious bastard, I shuffled further forward into the brightly lit open waiting room in a stupidly nonchalantly manner, loosely hugging nearby walls and cover all the while confidently assuming that the alien couldn’t possibly have sensed me yet.

That was, until I heard a loud rasping hiss, followed quickly by a piggish squeal of delight; an animalistic announcement that the alien had indeed seen me, and I felt the cold rush of fear flood into my hands and feet. It was only then that I realised (altogether far too late at this stage) that I wasn’t looking at this specimen down the iron sights of a trusty pulse rifle…at which point I tried to run, thinking it couldn’t possibly have seen me yet. How wrong I was…

This is the first Alien­­-based game that I’ve played that I feel has truly managed to adequately capture the proper size and scale of the Xenomorph. She towers over you at a colossal eight feet tall. It’s a genuinely terrifying sight to see the alien in its accurate proportions up close, and the early hours of the game easily provide some of the strongest and most memorable moments, as you’re able to do little other than simply just hide from this towering monstrosity. You feel woefully outclassed by this towering apex predator fright from the word go…or, perhaps more appropriately, the word “Arrrrgh!”

Unlike the vast majority of other games in the franchise where the aliens slither about on the walls and ceilings, this monster stalking you throughout the Sevastopol walks upright on its legs. Hearing its heavy thundering footsteps thudding loudly on the metallic floors creates unbearable tension. Watching the creature’s vicious tail rasping along the off-white walls when you’re hiding, often with it being only mere inches away from brushing your face and legs, can make you want to run screaming for your life. Fighting the urge to not completely freak out when the alien is nearby takes an awful lot of practice and some seriously steely nerves, but it’s something that will have to be done if you want to make it through even the earliest missions.

In addition, learning just what the alien picks up on and how it tracks you is all part of the frightful fun. Much like in Resident Evil 3, when the shock of Nemesis breaking into the room behind you snarling “S.T.A.R.S.!” felt like a massive and horrifying invasion of player privacy, trying not to panic when you hear the beast thud down in the same room as you is a similarly petrifying experience.

Tracker Tram Lounge

Of course, this wouldn’t be an Alien game without the trademark motion tracker in your sweaty panicking mitts, and it’s your primary method of keeping rough tabs on the serpentine beast stalking you, not to mention other undesirables strolling around the Sevastopol. Quite possibly one of the scariest noises heard in a horror film/game, the minimalistic pings on the grainy screen of the motion tracker are your only way of keeping track of whatever threats are crawling or thudding around out of your line of sight.

The tracker also handily doubles up as your objective waypoint navigator, giving you an approximate sense of where you need to be heading at a glance. When it’s equipped, you can choose to focus on the tracker’s display, which cleverly blurs your long-distance vision as a trade-off, or you can glance upwards from the display by pressing the left trigger to shift the focus back to your environment, but in turn this now blurs the tracker’s display. It’s a clever balancing act, as it means you can never visually cover all the bases at once.

Tracker Blips

Crucially, the motion tracker is diegetic; in other words, it means that your enemies can hear its quiet pings too if they are close enough. This makes hiding even more of a nail-biting buttock-clenching fright fest; naturally I found this out the hard way…

What I found particularly interesting about using the motion tracker’s design is that if you rely on it solely as your main observational tool, you are most likely going to end up as a human shaped donner kebab on the Xeno’s tail in next to no time. Unlike in the films where the characters almost constantly have the trackers out and beeping away, as my above clip hopefully demonstrates, having your eyes glued to it for anything more than a quick glance can prove to be a very costly mistake.

During the early hours of the game, I spent a great deal of my time hiding in lockers, like in that humiliating clip above, peering through the slats and not daring to come out (not by the hairs on my chinny-fucking-chin-chin) for fear of bumping into whatever is out there making those chilling incessant blips on the tracker.

However, you quickly learn that if you just hang around waiting for the coast to be clear, that you’re going to be waiting an absolute eternity, and most likely picked off if you repeatedly stay in the same location or the same types of hiding spaces. Much like Outlast, hiding in the specific button prompt hiding places such as the lockers or storage boxes isn’t ideal, and they are kind of a false economy in many ways. They’re often located in awkward places, leaving you with a severely restricted view of your surroundings and, crucially, a reduced audial awareness; not to mention that just the basic animations of entering and leaving your hiding spot can eat up precious seconds of valuable hiding time, as well as creating more unwanted noise. Not only that, the alien will actually tend to pick up on the sorts of places where you most often try to hide; consistently make a bee-line for the lockers and the alien will get the impression that you like to cower in them Otacon style, probably also with a patch of urine soaking through your trousers.

As a result, I found using cover by manually crouching behind environmental props (with desperately crossed fingers), or crawling under obstacles such as desks and hospital gurneys when possible to be a much safer bet. These allow you to potentially correct your manoeuvres through tricky to cross open spaces if threats are extremely close by, and offer you altogether better vantage points from which to lob items and stage diversions so you can better escape.

Regardless of when and where you choose to do your cowering, once you pluck up the courage to leave your hiding place, you need to use both your eyes and particularly your ears if you’re going to make it out alive.

They’re In The Goddamned Walls!

Crouching

Speaking of those lovely sound receptacles we call ears, sound in a horror game is, of course, an absolutely crucial facet of the design. It’s a pleasure to say that Alien: Isolation has a meticulous level of attention to detail in the audio department. The run-down Sevastopol station is a faltering, rattling fortress of metal, plastic, wires and fibreglass being torn apart at its seams, and the care and attention that Creative Assembly’s audio engineers have lavished on making this dilapidated space station sound appropriately broken and battered is incredibly impressive.

Machinery clanks and groans as you squeeze through ventilation shafts, steam pipes (that are often sneakily designed to look like the alien’s sleek cranium) explosively hiss at your passage at the most inopportune times, and the distant muffled booms and the bumpy decompressive thuds of the station being violently buffeted about in it’s orbit can easily be mistaken for the muscular thuds of the Xenomorph closing up on you.

To invoke yet another comparison to Outlast again, like that game’s player protagonist Miles Upshur, Amanda has a fully rendered body and limbs, further adding to the simulation immersion, and she will also get startled, cry out in shock and pain and whimper in fright when things are getting unbearably frightening or painful onscreen. Her voice actor, Andrea Deck, does a great job of imbuing the character with a believable and empathetic persona, a scared but determined survivor. She’s much more frightened and spooked by events than her more cool under pressure mother Ellen in the films, which allows players to feel total empathy with her (as they are probably just as scared and stressed as she is).

Of particular importance is being able to tell when the Alien is wandering around in the vents above you (usually not an immediate threat), thudding along a corridor (an extremely immediate threat), or, most mischievously, when it’s sneakily camping in ceiling ducts and waiting for you to nonchalantly stroll underneath it. If you can play with a decent set of headphones or a quality surround-sound speaker set up, you’ll have a significantly improved experience from both an audio and gameplay perspective (and you’ll probably live a lot longer too). If you don’t…well, let’s just say you’re in for a world of pain. Especially if you haven’t saved in a while…

Manual Override

Pay Phone

You see, your greatest fear in Alien: Isolation, apart from the hulking black eyeless monster mercilessly stalking you, the hordes of glitching android goons going berserk and eager to squeeze the life out of you, and the other scared, twitchy and trigger-happy human survivors hiding in the darkness of the Sevastopol station, is that of losing progress. Alien: Isolation uses an old manual saving system – you can only save your progress at designated in-game save points, the Sevastopol’s payphone boxes. This means no automatic checkpoints or continuous autosaves running in the background; if you get killed in Isolation, you have to go right back to your last save. Considering that these pay phones are few and far between, and often pretty spread out at the best of times, this means that a death can cost you an awfully big chunk of time. Particularly in the earlier hours of the game, it’s often at least twenty minutes of lost time you’ll have to make up when killed, or longer if you’re unlucky.

This decision to go with a manual, in-game saving system, is, in my opinion, an absolutely genius move, as it pairs up so beautifully with the type of atmosphere and story the game hopes to immerse you in. Although it is understandably a point of intense contention amongst players – checkpoints and autosaves are second nature for many younger gamers today, so having those safety nets taken away is quite a startling contrast – I for one thought it was an essential feature, one that is deeply fundamental to successfully anchoring and absorbing the player in the simulation, fully plugged into the matrix if you will.

Losing your progress is the video game equivalent of death for the player, and at the heart of it, this is a large part of what you actually fear most when playing a game, no matter the genre or difficulty. Death is the closest thing to a punishment you can pretty much get in a game. You desperately don’t want to die, as it means that you’ll have to replay and redo everything you’ve accomplished since your last save. As a result, modern games try and minimise the amount of replaying you’ll have to do – using features such as the aforementioned checkpoints and autosaves to stop players getting frustrated at having to replay large swathes of the game again after a death/failure.

However, one of the few genres in gaming where a developer can really push the difficulty level beyond what’s typically comfortable for the majority of players and cultivate an attitude of perseverance in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds is the horror genre. By its very nature, it’s a design choice that appeals directly to the hardcore survival horror gamer first and foremost.

Consequently, you’ll either love or hate the manual save system. Much like Marmite for that matter. I for one love the savoury tang that I get when I crack open a fresh pot of the tasty toast condiment, and incidentally I also love the feeling that I know that I absolutely have to get to the next phone booth without being eviscerated, otherwise I’m going to lose everything I’ve done since my last save.

It’s a double-edged sword (much like any sword when you think about it actually) from a design perspective; do you cater to players who want greater handholding and friendly checkpoint safety nets in their experience, or do you balance things to better accommodate the hardcore masochistic horror game audience who want a punishing challenge with plenty of risk along the way? Although it might prove problematic for some, on the whole I think that the decision to strip away the autosaves and checkpoints that proliferate modern games was totally the right one for this experience, and it compliments the story and gameplay extremely well.

Alien: Isolation‘s brutal combination of a cunning alien AI, a weak vulnerable player protagonist and limited saving opportunities is thus the closest and most direct way of getting you to truly empathise and roleplay as Amanda Ripley. Yes, it can be controller-destroyingly frustrating when you’re seconds away from getting a save when you’re hoisted into an air vent or phallically impaled with the alien’s tail from behind, but that’s kind of the whole idea. You’re meant to be scared; you’re meant to be feeling vulnerable and you’re meant to be constantly dreading being discovered and killed at any moment – just like Amanda in the reality of the game. This design choice to go with a manual save system perfectly aligns the player’s desires and goals with that of the protagonist, and it does an incredible job of really pulling you into the world and universe of the game. She’s only got one chance, and whilst you’re playing, it’ll feel like you do as well.

Yes, this is a hard game. Yes, you will pull your hair out in controller-destroying levels of frustration and scream in annoyance rather than fright when that Xeno yanks you clean out of a wall vent, or bites through your cranium for the umpteenth time. But eventually…eventually, you’ll start to improve.

In a similar fashion to the way Dark Souls players always harp on about that franchise’s rule-driven gameplay, Alien: Isolation has its own important rules to learn. What at first might feel like a futile game of punishing chance will, with a bit of practice and patience (not to mention strong nerves), eventually feel like an intricate and pulse-pounding game of space cat and mouse. Only with a massive shiny black cat with sharper claws and retractable inner-jaws, and a mouse that can cobble together rudimentary gadgets on the fly, but you get the idea.

Once you’ve submitted to the inevitable masochistic hazing of fright and frustration that is the first few hours of the game, you’ll soon have your own rules and mantras drawn up in your head that you will religiously stick to, in order to prevent becoming alien food quite so frequently. Never Run. Avoid hiding in lockers if possible. Always keep your eyes peeled and your ears open. Never ever run. Attract the alien with noisemakers to deal with hostile human threats. Never ever, ever run. Hide in the vents to lose the synths. NEVER FUCKING RUN. NOT EVEN ONCE. NEVER!

As you get more familiar with the way the alien AI in particular works, the less you’ll find yourself being killed over and over again. After sinking a good few hours into the game and getting to grips with its mechanics, most of the times when I’d be killed would be my own fault; a momentary lapse in concentration here, a foolish mistake there or an incredibly basic no-no every now and again – such as RUNNING! NEVER EVER DO IT!

However, on the flipside, it is also possible to encounter glitches where the alien seemingly has a stroke and pauses mid-game, or gets stuck for some reason in the environment. I did encounter one annoying glitch where the alien ended up being stuck paused in front of a panicking gun-happy survivor I desperately needed the beast to eviscerate so I could move past, only for some reason it didn’t want to play ball anymore so to speak. It was pretty much the only instance where I actually wanted the creature to be even more lethal than it already is…or perhaps as this particular clip below shows, was.

Thankfully, a quick pipebomb throw soon sorted out all my troubles in one fell (but messy) swoop.

Happiness Is A Smoking Door Handle

Coffee Machine

Long before I was chucking high explosives at the alien’s shiny phallic head however, a great deal of my enjoyment of the game actually came purely from just exploring the Sevastopol station in a Gone Home open-ended manner, and getting caught up in the game’s beautiful design and art direction. The simulation-like focus of the game, combined with the work of Creative Assembly’s environmental artists and their impeccable attention to detail, have made the game not only a fantastic piece of Alien fan service, but also an engrossing and intricate metroidvania-style adventure.

Blue Corridor

In fact, CA have subsequently released a patch for the game which updates it with two more difficulty modes – an even harder Nightmare mode with a nigh-on sentient alien AI and even fewer resources, plus a Novice mode, which makes the alien much less curious and absent minded, with more resources in the environment to scavenge and more health for Ripley. Whilst you can’t exactly just doss about in Novice – the alien, even though it’s significantly lobotomised and less cunning, will still end you just as rapidly if it finds you – this is a great mode if you just want to go and explore the station at your own pace, and immerse yourself in activities that you really can’t afford to do on higher difficulties (such as reading the extended computer logs) without having to worry too much about a surprise abrupt head hole-punching to interrupt you.

Cutting Door Panel

The attention to even the smallest of details make Isolation‘s most basic mechanics incredibly enjoyable moments to be savoured at every opportunity. I never thought I’d say this, but the quick time events in Isolation when interacting with tech in the game are incredibly satisfying, tangible and weighty, and some of my favourite moments in the game. It’s true – I’m being deadly serious. Removing a heavy door clamp, pulling door release levers, charging generators, diverting power switches or hoisting out and priming nuclear cores all feel like appropriately stiff and bulky manoeuvres on your controller, ones that feel ever so appropriate in the Alien universe. They make navigating the Sevastopol a real joy, with each new door panel to cut open and bulky 1970’s style computer terminal to hack genuinely feels like you could be doing it yourself. It’s incredibly immersive, and attention to such minute and mundane operations like these really provide a fantastic contrast to the really stressful and horrific moments when everything is kicking off.

Pulled Lever

What tops off all these lovely interactive sequences is that the entirety of the Sevastopol is explorable throughout the vast majority of the game. It’s essentially a deep space version of Spenser Mansion castle, only much bigger, with a nightmarish alien stalking your every move, and murderous androids in the place of zombies. New tools that you acquire along the way, such as improved blowtorches and higher clearance hacking devices allow you to access new parts of the station, and completing the on-going objectives will usually unlock new areas for you to explore as well.

Windows

This is a great move, as it allows you at pretty much any point to return to a previously explored area to pick up any supplies you may have missed on your first go through, get to a hidden secret spot you might have clocked earlier or to try and find a safer alternative path to your next objective. As a result, there’s no level structure as such when playing, just different missions and objectives to carry out as you progress through the game. The interconnectivity and permanence of the various structures and departments of the Sevastopol really help to give the station a concrete and realistic sense of place.

What’s more, just because you’ve ‘beaten’ or completed an area doesn’t mean that it’s safe. Upon returning to a previously explored location, you might now find that a bunch of scared humans are hiding out there, the Working Joes might be doing routine patrols through there at the time, and you can bet your bottom dollar that your friendly neighbourhood Xeno is never too far away, only too happy to scuttle out of an overhead vent to give you an impromptu cuddle. You can never afford to relax or drop your guard, even in familiar or previously safe spots.

Hug

Frighteningly, that also includes whilst in those satisfying interactions with items and doors in the environment. In a lot of other horror games, you are often typically granted a temporary period of invulnerability when performing mandatory actions or activating gameplay specific objects, such as opening doors or activating a save point. These features are so ingrained into some games that it’s really easy to take them for granted without realising it, and it can actually be really hard to recognise them after a while.

In fact, quite often, these transitionary moments can usually be exploited to the player’s advantage in a lot of cases; in Resident Evil: Revelations for example, you can often temporarily avoid a multi-tentacled blow to Jill Valentine’s face by quickly opening a nearby door, as you are briefly invincible throughout the door opening animation. We are so accustomed as players to assuming we’re safe when performing the more ‘gamey’ parts of a title, that it takes a game like Isolation to tear down some of these long held adages we hold to be true and shred them to pieces.

While Ms. Valentine can use doors to grant herself temporal invulnerability, there’s no such luck for Amanda on the Sevastopol. Your constant vulnerability as Amanda Ripley is absolutely one of Alien: Isolation‘s many great strengths. You can be killed at any time when trying to navigate the Sevastopol, and you have to be constantly on your guard.

Door Hack

For example, at various points in your sneaking around the nightmarish Sevastopol, you’ll need to cut open door and vent panels with your blowtorch, and hack door keypad algorithms with your hack tool, often while a very real and physical threat is extremely close by. Tracing a cutting outline through a door panel with your blow torch or matching a basic sequence of 8-bit blocky symbols feel like overly simplistic minigames on their own, but when the alien or another threat is nigh, these activities can quickly start to feel like fiendish SAW traps of terror, particularly when you know you have to get that next door open RIGHT FUCKING NOW, or face another deadly disembowelling from behind. It’s a painfully futile and desperate exercise in trying to keep calm under pressure, and the adrenaline rush when you manage to just escape the snapping double jaws of death once again is unbelievably satisfying.

It’s An Animal. Animals Are Afraid Of Fire…

Flamethrower

Though Amanda does acquire a fair selection of tools and weapons over the course of the game (in addition to the devices and gizmos that she rustles up on the fly), you’ll still feel vulnerable and defenceless for the most part. Whilst wielding weaponry is certainly a valid and sometimes necessary option at certain points, firing off a gun or using a device usually brings the alien down on your head faster than you can say “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”

It’ll also be even faster than you can say “OH FUCK!”

Having no substantial firearms or ammo in the early portions of the game, and ultimately nothing close to hand that can take the alien out of action for good is a really inspired design choice, and one that’s not often explored in the Alien universe; one that’s well known for its muscly hardass marines with fancy pulse rifles tactical smartguns and an unlimited well of gruff gung-ho bravado.

Whilst there are some traditional shooter sections and various firearms that gradually become available to you as you progress through the game (my personal favourite being a meaty bolt gun which is perfect for scalping Working Joes), you quickly learn that combat really isn’t a viable option if you want to survive for longer than five minutes. Five minutes is being quite generous actually; I found that firing my revolver would dramatically reduce my life expectancy to about minus thirty seconds and counting.

This isn’t necessarily a problem when trying to sneak past a rag-tag bunch of humans, or slink past the Xeno as silently as possible, but when you’re directly confronted by a human or synth aggressor when the alien is also nearby, you’re faced with a tricky dilemma. Do you try and attempt to gun down the killable enemies first and try to hide before the alien arrives, or is it better to make a break for it and hope you’re not detected by either party?

Whilst playing stealthily is nearly always the best option no matter the threat you’re faced with, there are sometimes choice opportunities to play the different enemies off against each other, which is both amusing and really helpful to your cause. Fling a noisemaker into a pack of humans and get ready to watch the blood fly as the alien takes them out for you; it’s a dog eat dog (or should that be Xeno eat dog?) world on the Sevastopol.

The main gamechanger that happens in the weaponry department comes when you acquire the flamethrower, whereby the game shifts the balance of power quite significantly more in your favour. Perhaps, just a little too much in your favour. With the flamethrower in your possession, you stand a significantly better chance of surviving the wickedly cunning AI’s antics than before. Delivering short quick bursts of flame to its shiny domed head will often stop the alien in its tracks, usually forcing it to rapidly leave the area via a nearby vent post-haste, allowing you to be a tad more confident as you make your way through the Sevastopol. In fact, if you’re feeling confident and provided you’ve got plenty of fuel and know what you’re doing, then you can actually confront the alien in a restricted sense; rather than skulking around in the shadows, you can brazenly spray your way down a corridor, spurting a fiery onslaught of justice at your interloper if she decides to get too close.

Flamed Alien

Thus, your relationship with the alien becomes less one of predator and helpless prey, and almost equal adversaries. Almost being the crucial word. Flamethrower ammo is sufficiently scarce throughout the game however, so even though wielding the flamethrower can feel like you’ve been granted alien immunity at times, it’s often a fleeting feeling, and the weapon feels much more like a desperate last line of defence in your limited arsenal rather than an out and out weapon as it were. Plus, when you do give the alien a taste of its own medicine in the form of a fuck-you-flambé, it’ll only encourage it to come back and search for you, even more diligently and pissed off than before. Like with the other weapons, having to actually use the flamethrower is nearly always bad news, and something you don’t throw around lightly unless you really have to.

This Is Ripley…Signing Off

HeadbiteSo, after all these pages and pages of verbal gushing from me, it really must be a perfect organism in my opinion then eh?

Well…not quite. The slight gripe that I had with the game was that it can feel a tad too long at times – which personally feels like a stupid point to raise I have to say, but to be fair, it is quite a long sustained ride that you’re in for – my own first playthrough clocked in at about twenty five hours in total. With many games being released these days with story modes that can be finished in a few quick hours, or ones that have entirely jettisoned their story elements altogether in favour of multiplayer mayhem, what’s wrong with a game that relishes telling a longer and more substantial story then you might well ask?

Well, perhaps it’s not particularly the length of the game as such, but rather the pacing of it. Generally, I thought that the game was in fact, paced extremely well. Threats are introduced gradually at first; allowing you to get a feel for each attacker’s modus operandi, before terrifying combinations of human, machine and alien are thrown at you all at once.

Unfortunately, not all of those twenty to thirty hours you’ll spend in Isolation are as thrilling and intense as your early ones. Some sections really drag on for quite a bit, and things can’t help but start to feel quite bloated after a while. In particular, what doesn’t help is the fact that the game reaches an intense climax approximately halfway through, and then there’s subsequently a rather woolly period in the middle in which the alien isn’t a threat for an extended period of time. The atmosphere becomes tense in other ways, but, as you might imagine for a game that’s named after said alien, that things just aren’t quite as gut-churningly stressful without ol’ two jaws stalking you throughout the dark catacombs of the Sevastopol. As entertaining and tense as it is to sneak past just humans and Working Joes for a while, they don’t have a comparable onscreen presence, or elicit anything near the same panic response in the player that the alien does.

Joe Attack

Thankfully, like a ripened Chest-Burster tearing through the fleshy fibres of John Hurt’s chest cavity, your deadly nemesis does burst back onto the scene eventually. I naturally don’t want to go into spoilers here of course, but I will say that fans of Ridley Scott’s original Alien Directors’ Cut may have a good idea of just how far things head south in the later stages of the game.

Combine these pacing issues with the game’s brutal difficulty, and it’s the sort of thing that I can imagine could quite quickly feel like an overwhelming and frustrating obstacle to a lot of players. As you will die over and over again, even on subsequent playthroughs, the game can leave you feeling exasperated when you’re first getting used to everything and learning the rules. Having to replay the same fifteen to twenty minute (if not longer) segment of gameplay over and over again if you’re killed before getting to that crucial save point once again can really sap the tension out of that particular segment.

Shooting Working Joe

What’s more is that despite the long campaign run-time, and the many MANY violent deaths you’ll have experienced along the way, the game unfortunately doesn’t do a great job of tying things up narratively at the end. It unfortunately feels like another classic case of sequel baiting; something directly out of the Colonial Marines playbook if I’m being honest. Rather than a satisfying self-contained ending, you’re left with an annoying ‘to be continued’ sort of ellipsis. Whilst I’m pleased that this hopefully means that Creative Assembly are keen to develop a sequel, it is regrettably a bit of an anti-climax to say the least after what was an exhilarating rollercoaster ride of a game.

Ripley Front

However, as a big fan of the Alien universe and the entire experience of Isolation as a horror simulator (can you tell I enjoyed the game an awful lot yet?), I saw the long length of the game as nothing but a positive thing in my eyes myself. You got the impression that Creative Assembly were allowed to write and design their Isolation story exactly how they wanted it to be, with little external pressure or interference from publisher SEGA or 20th Century Fox to make cuts or alterations to their creative vision – which is such a rare and unheard of thing in this industry.

There’s even a delightful bit of extra story fan service included about halfway through the game, that mimics a particular early section of Ridley Scott’s 1979 film (and one of his later ones as well, wink wink), which isn’t necessarily essential to the main gameplay, it nonetheless is a nice touch for fans of the Alien franchise.

The game’s story never feels rushed or condensed, and I found that the longer than usual playtime allowed the plot to unfold naturally, and feel significantly less ‘gamified’ than similar titles I’ve recently played. Apart from the clipped off ending, I found the game’s long length to be an extremely refreshing change; it’s so nice to play a dedicated singleplayer experience, particularly in this era of bolted-on always online multiplayer modes.

So, to conclude, the twenty-five hours it roughly took me to do my first playthrough was such an extremely enjoyable marathon of simultaneous fun, frights and stress that I’ll never forget, and one that I’ll deeply treasure and hold up as a benchmark for future survival horror titles I’ll get my greasy mitts on.

Anyway, this is Tom…the last survivor of Alien: Isolation…signing off.

Tim Newsome-Ward Interview – Desktop Daydreams

The Corridor - Brain Tank
Standard

The Corridor: On Behalf of the Dead is Desktop Daydream’s first major 3D project, and it’s currently on Kickstarter and Steam Greenlight. The Yorkshire-based (Ilkley, to be precise) studio’s game concept definitely tickles my fancy in terms of what I look for in a good horror title; an oppressive atmosphere, with emphasis on mood and tension over cheap jump scares and an interesting story at it’s core.

You play as Ri, a specialist mental detective known as a Custodian, who has to enter the mind of a suspected serial killer, using the eponymous corridor technology of the title in order to find evidence of their crimes – think something along the lines of Christopher Nolan’s Inception, only in this game you’re going into the subject’s mind to find evidence, not to plant pesky ideas as it were. Oh, and there’s also a freaky plague doctor, a creepy baby and a grotesquely fat mechanical spider-legged man wandering around in there as well to keep you company. Lovely.

I got the chance to sit down with Desktop Daydream’s Studio Director, Tim Newsome-Ward, and talk in-depth about their game, the inspiration behind it, and how horror fans can expect to be scared out of their minds…quite literally I suppose in this case.

TB (Tom Bennett): How did you first get started in the industry?

TNW (Tim Newsome-Ward): I never thought about getting into the industry until about 2007-ish. I’m a massive gamer and gaming fan, I’ve been hugely into games all my life. I was working on a building site for my brother who’s a contractor, and I thought, I’m a bit bored, I need to do something with my life, but what did I want to do exactly? That was the question.

I had worked in IT, and built computers and things like that, so I was a bit technical, but it was never really what I wanted to do. So I was looking around and, weirdly enough, I nearly joined the army – I got in to do counter-intelligence in the army as I got really good scores on my battery tests! Shortly before that happened though, I went on holiday, and I was reading an article in Edge or Games™, about games courses at university – I didn’t actually realise that you could do a degree in Games Design/Games Studies.

I was like “Ah” – it stuck in the back of my head. I got back from my holiday and I thought, right, I’m going to apply to that instead. So I sent my information off to Bradford University, I went for the interview and was offered a place pretty quickly. I couldn’t believe that I’d got in really, it was so quick.

So I was then on this BSc course doing Games Design and Interactive Systems, which was great. I learnt a mega amount, and that was my route into the industry, and that’s where I met the guys I work with now.

TB: Speaking of university, you were the Lead Developer on Big Tidy Up as a student, which won various awards from the 2010 Game Republic showcase – could you tell me a bit about that project and how it came together?

Big Tidy Up - Title Screen

TNW: Oh yes! That was a module in the final year of university, and it was called Design For Industry. We had five of us students come together in a team, and we had to approach someone in the industry and pretty much ask, can we make something for you?

So one of our team members Kwame [Bannerman] approached Keep Britain Tidy, the charity, and said we’re a team of university students, we’ve got this module – would you like us to build you a game? Have you got an upcoming campaign that we can relate the game to?

He got a reply from Keep Britain Tidy, and they were doing the Big Tidy Up campaign at the time. They had three themes that they wanted to get across to people; there was dropping litter out of cars, picking up dog poo…(laughs) and recycling was a massive thing. The idea behind it was that we had to fit those three themes within the gameplay. Because the age range was so massive for the game, we had to come up with a way of fitting all those themes into something that would be appeal to everyone. It took a long time, but we came up with the idea that it was going to be local multiplayer, so that everyone could get involved, and that it was going to have a cartoony theme. We took those three elements, and we came up with the three game modes of Wastefall, Carnundrum and, of course, Poodamonium.

We wanted to keep the games quite short and competitive, with all these weird power ups in, like bringing shutters down on the others’ view of the screen. The design phase took ages, everyone contributed really well and there was a really good dynamic to the team.

Big Tidy Up - Wastefall Gameplay

The guys on the team were great. We had Louie [McLaughlin], who was our Primary Coder, Chris Owens, who I work with now, who was an FX coder, and Chris Trott and Kwame did the artwork. I did the design and fitting all the team stuff together. It was a really good experience. They actually coded the engine from scratch, and it was a full-blown project. When we presented it for our final module, it got really good praise and it fulfilled the brief – It’s all about the brief really, integrating with what the Keep Britain Tidy campaign was about, and the game fitted that brief perfectly.

We got a first for the module, and afterwards, Kaye Elling, our tutor at the time, approached us and asked if we could enter this Game Republic event. I don’t think any team from Bradford University had ever been before; I think they might have just had a couple of individual students who went along previously. We had no idea what to expect, but it was absolutely amazing because there was Rockstar North there, Stewart Gilray and Just Add Water, Team 17, Sumo Digital – all these big guns in the industry!

We had to set up our little booth and get all the artwork up, and the first people to come up to us were Rockstar North, and they asked us what we had got – we were just totally not expecting it. They sat down and played Big Tidy Up and had a bit of a laugh, then Martyn Brown [Team 17 Co-Founder] came over and enjoyed it, Stewart Gilray [Just Add Water CEO] loved it – yeah it was really interesting. We got to the end of the night, when the awards were coming out. The award for Game Design was first up and we came second in that, we got first place for technology, second place again for Best Team, and third place for Game Art. It was just so mind-blowing because we were up for every award, and it was quite humbling really, because these guys who have been in the industry for God knows how long, doing all these amazing things, were saying we were pretty good. We were pretty chuffed with that.

TB: I downloaded it myself and I thought it was pretty good too!

TNW: I’m glad you liked it – we didn’t intend to release it on Xbox Live actually. When we finished university, we did some extra work on Big Tidy Up. Kwame did that intro video after the Game Republic event, and Louie did a lot of extra work to get it ready for Xbox Live. I think we did some extra design work and stuff like that, but it was mainly those guys who took it and put it on Xbox Live. It was cool to put it on there. It was really challenging getting environmental issues across in a game, but it works, and I’m glad people enjoyed it really.

TB: What were your early inspirations and influences as a gamer and developer?

TNW: I suppose my influences were, from being really young, Nintendo…I had the Amiga, the Commodore 64, Commodore 16s, Ataris – those really early Atari 2600s. I used to love sitting and playing on them. The games that I really remember are ones like Final Fantasy VII, that was amazing, the first Tomb Raider, the first Silent Hill – those kind of genre defining 3D worlds were absolutely mind-blowing. That’s kind of where I got into it – I think that’s where it triggered something in my head about wanting to go into Games Design. I’ve always been a massive movie and comic fan too, so all these influences sort of simmer away in the pot that stirs around in my head all the time! It’s the same with the guys I work with.

TB: On that note, how many people currently make up Desktop Daydreams altogether then? What different roles do they have, and what influences do they bring to the table?

Desktop Daydreams - The Team

TNW: There’s myself, Darren Flowers is our Creative Director, Chris Owens who is our Programmer/Coder/Scripter and Andreea Lintaru who is our Animator. We all get involved in the development and design process, we all sit down and do the team meets and go through ideas, chuck ideas out, that sort of thing. It’s quite a tight team actually, we have had other people who’ve worked with us in the past, but that’s the core team with where we’re at with this project.

In terms of their influences, Darren’s especially into that original PlayStation and Dreamcast era. Chris is a bit younger, so he’s more into the PC gaming world, and Andreea is really into her horror games. She’s actually a university student that we’ve taken on, she’s a great animator, and she’s really enjoying working on The Corridor. That’s where our team is based influence-wise, and we’ve all got a passion for what we’re doing at the minute, which is really good. We’re quite lucky to be working on something that we all love.

TB: Well yeah, that’s kind of the dream isn’t it?

TNW: It is!

TB: How did you go about initially starting up Desktop Daydreams as an indie studio then, and what was the inspiration behind the name?

TNW: After university, I was working with Darren, we were doing some freelance stuff at the time, and I had mentioned to him that I had this idea for an indie studio called a Desktop Daydream – because you’re always sat at your desktop, daydreaming about making games. There was an indie sort of feel to it, and he said “Yeah I like that”. So we stuck with that, and that was back in 2010. The inspiration was basically that we wanted to be making and building games – that was it really.

I guess the thing is, just what exactly does ‘indie’ really mean these days? In our case it’s two guys setting up a home office studio pretty much, and we’re still a home office virtual studio, although we have toyed with going into a proper studio office and making the game on site. The name Desktop Daydreams is meant to reflect the indie roots of the studio and the pure passion behind being sat at a desk and coding, animation, doing artwork and making this experience – the name came from that really, just wanting to make games, and it stuck.

So yeah, after leaving university, we were looking for work, and it was a bad time just when we left because it was during the crash, so there just wasn’t any work going. We were like “What do we do?” We decided to get experience and start working on stuff for other people – we thought it’s all learning and experience, and getting a wage coming in.

We started working under that Desktop Daydreams banner for other people, doing work on 3D assets, 2D assets; we didn’t really do any coding to begin with, because Chris wasn’t with us at the time, it was just me and Darren at the start. We basically set the studio up, and we were trying to fish out jobs, working crazy hours, trying to get these little jobs coming in. We worked on a lot of artwork and design work for other companies in the beginning; just little bits here and there, building up some portfolio work. We got a little bit of work doing some 3D games, and then we took Chris on, and we thought let’s start small and try making full apps and we got into the app market.

It progressed from there, we did some work for clients, and then we decided that we wanted to be doing our own thing. We did some client apps, but it wasn’t really what we wanted to do. We got to a point where we were thinking the app market had changed. Well, I mean, there’s still some great stuff on there, but it wasn’t really where we wanted to be. It had been in the back of our minds all along that we wanted to do our own thing. So we thought right, let’s draw a line under that and think about what we really want to do. That’s when we started thinking about working on a 3D project; although it would be bigger in scale and more ambitious than anything we’d done before, it was something that we really wanted to do. Darren is more 3D art focused, 3D worlds is more my sort of thing too, and it’s the same for Chris, so it was a case of let’s go for it.

The thing for an indie studio is, we always have to be worrying about where our money is coming from, our cashflow. So when we took on the idea of doing our own massive kind of 3D game, we were a little bit worried about money. We had enough to start the The Corridor – that was about eight or nine months ago when we started thinking about game.

That was pretty much about the time I went on holiday and whilst I sat on the beach I had this idea about these corridors, these massive endless corridors that you could walk down and you come across booths or hatches on either side. In those booths, you could experience anything – you might be in an old warehouse, go to the beach, go to the moon, you could be underwater, you could be in someone else’s head – anything at all. That’s where the idea developed that this could be a metaphor for actually accessing people’s thoughts or memories, which was really cool to us. I came back and told Darren about it and he was like “Oh I like that.” That was the seed for the actual design of The Corridor.

TB: So, let’s move onto your current project, The Corridor: On Behalf of the Dead. I understand that the initial idea for the game came from when you imagined this never-ending corridor while sitting on the beach?

TNW: Yeah that was the core idea of getting in the hatch mechanic. The story grew from that idea of going down these corridors into this whole virtual world.

The Corridor - Corridor

The game’s backstory is that there’s this cataclysm that has happened and what it’s done is that it has forced the survivors to sort of think how are we going to start society up again. How do we live, what do we do? There’s a lot of looting, battery and violence, with no police force in place and no army, just this civilisation left behind. A new justice system, or some kind of law and punishment is one of the primary things that’s needed, and that’s where this corridor comes in.

There’s still functional technology in the world that this cataclysmic event didn’t destroy, but it’s all a bit mangled and hashed together – it’s got this old/new feel to it. There’s a lot of chunky, old technology that we want to get across in the game, that we’ve shown in the videos. This corridor technology is developed by this company, the Memory Observation and Modification Bureau – MOM for short – they’re the organisation that’s been tasked by the remaining government to set up some kind of justice system. We’ve got a character called Dr. Polanski, who’s the main sort of doctor in charge of all this. He’s the genius who created the idea of this technology program.

The Corridor - MOM

The corridor is the virtual computer program that the Custodians use to walk inside criminals’ minds. Basically you get these kids, called Custodians, who are tested throughout their childhood to see what their inclination will be, how they will mentally react to things. They’ve got to be a certain kind of person to be awarded this Custodian label. If they become a Custodian, they get segregated from the populous, and they’re not allowed to be involved with anyone. They’re kind of locked away. They are trained to enter the minds of these criminals – any kind of crime in the future will be punished by this corridor system. As soon as you’re arrested, that’s it; you go into this chair, these big pipes go into your brain, and you get connected to a Custodian. It’s like an interrogation, only inside your head. They basically go into your head and rummage around in all of your memories for evidence of your crimes. The player’s character, Ri Anderson, is a hardened Custodian who has examined a lot of criminal minds in his time.

These Custodians act as both judge and jury; they sentence you whilst they are in your head. It’s a little Judge Dredd-y, there are certainly some influences there. We liked the idea of these people who have the unique ability to detach themselves from everything else. They are kind of loners, but at the same time they are mentally strong and they can make these cut-throat decisions when viewing this mental evidence in criminal’s heads.

Custodians also get this thing called the Hack. It’s a piece of code which is sort of an integrated, manifested object from the subject’s mind, and it helps the Custodian when it is in the subject’s head.

The Corridor - The Hack

It allows for a much more coherent connection between the brain of the criminal and the brain of the Custodian. The Hack is almost like a bit of a guide while you’re in a mind; it might not say things and might just point things out or wander around, or look at something you might need to pick up. It depends on the head you’re in as to what this Hack will be. The Hack in this game-

TB: It’s that little creepy baby isn’t it?

TNW: Yeah he’s the Hack, and he’ll speak – or not speak – depending on what the situation is.

TB: It’s cool that you’ve left it ambiguous as to what it does and how it interacts with the player.

TNW: I can’t really tell you more about that as it will ruin it, but he will be involved a lot as you get into the head of this guy, woman or whatever you might be in. That’s pretty much all I can say for now.

What we’re hoping to do is to create a non-linear experience. In the corridor program, you’ve got these elevators that you use to travel between the levels of the subject’s mind. The elevator is a metaphor for the connection to the group of memories that you might be going into. Every player who comes out of the lift will probably experience something completely different.

They might be similar memories, but they’ll be in a different kind of order, so everyone will experience a disjointed game. You might go to your friend “Oh I’ve just played this level where so and so happens”. Then they might go “Really? I was just doing this, so what’s that one about?” It’ll create this mood of “Ooh I don’t really know what that memory means”. It’ll be disjointed, but as you go through hopefully you’ll start stitching together the story, and see that there’s a link there.

I want to say more but that’s pretty much all I can say for now. There will be a couple of layers in there – it won’t be just the usual singular linear story.

TB: Yeah I appreciate that you don’t want to give away too much with the game being so narrative and story-based. On that note actually, I think the non-linear Pulp-Fiction like story stuff you’re doing is a really cool idea. When you think of a story-heavy game like Bioshock for example, for a lot of gamers, it’ll be a single playthrough for them, where they experience the main beats of the story, and then they’re done.

TNW: Yeah, I mean I love Bioshock – Ken Levine is god to me! I watched one of his talks at GDC [Games Developers Conference], Building Blocks for Narrative [Narrative Legos], and it was a really interesting talk about systemic gameplay and how you can change experiences by using the same assets. I watched that after coming up with the idea for The Corridor, and I thought, actually, that’s got some crossover to what we’re doing.

We can kind of do a similar thing in The Corridor, as you’re accessing different orders of memories when playing the game, and the corridor is the link to those memories. So you can go in and experience something different to what somebody else might have experienced; you might eventually come across the same memory, because the memories will always be the same because that’s how the criminal remembers them. It works in that way, but it’s how you experience their memories which will be different every time you play.

That opens up to us adding more memories at a later date if the game is successful. We can do DLC for it, we can add some more memories in there, or even create an entire new storyline using those things, which is something we will probably look at later on down the line if people enjoy how it works.

TB: That sounds like a good way of doing DLC without having to forcefully ret-con the story, or have it feeling like an unnecessary bolt on thing, or a piece of the game that has been held back to be released later.

TNW: Yeah, you could see an entirely new sort of perspective. You could be a different Custodian going into the same mind experiencing something totally different, or go into a different mind that uses links to the other mind. It could really kind of get a bit “Woah!”

Which is something we hope players would enjoy. Being an indie, we need something that’s going to be a bit different as well. It’s getting the name out for the game; you want something different for it, we don’t want to just re-hash other things. It’s why we took a long time in the beginning to think about the story, and do something unique and cool with it.

As you go through the mind, there will be these other things that pop out and you’ll go “Uh oh!” Not everything is quite as it seems. It’ll hopefully be cool as you go through the levels.

TB: It all sounds good. I’ve read the journal extract you’ve posted online from the Custodian Ri Anderson, the player controlled protagonist, and it really gets across that feeling of constant dread that you’ve spoken about online. I really liked how gripping and detailed that written extract was – how do you plan to deliver the majority of the narrative to the player? Will it be through character narration or similar journals, audio logs etc.?

TNW: It’ll be a bit of a mix. Ri is a complex character; like I say, he’s this hardened Custodian, he’s been in hundreds of minds and he’s seen lots of decay and dread.

The Corridor - Ri Anderson Large

TB: Oh yeah, “Necrotic matter” from the extract.

TNW: Yeah, all sorts of weird stuff, and he’s been through the minds of murderers and other criminals. He’s kind of seen it all, but still, every time he goes into a mind, he’s got that apprehension – what’s he going to see this time? The idea is that there’s been a spate of killings in the real world and this is linked to why he’s going in. What we’ll probably have in terms of narrative is to have Ri’s thoughts written in his journals, he might actually say things as well, as we’ve got an actor who’s going to do Ri’s voice – we’re actually working on another trailer with him now.

That’s one thing I don’t think we’ve got across. We’ve added more with the journal, we want to show that there’s a bit more to the story. The Hack will probably chime in every now and then with some narrative and some narrative information as well. You’ll also get communication from MOM, sometimes they’ll chime in. One thing we wanted to do was to make you feel like you’re always being watched while you’re in this corridor. MOM is always watching you, Big Brother style, so you’ll come across cameras that will follow you while you’re in there; they won’t interfere with you, but they just have that eerie presence to them.

We’re throwing in all these things that people are afraid of, Big Brother being one of them, but we like this idea where justice has been completely privatised, and MOM pull the strings. If they see something in a mind, they can use that however they want. They are always monitoring those memories; even if it’s something not related to the current case, it might come up later on and it could be something they could use. Have you seen the Doctor character who appears in the game?

TB: Ah yes, Doctor Crow?

The Corridor - Doctor Crow

TNW: He’s a hallucination that has some kind of connection to the corridor as well. He’s always trying to tell you something – that’s all I’ll say there! The whole idea with those shaky and static hallucinations is that your connection to the corridor is being disrupted by his presence there. That’s how he gets through the corridor to make himself visible to you.

He’s actually a piece of code; he’s a real person – I hope I can say this and Daz doesn’t kill me (laughs) – who’s programmed himself into the corridor to appear to you virtually. He’ll throw in some narrative, and tell you things. It’s up to you whether you take that as help, or if it’s his own agenda instead. There’s also these Guardian creatures who guard key memories in there, Fat Man being one of them.

The Corridor - Fat Man

TB: Yeah Fat Man looks like some great nightmare fuel!

TNW: These creatures are all things that are materialised – they don’t really exist in the real world, they are sort of pulled from the mind that you’re currently in; this might be something that they were scared of, or they had nightmares about this weird mechanical fat guy chasing them. There might be other things they were frightened of too…but I don’t want to spoil it!

The dread will really be created from the environments, where you actually are in those environments and the premise of where you are. There will be a lot of auditory and visual help with that, increasing the dread. We always want to make you feel uncomfortable, like you don’t really want to be wandering down a darkened corridor, just in case there is something around the corner, or thinking “Ooh if I go through this hatch, where am I going to be? Am I going to be in some weird pit, or underwater, in a cage, in a box, underground?” It could be anywhere.

The Corridor - Dark Room

Also, you might come into a beautiful environment, with blue skies, but there might be something sinister in that area, which will balance the whole good, nice, clean and cosy feeling with something a bit creepy. There’s going to be a lot of environmental storytelling, and that’s where the dread will come from hopefully.

TB: Using those other much more pleasant scenarios alongside the more horrific ones sounds like a good dichotomy and a way to mix things up for the player. It seems to me that one of the things that you’re really tapping into is that powerful fear of the unknown.

TNW: That’s spot on, because that is one of the key things that I think humans, on a base level, instinctually fear. If you don’t know about something, it’s like “Ooh.” It’s kind of a survival instinct, flight or fight. If you don’t know what something is, I think it’s human nature, our sort of safety instinct to think I might just back off a little bit from that until I know what it is.

We looked at a lot of aspects of fear, specifically what generates fear and horror. From when I grew up, films I used to watch were things like A Nightmare On Elm Street and Alien. A lot of them, like say Nightmare, have a lot of gore, but there was also that question of just who the hell is Freddy Krueger, and why is he in my dream? Its was cool how Wes Craven, over the course of that film, told you about this guy who had a sincere reason for what he’s doing. His reasoning, you know, behind killing these kids was because he wanted revenge – he might have been a sick crazy old guy, but he was killed in that sort of way that made him want that vengeance. I think that’s even scarier. Even when you’ve killed this guy off, he still comes back to get you. I thought that was brilliant.

Ridley Scott is a big influence for us as well with Alien and Blade Runner. That’s another thing as well, we want to get across that sci-fi element. We don’t just want to make a horror game that is…well, we are sci-fi fans so we wanted to chuck in as much sci-fi as we could and make it have these different tones to it. There’s the technology you’ll be able to see, the psychic TVs, all sorts of other stuff in there, like PDAs that you can pick up. These will be related to Ri, so they won’t be just like a random PDA, they might be something you can use. (Pause) I’m trying to not give too much away!

TB: Yeah, I think one of the game’s strengths is that you’ve created this really interesting meld of the horror and sci-fi genres in terms of both the story and the art direction. Typically when you think of horror, the first things that usually jump to mind are on more of a gothic kind of level aesthetically, and not usually futuristic and high-tech.

The Corridor - Machine

TNW: That’s something we didn’t really want to do. I mean there’s been some great games using that theme, obviously Amnesia: The Dark Descent, that’s fantastic, and Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs as well. We wanted to be…I wouldn’t say unique, but we wanted The Corridor to have it’s own sort of identity. For us, personally, the gothic thing wouldn’t have worked for our kind of project. The way it went when we were talking about it, the whole premise of this corridor and these hatches, it more suggested that the place didn’t really exist, and it was more in someone’s imagination. It kind of led down the path of thinking what if it’s the technology? These are memories that you’re actually accessing. That sort of sprung out to us – that’s the sci-fi, it’s all kind of based around technology. The whole idea of having control over someone’s head, I know it’s been touched on before in other things, but we wanted to kind of mix it all together with a bit of horror. This game is set in a civilisation where there would be a lot of homeless people and food shortages. People might steal some food, and if they get caught that’s it; you get put in this corridor system. Even if they find other things on you; you might have done some other things that you aren’t accused of and the authority still might punish you for it. What’s the punishment? That’s another thing, what would be the punishment? The sci-fi is a key element. It’s the base of the whole premise. It’s probably more of a sci-fi horror, than a horror sci-fi.

When we’ve been getting the word out about the game, we’ve been saying it’s sci-fi and horror. I think that’s why people so far have really enjoyed the idea of it, and I think that’s probably why, because it’s not doing something which has already been done, like you say with the gothic, or running round a wood. There have been some great games that have done that brilliantly, but we wanted to try and do something slightly different and tell an original story with it, which is key to the premise.

TB: Awesome! I like how you’ve also combined more ghostly and spiritual eastern horror with very western David Cronenberg style body horror. You don’t normally see both together.

The Corridor - Woman

TNW: I’ll give kudos to Daz for that because he’s a massive fan of Japanese horror. He loves things like the original Ring. I have watched those as well, so they are an influence as well, but Cronenberg is a huge influence on Daz. There’s another film Jacob’s Ladder

TB: Oh that’s a great film!

TNW: We’ve used a lot of that kind of imagery. It’s hard isn’t it – you think of horror and it conjures up different images for different people. We’ve made it personal for us. What things freak us out? Hopefully, people will enjoy what we’ve gone for, and I think that they will, because like we were saying, we’re trying to throw in things like the unknown and weird stuff, more freaky things…rather than something like a monster coming out of the darkness and grabbing you. Which is cool, but it’s been successfully done in other games. There will be things kind of just loitering around, maybe not doing anything, but they will just create that sort of weird feeling. “What the hell is that over there in that corner?” It’ll be more like “Eurgh – I don’t really want to be in this room with whatever that is over there”. That will create the dread, and there will be all sorts of other things.

Sound is key. We’ve been looking at using mechanical noises, a bit like the Silent Hill series did with their scores, with grating, slamming, winds, moaning, but mixed together in a nice way. That’s one of the reasons we’re looking forward to using Unity 5, because they’ve got a brand new audio part to their engine which will really be cool for us to create. Audio is going to be a key part of the design.

TB: The sound clips that you’ve posted online sound really good. I can imagine them layering well together.

TNW: This is the problem with Kickstarter as well, it’s that you want to tell everyone everything about what you’re doing, but you also want to keep it on a leash as well. Sometimes, when we put a lot of those music clips on, we were thinking maybe it’s taking it out of context when you just listen to them on the page, but we think they work. You get that feeling of what we’re going for.

TB: To jump back a bit to what you were saying about having things in The Corridor‘s environments that won’t be necessarily hostile to you, I think that was one of the key concepts that made Outlast so terrifying, having that uncertainty of how the other inmates would react to you.

TNW: Yeah, we’re also thinking from the perspective of the Custodian, he’s almost like a visitor in the mind of the criminal. The Custodians are looking for this evidence in the criminal’s mind, memories of these acts being carried out, and the Guardians will be protecting these specific memories that you need access to.

The Corridor - Storeroom

We also came across this idea of the fact that you’re not actually there; you’re just a voyeur, if you like, a visitor in the mind, so things that might be inhabiting these guys memories…if they’ve got twisted minds, there might be just weird things, sat there talking to the mind they are in, and you’ll be just like “What the hell is that?” You might be able to go right up to it and it will totally ignore you, and you can just look at it muttering and twitching to itself, or whatever it may be – it may be just a goldfish in a tank just doing something weird!

TB: So you’ve got these creatures inhabiting these environments, and the aim is to avoid confrontation at all costs – how does that work in the moment to moment gameplay? Are there any specific stealth or evasion mechanics in place?

TNW: We have ummed and ahhed about the stealth mechanics. We started working on a hide mechanic, where if something was approaching/running at you/coming for a slice of you, you could almost run and hide in something. Again, we didn’t want to be taking pages out of other people’s books, so we’ve gone down the road where you are avoiding contact. There will be things that will come for you. I must admit, we are still kind of nailing down the exact specifics of how those encounters will play out; because we’re still at a pre-alpha stage and we’re still throwing in mechanics and playing with things. We did come up with the fact that if anything did attack you, that would be it, you’d be completely gone. That still might happen, because it is a horror game and it might be like a learning curve for the player.

We’re also thinking on the fact that if you don’t antagonise a creature, it won’t come after you and attack you, so that might be something that stays in there as well. We might just throw in a combination of different things.

Mechanics like that were one of the key things we sat down and talked about. Gameplay is obviously massively important, so we did talk about whether it’s going to be enough to be just exploring this mind. Is it going to be enough to be just reading about these memories, or will people need some kind of combat? You will have to take out these Guardians in some way or another, which is probably where the combat…well, I say combat, but you’ll probably need to dispatch them in alternative ways, not direct confrontation.

The Corridor - Window

Because you are a visitor in another’s mind, you don’t really necessarily have the power to kind of attack something head on. That’s how we’ve approached things. These memories are locked away by the mind you’re in, and this mind will be fighting back.

So, this person’s mind you’re in, they are conscious of the fact that you’re in there and rooting around, so they’ll be trying to mentally stop you from accessing their memories. That’s where Fat Man might come in; he’s one of these Guardians that might manifest as part of a mental defence mechanism.

We have come up with this idea of this device you can find, which…this is still in the testing/thinking about phase where you might be able to find pieces of this device which will allow you to modify it each time you find a new part, which will be able to help you fight these Guardians. We want to make it a bit different when you deal with these Guardians, so you can get them out of the way in order to grab this memory they are protecting.

You see, all these memories you’re collecting are pieces of evidence that will lead up to a decision you have to make at the end of the game; guilty or not guilty. It’s what the whole thing will lead to, and depending on what decision you make, there will be multiple endings.

TB: With that in mind, if you miss a vital memory/piece of evidence, will that have a major impact on the story or will it just progress on the same linear path?

TNW: Yeah, because we’re going to leave it up to the player to make that final decision, and that will be based on what they’ve seen, what they’ve been told, what they’ve experienced in that game. We are going to have a logbook for the player where you’ve got your collected evidence and you’ll have notes, pictures, things you found, so you’ll get a chance to review everything before you make that final decision. You might have met people, or heard things which might sway your decision and you think “What do I do here?” We want that to be a really key part of the gameplay.

There will be things in there that you might miss; we want people to explore that darkness and really get every nook and cranny out of it, and find hidden things. It is all evidence, it is all memories, but there might be reasons why they’ve done these crimes, which might come out in the memories that you didn’t know about; There might be an insanely good reason for why they’ve done these things. We want to throw that morality into it because you’ve got this responsibility of judging these people as a player, based on what you’ve seen in their head. The multiple endings and the morality choice at the end are key components, you’ll have a weight of choice at the end, and you’ll get a different ending depending on what you’ve chosen.

TB: So the game won’t just funnel you down the same path if you miss something then?

TNW: No, because of the whole non-linear thing as well. You might come out of the lift and you come down this corridor and you see a hatch on your right. You enter this hatch and you get transported to a memory. Maybe you’re in this shop, and someone is talking to someone else, or you just hear the ghosts of the voices and memories that are there, and you think “Ah right, cool”. That might be all that there is in that room. You go back out into the corridor, and you find another hatch, or you see something else in the corridor that might be of use.

The Corridor - Pig Head

What we’re also thinking of doing is dropping in missable memories – maybe not a lot, as it’s hard to do when you’ve got to create all the assets, but we might have little things that you might miss, or you only experience if you play through the game again, so there is a bit of replayability, so you could see it from a different perspective almost. Every time you play the game, you will experience those memories in a different sequence – which may lead you to a different decision, which is what we’re trying to go for. It’s a key thing for us…I mean, that’s the beauty of games, you can experience a story in a non-linear fashion. That’s the holy grail I suppose for game design is to make these interactive narratives different using the same kind of assets, and creating something that is unique to the player as well, so they’ll experience it in their own way.

You’re obviously limited by what you can do art wise and coding wise, you’ve got a time frame, so people will experience the same memories, but they will experience them differently in a different order each playthrough. It’s something that we’ve wanted to do, and just play with it and hopefully people will enjoy it.

TB: I’m sure they will. How do you plan to keep the experience really tight and focused story wise, and yet also allow for the free will of the player to just go wandering off? Will it be a case of rewarding adventurous players with these missable memories and other items?

TNW: So if they want to know more about this mind or…something else (laughs), we didn’t want people to just have this exploration mechanic where they could wander five, ten, fifteen minutes off the beaten path and find absolutely nothing. Some gamers do love to find every nook and cranny, so we will most likely reward people for exploring and taking their time and finding things, because that will help give a bigger picture to the decision they have to come up with at the end.

You don’t always want to be reading stuff though – sometimes you might want to go off and just look down that way, look around an environment, look at the sunset, listen to the birds tweeting in the background, and just experience the world. It ties in well with the Custodians; they don’t always manage to get outside, so it’s almost a bit of a jolly for them. They can go out on a virtual jaunt and maybe have a picnic in this guy’s head! They kind of almost enjoy the job, because although they are in these weird situations dealing with these depraved memories, they almost enjoy it.

The Custodians get this drug called cohesion. We’ve gone through a lot of different iterations with it, but this cohesion basically loosens their mind up a little bit to be more susceptible to what’s going on, but they are also addicted to it. It’s kind of a trade-off. They get enjoyment from taking it, because it gives them that lucidity, but it also makes them addicted. Once you become a Custodian, that’s it for life, because you can never come off cohesion. You’re pretty much giving up your life to be a Custodian, but then again, it’s an honour. You’re a judge and jury, you’re doing service for the people…well that’s what we make it out to be! (Laughs)

TB: The idea for the cohesion hypo syringes having a limited shelf life is a great twist on the usual item mechanics of survival horror games such as Resident Evil, and one that isn’t explored very often in the genre. How did that idea come about, and are there any other subtle gameplay tweaks that are of a similar nature?

TNW: I did a lot of research into what gamers love about horror games, and one of the things that kept popping up was resource management, and having, like you say, Resident Evil with the herbs and the bullets. We didn’t want to have weaponry in The Corridor – weaponry will make an appearance, but you won’t be able to use it.

Health is another thing. We were thinking about the fact that you’re playing as a mental representation of yourself in somebody else’s mind, would you have health? You don’t technically exist, but then we got onto thinking if you’re suffering mental pain, the psychological traumas that you’re experiencing, like for example when Doctor Crow appears, it’ll be a trauma to your head. You will suffer pain from that experience. So as a result, that will cause physical pain. You will feel physical pain – again we want players to have the mechanics that they are used to, but do something different with them.

That’s where the cohesion hypos come in. Chris came up with the idea of having fridges that they are stored in, so that led to the thought of thinking maybe we could have out of date ones, and what would happen if you took an out of date cohesion? What will it do?

TB: That sounds awesome!

TNW: It will almost be helpful to take out of date cohesion in certain situations; you might come to a dead end and think “Ah…I might need to take some out of date cohesion here and something may happen.” Like I’ve said on the Kickstarter, it’ll have interesting side effects.

One thing I was keen on, from a design perspective, was that we wanted to keep the player hunting around for cohesion. There’s out of date cohesion and inert – so once it gets to a certain period of time it’s useless, you just have to discard it, so you have to hunt around and find some more. So we’ve got these cool (literally – Tom) refrigeration units we’ve actually just put in. You open them up and you can see the vitals in there.

Also, if you look on Ri’s arm, you will see little track marks from where he’s taken cohesion all his life. You might be able to see them very briefly in the video, so that’s how that ties in with the hypos. The Custodians start taking it from a very young age, so they are building up their use of it, and they can get to a level where they can start entering minds. That’s all mixed with the corridor technology.

The mind, the hypo and the technology are the holy trinity to get that working thought access to the head. So you’ve got to have the right mental profile to be able to be a Custodian, you have to be able to handle cohesion and interface with the technology. That’s the feel behind it.

A lot of people when playing horror games like to go around and just resource hunt and collect all the resources and hoard them, and that’s something we didn’t want to do, because we wanted to put an emphasis on exploration and the story. It all links back to the story.

One thing we are playing with is having your cohesion levels always dropping, so you are forced to keep hunting around for more. Again, that relates back to horror and dread – if you don’t keep hunting, you’re going to die.

TB: Yeah you’ve got to keep pressing on.

TNW: You’ve got to keep moving around, which is something we can play with later on as well if you’re always hunting around for stuff.

TB: It sounds ace! There’s very few games which actually strip your resources away in a creative way, rather than to be just artificially difficult for the sake of it.

TNW: That’s something we didn’t want to do as well. We thought a lot about the difficulty, and with it being a horror game, people expect that adversity; that feeling that everything is against you. You’ve got nothing – like Resident Evil, you’ve only got a few bullets, you’ve only got a few herbs, or like Silent Hill, you’ve only got…

TB: A stick!

TNW: Yeah, it’s like “What am I doing with this stick?” (Laughs) But yeah, those are massive influences to us. I think when we originally played them in the ’90s, those little touches were just ace, and that’s a really massive part of how we’ve gone with this. Looking at how the classics did things, and really sitting back and thinking about what would be cool to do, whilst also bearing in mind whether it would fit within the premise of our game. That’s key to us, keeping that premise of the whole experience of being in someone’s head.

We’ve played with loads of ideas – we’ve chucked some things in, we’ve chucked some things out. We’re still at pre-alpha, so we are still playing with mechanics, and that’s why we are talking about it now to get initial feedback and see what people think. Generally, it’s good so we’re quite happy. The Steam Greenlight is going brilliantly.

TB: Yeah you’re really whipping up those charts .

TNW: If it keeps going, hopefully we’ll be in the top 100 before long. We were at 55% of the way there this morning, and that’s after 20-ish days. The Kickstarter isn’t doing brilliantly well, but I think that’s because we haven’t given enough story information out, so we’re trying to work out a new story video. But generally, everyone is enjoying what we’re doing so hopefully we’ll be able to keep going and take it forward.

TB: Another cool thing you’re doing on the gameplay side of things is the anchoring system – I think that sounds like another great idea. It looks like a good way to stop cowardly players like me from ‘save-scumming’ their way through the game – can you explain a bit more about how it works?

TNW: That’s my thinking! One thing I hate – I don’t know about you, but I don’t really like checkpoints. I think for this game you’d have to have checkpoints, unless you were being really cruel.

TB: In a rogue-like way?

TNW: Yeah! I mean, these days, people don’t have a massive amount of time to play, so checkpoints are like that safety net. You have to find typewriter rooms in Resident Evil, and the red squares in Silent Hill­ – those are like key areas that you have to find in order to save. So we were thinking, what if you could take those areas with you?

You might find this anchor device, which will be some sort of old technology – you don’t start with it, you have to find it in each level. In each new memory section you’ll have to find it again, because it will be related to that area. When you find it, it would anchor you to that area. You could drop it anywhere you wanted, and it’d save you, but if you left it there, if you’d forgotten it, that would be it – that’s where you’d respawn if you died.

We’re also talking about the idea that you might be able to transport yourself to that area using that device. That’s something again in flux, but we’re working on that kind of premise. We wanted to keep that conceit to not save all the time but to make it fit with the world; because you’re in someone’s head, you’re having to anchor to that memory. It’s just to try and mix it up a little, and do something different, so hopefully that will work well. We probably won’t know whether that’s working well until we get a bit more into testing and into the beta phase, when we’ve got a lot more gameplay that’s flowing. Hopefully it will just do something a bit different with the saving system. Because it’s a horror as well, you want that dread – I’ll drop the anchor here, there might be something round that next corner. You’ll be able to use it tactically as well, and it gives you a bit more freedom. It’s trying to balance out not over-saving, but also giving you a bit of freedom to save when you want.

TB: I think that combined with the cohesion hypos will work really nicely in tandem. The Eternal Darkness style metagame scares sound interesting, where you can lose control of your character temporarily. How do you keep these sorts of surprises fresh and unpredictable for the player without them quickly becoming stale?

TNW: That’s a good point. One thing we’ve thought about with jump scenes is that we don’t want to overdo them. You want to be feeling on edge whilst playing it, but we don’t want to throw in a jump every few seconds. When there is going to be a jump scene it will be decent and it will be a unique and effective one, and that will be the only time you’ll experience it in the game.

One of the things Daz is very keen on especially is not overdoing jumps. I know people love the jumps, because it’s like “Arrrrrgh!” In The Corridor, the Doctor Crow is more like a hallucination, someone is trying to tell you something with him, so he will have an entrance every time he appears, but it will vary and it’ll do different things, and he’ll do different things when he appears to you. The one in the Kickstarter video, he’s kind of pointing at something, maybe behind you or in front of you. He’s always pointing you to things or trying to tell you things about what’s happening in the bigger picture.

We didn’t want to just put someone in there for the sake of it; he’s actually there for a reason, he’s not just for an effect. He’ll have quite a significant part in the story as well.

TB: On the topic of scares, how has the development process for The Corridor been with developing for the Oculus Rift/Project Morpheus tech, and how has it influenced the design of the scares? Did you have to design the same sections of gameplay differently according to whether or not the player is using a VR headset?

TNW: One thing we think we might have done wrong with the marketing of The Corridor is that a lot of people think the game is Oculus Rift only. That might have had a bit of an impact on the Kickstarter itself.

It is an immersion tool. I don’t know if you’ve seen on the video, those zoom ins on Doctor Crow? There will be subtle things like that. When you’re in the OR, you’re fully immersed, so those kind of things where you are zooming in are really effective. So we’ll keep these effects as they work out of the Rift as well – they are there to complement the Rift if that makes sense? It’s mainly for the immersion; people who do have a Rift will be able to experience these visual effects and get completely immersed, especially when combined with the 5.1 surround sound, that stuff will be really cool. You’ll be able to hear things…again, it’s a case of not saying too much! (Laughs).

The Corridor - Colour TV

Yeah we’re also thinking about Project Morpheus as well. That might be a while off, but hopefully it will be a similar kind of setup to the OR. If the game is successful and people enjoy it, we’ll hopefully port it to PlayStation 4 and use the Morpheus as well.

TB: Sony seem to be really prioritising Project Morpheus now, with a lot of focus on games like Until Dawn, so it sounds like the PlayStation 4 could be a good home for The Corridor on consoles.

TNW: They are pushing it, yeah – Until Dawn looks great! At the minute, we’re still putting things together, so what we’ll probably do is we’ll test The Corridor with the Rift as we go through, and see if we can tweak it to work better with VR, but also make sure that everything works how we want it to work outside of the Rift. It’s trying to get that sort of balance right, between people who have the Rift and people who don’t.

I do think that the Rift is a really cool thing, and what it’s doing for gaming, especially in the horror genre with that first person perspective, it’s absolutely amazing! So if you haven’t got a Rift, go get one! The problem at the minute is getting hold of one, but they are slowly filtering out to developers now though. We’ve got a DK 1, the first generation unit that we’ve been using to test with, and that’s what we’ve captured the first bit of footage from. Obviously, Unity supports the Rift really well, and Unity 5 will support it even better.

Once we get the DK 2, with the better resolution screens and low latency, it’ll just be wicked hopefully! If we get kickstarted as well, we’ll probably get a couple more OR kits, and then start getting some testing done, and hopefully get people involved in the process to see what they think. If we don’t get kickstarted then it’ll probably take a bit longer!

TB: Well, I was going to ask you about that – if you do get kickstarted, how long do you reckon the development of the project will take? If the Kickstarter isn’t successful, what’s the plan then? Are you hoping to re-launch the campaign at a later date?

TNW: This has been a massive point of discussion amongst the team over the last couple of weeks, as you can probably imagine. We’ve got to a point where obviously funds are running out, and we’re thinking that if we don’t get some kind of backing, then we’re going to be struggling. We sat and thought about what happens if the Kickstarter doesn’t work. We did a lot of research into Kickstarter and Indiegogo and the crowdfunding scene to see what was going to work, so we started to build up our community with quite a good following on social media. We started using Twitter a lot more, getting involved with people, and we’ve got the dev blog to post updates. All the press we’ve had so far has been really positive, which is great for us.

Everyone who’s seen the video and read the descriptions has given us really good positive feedback which is humbling really, because when you’re locked up in your loft, working on something for a year – you’re like “Is this any good?” We made that decision to get it out on Kickstarter, see what people think and take it from there. At the minute, I think we’ve 9 days left, and it’s about 4% funded! So it’s not looking too good!

I think the problem is that on the Kickstarter we’ve only had about 2800 views or less, but on the Steam Greenlight we’ve had about 10,000 unique visits and nearly 3000 green votes – it’s far more than what Kickstarter is getting. For some reason, the views from Greenlight aren’t translating over to Kickstarter. One reason we’re thinking for that might be because the Oculus Rift has been mentioned – no disrespect to the OR because it’s cool – but I think people might think “Oh, I don’t have an Oculus Rift, so I won’t be able to play it.” It may be that, it might be something else, but until it’s kind of finished, it’s really hard to analyse. I’m sure we’ll do a post mortem on what happened and why, but I think if we don’t get the game funded, and we get it greenlit for example, then there may be other options. We might look at talking to some publishers, or the other option is to take on some part-time work again and sort of fund it ourselves, which is probably what we’ll end up doing.

Me and Darren have talked about it, and we’re probably willing to move into part-time work and maybe take it a little bit further, then release another Kickstarter, or an Indiegogo and get some funding. Or maybe start some sort of on-going crowdfunding, like a pledging system where you can pre-order the game and keep it pledged constantly until its release, maybe do some early access and stuff like that on Steam. It’s all ifs and buts at the moment because we’re hoping Kickstarter will pick up; most people’s Kickstarters do pick up in the last week.

We’re working on a new story trailer which is from Ri’s perspective, so hopefully it’s not too late, as it takes a while to get everything together. We’ve got another gameplay pre-alpha video which shows that the footage is working, and some more environments. I think we’ve got about five full environments built at the minute, a few characters, and we’ve got bits of gameplay working. We’ve been asked a lot for playable demos, which is interesting, but because we’re in a pre-alpha, it’s just not ready to show yet. That might take us another six months to get it to a point where we are willing to let someone play it. We don’t want to put it out when it’s not ready for the public to see, because it’s still a lot of work in progress, but we have got bits working which we are going to put together as a video.

Because it’s had such positive interest, it makes us think let’s keep going. It’s a unique story; it’s something that we want to do. So that’s what we’ll probably end up doing – developing it part-time like we have been doing up to now, and chucking in other jobs as we can. It’s not ideal, because we want to fully ramp up the development with the full four-strong team. You see, Chris and Andreea are almost freelance, so they’ll probably have to look for other work and projects as well.

TB: It would be nice to keep the full team together though wouldn’t it?

TNW: Yeah absolutely, because they’ve worked on it for so long now that it would be nice to pay them a full wage, and we can relax then and not worry too much about where our funding is coming from.

For release time, we were thinking December next year, maybe sooner, but we want to give the whole thing a good length of time, so we can get it polished and make it a cool, full experience for the players. So that’s kind of December 2015/January 2016 – hopefully December so we can get it out for Christmas. It’ll be out when it’s ready though, when we’re happy with it!

TB: I think having a pledging system sounds like an interesting idea.

TNW: There’s things you can do, like IgnitionDeck – WordPress have this system where you can set up a continual crowdfunded campaign, so you keep promoting it all the time, and have people pledge as you go along.

The interesting thing with Steam is that we’ve only got a few pledges – it’s hard translating those greenlights into Kickstarter pledges. There’s a big difference between placing a greenlit vote and pledging £10, say, towards a game. That’s a massive stretch, so hopefully we’re trying to get people who’ve greenlit The Corridor on Steam to get involved with the Kickstarter campaign, but it’s very hard to see if people from Steam are moving over to Kickstarter page. I don’t know if that translates across very well, because you can’t tell who’s looking at Kickstarter with the analytical tools that we’ve got at the minute. It’s tricky to know where to target your efforts.

The beauty of the thing is that going on Steam was a last minute thought. It was a case of “Oh maybe we should put it on Greenlight?” We never really thought about it weirdly enough. We got it up there, and it was nearly 50% voted in, in about two weeks – judging from what I’ve read, that’s really quite good!

TB: Yeah, impressive!

TNW: It’s quite hard to judge what you need specifically to get the rest of the way to get greenlit, but if we do get greenlit that will be a fantastic thing for us because there will be more coverage for the game, and hopefully get more people involved pledging and supporting us. That’s the thing when you’re an indie; you’ve just got to think about where the support is going to come from. It’s a huge thing for us, and you don’t always have the resources to just sit on Twitter all day. I’ve spent so long just talking to people on there; it takes up a massive amount of time, but it’s great, because I met you on Twitter, and met some other guys on there who have been really supportive of the game.

The thing with Twitter is that it just moves so fast – you’ve got to be in that timeline all the time. It’s just not having the time, especially when you’re developing and having a Kickstarter on the go as well, it’s just promo, promo, promo! No life! (Laughs) But there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s cool, it’s good talking to people about the game. It’s the nature of the beast.

TB: Well yeah, fingers crossed then! I think you’re in a good time and place to be making an interesting horror game like this, because there’s been a noticeable mainstream resurgence in horror games very recently. Horror games have always been popular on the indie scene, but if you look at this year, two of the most anticipated games for this Christmas period are The Evil Within, and most particularly, Alien Isolation. What do you think this increased mainstream interest in the horror gaming genre can be put down to?

TNW: That’s a damn good question actually! I think people like to be scared. I don’t know why. It’s like with horror movies; why do people watch horror movies? I don’t know – we have this morbid thing with fear I think. It’s almost like this morbid fascination rather.

To me personally, I think that’s why we make games and books and films. It’s like we are exploring our inhumanity if you will. That’s quite deep, but we make these games, projects, books; we write about things like that and it’s almost like we are exploring our inner selves. Why do we bother making games? Why do we bother making multi-million pound films? What’s the point? Yeah I know, for entertainment, but I think there’s also something else underneath it.

I think with horror games, they speak directly to our primal instincts; fear is one of our primal survival mechanisms. It’s really interesting; they keep making games and people keep wanting to experience new things in fear, action and story. Story ties it all up; everyone wants to be in a story and experience something outside of their world. It all goes back to escapism, going into somebody else’s shoes. That’s one of the beautiful things games can do – to put you in somebody else’s shoes and let you experience it all for yourself. When you take that feeling away with you afterwards – it’s brilliant.

I suppose it’s a process of exploring ourselves, when we play these games and watch films and stuff. I think it’s a really complex issue, but a fascinating one. I do think it’s to do with that idea of escapism and our base instinct to explore our inner nature. Fear is tied up in that, and love. The strong emotions are all tied up in that kind of exploration.

Again, with every cycle of new consoles, or generation of platforms, you can do much more with them, it’s always pushing that envelope – what they’re doing with Alien Isolation looks absolutely great, and The Evil Within looks great too. It’s a case of what can we do now with this technology? It’s like what we’ve tried to do in The Corridor is to do something that pushes things a little bit further, try and do something a little bit different so that experience is unique and fresh.

TB: Do you ever think that with ever increasingly more powerful consoles and more graphically realistic games, combined with this renewed focus on VR technology, that we will end up at a point where horror games become so realistic that they’re almost too scary or intense for a player to handle?

TNW: Interesting. I read something on the BBC recently about the future of fear in video games (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/27790865). It’s going to be interesting to see where the VR thing goes, because it’s cheap enough now, and it’s especially exciting with the stuff the Oculus Rift guys are doing with the DK2 and what Valve is doing with the low latency stuff. I think another thing is getting people to actually experience it themselves, because once you’ve had a go on it, it’s cool. Have you played it yourself?

TB: No, unfortunately not yet.

TNW: When you get chance, have a go, because it’s definitely different, and it takes a bit of getting used to, but I think that’s like anything isn’t it? My only worry is that…I wonder if it’s a safe thing? You know, people playing it safe with consoles, they know how it all works; they’ve got the joypad, or on PC they’ve got the keyboard and mouse. I mean Valve are making their own joypad.

TB: Oh yeah with the two haptic touchpad wheels.

TNW: Yeah, that’s interesting what they’re doing there. It will be interesting if things get ‘too scary’…I suppose it’s how you monitor that exactly. There’s a project they’re doing in the States which we’ve been talking to, called The Nightmare Machine, which is a VR haunted house.

TB: Oh wow!

TNW: They asked us to create something using The Corridor, but we just haven’t had the time unfortunately, which would have been cool. You basically walk around with these wireless Oculus Rifts on, and there’s 5.1 surround sound playing as you walk around this room, and it’s like you’re in a haunted house which is absolutely cool. The only problem with it is that I think it’s localised to Seattle where the developers are based, but that is ace! Stuff like that is cool, but again though, for me, there’s something about being sat, playing a horror game, in the dark, with headphones or surround sound turned up. I know it’s kind of geeky, but there’s something about it, you get that level of immersion which is absolutely fantastic. I mean, that’s why we make games isn’t it, that’s why we do what we do.

I don’t know if things will ever get too scary, because I think people are always looking for that next thing to push the envelope, but it is interesting! A lot more people now, even going back to Silent Hill, are using psychological research in their games to really pull out primal fears, and really get to the heart of what makes people afraid. That’s the key to any kind of great horror I think. Even with horror films, they pull on the strings of that deep fear that’s so primal to people. I think that’s why they work so well; people want to feel that adrenaline rush. I hope things do get scarier!

TB: Yeah me too!

TNW: I can’t imagine putting a game on and thinking “Ooh I don’t know if I can finish that”. I suppose it’s how much you get involved in that world as well; whether it really connects to you as a person. I mean there’s some films that I can’t go back and watch because you have that emotional attachment to them, and you don’t want to re-experience that emotion by watching them again. So maybe games can do the same thing.

TB: Funny you should mention that actually about films that you can’t go back to watch, one of my favourite films is Mulholland Drive, but I’ve not really been able to watch it since my first viewing because of that horrifying ‘man behind the diner’ scene. I knew David Lynch’s other work and his style going into the film, but I was just so utterly freaked out by that scene as I wasn’t expecting it whatsoever! In that moment, I was genuinely frightened out of my mind for a few moments, and I could feel my flesh crawling on my arms! Not nice, but I’m looking to get the same kind of feeling out of The Corridor as well! (Laughs)

TNW: Well I hope so! That’s the thing, can you get that emotion? I think if you can connect emotion to something, you’ve done your job. It’s like a great story or a great film or piece of music, there’s that strong emotive power behind all those kind of things. Which is what we’re trying to do; to create something that makes people really go “Argh I really don’t want to play that, but I do at the same time!” (Laughs)

The Corridor - Hatch

The Corridor: On Behalf of the Dead is currently on Kickstarter and Steam Greenlight; Back the game and give it a green vote if, like me, you’re interested in being scared witless by Doctor Crow and Fat Man. You can follow Tim and the rest of the Desktop Daydreams team on their Twitter and Facebook pages to keep up to date with the latest from them and the game.