The Dark Pictures Anthology’s Creative Director On How Fan Feedback Has Helped Shape The Series
The first season of The Dark Pictures Anthology comes to a close this year with the launch of The Devil in Me. Once again, you’ll control the fate of five protagonists, but for the first time in the series, you’ll have greater control over character movement, such as climbing, jumping, and running. There’s also a new inventory feature, with each character having access to a specific range of tools that can be lost, broken, or sometimes upgraded. Puzzle elements have been added, so you’ll have to utilise tools or information found in the environment to discover solutions.
“We are always getting feedback for every new game — [we listen] to the community and the critical responses we get,” Will Doyle, the creative director of The Dark Pictures Anthology, tells me. “After each game comes out, we do this massive process where we go through and get all of the reviews together, compile all the points, trawl social media, and get as many opinions as we can. We use that to analyse our games and think about how we can improve them.
“We also learned that we can't just release a new story. Even though it's an anthology we can't just go, ‘this is purely about the story.’ There has to be some sort of improvement. It's also a game series, and our fans and critics expect some form of progression. So we'll see that in The Devil in Me. We're focusing quite a lot on exploration, and we're saying, ‘what can we do here with exploration to make this more immersive, more exciting, to make you feel more engaged with it?’ We'll be carrying all of that over into season two. We'll do the same thing, and we'll look at the responses to that. What people liked, what people are asking for, and adjust our course based on that.”
The addition of difficulty options for House of Ashes — which were also applied to Man of Medan and Little Hope via an update — came from this process of the team analysing responses to their games. The new features in The Devil in Me are also the result of fan feedback. The aim is to enhance gameplay while retaining the core survival horror mechanics and not straying too far into another genre, which is why the tool and puzzle elements have been kept simple.
“People weren't specifically saying, ‘we want to be able to do this, that, and the other’, but they were saying, ‘we want to be able to do more within exploration’. We have a set of pillars for The Dark Pictures games and exploration has always been primarily about discovery. We have these hidden storylines and layers of story that you find in those moments. So it's about looking for old books, papers, and learning more about the story.
“It’s always been about tension as well, building up to scary moments. But we've received lots of people saying that they want more danger in those moments. So that's what we've done. It's taking feedback on a number of different things, as people say they want more danger, some people say they want more engagement from the game, so we're trying to push that aspect, trying to put more threat into exploration. We have our new hiding mechanic in this game, you actually have to run to a hiding spot, and so it's still framing it in quite a simple way, but it's putting more control in the player's hands.”
The Devil in Me follows Lonnit Entertainment, a group of documentary filmmakers, visiting a replica of H.H. Holmes’ infamous ‘Murder Castle’ after being invited by its mysterious owner. Of course, it wouldn’t be part of The Dark Pictures Anthology without its signature drama and death. Naturally, things don’t quite go as planned, and the team soon finds themselves fighting for survival.
“H.H. Holmes is just brilliant,” Doyle says. “We wanted to tell a game about a human serial killer, and when you look at who's the most infamous serial killer, H.H. Holmes is top of the pile. It’s also really interesting that there's so much mystery around him. His story has become mythology, and so it's very, very difficult to look at it and go, ‘these are the names of his victims,’ for example. It's a really good subject for us to play around with because we do have to be kind of careful, this is a real person, these were real people that he killed. It's so long ago, and it's surrounded in so much mystery that it's just got that special thing to it.
“That’s something we do with all of our games, we try and find a fun story that, although it's got that feeling of truth, it's always a mystery. There's something that you can go away yourself, after playing one of our games, and you can go and do your own internet sleuthing, trying to find out more about this, and there’s stuff you can learn and discover.”
Doyle knows his audience, I had already done my fair share of Googling H.H. Holmes before travelling to the Supermassive Games office. While I had heard of the ‘Murder Castle’ before, I didn’t know many details. I had discovered the same thing Doyle was telling me — it’s tough to pin down specifics when it comes to H.H. Holmes. This notorious figure was America’s first serial killer, but they claimed to have killed people who were later proven to be still alive — the stories of what he did have been greatly embellished over the years, and the original hotel itself has long since been demolished. It’s hard to tell fact from fiction, making it the perfect territory to weave a new, captivating, and horrifying tale.
“All of our games are based on some sort of real-world legend or piece of history, mythology, or whatever,” Doyle tells me. “We spent a lot of time trawling for that and we're always going, ‘oh this is an interesting bit of history’. We earmark it for later and we think about what stories we can make out of it. For every new anthology game that we pick, it's come out of a pile of 10-15 others. It's not like we go, ‘Okay, we're gonna jettison all those other ones, we're never going to do them,’ they just go back into the pile. When the time is right, we might come back to some of those ideas that we've not looked at before, or we splice them. We don't like everything about that setting or that story, but maybe we can take this little bit from it, and it might become part of a secret thread for another game.”
Doyle couldn’t recall any of the season one games featuring a splice of two ideas but said that season two contains plenty. As all the games contain easter eggs that point to both past and future titles in the anthology, I tried to spot any potential clues for season two while I played The Devil in Me. Doyle promised that, as the season finale, The Devil in Me has more easter eggs than any previous game. Of course, he wouldn’t tell me specific hints about season two storylines, but he confirmed that the Curator would be returning.
“He’s not going away,” he said. “It's really important that people see each game as its own thing. You don't have to know any lore or carry any baggage into each game. You can play it completely as a standalone, but the story of the Curator is something that is building up over time. If you play all of our games, there are certain things he says that point towards, ‘Why did he say that? What is that mystery there?’ Bit by bit, the answers will come.
“He has rules, right? He's obviously very, very tempted to break those rules. He’s told by somebody that he's not allowed to break them, but you can see he's itching to. It's not like he wants you to save everyone or he wants to kill everyone. It’s something in between. There's always a feeling that he's playing with you in some way, and there's something going on you don't quite get.
“I think that there's something about the format of anthologies, that the narrator is always quite important in a way. You look back to Creep Show and all that kind of stuff, there are these quite iconic figures. We wanted to create someone that would be memorable and would become a fan favourite, but we never knew it was going to be quite as popular as it has been. There are always people writing in and telling us how much they love the Curator.”
As a firm Curator fan, I was pleased to hear that he’d still be present in the second season, and it sounds like he has an exciting arc ahead. We already know he can enter the real world and affect it, he appears lurking in the background before any potential death scene, and he adds the Dark Pictures to each story, too. But what if he starts taking matters into his own hands? I’m excited to see if the Curator will step out from the shadows in The Devil in Me. Perhaps he is the eccentric hotel owner getting stab happy with the cast? Now that would be a killer twist (pun very much intended).
The Dark Pictures Anthology: The Devil in Me launches on November 18, 2022 for Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC.
Source: Read Full Article