The lights are on
The survival horror genre has changed dramatically over the years. What began as blocky polygons and terrible voice acting has morphed into a hybridization of genres spanning from action, to on-rails shooters, and now a haunted house simulator. Ju-On: The Grudge is developer Feelplus’s attempt to toss the player in haunted locales, disempower them, and throw in characters from The Grudge films to inspire a sense of dread.We recently chatted with product manager of the Ju-On game, Makoto Chida, regarding his thoughts on his game and the current status of the horror video game genre. We discuss what the ever-emerging motion controls mean for the genre, how important presentation is for horror games, and the evolution of survival horror games.Game Informer: You’ve been quoted as saying “If the Wii did not exist, I don't think that we would have ever developed this game.” What do you think about what Project Natal and Sony’s new motion control could have in store for the horror video game genre?Makoto Chida: In the previous interview, I stated that the more complicated the controls are for a horror game, the less effective the feeling of fear becomes. I believe that the Wii, with its intuitive controls, was able to bring out feelings of horror without the need for complicated controls. That is why we started the development on Ju-On: The Grudge. The recently announced motion sensors for the next-gen systems should be able to provide a new interface that isn’t complicated and can be controlled intuitively; giving rise to an opportunity that can bring forth a new revolution to the horror game genre. For example, let’s say that you, the player, is in an eerie, dark room where the antagonist suddenly appears on the other side. To get through this danger you need to hide under a desk. Which do you think is more exciting? For you to press a button to hide or for you to actually duck to hide. When planning for horror games, these are features and functions that cannot be ignored. Any future horror games that will be made would, first and foremost, contemplate whether or not motion sensors will be used.GI: It’s no secret that the Nintendo Wii’s focus is gameplay over graphical power. In a genre where visuals are so important to establish atmosphere, do you think any of the core aesthetics of JU-ON could have been transposed more effectively on the PS3 or 360?MC: For example, if we could recreate each strand of Kayako’s hair, it would be able to present a feeling of horror that feels all the more real and detailed. However, the movie JU-ON was originally created as a low budget straight-to-video release before it evolved into a Hollywood movie. Director Shimizu-san was able to bring out the best of both worlds with the low budget version and the Hollywood version. For the Wii version of JU-ON, we conducted development under the assumption that the horror aspects would not be dependant on graphical quality. Thankfully, Shimizu-san understood that and fully cooperated well with us. I believe that there are many trailers of recordings of various people playing JU-ON on youtube. From the reactions we saw, it seems that the graphical quality of the Wii was enough for many people to experience the horrifying aspects of the game, proving that our methods and direction of the game was correct. In regards to current plans, hi-spec consoles have their own methods and presentations that can be utilized. I guess that doesn’t really answer the question, but in short, JU-ON, is a very special case where the aesthetics of JU-ON, whether it is a movie or a game, can be accurately expressed.GI: What is your take on the survival horror genre today? You mentioned that you are “having doubts about horror games where you can attack enemies and the ever increasing functionalities and action elements.” What could other developers do to make scarier games?MC: Just to be clear, I’m not denying the viability of the survival horror genre. I’m simply stating that complicated controls will dilute the feeling of fear in those games. The XBOX, PS3, and the Wii are all currently trying to implement an interface with intuitive controls. I believe that it will be possible to create horror or survival horror games that can utilize those features and go without complicated controls. For the publishers, we hope that they will accept the risks associated with anything that’s experimental or something that has an entirely new concept so that they can work with the developer in the creation of a new type of horror. In the same way that Resident Evil was created with the PlayStation and the PlayStation controller, I believe that users are anticipating a horror game on a new console with its new controller.
Email the author Tim Turi, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.