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Amnesia director: "Diversity can only be a good thing"

Amnesia director: "Diversity can only be a good thing"

Fri 20 Sep 2013 9:47pm GMT / 5:47pm EDT / 2:47pm PDT
People

Jessica Curry wonders why 'different' is such a threatening concept in game development

The recently-released Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs has confused the industry because people can't tell if it's meant to be a game or interactive fiction. The Amnesia sequel by developer The Chinese Room has a strong narrative, but gives the player less to do than the average game. One review over at The Verge says A Machine for Pigs "feels like it's stuck between being a thing you experience and a thing you play," a sentiment that appears in a number of other reviews.

In a written feature on Edge, The Chinese Room director and composer Jessica Curry wonders why Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs being different is such a problem.

"This question felt valid after we made Dear Esther, as the game (unintentionally) brought something new to the table and as a result raised some interesting debates," says Curry. "Move forward two years and a great deal has changed on the gaming scene. So when Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs was released we were really surprised to still be facing the question (and sometimes naked hostility) as to whether we are aiming to create interactive fiction rather than games."

"This question rests on the idea that games are purely driven by mechanics and goals, and this seems laughably outdated as a concept. Why do we feel the need to classify and name and label before we can enjoy something? Do I need to know whether or not Bach sits in the classical canon before I can appreciate his incredible music? For me, the key is whether it's an engaging experience (or not). The increasing breadth and diversity in games - a medium that ranges from Tetris to Gone Home - is wonderful. Why is difference such an enormously threatening concept?"

Curry would like the audience to determine if Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs is a success or failure on its own merits, not the fact that it might not be as much of a game as other titles out there.

"We care about flow and immersion but the apparatus required to deliver that experience; whether it's story or a traditional mechanic is immaterial," she adds. "You just use the right tools for the job. The Chinese Room is unusual in that a writer and a composer head up the company. This, I hope, brings a fresh perspective."

"Mechanics will probably never be our core focus as they're not the reason we're driven to create. What this focus isn't is: an agenda, a manifesto, a fuck you, a provocation, a purge or a stance. It's simply us being us. We want to make games that we feel utterly passionate about and those games will most likely continue to focus on beauty, narrative, immersion. Basically, good stories told well."

The Chinese Room's next game is Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, a PlayStation 4 exclusive.

7 Comments

Pier Castonguay
Programmer

189 106 0.6
I finished the game, the problem is not that it's "different", the game is flawed on nearly all concepts.

The asset re-utilization is awful. The first time you see a painting you think it's a nice touch, but when it's the 40th time you see the same plastered all over the game, it lose its style. Same thing for most objects. Most rooms (level design) are completely implausible in size and architecture and don't feel real at all.
On the other hand, the level of detail is quite good and better than most game (geometry/texturing).

Contrarily to Penumbra series where you had some very clever puzzle to solve, Amnesia: MFP only have a few "move objects from point A to point B" gameplay elements, and it don't get more that than.

There is a SINGLE other moving entity type in the game (appear 4-5 times along the way) and it's a PIG! How can they be serious? You have to run away from a PIG! You can't even fight back. Is that supposed to be scary or funny?

The story in itself is not enough to save the game, the story is kinda simple and a lot of elementary students could come up with a better one. Also, it's probably delivered in the worst way unimaginable. Instead of integrating the storytelling elements into the gameplay (in cut-scenes or when the player have control) they just plastered written "notes" all over and phones with "audio log" type of message. Even worse, as soon as one of these audio log start playing, the player movement lower to about 10% of his speed and the screen becomes blurry to the point you need to wait until it's finished to continue moving.

A lot of bad reviews say it's too linear. There's nothing wrong with a linear game, when linearity actually help to support an story with eventful scripted scenes and nice transitions between rooms. In the case of Amnesia, it's just running into empty long corridors where nothing happen and only 1/10 doors are unlocked along the way.

A lot of bad review say the game is much too short. While it is short (around 5hours), it's not that of a problem.

Posted:A year ago

#1

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,530 1,330 0.9
I haven't even started A:AMFP, but I would like to point out that
Instead of integrating the storytelling elements into the gameplay (in cut-scenes or when the player have control) they just plastered written "notes" all over and phones with "audio log" type of message.
sounds exactly like the first Amnesia game, and Gone Home. When you say "When the player have control," and criticise the lack of puzzles, it sounds like you're wanting a game with specific mechanics and more player interaction. Which is fine in one sense, but also her exact point; criticising something for being less gameplay oriented than people expect or want.
"This question rests on the idea that games are purely driven by mechanics and goals, and this seems laughably outdated as a concept[...] We care about flow and immersion but the apparatus required to deliver that experience; whether it's story or a traditional mechanic is immaterial,"
To have cut-scenes would break the flow. In addition, the movement speed being slowed is perhaps to slow the player down; to force them to engage with the audio-log (that is, the story), just like paragraph breaks and chapters in books force the reader to mentally slow down, at the will of the writer. Puzzles, too, break the flow of the narrative, as the player engages a more analytical frame-of-mind. If all the developers want to do is to tell a story, then such things become... unnecessary.

Though, if all the developers want to do is tell a story, it does beg the question why not some other medium? Gone Home would, I think, have worked just as well as a graphic novel (I could imagine it being written and drawn by, say, Terry Moore). Perhaps the exploration elements and ease with which the interactive medium can help players empathise with characters is the reason why this sub-genre is taking off?

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 21st September 2013 7:22pm

Posted:A year ago

#2

Paul Smith
Dev

189 148 0.8
The "problem" is that when people buy a sequel to a game they expect it to add more not take away. God forbid a game is marked on its gameplay!

AAMFP Wouldn't of been so bad if they added at least some depth to the game, Whats even worse though is that the plot was so convoluted that any sort of story or experience was ruined. At least reading the developers comments explains to me why its so.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Paul Smith on 22nd September 2013 6:28pm

Posted:A year ago

#3

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,530 1,330 0.9
God forbid a game is marked on its gameplay!
Not to disagree with your points (I don't. :p ), but perhaps we should start being more art-y when we think of games? Art itself runs the gamut from Tracy Emin to Caravaggio; from biblical scenes to "tasteful Victorian erotica", and whilst there is a definite dislike of the more extreme elements of art, there is always a thoughtful critique that doesn't rely on scoring out of 10. Mature the criticism, and you mature the medium, maybe?

Or, I'm just waffling after a couple of glasses of red. :D

Posted:A year ago

#4

Paul Smith
Dev

189 148 0.8
If maturing the medium means having the gaming equivalent of "My Bed" then count me out, I'll be in the kids corner playing with Duplo.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Smith on 22nd September 2013 8:52pm

Posted:A year ago

#5
Curry would like the audience to determine if Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs is a success or failure on its own merits, not the fact that it might not be as much of a game as other titles out there.
But that's hard to do when "Amnesia" is in the title and a LOT of people expected something similar. Their disappointment that it wasn't trumps any pleasure in the experience they did get.

Posted:11 months ago

#6

Sergio Rosa
"Somewhat-Creative Director"

62 35 0.6
I understand Jessica Curry's points but she should also understand that, above all, they were making "the sequel" to Amnesia: The Dark Descent and that means players already have some expectations. You can't make the sequel to a game and expect "different" will be good any more than you can't make a sequel to Star Wars and not focus on The Force.
Many people think this game is good on its own merits, but that's secondary when you also take into account this is basically a sequel. It's the equivalent of making a Mario game without platforming... If the game had been called "a machine for pigs" without the "Amnesia" label, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

Posted:11 months ago

#7

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