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Found 8 results

  1. Frictional Games, the developers behind Penumbra and Soma, have released a free update for their most famous title to date. Amnesia: The Dark Descent revolutionized horror with its physics-based gameplay and use of tension to make it feel like an ominous presence constantly pursues the player as they progress through a haunted castle. It was so successful that the classic first-person horror game changed the way games handled horror for years. The update adds a hard mode to the game for veterans looking for a new experience while replaying their dark descent. The hard mode disables autosaves, but don't worry! Players can still save - in exchange for four tinderboxes, the items that allow players to light the very important torches that illuminate the environment and restore sanity. In hard mode, dropping to zero sanity will kill the player. There will also be fewer tinderboxes and oil refills. Monsters will be faster, more alert, stronger, and more persistent when it comes time for them to hunt. And those hunts? They'll be more dangerous than ever with the removal of music cues announcing their presence.... If you're planning on conquering that hard mode, good luck. Since its initial announcement last week for traditional PCs and Xbox One, the update has been slowly extended across other platforms like Mac and Linux. Currently, Frictional has partnered with Blit Works to bring the mode to PlayStation 4 in the near future. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  2. Frictional Games, the developers behind Penumbra and Soma, have released a free update for their most famous title to date. Amnesia: The Dark Descent revolutionized horror with its physics-based gameplay and use of tension to make it feel like an ominous presence constantly pursues the player as they progress through a haunted castle. It was so successful that the classic first-person horror game changed the way games handled horror for years. The update adds a hard mode to the game for veterans looking for a new experience while replaying their dark descent. The hard mode disables autosaves, but don't worry! Players can still save - in exchange for four tinderboxes, the items that allow players to light the very important torches that illuminate the environment and restore sanity. In hard mode, dropping to zero sanity will kill the player. There will also be fewer tinderboxes and oil refills. Monsters will be faster, more alert, stronger, and more persistent when it comes time for them to hunt. And those hunts? They'll be more dangerous than ever with the removal of music cues announcing their presence.... If you're planning on conquering that hard mode, good luck. Since its initial announcement last week for traditional PCs and Xbox One, the update has been slowly extended across other platforms like Mac and Linux. Currently, Frictional has partnered with Blit Works to bring the mode to PlayStation 4 in the near future. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  3. It's almost Halloween! In honor of the scariest of holidays, we tackle Frictional Games' landmark horror title Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Developed by a small team that had previously created the Penumbra series, Amnesia: The Dark Descent released in 2010 arguably creating the biggest waves in the waning horror genre since the release of the original Resident Evil. It featured Daniel, an amnesiac who awakens in a gloomy castle with a note from his past self urging him to make his way to the heart of the castle complex while avoiding a malevolent entity bent on his destruction. It possessed no combat mechanics, instead purposefully disempowering players, encouraging them to run and hide from the various dangers throughout Castle Brennenburg. Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: Splatterhouse 3 'Call of the Mask' by Beckett007 (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR01772) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
  4. It's almost Halloween! In honor of the scariest of holidays, we tackle Frictional Games' landmark horror title Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Developed by a small team that had previously created the Penumbra series, Amnesia: The Dark Descent released in 2010 arguably creating the biggest waves in the waning horror genre since the release of the original Resident Evil. It featured Daniel, an amnesiac who awakens in a gloomy castle with a note from his past self urging him to make his way to the heart of the castle complex while avoiding a malevolent entity bent on his destruction. It possessed no combat mechanics, instead purposefully disempowering players, encouraging them to run and hide from the various dangers throughout Castle Brennenburg. Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: Splatterhouse 3 'Call of the Mask' by Beckett007 (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR01772) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday View full article
  5. These days games take boatloads of money to create. No one knows that fact better than indie studios, especially those who gamble by developing bigger and bigger games in an effort to grow. In 2015, Frictional Games took one such risk with the horror game of the year, Soma. With a budget ten times bigger than its predecessor, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Soma needed to sell quite a few copies in order for Frictional Games to begin seeing a return on their investment. In a recent developer blog, Frictional Games disclosed that Soma had sold over 450,000 units over the past year, a huge number for an indie studio and over 60,000 more than Amnesia: The Dark Descent sold within the same timeframe. The blog goes on to talk about just how big the risks they took were, like recording dialogue three times over, and commissioning models for creatures that ended up being cut in the final game. The studio was nervous, they explain, and now the strong sales mean that Frictional Games has made back the money they spent making Soma a year after release: This is quite good, in fact it is so good that we have now broken even and then some! I think it is worth to stress just how great this is. We spent over five years making our, by far, most ambitious game ever. We also spent quite a lot of money on various outsourcing such as voice acting, 3d models and animations. For instance, to make sure we got it right, we actually recorded a lot of the game's dialog three times. In the past we have just recorded voices at the end of the project and hoped for the best. With SOMA we knew that nailing the voice acting would be crucial, and spent money accordingly. [...] It is important to understand that SOMA was far from a safe bet. While we had the luxury of having already made a successful horror game, SOMA was not an easy sell. The game relies heavily on getting certain themes across to the player, and communicating this proved to be a hard task indeed. When showcasing Amnesia we could just show how you blocked a door with some rubble and hid in a closet and the game's core experience was neatly summarized. But with SOMA things were way harder. First of all, weaponless horror games are no longer anything special and by no means a stand-out feature. In fact, the "chased by monsters"-gameplay was not even a core part of the SOMA-experience. The whole idea with the game was to give the player a first person perspective on a variety of disturbing philosophical musings. To make matters worse any concrete gameplay example of this would be riddled with spoilers, so all discussion had to be made in an obscure "you'll understand when you play it"-fashion. Even though there were all of those risks and a lot of money sunk on unused voices and monsters, Frictional seems happy with the result. "Despite a bloated budget and tough sell, here we are a year later having earned back every single dime spent," the blog proclaims proudly. How exactly did Frictional manage to turn a profit on Soma? First and foremost, it was able to leverage the name recognition from Amnesia: The Dark Descent to appeal to the hardcore horror crowd the studio had enthralled back in 2010. It also helped that Soma saw a release on the PlayStation 4 in addition to PC. Perhaps the biggest reason behind Soma's profitability lies in the way it was able to stick close to its $30 price point. The majority of Amnesia's sales occurred during sales, with some discounts reaching up to 75% off its $20 price, while Soma hasn't seen nearly as big a discount yet. Essentially, even though Soma cost many orders of magnitude more to make than Amnesia, the higher profile, selling price, and wider reach of the game allowed it to turn a much bigger profit. Not only that, but Frictional Games feels incredibly satisfied with the public reaction to Soma. Though initially worried that many would compare Soma directly with Amnesia (widely regarded as one of the greatest horror games of all time, sitting on Steam with a 10/10 rating), they're happy to see even negative reviews and refund notes containing positive feedback. For example, one refund note read, "I love horror. Soma is distressing. There is a scene where I have to hurt an innocent robot to progress and I don't know why. It made me cry." That distressing, discomforting feeling? Exactly the horror the studio was going for in Soma, which means they've succeeded on more than just a financial level. Looking forward, Frictional Games aims to become a large enough studio to be working on two projects at a time. Their next project goes into production at the end of this year and another has been working its way through research and development. No specifics on either game has been revealed, but they did hint that some smaller stuff might be in the works. DLC for Soma, perhaps? One of those smaller things should be revealed later this year and the other at some point early next year. Horror fans, get ready to see a whole lot more from Frictional Games in the coming years. View full article
  6. These days games take boatloads of money to create. No one knows that fact better than indie studios, especially those who gamble by developing bigger and bigger games in an effort to grow. In 2015, Frictional Games took one such risk with the horror game of the year, Soma. With a budget ten times bigger than its predecessor, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Soma needed to sell quite a few copies in order for Frictional Games to begin seeing a return on their investment. In a recent developer blog, Frictional Games disclosed that Soma had sold over 450,000 units over the past year, a huge number for an indie studio and over 60,000 more than Amnesia: The Dark Descent sold within the same timeframe. The blog goes on to talk about just how big the risks they took were, like recording dialogue three times over, and commissioning models for creatures that ended up being cut in the final game. The studio was nervous, they explain, and now the strong sales mean that Frictional Games has made back the money they spent making Soma a year after release: This is quite good, in fact it is so good that we have now broken even and then some! I think it is worth to stress just how great this is. We spent over five years making our, by far, most ambitious game ever. We also spent quite a lot of money on various outsourcing such as voice acting, 3d models and animations. For instance, to make sure we got it right, we actually recorded a lot of the game's dialog three times. In the past we have just recorded voices at the end of the project and hoped for the best. With SOMA we knew that nailing the voice acting would be crucial, and spent money accordingly. [...] It is important to understand that SOMA was far from a safe bet. While we had the luxury of having already made a successful horror game, SOMA was not an easy sell. The game relies heavily on getting certain themes across to the player, and communicating this proved to be a hard task indeed. When showcasing Amnesia we could just show how you blocked a door with some rubble and hid in a closet and the game's core experience was neatly summarized. But with SOMA things were way harder. First of all, weaponless horror games are no longer anything special and by no means a stand-out feature. In fact, the "chased by monsters"-gameplay was not even a core part of the SOMA-experience. The whole idea with the game was to give the player a first person perspective on a variety of disturbing philosophical musings. To make matters worse any concrete gameplay example of this would be riddled with spoilers, so all discussion had to be made in an obscure "you'll understand when you play it"-fashion. Even though there were all of those risks and a lot of money sunk on unused voices and monsters, Frictional seems happy with the result. "Despite a bloated budget and tough sell, here we are a year later having earned back every single dime spent," the blog proclaims proudly. How exactly did Frictional manage to turn a profit on Soma? First and foremost, it was able to leverage the name recognition from Amnesia: The Dark Descent to appeal to the hardcore horror crowd the studio had enthralled back in 2010. It also helped that Soma saw a release on the PlayStation 4 in addition to PC. Perhaps the biggest reason behind Soma's profitability lies in the way it was able to stick close to its $30 price point. The majority of Amnesia's sales occurred during sales, with some discounts reaching up to 75% off its $20 price, while Soma hasn't seen nearly as big a discount yet. Essentially, even though Soma cost many orders of magnitude more to make than Amnesia, the higher profile, selling price, and wider reach of the game allowed it to turn a much bigger profit. Not only that, but Frictional Games feels incredibly satisfied with the public reaction to Soma. Though initially worried that many would compare Soma directly with Amnesia (widely regarded as one of the greatest horror games of all time, sitting on Steam with a 10/10 rating), they're happy to see even negative reviews and refund notes containing positive feedback. For example, one refund note read, "I love horror. Soma is distressing. There is a scene where I have to hurt an innocent robot to progress and I don't know why. It made me cry." That distressing, discomforting feeling? Exactly the horror the studio was going for in Soma, which means they've succeeded on more than just a financial level. Looking forward, Frictional Games aims to become a large enough studio to be working on two projects at a time. Their next project goes into production at the end of this year and another has been working its way through research and development. No specifics on either game has been revealed, but they did hint that some smaller stuff might be in the works. DLC for Soma, perhaps? One of those smaller things should be revealed later this year and the other at some point early next year. Horror fans, get ready to see a whole lot more from Frictional Games in the coming years.
  7. Jack Gardner

    The Twisted Design of P.T.

    During gamescom 2014, a playable teaser for the upcoming psychological horror game Silent Hills was released on the PlayStation 4. The project is a collaboration between Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro. I finally had a chance to play through the demo this week and, while P.T. certainly nails key horror genre elements, it has a number of baffling design choices. P.T. seems to take cues from games like Outlast and Amnesia: The Dark Descent. The majority of the interactions players have with the environment is simply walking around. Essentially, the player character is a passive observer to the disturbing scenes and sounds of the environment. Players are able to move and look at different objects with the camera. A cursory examination of the different buttons reveal that none of them seem to perform any function, with the exception of a slight zoom of the camera by pressing the right analogue stick. This is important because it turns out the only way to progress in P.T. is by looking at specific objects. The problem is that P.T. occasionally changes the rules. There is one occasion in P.T. when players are supposed to intuitively know that they need to press a specific button while looking at an object. Unfortunately, the game has already established that the buttons serve no function, which makes it all the more frustrating that this is one of only two times in P.T. where players are required to press a button. At one point the demo requires players to find several scraps of a ripped up photograph. This would be fine if it was clear that the player should be looking for scraps. For a while I assumed that I was just supposed to be looking at unique objects in the hallway, because I found two by zooming in on a teddy bear and a potted plant. It wasn’t until I looked up a guide online that it was clear that I was looking for small, hidden pieces of that picture. Persistent players will eventually reach one of the most perplexing requirements of the demo; a part which has been commonly referred to as the “final puzzle.” To proceed, players must have a headset or microphone plugged into the PS4 controller. There is no indication for this; presumably players were just supposed to figure this out on their own. With the headset/mic in hand, players have to hear or compel a baby to laugh three times by looking at various objects or moving in certain ways. There are a variety of strategies that people say work, but all of them are pretty dang obscure (there are over eleven methods of unlocking the end of P.T. in this IGN walkthrough). Kojima is known for keeping his projects a surprise until just the right time, and has even admitted that he thought it would take the internet longer to figure out the secret to unlocking the ending of the demo. To me, this seems like confusing design for the sake of being mysterious. Perhaps that was entirely the point and I am being hard on P.T. because I don’t understand it. But I think that there are some decisions here that need to be called out. In particular, the ending of P.T. is not a puzzle, nor is any part of P.T. for that matter. Inconsistent controls and obscure requirements for what happens to be plugged into the PS4 controller aren’t puzzles. Good puzzles are like a Rubik’s cube. Most people understand how a Rubik’s cube works and what the goal is almost from the instant they pick it up. It is intuitive. The puzzle is figuring out how to use the simple mechanics of the cube in order to solve it. But what if there was occasionally a hidden rule to Rubik’s cubes? What if it was decided that at a very specific point in solving one you had to make a turn of the cube using only one hand? What if in order to officially have solved the cube you had to do your best impression of Freddie Mercury? Now imagine that you eliminate the Rubik’s cube and replace it with wandering around a creepy hallway. There is no puzzle there, just a weirdo having a hand around and occasionally acting like a terrible Freddie Mercury impersonator. That’s what trying to play through P.T. is like. Just because something is difficult to figure out doesn’t make it a puzzle. One of the reasons I am hounding this issue is because genuinely ruins the experience of being freaked out. Being trapped in a haunted hallway is terrifying. Being trapped in a haunted hallway where nothing happens for twenty minutes while you are trying to figure out how to get a door to open is just frustrating. In video games, frustration trumps horror. This comic by artist Bryce Corbett (warning: harsh language) perfectly sums up how many people have experienced the teaser for Silent Hills. The design creates unintended frustration, and that seems to me like a fundamental flaw. It might seem like I am being a bit hard on P.T. Like I said earlier, the atmosphere is electrifyingly uncomfortable. The environment consists of a hallway, a cement chamber, and a bathroom. Using that limited scope, it deftly manages to be unnerving, demonic, and horrifying without relying overly much on jump scares. Baby wails, guttural muttering, static-laced radio broadcasts regarding murder, bugs crawling on moldering walls, and piles of trash on the floor all work together to make the area uncomfortable. There are little details like bars on the windows, an abundance of abstract paintings, a swinging ceiling light that give the affair a sense of surreal dread. Despite my concerns, I am optimistic about a new Silent Hill game. I am hoping that most of the design decisions in the teaser reflect Kojima’s penchant for dramatic reveals and secrecy, not his vision of the full game. Honestly, I call out Kojima as being the largest name attached to the project with a history of game design. It could be that these decisions came from Guillermo del Toro. Who knows? Either way, the atmosphere of an exceedingly terrifying experience is already in place, there just needs to be a competent game behind the visuals and sound to back it all up with something that doesn’t rely on guesswork, luck, and strategy guides.
  8. Jack Gardner

    Feature: The Twisted Design of P.T.

    During gamescom 2014, a playable teaser for the upcoming psychological horror game Silent Hills was released on the PlayStation 4. The project is a collaboration between Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro. I finally had a chance to play through the demo this week and, while P.T. certainly nails key horror genre elements, it has a number of baffling design choices. P.T. seems to take cues from games like Outlast and Amnesia: The Dark Descent. The majority of the interactions players have with the environment is simply walking around. Essentially, the player character is a passive observer to the disturbing scenes and sounds of the environment. Players are able to move and look at different objects with the camera. A cursory examination of the different buttons reveal that none of them seem to perform any function, with the exception of a slight zoom of the camera by pressing the right analogue stick. This is important because it turns out the only way to progress in P.T. is by looking at specific objects. The problem is that P.T. occasionally changes the rules. There is one occasion in P.T. when players are supposed to intuitively know that they need to press a specific button while looking at an object. Unfortunately, the game has already established that the buttons serve no function, which makes it all the more frustrating that this is one of only two times in P.T. where players are required to press a button. At one point the demo requires players to find several scraps of a ripped up photograph. This would be fine if it was clear that the player should be looking for scraps. For a while I assumed that I was just supposed to be looking at unique objects in the hallway, because I found two by zooming in on a teddy bear and a potted plant. It wasn’t until I looked up a guide online that it was clear that I was looking for small, hidden pieces of that picture. Persistent players will eventually reach one of the most perplexing requirements of the demo; a part which has been commonly referred to as the “final puzzle.” To proceed, players must have a headset or microphone plugged into the PS4 controller. There is no indication for this; presumably players were just supposed to figure this out on their own. With the headset/mic in hand, players have to hear or compel a baby to laugh three times by looking at various objects or moving in certain ways. There are a variety of strategies that people say work, but all of them are pretty dang obscure (there are over eleven methods of unlocking the end of P.T. in this IGN walkthrough). Kojima is known for keeping his projects a surprise until just the right time, and has even admitted that he thought it would take the internet longer to figure out the secret to unlocking the ending of the demo. To me, this seems like confusing design for the sake of being mysterious. Perhaps that was entirely the point and I am being hard on P.T. because I don’t understand it. But I think that there are some decisions here that need to be called out. In particular, the ending of P.T. is not a puzzle, nor is any part of P.T. for that matter. Inconsistent controls and obscure requirements for what happens to be plugged into the PS4 controller aren’t puzzles. Good puzzles are like a Rubik’s cube. Most people understand how a Rubik’s cube works and what the goal is almost from the instant they pick it up. It is intuitive. The puzzle is figuring out how to use the simple mechanics of the cube in order to solve it. But what if there was occasionally a hidden rule to Rubik’s cubes? What if it was decided that at a very specific point in solving one you had to make a turn of the cube using only one hand? What if in order to officially have solved the cube you had to do your best impression of Freddie Mercury? Now imagine that you eliminate the Rubik’s cube and replace it with wandering around a creepy hallway. There is no puzzle there, just a weirdo having a hand around and occasionally acting like a terrible Freddie Mercury impersonator. That’s what trying to play through P.T. is like. Just because something is difficult to figure out doesn’t make it a puzzle. One of the reasons I am hounding this issue is because genuinely ruins the experience of being freaked out. Being trapped in a haunted hallway is terrifying. Being trapped in a haunted hallway where nothing happens for twenty minutes while you are trying to figure out how to get a door to open is just frustrating. In video games, frustration trumps horror. This comic by artist Bryce Corbett (warning: harsh language) perfectly sums up how many people have experienced the teaser for Silent Hills. The design creates unintended frustration, and that seems to me like a fundamental flaw. It might seem like I am being a bit hard on P.T. Like I said earlier, the atmosphere is electrifyingly uncomfortable. The environment consists of a hallway, a cement chamber, and a bathroom. Using that limited scope, it deftly manages to be unnerving, demonic, and horrifying without relying overly much on jump scares. Baby wails, guttural muttering, static-laced radio broadcasts regarding murder, bugs crawling on moldering walls, and piles of trash on the floor all work together to make the area uncomfortable. There are little details like bars on the windows, an abundance of abstract paintings, a swinging ceiling light that give the affair a sense of surreal dread. Despite my concerns, I am optimistic about a new Silent Hill game. I am hoping that most of the design decisions in the teaser reflect Kojima’s penchant for dramatic reveals and secrecy, not his vision of the full game. Honestly, I call out Kojima as being the largest name attached to the project with a history of game design. It could be that these decisions came from Guillermo del Toro. Who knows? Either way, the atmosphere of an exceedingly terrifying experience is already in place, there just needs to be a competent game behind the visuals and sound to back it all up with something that doesn’t rely on guesswork, luck, and strategy guides. View full article
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