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SOMA: The 5-Year Design and Development of a Sci-Fi Horror game from the Amnesia devs

Verger

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I wanted to create a thread to try and showcase the detailed process that Frictional Games (developers of Penubra, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, supervisors for Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs) undertook with their upcoming Science Fiction/Horror game SOMA. At the same time I wanted to also present the game's key features which I think many are/were unaware of as most probably do not quite understand what the game is about and what the developers are aiming for with it.

A lot of this was stuff I was researching in preparations for the actual game OT down the road, but wanted to present it in its own thread since most of it is probably a bit too superfluous for a Game OT. I also am taking care as to stay away from anything that could potentially be story spoilers.

Credit goes to the Unofficial SOMA Info Portal and its contributors to aggregating all the info.

Special Credit and Recommended Reading is the Frictional Games Blog. Containing development diaries, personnel bios and analysis of other games (like Alien Isolation)


What is SOMA?
SOMA is a first-person sci-fi survival horror video game developed by Frictional Games, which intends to explore the themes of consciousness and identity. It is due for release on the 22nd of September 2015, and it will be available on Windows PC, Mac OS X, Linux and the PlayStation 4 console.

You take on the role of Simon Jarrett, who has found himself investigating the remote research facility PATHOS-II, a foreboding place which had been in complete radio silence prior to your arrival and where experiments had taken place with robotics and human consciousness. Existence within the complex has quickly devolved into a living nightmare. While not an Amnesiac, Simon is unaware of just what he has stepped into.


Key FAQs
  • Developer is solely Frictional Games. Not a collaboration as was A Machine for Pigs
  • Development started in 2010 before the release of The Dark Descent
  • Soundtrack will be composed by The Dark Descent's and Penumbra's Mikko Tarmia
  • No Combat System and players will be defenseless (standard since Penumbra Black Plague)
  • No Active Inventory Screen. The game keeps track of items player has accumulated and they can be selected with hotkeys. There will also be a multipurpose tool available for many different uses.
  • The player will have a light source to turn on/off
  • Concerns about being able to interact with the game's world in SOMA stem from the decision made by The Chinese Room to severely reduce interactivity in Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs, a game for which they were the primary developers. Thomas Grip of Frictional Games has assured players that SOMA will allow them to interact with the environment in a way comparable with Penumbra and Amnesia: The Dark Descent.
  • The sanity system in Amnesia: The Dark Descent was a "global" mechanic, in that its potential effects on the player were the same throughout the game. SOMA will include mechanics of a similar nature, but they will be more dynamic and "local", with different situations/creatures triggering different effects.
  • Enemies in SOMA are not as event-based as they were in Amnesia: The Dark Descent. In Amnesia, the "danger music" would activate and remain active while an enemy was present somewhere in the level, which eventually taught the player to recognise when they were safe. In SOMA, the enemies are more dynamic and may appear at different times for different players, so the music won't be as clear cut as it was in Amnesia.
  • An accompanying Film, "Depth", will be released congruently with the game.
  • Fully mod-able on Day 1 on Steam for custom stories and content


Development Timeline

When one thinks of a "5-year development cycle", the first thing that would come to mind of late is likely a negative thought, with many gamers associating such long development times with "AAA" games that have ended up way overbudget and often becoming too bloated or big for their own good.

Frictional Games however is not an "AAA" developer, boasting a small team of 14 employees who don't even have a dedicated office (last I checked, they all worked from their homes). In addition, the process to iterate their ideas is more complex than typical games, where changes can be made in a short period of time, SOMA's iterations however often took nearly a year to realize.

It also is worth noting that the team was likely not fully devoted to SOMA in the initial development years as they still were supporting The Dark Descent post-release, and Supervising A Machine For Pigs:
2010
  • Development of SOMA and its HPL3 engine began shortly before the Amnesia: The Dark Descent was completed and released
2011-2012
  • Hints that Frictional Games were working on a new title were scattered throughout the company's job vacancies and cryptic allusions in the gaming press. During this period, the as yet unannounced game was referred to simply as the "Super Secret Project"
2013
  • SOMA was officially announced on the 11th of October 2013, preceded by roughly two weeks of teasing, and was given a tentative release window of "early 2015". It was affirmed by Frictional at this time that SOMA would be their most ambitious project to date.
  • An initial Gameplay Trailer was revealed with the announcement.
    The level showcased was specially made for the trailer and is not in the final game.
    The character in the video is not the protagonist.​
  • Two Live-Action videos were also released, "Vivarium" and "Mockingbird". These were inspired by SCP, and may tie-in with the film "Depth".
2014
  • By mid-March, the game's development had reached Alpha stage, with a 5-hour version of the intended 8-hour game being in a playable state.
  • By August, it was stated that the script was complete, all of the game's dialogue had been recorded and roughly three quarters of the game's content had been built (further recordings took place in February 2015).
  • By September, the PS4 version of the game was up and running, with all features working as intended.
  • By November, the game had reached "pre-pre-Beta" stage, and the core mechanics had been "set in stone". The game was playable from start to finish for the first time, clocking in at around 11 hours, and several more months of polish will see the game through to completion.
  • By mid-December, the game had reached pre-Beta.
2015
  • The 14th of February saw the final piece of voice work to be done on the game, with the last line recorded being "Back off okay!"
  • On the 13th of March, Frictional stated that if all goes according to plan, the Beta build for SOMA would be done "in 4 weeks", which would be mid-April, and beta testing would commence right after that. For the first time since development began, the final release of the game was "a clearly visible milestone".
  • On the 13th of April, Frictional Games said that this would be their "last full day" before the Beta build is completed and sent out to testers.
  • After a slight delay, the Beta build was sent out to testers on the 15th of April. On the same day, a blog post from Thomas Grip explained that the next deadline for SOMA's development is the final release.
  • The final Beta test took place on the 22nd of May.
  • The game's release date was revealed on the 29th of May: SOMA will be released to the PC and PS4 on the 22nd of September 2015.
  • A new Gameplay Trailer from the final game was revealed.
  • Two new Live-Action clips (possibly from "Depth") were released in the ARG which accompanied the new trailer, "Song" and "StructureGel"


Frictional's Design and Development Foundations for SOMA

The developers have taken great care in designing and building out this game world. I will summarize the key points, but I would also suggest clicking on the links to be taken to their blog thoughts and more detailed descriptions.

The Five Foundational Design Pillars
1) Everything is story
First up, we want the player to constantly feel as if they are inside a flowing narrative. It is so common that a game is distinctly split into story and puzzle/action moments. We want to blur the boundaries here and make it impossible to distinguish between the two. Whatever the player does it should feel as if it is part of the story. We do not want to have sections that simply feel like blockers to the next narrative moment. From start to finish the player should be drenched in a living, breathing world of storytelling.

2) Take the world seriously
This leads us to the next point: that every detail in an environment is connected to the story somehow. Nothing should be written off as simply a requirement for gameplay or exposition. For instance, if you find an audio log you will be able to learn more about the story by pondering its placement alone. There should be no need to "double-think"; the game's world should be possible to evaluate on its own terms.

3) The player is in charge
When you invest this much in a setting, it's important to make sure that players feel connected to it. In order to this we need to put a bigger responsibility on the player. An environment quickly loses its sense of realism if it is extremely streamlined and does not allow you to make choices. The player must be the one that drives the narrative forward.

4) Trust the player
This brings us to the next point: that we trust players to act according to the story. We do not force players to notice events by use of cutscenes and similar, but assume they will properly explore the environment and act in a rational fashion. We simply set up situations and then let the player have full control over their actions.

5) Thematics emerge through play
Now for our last foundational design rule: that the game's thematics will emerge through play. SOMA is meant to explore deep subjects such as consciousness and the nature of existence. We could have done this with cutscenes and long conversations, but we chose not to. We want players to become immersed in these thematics, and the discussions to emerge from within themselves.
The Five Goals of SOMA
Goal 1: The feeling of playing a narrative
It’s important that the game is constantly drenching the player in storytelling. We need to make sure there is always a red thread of narrative running through the game. We don’t want you to go “Oh, here comes a puzzle section”, but to constantly feel as if you are being told an interactive story.

Goal 2: A coherently crafted world
When creating Amnesia our setting was basically just “Old castle where supernatural stuff happens”. This allowed us to get away with just about anything and explain it with “because, magic”. But in SOMA we are building a world that is supposed to be tied into the real world and to make sense. Our goal here is to make proper sci-fi and not just a magical fantasy with futuristic designs.

Goal 3: Gameplay with plenty of variation
As mentioned above, SOMA does not rely on a core gameplay loop and there is a very good reason for this: we don’t want the player to become too fixated on figuring out the game’s underlying abstract systems. We want players to approach the game from how it looks, sounds and feels. In order for this to work the game’s different scenes can’t have the same setup, as that would make you familiar with how everything works. Instead, we need to keep things fresh and avoid repeating ourselves.

Goal 4: Deep, disturbing themes that makes you think
A crucial design goal for us is to allow a deep exploration of what it means to be a sentient being. The first step towards doing this is to make sure that SOMA’s gameplay, plot, characters and setting reflect the subjects we want to discuss. If you approach the game in the right way, some seriously unsettling implications should be become clear. And here lies the problem. Are we getting through to you in the right way? Will the really interesting details just rush past you, or will you stop and give them some serious consideration?

Goal 5: A pervasive sense of horror
Finally, the game should be utterly terrifying. We do not want you to calmly stroll through the various environments; it must be emotionally tasking to progress. We want this blanket of oppression and fear wrapped around the entire experience. Sustaining this through eight or so hours takes some finesse – if we repeat something too often then you’ll get used to it and be able to second-guess the events. The build-up must take time, but without being dull, and there needs to be a nice rhythm of ups and downs throughout the journey.
The "4 Layers" Approach to Narrative Design - This is a long read, and well worth it for anyone interested into the insights of Frictional's approach to story-based gaming.
Layer 1: Gameplay
  • Coherency - The gameplay must fit with the game's world, mood and characters. There should be no need for double-thinking when performing an action; it should fit with what has been laid out by the narrative.
  • Streamlining - It is important that the gameplay is not too convoluted and doesn't have too many steps. This is partly to minimize the chance of the player getting stuck.
  • A Sense of Accomplishment - It is really easy to fall in the trap of doing “press button to progress” type of gameplay when the main goal is to tell a story. But in order to make the player feel agency, there must be some sense of achievement.
  • Action Confirmation - When the player does something in the game, they must understand what it is that they are doing and why they are doing it.
Layer 2: Narrative Goal
  • Mystery - The most obvious and simple is mystery; that there is something unknown you want find out about. It's pretty easy to have environmental assets that constantly reminds the player of this - this sort of goal is also pretty easy to fit into a gameplay scene.
  • Uncomfortable Environment - Another way is to give the scene a narrative reason for the player not wanting to stick around. The most trivial example of this would be a dark and scary environment; the player is scared and wants to leave. It could also be that the situation is awkward or emotional in a way that the player can't cope with and wants to escape.
  • Character Conflict - Character-based conflict can also be used as a narrative goal. Walking Dead is full of this; what are really just fairly simplistic activities become engaging because of story reasons.
Layer 3: Narrative Background
  • Story Fragments - This means having narrative clues scattered through the environment which are stumbled upon while playing. An important note is that shouldn't just be the standard audio logs and diary entries. While it can consist of those sort of elements, it's important that they never mean a large interruption in the gameplay, and that they're found as the player goes through with the actions needed to overcome the obstacle. The act of collecting clues should not feel like a separate activity, but come as a part of the scene's main gameplay.
  • Complementary Dialogue - There can also be dialog going on at the same time, giving context to the player's actions. Bastion uses this to great effect.
  • Emotionally Significant Assets - If the the items involved in the gameplay have some sort of emotional value or a strong connection to the story, the player is much less likely to see them as abstract tools.
Layer 4: Mental Modeling
  • Danger - There is something lurking about that constitutes a threat for the player. It's important that this threat is not some common occurrence that relies on twitch reflexes or similar, as it's just a normal gameplay element then.
  • Goal-focused Mystery - This can mean that the player has the objective of solving a crime or similar. What we are after is that the player should see the game world as a place where important clues are to be discovered.
  • Social Pressures - The player is amongst other people that they have to try and figure out.

TLDR: Frictional's latest game SOMA, a Sci-Fi Horror game, has been in development by a small studio who have taken their time to try to create something new and unique in the genre. Will be released on September 22 on PC and PS4. Now have some more Concept Art :)
 

Atolm

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I'm in total media blackout for this game (Amnesia was my GOTY2009) but I appreciate this thread. The game isn't getting the attention it deserves.
 

T.O.P

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I'm absolutely dying to get my hands on this

But this title screams VR for a first playthrough, so i'll just play the waiting game until Vive/Oculus comes out :(
 

Verger

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Jun 19, 2014
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I'm in total media blackout for this game (Amnesia was my GOTY2009) but I appreciate this thread.
Thanks!

Yes, Frictional themselves have stated that the best way to play SOMA is to go in blind and not knowing what to expect.

That's why I stuck with more high-level concepts and general information and avoided any story-spoilers or specifics (I hope).

Mainly wanted to show just how involved the process of developing this game has been.
 

Aurongel

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Fantastic write up.

I've been a massive Frictional fan since Overture and SOMA will be the first game of theirs with a modern PC. Their design is excellent, Amnesia is one of the most influential horror games of the past decade.
 

Sotha_Sil

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Of the design pillars, 3 and 4 stick out to me. Sounds great if they fully realize their goal.
 
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One of my more anticipated indie games. SOMA's world looks so damn cool. I hope to hear another indie success story where they recoup their development costs shortly after launch.

I'm in total media blackout for this game (Amnesia was my GOTY2009) but I appreciate this thread. The game isn't getting the attention it deserves.
You mean GOTY 2010?
 

JoduanER2

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Fantastic write up.

I've been a massive Frictional fan since Overture and SOMA will be the first game of theirs with a modern PC. Their design is excellent, Amnesia is one of the most influential horror games of the past decade.

For me the best horror game of the past decade, so terrifying and interesting.
 

Seanspeed

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I'm absolutely dying to get my hands on this

But this title screams VR for a first playthrough, so i'll just play the waiting game until Vive/Oculus comes out :(
Game wont have VR support.

At least not official....
 

hew9753

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I haven't paid much attention to this so far but it sounds promising. I had a case of first-person survival horror burnout after struggling through Outlast - which starts off strong but gets tedious pretty quickly - but after P.T. and Alien Isolation I'm ready for more of the genre if it can bring something new. SOMA might end up being my Halloween season horror game this year.
 

Verger

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I updated the OP with a bit more formatting.

One thing I also didn't note was that the game will purportedly have mod support like The Dark Descent, so custom stories and such will likely be possible.

As for VR, that doesn't seem to be in the cards. But someone might "mod" the game somehow I suppose.
I've watched the gameplay trailer and I bet that at one point in the story we'll realize that
we're in fact a robot and not a human
I think anyone who has seen any media of this game is pretty much expecting this considering all the screen distortions you see.

I'm sure (well I hope) the real "twist" is much deeper than that.
 

Verger

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I haven't paid much attention to this so far but it sounds promising. I had a case of first-person survival horror burnout after struggling through Outlast - which starts off strong but gets tedious pretty quickly - but after P.T. and Alien Isolation I'm ready for more of the genre if it can bring something new. SOMA might end up being my Halloween season horror game this year.
Yeah, Outlast was pretty much "we took the "run and hide" mechanic from The Dark Descent and made a whole game out of it", but they clearly didn't follow any of the design ideas or narration styles that Frictional did with Amnesia since both were pretty bad. They also focused almost entirely on jump scares. Thankfully Frictional has stated that SOMA will not rely on such tropes.

From the design notes, Frictional is clearly trying not to make a "expansion pack" for The Dark Descent and redo the "run and hide" formula, they're actively trying to shake things up and find out new ways to "scare" and "terrify" the player
 

NightShift

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I don't care for jumpscare games but SOMA has had me in since the first live action videos and continues to rope me in with its design ever since. Can't wait to play it.
 

schadenfood

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Amazing post OP. Had heard of this during its initial reveal but after watching the ARG videos I'm definitely gonna pick this up in September. I'm still recovering from the nightmares Bloodborne gave me, so we'll see how this goes...
 

Dog Problems

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The Dark Descent bothered me so much that I couldn't finish it. Not sure if I'll be able to handle SOMA, lol.
 

Shredderi

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I'm new to Frictional's output. I mean of course I know them and their work but I've yet to actually play any of them. I don't really care for jump scare games. I just played Outlast and it was jump scare the game. Does Frictional's games rely more on horror through atmosphere and narrative or being scared of the next loud sound effect?
 

RoboPlato

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Haven't played any of Frictional's games before but I'm really looking forward to this.
 

Verger

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Amazing post OP. Had heard of this during its initial reveal but after watching the ARG videos I'm definitely gonna pick this up in September. I'm still recovering from the nightmares Bloodborne gave me, so we'll see how this goes...
Thank you!

I too really really love the Live Action videos. They do a great job giving an unsettling feeling without relying upon jump scares, disturbing imagery and the like, but having you question "what the hell?"
The Dark Descent bothered me so much that I couldn't finish it. Not sure if I'll be able to handle SOMA, lol.
You should give A Machine for Pigs a shot. Consensus was it was not as scary of a game as TDD (for which it was heavily criticized).
I'm new to Frictional's output. I mean of course I know them and their work but I've yet to actually play any of them. I don't really care for jump scare games. I just played Outlast and it was jump scare the game. Does Frictional's games rely more on horror through atmosphere and narrative or being scared of the next loud sound effect?
Man, you really should try the Amnesia games. The first is highly acclaimed for good reason, and the second has great atmosphere and narratives.

Like I said, Outlast merely took that one "run and hide" mechanic and didn't really do anything new with it and overused it, with added jump scares, to the point where the game lost its appeal not long through the game.
Haven't played any of Frictional's games before but I'm really looking forward to this.
Same goes for you :)

Seriously give them a try. It's too bad we missed the last Steam Sale as they were heavily discounted.

Also try Penubra. It's kind of dated but it's still got a lot of atmosphere too.
 
Feb 24, 2008
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I'm new to Frictional's output. I mean of course I know them and their work but I've yet to actually play any of them. I don't really care for jump scare games. I just played Outlast and it was jump scare the game. Does Frictional's games rely more on horror through atmosphere and narrative or being scared of the next loud sound effect?

Yes, both narratively and thematically Amnesia was much stronger than Outlast. I found Outlast boring.
 

Dog Problems

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You should give A Machine for Pigs a shot. Consensus was it was not as scary of a game as TDD (for which it was heavily criticized).

Yeah, I've wanted to play it because of how different it apparently is so I finally bought during this last Summer sale on Steam. I plan on playing it in October.
 

Verger

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What is especially encouraging is that Frictional is seemingly taking to heart the feedback and reaction from both TDD's and AMFP's reception among gamers. Going by these key points:
  • Concerns about being able to interact with the game's world in SOMA stem from the decision made by The Chinese Room to severely reduce interactivity in Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs, a game for which they were the primary developers. Thomas Grip of Frictional Games has assured players that SOMA will allow them to interact with the environment in a way comparable with Penumbra and Amnesia: The Dark Descent.
  • The sanity system in Amnesia: The Dark Descent was a "global" mechanic, in that its potential effects on the player were the same throughout the game. SOMA will include mechanics of a similar nature, but they will be more dynamic and "local", with different situations/creatures triggering different effects.
  • Enemies in SOMA are not as event-based as they were in Amnesia: The Dark Descent. In Amnesia, the "danger music" would activate and remain active while an enemy was present somewhere in the level, which eventually taught the player to recognise when they were safe. In SOMA, the enemies are more dynamic and may appear at different times for different players, so the music won't be as clear cut as it was in Amnesia.

What is also exciting is that players may experience different situations during their playthroughs. Some players may encounter enemies that others will not and other interactions. Could make for some repeat playthroughs.

Also what is encouraging is that, again the development time of 5-years has been seemingly focused on Frictional taking their time and making sure they get things right as opposed to any obvious issues of mismanaged development and such that you hear out of the AAA devs/pubs.

Still, there will no doubt be those who will be disappointed, because everyone's idea of "Horror" and what scares us is so different, so something scary for someone will not be for others. And with so many Youtube "Let's Players" all about making videos of them being scared, it'll be interesting to see how SOMA, which doesn't rely on jump scares or too much "run and hide" (and is more cerebral horror) is received by them.
 

ratcliffja

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Thank you!

I too really really love the Live Action videos. They do a great job giving an unsettling feeling without relying upon jump scares, disturbing imagery and the like, but having you question "what the hell?"

You should give A Machine for Pigs a shot. Consensus was it was not as scary of a game as TDD (for which it was heavily criticized).

Man, you really should try the Amnesia games. The first is highly acclaimed for good reason, and the second has great atmosphere and narratives.

Like I said, Outlast merely took that one "run and hide" mechanic and didn't really do anything new with it and overused it, with added jump scares, to the point where the game lost its appeal not long through the game.

Same goes for you :)

Seriously give them a try. It's too bad we missed the last Steam Sale as they were heavily discounted.

Also try Penubra. It's kind of dated but it's still got a lot of atmosphere too.
A Machine for Pigs was significantly scarier than the first. It's really, really underrated.
 

Verger

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A Machine for Pigs was significantly scarier than the first. It's really, really underrated.
Heh, go figure. Just goes to show what I was saying above with how Horror is so "subjective" among people. What is scary and terrifying for someone may be "meh, what's the big deal" or boring to someone else.
the name is awful
Well, it is definitely an unusually odd non-descriptive name at first glance.

Soma = "Body" in Greek

It also could mean "the body as distinct from the soul, mind, or psyche."

Considering the themes of this game, it definitely is fittingly appropriate, though admittedly may not make for a great "marketing buzzword"
 

Odrion

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Aug 31, 2005
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the name is awful

I agree. SOMA: The 5-Year Design and Development of a Sci-Fi Horror game from the Amnesia devs is a mouthful to say.

Maybe we should just abbreviate it to St5YDnDoaSFHGftAD.
 

RoboPlato

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Oct 29, 2006
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Thank you!

I too really really love the Live Action videos. They do a great job giving an unsettling feeling without relying upon jump scares, disturbing imagery and the like, but having you question "what the hell?"

You should give A Machine for Pigs a shot. Consensus was it was not as scary of a game as TDD (for which it was heavily criticized).

Man, you really should try the Amnesia games. The first is highly acclaimed for good reason, and the second has great atmosphere and narratives.

Like I said, Outlast merely took that one "run and hide" mechanic and didn't really do anything new with it and overused it, with added jump scares, to the point where the game lost its appeal not long through the game.

Same goes for you :)

Seriously give them a try. It's too bad we missed the last Steam Sale as they were heavily discounted.

Also try Penubra. It's kind of dated but it's still got a lot of atmosphere too.
I would have played them if I could. I just have a MacBook which is absolutely not a gaming machine and they're unfortunately not on PSN.
 

family_guy

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I forgot about this game. Looks good, but I wish they would have taken the time to animate your hand interacting with the environment like Alien Isolation instead of it just being an outline. It cheapens it a little.
 

Haunted

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Trust the player
This brings us to the next point: that we trust players to act according to the story. We do not force players to notice events by use of cutscenes and similar, but assume they will properly explore the environment and act in a rational fashion. We simply set up situations and then let the player have full control over their actions.
I love this. There's been a concerted effort by some developers (mostly indie devs) to counteract the lowest common denominator/handholding/dumbing down trend we've seen in the AAA space.

Respecting the player's intelligence and trusting the player with some responsibility and to have his own thoughts and allowing him to act upon them within the confines of the world is highly valued.
 
D

Deleted member 80556

Unconfirmed Member
An accompanying Film, "Depth", will be released congruently with the game.

No. Freaking. Way. The short videos they've released are freaking awesome. Specially Vivarium.

Has anything being said on this film?

I'm terrible at horror games, but these guys are awesome. I can't wait for Soma.
 

Aurongel

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I updated the OP with a bit more formatting.

One thing I also didn't note was that the game will purportedly have mod support like The Dark Descent, so custom stories and such will likely be possible.

As for VR, that doesn't seem to be in the cards. But someone might "mod" the game somehow I suppose.

I think anyone who has seen any media of this game is pretty much expecting this considering all the screen distortions you see.

I'm sure (well I hope) the real "twist" is much deeper than that.

the main character bleeds, has human arms and a pulse. That could also all be a construct of a robots mind but who can say. I'm guessing the true twist will be something far more cosmic and existential.
 

Verger

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I love this. There's been a concerted effort by some developers (mostly indie devs) to counteract the lowest common denominator/handholding/dumbing down trend we've seen in the AAA space.

Respecting the player's intelligence and trusting the player with some responsibility and to have his own thoughts and allowing him to act upon them within the confines of the world is highly valued.
Yes, I really do appreciate Frictional's guidelines and philosophies in regards to how they wish to treat the players. Most pubs and big devs that create games with lots of money in them are often hesitant to "trust the player" since they worry that if they don't hand-hold the players, they'll get upset at not being able to understand how to play the game, but then I'd argue that's more a problem of the game itself not being intuitive enough.
That concept art has some major Lovecraftian vibes. Love it, and can't wait for the game.
The Dark Descent was actually a pretty Lovecraftian game I thought as well. Since what was hunting you was kind of an otherworldly force.

Speaking of which, one of the challenges of SOMA for Frictional was that they want to try to keep things "grounded to earth" with this game. With TDD anything could be easily explained away as "evil magic castle's doing". With SOMA they want it to be as plausibly real and possible as it can be, as that'd make the Horror more "believable".
No. Freaking. Way. The short videos they've released are freaking awesome. Specially Vivarium.

Has anything being said on this film?

I'm terrible at horror games, but these guys are awesome. I can't wait for Soma.
Yeah, Vivarium is pretty damn awesome. I love how there is barely any dialogue and most is left up to the viewer to infer and question. The SOMA website has a written file accompanying the track, describing the setup of the scene. There are other files as well.

As for the film, nothing is really known about it, aside from speculation that it takes place in the same world as the Game, but whether its before the game, during or after is not known. I will no doubt watch it, but probably after I play the game since I would imagine it will spoil a lot from the game.
the main character bleeds, has human arms and a pulse. That could also all be a construct of a robots mind but who can say. I'm guessing the true twist will be something far more cosmic and existential.
Yeah, true. But of course all the other Robots we have been introduced to, such as in Mockingbird, have been utterly convinced
they too know they're human and can see their own limbs and such
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Verger

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Jun 19, 2014
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Found an interview with one of Frictional's staff (probably from E3). Talks a good deal about what they were going for with the game.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iemur1lzwEc

You can listen to it and not watch the images if you don't want to see it. I will summarize key points.
  • Takes place in research station Pathos-2. Totally isolated from outside. Robots gaining human traits and place becoming a nightmare.
  • Simon knows who he is and has established backstory. Will be explained in game.
  • Wanted to make an "underwater" game, because underwater is a scary place and has many horrors and hostile to humans. Was a toss up though between "Space" and "Ocean", and they wanted people to think it was in Space in initial reveals.
  • Amnesia came out at the right time when the industry was ready for such a game. They cannot just recreate that game and expect success. SOMA is more psychological and "slow-burning" but hopefully long-lasting. Making you question the morality of your actions. Jump scares may be expected, but aren't relied upon.
  • Foundation of game is exploring consciousness and identity of the self. Is being human mean the "body" the "mind" or the "soul"?
  • Recognizes there's a market for the "Let's Play" culture and that it contributed to Amnesia's past successes. But SOMA is a game to sit down with, alone, put headphones on and "absorb" it. Staying away from anything obviously identifiable as "game mechanics" such as the "sanity meter" and "tinderboxes", they felt it was too "gamey" and draws users out of the experience. It is about immersing the player in the world and that anything the player finds and sees in the game has a logical, story or narrative reason to be there.
  • VR was considered and they still think about it. But as a team of 14, and with the added pressure of the PS4 build, they simply do not have the resources, manpower or time to devote to such a thing. It's something they "may" explore after release.
 

Cave Johnson

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May 21, 2012
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I like how SOMA is turning out. Focusing straight to the game with organic interactions, weaving the story though your agency. This is like taking the concept of Dear Esther and applying context and more interactivity without breaking the immersion.

Hyped!!