Frictional Games interview

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Can you introduce yourself to our readers?

My name is Thomas Grip and I am one of the co-founders of Frictional Games.


Frictional Games has released their first game, Fiend, nine years ago. What kept you going all these years, and how did you get into making games in the first place?

Well, Fiend was actually me in my spare time, and we where not much of a company then. We did not started to work together proper until 4 years or so ago, when we made the Penumbra tech demo. I have no idea what keeps us together, really. Perhaps it is the desire to create games and not to work at some larger company.


Horror stories that are original and stand out are hard to come up with. Where do you find inspiration?

All kinds of places. For example, in Amnesia: The Dark Descent is heavily inspired by the Milgram and Stanford prison experiment. Places you visit and things you have been through can also be very good sources when trying to create a good atmosphere.


The Penumbra series and Amnesia: The Dark Descent are a mixture of adventure and survival horror. Have the different genres imposed any limitations?

We have never really focused on making a game for a specific genre. Instead we have focused on the kind of  experience that we want to create and go from there. We then borrow elements from genres like survival horror and classical adventure games to support the experience we are after. We never limit ourselves by what a genre is supposed to be like, but quite the opposite. Removing features that are present in just about all games of a specific sort (like weapons in survival horror), forces us to think out of the box. A lot of the things u see in our games have been emerged from this kind of thinking.


The Penumbra series was specific due to the physical interaction with the environment. How did you come up with this idea?

It was acutally a way to remove the need to do animations when opening drawers at first. Then it worked so good that we expanded it to take care of all interaction.


All the games use the same engine. What is new on the technical side with Amnesia?

The rendering features of Penumbra and Amnesia have very little in common. In Amnesia, we use a type of renderer (called deferred shading) that can support lots of lights, allowing us to build environments not possible in Penumbra. It also has a lot of automatic systems and makes it a lot easier to create maps for


Amnesia: The Dark Descent looked a lot closer to traditional survival horror games in the first previews. What made you move towards the interactive design? There are also claims that Amnesia would introduce weapons to the gameplay, can you tell us something about that?

We tried to add some kind of simple weapon gameplay at first, but it just did not turn out good. Like we noticed in Penumbra, adding weapons put the player in a very different frame of mind and it was not good for the atmosphere we wanted to create. So scrapped that design and went for something more Penumbra-like instead.


After finishing the Penumbra trilogy Tom Jubert was no longer in charge of the scenarios. How is the narrative design different with Amnesia?

The way we design narrative have not changed much really, it is still a very collaborative effort between several people on the team. The big difference in Amnesia is that the player is much freer. In Penumbra we have a bunch of more cut-scene like momements, but in Amnesia all that is removed. You are in control from start to finish.


Amnesia is an often-used narrative mechanism in games. How hard is it to offer something new while still using it as a driving point?

The amnesia came very late in the design process and was not meant from the start. It fitted so well that we decided to use it even though it is kinda cliche. That it is an often used mechanic is not something we gave much thought, we just thought it would fit the game best and used it.


Amnesia: The Dark Descent focuses heavily on light and darkness. What made you place a definitive accent on this in the game?

The first idea was to have the player extra fearful of the dark and to make the darkness an enemy. We then went over several iterations on how to make this work, to finally end up with what is in the game now.


Frictional Games manages to work on demanding projects with a relatively small staff. What are the advantages and disadntages of working this way?

It can be a bit hectic as you have to have so many different roles. But at the same time you have good overview of the project and it is much easier to control and see if everything is going the right way.


You are one of the most popular independent developers in Europe. What can you advise to people who are planning on becoming independent developers themselves?

Glad you think we are! :) My best tip is to start and make a game, release that and spread it. Then you will see what people think about your work, and if there is enough interest, consider starting commerical. Always do things in small steps too. Do not take huge loans, rent a studio, etc. Have a small team, work from home and then work from there.


Do you play games from other studios and what are your favorite genres?

I basically like games that try to immerse the player. I was very fond of the first part in Bioshock and love Shadow of Colossus. Puzzle games like professor layton can also be quite fun and relaxing.


What can we expect from Frictional Games in the Future? Any plans on making a sequel for Amnesia: The Dark Descent?

Not sure at this point as it depends on how sales go. We would like to try out new things, so a sequel will probably not be our next project. But as I said, it depends on how we do financially.


Any closing comments?

Everybody that would like to try something different should give Amnesia a shot! :)



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