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

Acrylic7

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I haven't seen any pics, but there's video of one of the monsters (supposedly there will be a variety) in the Gameplay Trailer:

Here

And Here

Suffice to say, the sounds alone it makes are pretty umm.....disturbing

when hes looking at the injured robot you can see tears in the center of the screen. Is the Main protagonist a robot as well?
 
Also, don't know if this was already up, but the game now shows up on GOG: http://www.gog.com/game/soma

Though pertinent details, price and specs, are still left as TBA
Oh, man I love those screenshots
And I love this too
either you outsmart your enemies or you get ready to run.
Now I never got that far in Amnesia, could you outsmart enemies there too or could you only flee and hide?
 

Verger

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This is an amazing breakdown, thank you for taking the time. What I'm most anxious about in SOMA is the writing quality - if they can maintain what they've shown in the trailers then it's really going to be something special. The narration that began with "you know what sucks about being dead" was very chilling... the weirdly detached voice of an otherwise normal sounding young man.

I'm excited about the whole theme of transhumanism and consciousness that they seem to be hinting at. I just picked up the Talos Principle today and some of the writing is just shockingly good, so I hope to see similar themes done just as well in SOMA, albeit with a darker edge. There's some really disturbing ideas to be explored within that subject, and it's definitely one that has been done a great disservice by video games in general. The handing of AI and transhumanism is generally very ham-fisted and informed by cheesy B-tier sci-fi rather than classics like Dick and Asimov. Sounds like SOMA is drawing from the right sources, so I really look forward to their efforts.
Yeah, that trailer is awesome, I think the VA was great. And I know what you mean about how AI hasn't really been explored in much depth. In Sci-Fi like Star Trek it's hammy with characters like Data, but doesn't go in depth about whether he is "Alive" ("Measure of a Man" doesn't touch this). Since Frictional references Dick a lot I think we're covered.
My guess would be $29.99, $59.99 seems steep for an indie title that is effectively something most people will only experience once.
Yeah, I am guessing that it will be about $30, $40 at the highest, but that's probably too much, and I'm sure there'll be a pre-order discount like the last Amnesia game possibly.
when hes looking at the injured robot you can see tears in the center of the screen. Is the Main protagonist a robot as well?
I rewatched because I thought you meant like robobro tears. But yeah, I notice the screen distortion now. Good catch.
Again I think this is what everyone is expecting now, because going back to initial SOMA Announcement Trailer, the whole point of it was you are a robot (even though nothing in the trailer is in the final game, and the voice is not the protagonist). I imagine there'll be something more to the "twist". Though it sounds like there will be several "twists" in this game.
Now I never got that far in Amnesia, could you outsmart enemies there too or could you only flee and hide?
I think you could exploit some "bugs/features" to fool the Gatherers, but it definitely wasn't a sanctioned gameplay element. Since they're actively talking about that here there's probably something more to it in SOMA.
 

SamusPrime

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I don't mean this in a snarky or ironic way at all, so please bear with me...

What do you actually do in this game and the studio's previous output? I've always wanted to play Amnesia but never could due to my PC being shit and with that being said, I'm not sure what the gameplay in these actually entails. I think Amnesia and now this LOOK fantastic and something I'd really be into, but I don't want to buy this and get an 'experience' light on everything else and shoot myself in the foot with my purchase.

Again, these guys' games look fantastic, I just can't seem to grasp what one does in them and I'd appreciate some feedback from players of the 'series'.
 

epmode

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Frictional makes survival horror FPS, minus the S. Your character can take damage and die but you don't really have a way to fight back. Stay out of sight, try not to waste your limited resources.

They're also one of the few developers playing around with door mechanics. I mean, you don't just press a button to open a door or drawer or whatever. You hold a mouse button and simulate the motion of the object with the mouse. It works really well in practice and it somehow makes everything even more tense.

They're also pretty great at sound design.
 

Verger

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Well, it is kind of hard to describe it.

I mean, have you played Alien: Isolation? Outlast? Amnesia is pretty much the game that inspired both of them.

You gotta play it at night (or during the day if you must), but WITH headphones (or a damn good sound system), and just immerse yourself in it. Basically you're in first-person view, and you have to find your way out of where you began, having been dropped into a hostile environment. In Amnesia you followed the clues to find your memory and had to run away from and avoid monsters since you have no means of fighting back.

It is still an amazing audiovisual experience one should try out.
 

gdt

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I don't mean this in a snarky or ironic way at all, so please bear with me...

What do you actually do in this game and the studio's previous output? I've always wanted to play Amnesia but never could due to my PC being shit and with that being said, I'm not sure what the gameplay in these actually entails. I think Amnesia and now this LOOK fantastic and something I'd really be into, but I don't want to buy this and get an 'experience' light on everything else and shoot myself in the foot with my purchase.

Again, these guys' games look fantastic, I just can't seem to grasp what one does in them and I'd appreciate some feedback from players of the 'series'.

To follow up the poster above, in terms of gameplay it's divided up into exploration.....avoiding the monsters by running around and hiding....and puzzle solving.

Mostly puzzles have to do with opening a path forward in various ways.
 

CHC

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Damn, it's all sounding so good.

And yeah, on the subject of the player being a robot: I fully expect that to be the case, revealed as one of the "early twists" that the preview hints at. Given the direction they are going on this game, I think they're playing kind of a meta-game with us where they reveal some hints that allow you to believe you've figured out the "twist" but in reality, there's much more to it. Can't wait to see the crazy shit they have in store for us.
 

Verger

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Jun 19, 2014
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Yeah this is an awesome preview. I had quoted the good parts in another thread:
I look around and notice that the robot has plugs running into the black technological "growth" I've seen on the walls since arriving here. Hoping for the best, I take hold of a cord and pull it free.

The robot doesn't attack me. It doesn't get up. It doesn't even try to stop me.

It just screams.

...

But for SOMA, Frictional has shifted to science fiction as opposed to the magical psychological horror most fans are familiar with. But don't worry: In terms of gameplay, themes, and an overwhelmingly unsettling atmosphere SOMA is a worthy follow-up to Frictional's past work - and might even prove one of its best.

...

The beta provided to The Escapist supposedly covers the first third of the game, but was jam-packed with so many plot twists that I expected the game to climax and finish after two hours. And to be honest, those twists were so good I would've still been happy with that. Instead SOMA just kept going, adding new layers to its detailed world before finally tossing up a "To Be Continued" notice. There's a reason Frictional Games has been remarkably quiet about SOMA's plot for the past two years - everything I could possibly say beyond the above paragraph sounds like spoilers, even though SOMA is incredibly upfront about what's happening. That being said, SOMA is absolutely worth experiencing spoiler-free for the first time.

...

Perhaps the biggest changes SOMA sees are additional refinements to keep the player moving forward at all times. Amnesia was already the Super Mario 64 of horror games, cutting elements which prevent the player from seeing where to go next, but SOMA goes even farther. For example, instead of managing an inventory system, players are given an Omnitool which you can upgrade to access new areas. Sanity mechanics have been axed to focus solely on physical health, and puzzles rarely require you to travel more than a few seconds from any given location.

On the downside, that can make SOMA more linear than Amnesia's explorable hub environments. Thankfully, the approach lends to a more focused narrative, either through a piece of dialogue at the right time, or hiding some worldbuilding element in plain sight. Either way, the levels do increase in scope and complexity as you progress, but we'll have to see how it plays out in the finished game.

...

In the end however, what I enjoyed most about SOMA was how perfectly it merged horror with science-fiction. Alien: Isolation was scary, but that's not horror which reveals uncomfortable truths about technology and human nature. In a world where scientists actually dream of making self-aware robots, a game like SOMA immediately becomes far more relevant and unsettling than it first appears. Outside of games like I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream, this is a rarely explored territory, and Frictional Games is more than happy to take us there.
Ok, this is where I need to police myself. I did check out a tiny bit just to see how it looked at 1080p/60 (It looks awesome!) but I feel I spoiled myself already knowing a few things that are coming.

Clearly SOMA is something you really ought to play without having seen much media to get the full satisfaction out of it.
 
I think this'll be the first game in a while that I buy without looking at reviews. Don't want any spoilers on the story or puzzles/enemies from later in the game

Looks like you can walk about freely underwater. Adds to the 'you are robo' theory.
I wouldn't surprised if it's not even a big twist, like it'll be revealed in the first five minutes, and the game will just pile on the mindfucks from there
 

Shredderi

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The game is shaping up to be quite promising. Finished Penumbra series last night and I was really engaged in the story (except Requiem, it was really disappointing) and the story and themes in this looks really interesting.
 

Aurongel

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I'm wondering if they'll just
pull the robot twist super early into the game
like how they did with Daniel giving himself the mind wiping elixir in Amnesia. Either that or this is the worst kept twist secret in the history of videogames, lol.
 

Verger

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Jun 19, 2014
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Looks like you can walk about freely underwater. Adds to the 'you are robo' theory.
Actually I think he has some kind of wetsuit on. But that doesn't disprove the theory.
I think this'll be the first game in a while that I buy without looking at reviews. Don't want any spoilers on the story or puzzles/enemies from later in the game


I wouldn't surprised if it's not even a big twist, like it'll be revealed in the first five minutes, and the game will just pile on the mindfucks from there
Yeah I am worried about reading reviews. Lately it seems reviewers for several media outlets have been carefree about just blatantly spoiling things in games, and this game in particular sounds like it has several interesting twists from those who have played it and have so far been agreeable to keeping spoilers under wraps. I am going to hopefully try and make a spoiler-free review thread for people, in addition to being strict about posting guidelines in the OT.

As for the "twist" well, again sounds like there are several. One outlet tweeted that a major "brainfuck" happens almost immediately. And the whole "I'm a robot" thing has been teased since the initial reveal trailer and also the live-action videos.
 

Atedos

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Mar 24, 2014
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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.

My guess is that player is a brain, separated from body, and controlling some other bod/entity/robot/android.

Was in the very first trailer, and pretty explains the distortion either.
 

Verger

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Jun 19, 2014
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IGN put up their own video preview. But honestly I'd be careful with some of the latter parts of it because she starts spoiling stuff.

And man, does she have a very monotone robotic voice (ironic). I get not wanting to sound overly excited but she sounds almost bored reading the preview. :(

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hEy47jCLFw
 

SargerusBR

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I will be totally surprised if the devs decide to not do the obvious twist:
The protagonist is actually a robot.
 

VanCityGamer

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I have a question for y'all: How long is this game supposed to be, and how much does it cost on PS4? It looks amazing.

My guess would be 5-8 hours long and $20. Similar to Outlast kinda thing.
 
I have a question for y'all: How long is this game supposed to be, and how much does it cost on PS4? It looks amazing.

My guess would be 5-8 hours long and $20. Similar to Outlast kinda thing.
I believe the devs said the game will about 8 hours

Edit: longer
November 2014
The testing took an average of 11 hours per person. This includes a lot of note-taking, quick discussions and bug-fixing. But, given prior experience, this should give a decent estimate of what it will take the average (and non stressing) player to complete SOMA.
http://frictionalgames.blogspot.com/2014/11/soma-is-now-pre-pre-beta.html

April 2015
"So far the average tester's time to complete SOMA is 9h 30min."
https://twitter.com/ThomasGrip/status/591292270370037761

So around 9-11 hours
 
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i always liked the looks of dark descent, machine for pigs, etc. but i just can't get into games where there's no really much gameplay aside from running away from things. kind of bums me out because i love the settings and everything about these games. oh well maybe ill still give this a try
 

Karspankey

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i always liked the looks of dark descent, machine for pigs, etc. but i just can't get into games where there's no really much gameplay aside from running away from things. kind of bums me out because i love the settings and everything about these games. oh well maybe ill still give this a try

Frictional always has puzzles in between monster encounters. Out of all the games in the same genre, Frictional has the most gameplay. They pretty much invented the genre with Penumbra. You should play Penumbra+Amnesia. Only game/developer that comes close to Frictional's games is Red Barrels with Outlast.
 

DMTripper

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Thanks OP for the excellent post. Never knew this game was a thing but now I'm definitely hyped.

Love horror games and such a shame I haven't played amnesia. Hopefully I can sort that out as getting a PC soon.

Cheers!
 
i always liked the looks of dark descent, machine for pigs, etc. but i just can't get into games where there's no really much gameplay aside from running away from things. kind of bums me out because i love the settings and everything about these games. oh well maybe ill still give this a try
Trust me, I know what you mean

Seems like you do more here because the info on the GOG page states "either you outsmart your enemies or you get ready to run"

So sounds like there are other options besides running

Plus stealth and puzzles
 

VanCityGamer

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I believe the devs said the game will about 8 hours

Edit: longer
November 2014

http://frictionalgames.blogspot.com/2014/11/soma-is-now-pre-pre-beta.html

April 2015

https://twitter.com/ThomasGrip/status/591292270370037761

So around 9-11 hours

Oooh that sounds awesome! Thank-you. I usually take a bit longer in games soaking everything in, so could probably be 12 hours for me! Super stoked. Anything been announced on the price?

$30 would be great with me, though I could see it being up to $40.
 

Verger

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Jun 19, 2014
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There is a lot of "Greek" influence in the naming conventions in this game. I wrote a post on this in the Frictional forums.

The Research Facility is named "Pathos-II".

Pathos (meaning "appealing to emotions" in Greek (or possibly "suffering")

And all the substructures of the complex are named after the letters of the Greek Alphabet.

For example:

Upsilon - often been used as a symbol for "the path of virtue, or vice"

Lambda - often been used as a symbol of the "scales" (for justice) or "balance"

Theta - often been used as a symbol of "Death" (short for "Thanatos")

And many more. The emblem of the Station also looks like those Greek Laurel Wreaths:
 

VanCityGamer

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There is a lot of "Greek" influence in the naming conventions in this game. I wrote a post on this in the Frictional forums.

The Research Facility is named "Pathos-II".

Pathos (meaning "appealing to emotions" in Greek (or possibly "suffering")

And all the substructures of the complex are named after the letters of the Greek Alphabet.

For example:

Upsilon - often been used as a symbol for "the path of virtue, or vice"

Lambda - often been used as a symbol of the "scales" (for justice) or "balance"

Theta - often been used as a symbol of "Death" (short for "Thanatos")

And many more. The emblem of the Station also looks like those Greek Laurel Wreaths:

Very interesting. I vote you do the OT for this game in September!!
 

Verger

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Very interesting. I vote you do the OT for this game in September!!
Heh, already reserved! The point of this thread was to put all of this superfluous information in one place since it's probably too much padding and filler for a game OT which is mainly concerned with, well, the game.
Am I going to be able to pre-order and pre-load this game on PS4?
That's not known yet. This is Frictional's first foray into the consoles and we'll probably find out whenever the PC version goes up for pre-order.
 

Karak

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I admit to not being a massive horror game much anymore. But I am going to push everything I have to the side to dig in and review this. It just...looks so good.
 

Verger

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Jun 19, 2014
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Frictional posted a tweet stating that the Mac version of SOMA is "pretty much done now", with a screen to show it:



Also Jens Nilsson made an offhanded remark on the Frictional forums about the comparisons in the compressed file size of SOMA compared to their previous games.

Penumbra: Overture - 350MB

Amnesia: The Dark Descent - 1GB

Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs - 2.4GB (though maybe actually around 1.5-2GB if unused assets were not counted)

SOMA - 11GB

He also said that SOMA's sound folder alone is larger than the whole game folder for TDD, and that SOMA has the most content they've ever released before.
 

Verger

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Heh, that is interesting. But I would say I do recall The Dark Descent taking 10 hours my initial play-through.

What would be interesting to know if these were Testers with what I assume foreknowledge of the game and encounters. Because someone who gets terrified and spends a lot of time hiding would take longer. I'm all but sure that increased my time greatly with TDD my first time through it.
 

Verger

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Let's not forget the best part: custom stories are back.
One thing that would kind of be cool is if someone upgraded The Dark Descent into the new engine.

Even would like A Machine for Pigs. That game could benefit from some mods to re-enable Sanity Effects or add more interactivity. The base game unfortunately could not be modded because TCR used an updated engine which they didn't release for modding.

But yeah, the best part is that Frictional is amazingly allowing mod capabilities on their own proprietary tech right out of the box. Pretty damned impressive for a team of 14 people (and probably only a handful of them did the Engine work).