Survival horror...it's a term that very commonly connects with dark atmosphere, narrow corridors and scary monsters. Although there has been alot of survival horror games for a lot of years during the late 90s this term was pretty much connected to a certain title...Resident Evil. The game gave you a sense of isolation and through limited resources it made you desperate to survive until the next save.
In recent years trends have changed. Games were becoming faster with lots of action, big explosions, lots of ammunition and no way of really dying as developers were looking for ways not to frustrate the players by having to repeat a certain part of the game they had already played. This change had some obvious victims, the most obvious being...as you guessed Resident Evil. With each new game it was becoming less survival horror and more action until it turned out like Gears of War with monsters. Of course i don't blame Capcom, as they watch the sales numbers and if the game sells they must be doing something right, right? The problem with that is that there is a whole new generation of players that know mostly this fast paced kind of games and they are not used to the old style of survival horror games. So players liked the more action oriented games, sales were good and Capcom was going further and further away from what defined the original series.
But with each new game i was seeing a trend forming. Everytime a new title in the series was being announced people were hoping for a return back to the roots. And everytime they were disappointed that instead of that happening they were taking the games even further away from the original gameplay. This created a state of nostalgia mostly among the older gamers that had grew up with the original titles and wanted more of that.
All this brought us 3 years ago...I was still in the early stages of indie development and i was making my first steps with unity and creating a team that would help me make games. The first and obvious step was to make a game for mobiles called BioLAB that would eventually be released in Google Store. It was not a very big commercial success but for me it was a very valuable lesson about game development and team management.
But in parallel i was aiming higher. I wanted to do something bigger that people would really want to play. It was obvious to me that a survival horror game was what i wanted to do. Not many games tried to replicate the success of the original Resident Evil titles and since there was such a big demand for that style of gameplay i decided that it was time to make a game that would bring back what alot of people had missed so much.
This is how Neptune Rising was born...2 and a half years ago. I gathered a team of very telented members and set a goal. To create a game that would retain in its DNA the characteristics that made Resident Evil such a beloved series. Of course the goal was not just to copy a certain game. That is not my intention. Thats why during the design stages we thought very much about what really worked and what didn't and we tried to improve upon that while maintaining the elements that we thought were good.
The obvious things that we knew we had to keep were first of all the atmosphere, the sense of isolation, the exploration of the world and the desparation the player would feel by having low resources and no save near him. As a game designer for me 2 were the obvious changes we had to do from the beginning. That was the inventory and the puzzles.
For the inventory we tried to incorporate it in the main camera of the game as to enter a separate screen was frustrating and was slowing down the game significantly. So you have everything on the same screen. The second obvious change was to make the puzzles have some real sense. This means that we are making puzzles that are based on reality and would fit in a real world situation...no more find the music notes to play the piano to unlock something!!!
Another thing that was a big controversy back then and right now were the controls. While some people had no problem with the tank like controls, including myself, there were alot that hated that style. So we decided that it would be best to incorporate both tank style and free style controls. This way we would keep everyone happy.
One more thing that i was very certain from the beginning was that the players would not only have to deal with mutated monsters but with living people also. Because in a post apocalyptic world the barriers that define us as a society would break down and that would bring the darkest characteristics of people out. Thats why we decided to include in our story specific humans that would pose a real danger to the player.
All this of course would not work without creating a compelling story that would be fresh and wrap around the world of Woodland and the disaster that occured without going too much into crazy conspiracy theories that would make the players loose track of the events in the end.
All this brought us today...as Neptune Rising starts to take shape, the city of Woodland is being created, the monsters in our game are ready for some flesh and hopefully we will give people something they missed for such a long long time...survival horror. As it used to be.