Survival horror games aren’t as common on the iPhone as chirpy, colorful physics puzzlers, but some players prefer the scarier side of the App Store. Later this year, Psychoz Interactive will finally release Forgotten Memories, a Silent Hill-like horror game that’s been in development for years. We spoke to Psychoz director Georges Paz about what’s in store for this freaky-looking iOS game.
How long has Forgotten Memories been in development?
Georges: Forgotten Memories has been in development (well, the idea behind it) since I was in college. The game is probably older than my own company (founded in 2009). But the real production was started in mid-2010.
How has Forgotten Memories changed over its development process?
Georges: Well, back in school, I was working on my own 3D engine (which, by the way, was really buggy). I then met the guy who is now our lead artist and co-founder of Psychoz Interactive. We were trying various stuff with my own engine, then decided to drop it off and get free engines and 3D libraries with the idea of focusing on gameplay only. You know, no need to worry about the core stuff, like audio, rendering, physics, etc.
We then tried lots of stuff (I wont even bother to mention, but it was a lot of stuff) while at the same time reshaping cores ideas behind it (the storyline, characters).
Our first main character was a man who lost his memory in a car accident (that’s why we call it Forgotten Memories). He was found in a hospital with no memory and twisted visions. As you probably know, that plot its overused, the amnesia [plotline] is a very well-known one, we had to find something else.
Back at that time I was working in the Aerospatiale market, doing some research on airplane-related stuff, just before I got a call from Gameloft. Gameloft was a really great experience (and still have friends there) but I really wanted to put out this project. So I left Gameloft to found Psychoz Interactive with my dear friend Francois Codourey.
The game idea changed over and over (while keeping the psychological idea of memories). We end up with what it is today, an inspector looking for a missing girl in an abandoned hospital.
Forgotten Memories seems similar to classic survival horror games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill. What aspects of these games do you think are important for a good, scary game?
Georges: While we were truly inspired by those survival horror classics, we put out a very good formula that horror audiences will love, and at the same time makes Forgotten Memories very original.
For example, Resident Evil’s static cameras are very dramatic and tense. Most of the time they don’t show what’s coming to you, which works really well. Silent Hill’s disturbing scenes and claustrophobic dark indoors are key elements for constant stress and tension (the #1 source of fear).
I also found that today’s games respect the player too much. That’s fine for action or adventure games, but survival horror games don’t work that way. There are a lot of ways to entertain your audience, but very few ways to scare the player (create fear). In order to do that there are some rules that you must follow. Old-school survival horror fans know those rules, but modern players don’t know and it’s something we are taking care of. We want to make this game accessible to modern players too, while at the same time keeping old-school fans very happy.
Our goal is to get the best horror/scary elements out of those classics and put out a unique horror experience. Something that people will fear to play. By the way, I can name few games that I’m really scared to play, especially at night in a dark room.
Who is the main character of the game?
Georges: The player takes on the role of Rose Hawkins, a very clever inspector searching for a missing girl and an atrocious murderer. She is very stubborn, never abandons a lead and prefers to break a few rules than to lose to a criminal. Her obsession with work blinds her to perilous situations and can sometimes put lives of others in danger. To get through this horrific hospital, she will have to face her own weaknesses and fears…
There are also other interesting characters in this game that you’ll be able to interact with while playing (real-time) but yeah, I’ll leave those details for the future.
Will the game be focused on combat, puzzles, exploration, or a combination of all three?
It is safe to say that the gameplay is a combination of all those elements.
The way you fight enemies and bosses, twisted puzzles and riddles, and scenery interaction are very interesting and unique. But the best thing is all that stuff working seamless on a touchscreen device!
For example, in exploration mode (which is the most common mode), you can freely look anywhere, you’ll see your character’s head looking at that point, no matter which camera angle you are using. In combat mode, you have unique weapons and melees in which you use the screen to create combos to hit and shoot your enemy, all in a very easy and intuitive way.
There’s a huge variety of enemies, and the way you must kill them are also unique. Boss fights are also very interesting and dynamic. We are also getting rid of our buttons and replacing them with natural touch gestures which are really nice and fun.
Another cool thing about the exploration is the heavy use of “negative spaces” (used a lot in classic survival horror games), in which the player can get even more information when searching in deep. You have huge outside areas, an entire hospital with floors fully loaded with rooms to explore and a huge big sewer area. But the best of all is that we carefully designed everything to make it non-linear. You can come back later on and get access to new rooms here and there, or go to the very end. You have the freedom of exploration.
Our third key gameplay element is the very nice and elaborate puzzles and riddles. You’ll feel some of them are familiar if you are an old-school point and click/survival horror fan, which are quite fun to interact with on a touchscreen device.
Those are just minor details about the gameplay, there’s a lot of stuff I can say regarding Forgotten Memories gameplay, but I’ll keep that for a future article.
The last game from Psychoz Interactive was Dead Strike, an ambitious but (in our opinion) flawed survival horror game. What lessons have you taken from Dead Strike that you are applying towards Forgotten Memories?
Georges: Well, to be honest Dead Strike cannot be considered a survival horror game, it is safe to call Dead Strike a simple zombie shooter.
But the biggest lesson we learned was polishing. A product to be successful must be good and polished. Dead Strike lacked in those areas.
Second thing was patience and time, we’ve learned the lesson the hard way, having poor sales (not to count the tiny amount of time we spend marketing the game).
Now with Forgotten Memories, we are really working hard and taking our time to make everything’s good. Even if we don’t put out a super hit, we want to be sure that everyone who plays our game says it’s a very very good game. Our goal is to please our audience with a very high quality survival horror game, we are working hard on it!
We’ve recently been backed up by a huge company which is now investing in the mobile sector. The agreement we’ve passed out is an investment agreement, not a publishing agreement, which means we publish the game, keep all our planned features, release dates, and rights of the game. They really loved our hard efforts and devotions on Forgotten Memories but mostly the huge potential behind it.
That’s why they invested in us. Their funds helped us enlarge our team, to speed things up and keep everything under control. They’ve provided us with a great sum of cash to finish this baby the way people are expecting and there’s nothing but good things coming in the future.
Is this a game you hope will genuinely scare people? How are you trying to make the game feel suspenseful?
Georges: We truly believe, yes. The most important thing we are focusing on is the feeling of losing control. Not the way you control your character, mind you, but losing control of what’s going on and what’s coming next.
We want to create confusion, make him feel hopeless, alone, where every single corner can be dangerous, keep him guessing to the very end but also put at work their own inner fears and surprise him in very different ways (gameplay-wise and storyline-wise).
Speaking of gameplay, our enemies are very original and the way you must interact with them, too. All those elements will keep players under constant pressure, stress and tension, which combined with good disturbing elements can create true psychological fears and scare them all. Other than scary and horrifying elements, we want to play with players’ emotions, you probably know what I mean.
Do you have an expected release date?
Georges: While we don’t have an exact release date, and to be honest I don’t want to promise anything yet, we hope to get in gold this summer (2012) and release the game soon after.
But like I said earlier, we want to make sure this game is really ultra-polished, if we need 1-2 extra months, we will do it. There’s no reason to rush anything or change any plans.