Mikami On The Evil Within
Recently survival horror veteran Shinji Mikami sat down with Eurogamer, recalling his youth, how he got into video games and how where he grew up influenced his work. You can read the full interview here. Another thing Mikami spoke about during the interview was his new project, The Evil Within.
Shinji Mikami spoke about the importance of disempowering the player in survival horror games, describing it as "the most powerful tool for the horror game creator." This can be achieved a number of ways. For example, you can deliver a sense of disempowerment by limiting what the player sees through the genre mainstay of disorientating, fixed camera angles as seen in Mikami's original Resident Evil. Or you can make the player feel helpless through the use of immortal enemies that the player has no choice but to run from as seen in some Silent Hill instalments (I.E. Pyramid Head for much of Silent Hill 2).
In addition to this Mikami talked about the element of surprise and why he doesn't like the idea of survival horror sequels. "Sequels are a big problem in horror entertainment," he said, "As a horror game series continues you begin to know who the enemies are going to be. Just this knowledge naturally makes the game less scary. So to capture a wider audience designers add more action. That further reduces how frightening the game feels." A possible jibe at recent, more action focused entries in the Resident Evil series?
Mikami continued that his dislike of sequels was one reason he was making The Evil Within, implying that the game will likely be a self-contained story. He then went on to say that the increased graphical capability of games is another reason he wants to make it. He elaborated "This has the capacity to make the fear much closer to you. We can add in a far greater amount of animation and make it context based, so, for example, we can change how a character moves in a certain situation," implying that the player's control over the main character may be limited at certain points in gameplay, much like it was in the first Resident Evil though the use of its tank controls.
Mikami says he wants to return to the genre's roots, saying, "We've strayed from that. I want to explore fear again, and that sense of overcoming fear, one that's unique to games," he also reflected on the current state of the genre, saying, "I am certainly disappointed that genres are so limited these days. I want to see a broader spread of games. I love indie games. These younger people with lower budgets and bigger ideas; maybe they will define new genres? [...]Big budget games have to sell a great many copies, which makes new ideas too risky. And sometimes the creator's egos get in the way. I think small games, and personal creations: this is where we'll find the new shoots for the future."
One can hardly describe The Evil Within as a small game but it certainly seems to be a personal one for Shinji Mikami, being at the very least a revisiting of his creative roots. It's certainly interesting to hear Mikami's reasons for returning to the genre. Furthermore, maybe I'm just a bit odd, but I really like the sound of the context specific movement mechanic Mikami appears to be hinting at. Just think about it: Player character takes an axe to the leg? Well then he's going to have trouble running away from immediate threats. Indeed, movement in video games can all too often fall into the uncanny valley or simply not making any sense in context. Many a time I'll be playing as Heather Mason for instance only for any sense of immersion to be decimated by a generic animation when she gets hit. It's even worse if she's recoiling from damage as though the hit came from in front of her when she was sneakily accosted from behind. Destroying the player's sense of immersion can be the kiss of death for a survival horror game so it's good to hear that Shinji Mikami wants to get players 'closer to the fear'. Whilst recent screenshots of the game have implied there will be an action element to gameplay this interview seems to imply that it shan't be the main focus and this pleases me. I can't wait to be terrified by The Evil Within.