Interview: Delving into The Evil Within with producer Masato Kimura
Bethesda and developer Tango Gameworks recently teased a new survival horror game titled The Evil Within. Directed by famed Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami, the game looks to provide a return to the genre that will hopefully be appropriately chilling and psychologically intense. I sat down and spoke with Masato Kimura, the lead producer on the project, and Ray Nakazato, studio liason and translator, at a recent press event, where I was able to ask a number of questions about the upcoming title.
GameZone: The Evil Within looks to be yet another take on survival horror from the mind behind Resident Evil. How do you draw parallels to that long-running franchise all the while creating an experience that's unique from it?
Masato Kimura: First of all, since we're making survival horror and Resident Evil is survival horror, there will be similar aspects of the game. You need to provide a scary aspect and you also need to provide the sense of achievement and overcoming that fear. As we disclose more information about The Evil Within, you will definitely start seeing the differences. And in addition to that, if you play you will feel the difference.
In the demo you saw a mine trap. We have a variety of different traps which you can carry around or they're built into the level. So by having you utilize traps, your combat becomes very different. With Shinji Mikami working on survival horror, your ammunition is very limited, but there are ways to save your ammo, so using traps helps save your ammo, but that's just one example.
GZ: Survival horror has long been considered a fading genre, especially since going in a more action-oriented direction with titles such as Resident Evil 5. How do you infuse that classic sense of panic and fear into a new game? Do you need to omit those heavy action elements?
MK: The most important thing about survival horror is the balance between really scary experiences and that sense of overcoming fear. The emotion — the fear is one emotion, and you have a sense of achievement that's not an emotion. So that fundamental emotion, we want to touch on that. I think if it's not as action-heavy, we can create a great survival horror. It's all about the balance between being action-heavy or not. With the best balance of those two you can create a really, really addictive survival horror game that you have to keep playing. It's scary but you have to keep playing.
GZ: What elements of the horror genre are you trying to capture with The Evil Within? Are you going strictly for psychological thrills? Or do you want to give players a few jump scares, too? What about the blood and gore often associated with horror works? Is there a lot of that in The Evil Within?
MK: All of them. We're not focusing on one thing; we're trying to implement a lot of different types of experiences in the game. Shinji Mikami gives direction, but he also listens to many staff members at Tango. He's open to many ideas from all the staff, so one kind of fear is from one kind of person, and one kind of fear is from another person. So he gathers these ideas and sees if they're a good fit.
GZ: In The Evil Within, are you trying to create a character that's vulnerable as opposed to unstoppable? What kinds of situations do you need to put the main character in to best create a terrifying vibe within the player?
MK: One thing we're trying to achieve is the player character Sebastian and the player himself, we want to synchronize the emotions of those two. So what Sebastian is feeling, we want the player to feel, too. So yeah, we want to make the player character and the player stand close, emotionally. There are a lot of ways to get around the situations. You have to, as a player, think a lot strategy-wise, so if Sebastian doesn't have a special ability or special power, it's going to be a lot of fun for the player to avoid those obstacles. Of course, it's not like a heavy strategy game, but we still have strategy in combat.
GZ: Can you share some of your influences? Are there movies that directly inspired The Evil Within? What about games or books?
MK: It's influenced by many things because, as we said, Mikami-san gets ideas from his staff openly, so staff members are influenced by comics, movies, manga — its' all mixed.
GZ: What will set The Evil Within apart from other survival horror games?
MK: The strategic combat, utilizing traps — that will be different from other games. Another thing is that it's scary because you don’t know what's happening: where you are, why [you're there], and all those things. That uncertainty to the player makes the player feel fear, so I think that's unique. The story itself is like a puzzle, and there are areas where you don't know why that's happening, and you have to get out of that situation. Is it real? Is it just in the imagination? Anything can be expected in this world.
GZ: What would you say you're most trying to accomplish with The Evil Within? Do you want to reinvent survival horror? Do you want to take it back to its roots?
MK: Both. Since this is Shinji Mikami trying to show what a true survival horror is, in a way he's going back to the basics. But there's a fine balance between these two [styles]. Going back to basics, but from that we're going to be creating a new style so the user experience will feel new.
GZ: Lastly, what do you do to get into survival horror mode? Prior to the creation process, did you have to watch a lot of horror flicks or, like, spend a lot of time thinking ugly thoughts in a dark room?
MK: Tango wants to express something through making games, so with their prior experience, they're good at showing something or expressing themselves through the horror genre. Of course, we all gathered to watch movies, but the fundamental thing is that they are good at making a horror experience for someone else.
It was really fun speaking to both Masato Kimura and Ray Nakazato about The Evil Within. The game is certainly on the right track to providing a new type of survival horror experience that harkens back to the classic style of the genre. If you're a survival horror aficionado, keep an eye on this upcoming project. The Evil Within is due out sometime in 2014 for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PC.
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