Shinji Mikami knows terror — and fear and what makes a gamer’s palms sweat and his eyes twitch. Best known for the seminal horror survival series Resident Evil, he now serves as director at Tango Gameworks. His latest foray into darkness, The Evil Within, will have the player (as Sebastian) finding himself in a deranged world where survival depends on quick wits as well as quick actions. We want to know more.
Man Cave Daily: What can you tell us about the story?
Shinji Mikami: Usually it’s standard to talk about the story for a game, but for this particular game it’s just as important not to talk about it. Getting into too much detail will spoil the mystery and that’s a key element in this type of horror game. I would rather have the players unfold the story with Sebastian.
MCD: You say the game is “pure survival horror” — what does that mean?
SM: A survival horror game to me is game that has the right balance of anxiety/tension and destruction. This game is just that – it’s neither a pure action game nor is it a pure adventure game. You also have very limited resources, which is characteristic of this genre, but we have given players other means to overcome a particular situation such as sneaking and using traps in the environment to kill enemies.
How do you see the environment in this game — meaning what is the “mood” that is to be created in the player and to keep him in this mood?
MCD: How does one set the “mood” in a game like this?
SM: To set the mood of this game, I chose visuals reminiscent in classic horror. The film-grain overlay is part of this. It sets a very unique and disturbing tone to the game. Making players feel uneasy was also important in the creation of the atmosphere.
MCD: What other game elements are employed to keep the gamer anxious, nervous and compelled to continue playing?
SM: Scary visuals aren’t enough to scare horror enthusiasts. Calculating enemy placement and enemy algorithm so that it changes it up a little every time helps keep players on their toes as much as possible. I’m always conscious of this when designing a game. As for the environments, they are pretty tight. When you’re in a corridor and you see an enemy at the other end of the corridor, you’ll get very nervous — not knowing whether you can run away from that situation. Creating that kind of uncertainty is important. Also related to uncertainty is that the guns aren’t 100% reliable and you’ll see that through enemy animations when they’re hit.
[Also] I think the limited resources set this game apart from other genres. You do feel not totally in control of the situation you’re in. The sense of being overwhelmed by the environment or by the enemy is the biggest element in its uniqueness.
MCD: Are you excited about the advanced graphics and processing power that the next-gen platforms provide?
SM: Being able work with the lighting made capable by the new platforms are definitely a plus in creating the eerie and uneasy atmosphere. Even in dark places, the subtle gradations pay off to create a sense of depth and reality which really adds to this game.
MCD: What do you want gamers to come away with after they’ve spent time playing The Evil Within?
SM: This is horror entertainment. Players will have sweaty hands when they’re done playing, but I want people to enjoy this game. After all, it is a game.
Bethesda will make The Evil Within available in October 2014 on the PlayStation 3/4, Xbox 360/One and PC
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