Set in a new region of Silent Hill and with a convict protagonist, Silent Hill: Downpour takes Konami’s horror series in a different direction. Tomm Hulett, senior associate producer on the Silent Hill series, spoke to Siliconera about Murphy, the game’s lead character, and what this Otherworld will be like.
Silent Hill: Downpour has less fog and more rain. What symbolic value does rain have?
Tomm Hulett, Senior Associate Producer: Well, there will still be fog, mist, and stuff, so it’s not like that stuff isn’t gone. Silent Hill is different for each person that enters it. We’ve done it in past by showing different Otherworlds. Shattered Memories had ice and some of the other games had a rotten watery type theme. It was a matter of carrying that forward.
First, we established our theme of a prisoner who is stranded inside Silent Hill. Then we examined different Otherworld themes we could explore. We settled on water and thought about different ways water could be scary and we came up with rain because in a storm it can be dark. You can’t see. Your eyes might play tricks on you. Things are flooding so there is this shine. There is just a lot to rain so we thought it would be interested to explore so we built it into the game.
When you exploring the town there is actually a weather system with rain. The harder it rains the more danger you’re in. If it hits downpour state you can get mobbed by five monsters. Whereas if it’s just a light drizzle maybe there is one or no monsters. Water is an interesting theme and it helps us show – because for you Silent Hill may look different. For Murphy, it’s this watery flooding place.
What kinds of monsters will we see in Downpour and how are you designing their AI?
The monsters are another thing in Silent Hill that represent a protagonist’s fears, hang-ups or character flaws. So, we have a variety of monsters. I can’t go into too much detail because it will giveaway some of the story. Our core vision for the monsters and the combat is to have the monsters feel very capable of destroying you and having Murphy feeling less empowered. It’s not about Resident Evil where you have a bunch of guns, there here’s a bunch of zombies, and you blow up a bunch of zombies. Our focus is on making the player feel isolated, in danger, and vulnerable.
In order to do that without hampering the controls like the old survival horror games did, we had to make the monsters pretty tough. They have abilities beyond what old Silent Hill games had. We have creatures that can scream and disable you. If you’re just fighting one, he screams and you’re held into place and that doesn’t put in that much danger. But, if there are more than one of those monsters it screams and you’re stuck in place, the other one is just wailing on you. We also put creatures that can jump up to the ceiling. While you’re fighting it will suddenly disappear cause it jumped up. Now, you’re trying to watch up top and it will drop down behind you or next to you. It’s really trying to come up with cool ways creatures can overpower, so you have to overpower them or find an opening to get out of there.
Since the monster’s represent, perhaps, Murphy’s flaws. What do you think Murphy’s strengths are as a character?
That’s a good question. Now I have to first think around the game and be careful not to spoil anything! Murphy is definitely a smart guy. He’s not your oafish, career criminal, violent guy. His crime, that got him into prison, is a little different that that. He’s patient… yeah I’ll go with patient and smart.
Vague characteristics for someone who is a convicted criminal.
You shouldn’t take the vagueness to assume there isn’t a lot to him. If I give you too much the thread you will start to unravel it.
One thing interesting is that Murphy is a criminal. How do you think that’s going to affect the player’s perception of who they are controlling?
Early on we made the decision to have a very simple hook to have a premise to the game. The first Silent Hill has your daughter lost in this creepy town. The second game had your wife in this creepy town and she was dead, by the way. There were these really simple things where even if you heard that line you would be interested in that game.
We thought putting a criminal in Silent Hill would be a similar thing. Because now people know what Silent Hill is and what it’s about. When you find out this guy with a presumably dark past you know there is going to be some crazy stuff. Originally, when we presented that to the developer [Vatra Games] a lot of them a lot of them said we don’t want to play as a bad guy; we don’t want to be a criminal. To me and Devin [Shatsky], that seemed like a good reaction to get. We don’t want people to be comfortable. Even if they are OK playing as a criminal, we want them to be wondering what is this guy about. Why was he in prison? Why is he in Silent Hill? Do I like this guy? Am I like this guy or am I not like this guy? We put some things in there to make people think about that.
In some early focus tests, people were split. Some people are really into it or it doesn’t bother them, but some people are bothered by certain elements so I think we’re in a good spot. Hopefully, having a criminal as a protagonist brings a new depth of the series.
Are you like Murphy? How would you handle being in his Otherworld?
Oooh… [laughs] I’m patient and I’m smart. I think there are some… it’s hard to put into words. Murphy is kind of determined, in a way, and that’s a kind of determination I can see from me. The plot is a collaborative effort. Me, Devin, Brian Gomez the design director, and Tom Waltz the writer all put some in the story. So, I see the things that I put in to the story. The ways that Murphy would react to situations – Silent Hill puts up a roadblock where you thought you were free, but you’re not. His reactions are things the way I would relate to because I think I would react much the same way.
Our interview with Tomm continues with discussion about Silent Hill: Downpour’s difficult levels and how Konami is handling other games in the series. Read part two here.