Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare Q&A
Spiral House technical director Bobby Earl gives us an update on the PC version of the new Alone in the Dark.
When the original Alone in the Dark was released in 1993, there was nothing else like it available. The game featured an unusually, distinctively cinematic presentation--the game's perspective would constantly shift between fixed, claustrophobic camera angles as you helped the main character, the investigator Edward Carnby, navigate a haunted, dangerous mansion. The game inspired a couple of sequels, as well as Capcom's PlayStation game, Resident Evil, which in turn inspired a number of similar games, and with them, an all-new genre, typically called "survival horror," was formed. Now, after a hiatus since Alone in the Dark 3, the series is making a return with Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare. We sat down with the technical director at Spiral House, Bobby Earl, and asked him how he felt this latest installment in the series would fare.
GameSpot: Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare is being developed simultaneously for the PC and for various console platforms. How do you feel the game's market has changed since the last installment in the series? Do you think the game will get a warmer reception on the consoles?
Bobby Earl: The game will get a very good reception on the consoles. Although the core plot and functionality is the same, each version has been developed with each particular platform in mind. Consoles players will welcome the control mechanism and game features implemented on the consoles. Similarly, PC gamers will also welcome the PC-specific functions that have been developed for the PC.
GS: How is the PC version different from the console versions?
BE: Spiral House is developing the PC version. The PC version is not much different from the console versions, although we have changed a few features. In the console versions you have to find and use amulets to save your progress. We enhanced the PC version and implemented "quick save" and "quick load" keys. This basically enables you to save and load anywhere, anytime, and we felt that PC gamers would prefer this. The controls have also changed: You can play on the keyboard, but you can also plug in a controller and play it like a console if you wish.
GS: The game features many dark environments, which can be illuminated with the player character's flashlight. Is this an important gameplay feature or more of a graphical detail?
BE: The torch is a key item in the gameplay and is used in many instances to solve puzzles. It is considered to be one of the games main unique selling points. It basically has many functions, and you can even use it to interact with the monsters. I don't want to give too much away, but you will see what I mean when you play the game.
GS: You can choose from two different player characters in Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare, including the original hero, Edward Carnby. Why does he appear so much younger than in previous installments? And who's the other character?
BE: One fundamental reason why the character is so much younger than in previous versions is to appeal to a wider audience. This is key in keeping the franchise going. If the character was to age as each installment was developed, then I don't think it would be much fun any more. The other character is Aline Cedrac, a new character in the series.
GS: What's the plot of the game? Is it different for the two characters?
BE: It is the same plot, but both characters work together to solve the problems.
Edward Carnby's scenario: Basically he is called by his friend Fisk to go to Shadow Island and check it out, as numerous strange occurrences have been happening there. Unfortunately Fisk is killed on the island, and thus Carnby goes to investigate. Carnby is hired to investigate his friend's death, so long as he accompanies Aline Cedrac to the island, in order that she can translate the Abkanis tablets.
Aline Cedrac's scenario: Aline Cedrac travels to the island on a plane with Carnby. During their travel to the island the plane is attacked and plummets to the ground. Carnby and Aline escape from impending doom and jump from the plane using their parachutes. During their descent they are temporarily split--Carnby lands in a nearby forest, and Aline lands on a mansion roof.
As mentioned in Carnby's scenario, Aline has gone to Shadow Island to help Obed Morton translate the tablets. She also believes Obed Morton is her father and in turn has a secondary motive to go to the island.
Aline and Carnby are in constant contact with each other all the way through the game via a radio. This is a cool feature, as the two characters can talk to each other whenever they like. It's also used to tell the player what the other character is up to, keeping the player constantly informed. Whenever a character needs help, whether it's to figure out a particular puzzle or to get help when in danger, the player can use the radio to inform the other character who will then react accordingly.
GS: Does the gameplay focus more on action or more on exploration and puzzle solving? Is the game very violent, or is it more suspenseful?
BE: The gameplay is a unique blend of exploration, puzzle solving, and action. It is very suspenseful and will keep you wanting more.
GS: What are some of the dangers you'll face in the game?
BE: Apart from the puzzle solving elements, there are many dangerous creatures you will confront as you play through the game. Here are a couple of examples.
Opthalmicide: This is a meat-eating stick-insect creature. It is able to morph in and out of sight using its light-deforming abilities, similar to how a chameleon changes its color. It is a very powerful creature and can quite easily manhandle the largest of creatures to the ground. It dislikes bright lights, and prolonged exposure to bright lights will make the creature disappear.
Phocomelus: This is a water snake that spends most of its time underwater waiting for its prey. The creature prefers to attack from behind and is very agile. It is able to rear itself out of the water and dive onto any unsuspecting foe. Again, this creature hates bright lights and will back away from a light source--revealing its weakness!
GS: How long is the game? Will there be any incentive in replaying the game?
BE: The length of gameplay will vary depending on your skills as a player, but the average time is approximately 25 hours. The replay incentive is huge. At the start you choose which path to take, Aline's or Edward's. If you complete the game playing one character, you can restart the adventure and play [as] the other, and you will see a different angle on the same story.
GS: Will fans of the series find that this new installment refers back to its predecessors? Do you think new players who haven't played an Alone in the Dark game before will be interested in this sequel?
BE: Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare stands as a game in its own right--no one will be confused with references to previous installments. There are some links to the past, but only avid Alone fans will pick up on these, while new players will accept them as part of The New Nightmare.
GS: What do you think is the most exciting thing about Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare?
BE: I'm not sure if you can pick one thing, as there are several elements that make The New Nightmare exciting. The torch effect and the way it is used in the game are unique. The suspense and the frightening aspects are also exciting. Alone really does scare you and make you jump, and if you can evoke a response like that from a game, then it is very exciting!
GS: Thanks, Bobby.
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