In the first part of our Splatterhouse interview Dan Tovar, Producer, discussed the series’ roots. This time he’s dishing about his favorite feature, the gore.
Splatterhouse has been in development for so long. How has the game evolved from when you first started the project?
Dan Tovar, Producer: It’s given us a lot of time to refine and focus on what makes the game compelling. It’s given us a lot of time to playtest and get consumer feedback.
We’ve changed the visual style a few times before we finally got to where we got now, which is we have a little bit of an outline around the character to make him pop out of the environment. It’s not really cel-shaded, it’s all 3D assets. The blood has gotten more and more predominant as we’ve gone – everything has a wet look to it, it is Splatterhouse. The characters used to be a little more realistic and now we’ve shifted it into an exaggerated realm, I guess.
What about the gameplay?
It’s basically the execution that’s really changed. We’ve always been an action brawler. It’s always been very up close and personal, very visceral. Things have evolved as far as the weapons, at first, it was more of a simple implementation and we recognized they needed more depth in the gameplay. We’ve added more movesets, more animations.
The splatter kills have become much more interactive. Now you use the analog sticks and you’re basically enacting the kill. So you get a guy’s head between your hands and you’re using the thumbsticks as if they were your hands and you’re just like crushing its head by holding them in.
How about the story? Has that changed at all?
Yeah, you go through some very early basic iterations, but I mean that was years ago. Rick has a little bit more of a story arc to follow now. The mental transition that he goes throughout the game is highlighted a little bit more clearly. At first he’s a normal human guy that’s thrown into this horrible situation that would make any normal person go insane. But, because this mask is this demon and they’re trying to work together it’s basically holding his mind together. At first he’s very fragile mentally, then he gets a little bit stronger, then he starts to enjoy it, then he starts to doubts himself. I don’t want to give away too much, but there is much more of an arc for players to identify with.
What kind of beastly moves can Rick learn? Aside from the basic combos and slow motion bone slicing in the demo.
All of the abilities Rick is displaying are through the mask. More blood is more power. The more blood you feed the mask the more moves it unlocks for you and the stronger you get.
So like you mention you saw those giant bone claws that slice guys in half. He has another one where he pounds the ground and summons this meat wave of blood, bones, and guts that sends guys flying through the air. You can engage his berserker mode where he has a complete model swap and the mask takes over and all of the innards force his way out. We have a visual style change and everything just goes nuts. All of his moves become supercharged. He has a whole new set of combos.
Besides that all of his moves are upgradable. He has a skill tree that is pretty beef. Again, you spend blood to unlock that stuff. His combos will get stronger, they will increase in length. Meaning you can go from a three hit combo to a five hit combo. They also increase in rapidity. You can also learn to charge some up. Right now, everything is unlocked because you’re a third of the way through the game and its a demo. When you play the game from the beginning it’s a much simpler move set you’ll have to expand. It is player controlled, so based on your style of play you can upgrade it to your liking.
Speaking of blood this is one of the goriest games…
You’re welcome. But, was there anything that’s too gory where you were like the ESRB isn’t going to let us do this?
Most of the ESRB limitations come through the marketing materials. They don’t really want us to pump the blood as like a selling point. If you’ll notice a lot of our videos that you’ve seen online, they’re pretty tame. It’s been important for us from a PR standpoint to make sure everybody knows that’s not the way the game is. That’s the way we have to market it based on the ESRB limitations. So we’ve been working closely with them to find ways to make sure people know what the game truly is.
To answer your question more specifically, yes there was stuff we had to tone back in the game. We also looked very carefully at the definitions of a “M” (17+) rating and an “AO” (18+) initially to make sure we’re maximizing our “M”. Because we really embraced it from day one. The violence, the blood, the nudity, drug references, cursing, foul language, that kind of stuff. That’s all within the “M” rating. The “AO” rating comes from violence against human characters, which we don’t really do. It’s more of a fantasy setting, it’s all monsters you’re maiming, which makes it a little more tolerable in their eyes.
Can you give as an example of how you’re maximizing your “M”? Like a point where you almost had to cut something out, but were told if you toned it down you could keep it in?
Decapitation is one sensitive point for them. We have a lot of decapitations so it’s really like how you’re focusing on it. You can’t zoom in on it too much so we had to pull back a little bit. So, you know, they give us very specific feedback and we work with them to make sure everyone is getting what they want out of it.
You seem proud of the game’s blood and guts, but aside from that what’s the second element that you’re glad you created Splatterhouse?
I think it’s the cohesive way we’ve been able to tie together the horror, action, and heavy metal. Those are really the three pillars of our game that we identified to create the overall experience. I think the way they’ve come together is really well done and I think people are going to enjoy the hell out of it.
Are you a little bit worried that the gore could spark some controversy?
I think we’re hoping we will. [Laughs.]