F.E.A.R. 2 Q&A
Ready for Alma's next rampage? You know you are! But what can we expect this go around through her world of bleeding ceilings and clone warriors? To find out we sat down with Principal Game Designer, Craig Hubbard!
DC: Since F.E.A.R., you've had two follow-up releases built by different companies, a publisher change or two, and an aborted sequel in name only began by another studio while you worked under the Project Origin name. Did all that general chaos, nothing you had any power over, change how you approached F.E.A.R. 2?
Craig Hubbard: Since Project Origin has always had Alma at the center of the story, that really didn't affect anything we were doing in terms of game development and the storyline. Having the F.E.A.R. name back has been great since it really completes the link that Monolith were the developers of F.E.A.R. and F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin is the extension of that universe.
DC: Something I'm sure you've heard before is the perception that F.E.A.R. suffered from a lack of environs. I understand you're taking the story to new and different places in F.E.A.R. 2, expanding the universe quite a bit. Can you tell us about that?
CH: The main difference with FEAR 2 is that an explosion has devastated a large portion of the city, so you’re stranded in an apocalyptic setting rather than the primary setting being the office buildings. Plus, Alma is loose and her power is spiraling out of control, causing all kinds of secondary effects on the unfortunate souls that survived the blast.
There’s definitely a lot more variety in the sequel. With FEAR, we had a pretty small team working with completely new technology, so it was a struggle just to achieve what little diversity there was. FEAR 2 started off with stable tech, a larger team, established workflows, and we knew that the fans wanted to see the environmnets become more varied and interesting.
DC: F.E.A.R. was originally developed with the PC in mind, then released for the 360 later down the road. With F.E.A.R. 2 due out for the PC and 360 simultaneously, did that change the way you approached the design of the game? Are there any differences between the two experiences?
CH: The only appreciable difference is the control scheme. Early on, a lot of developers were tending to dumb their games down too much for consoles, but lately the quality bar has shot way up with games like Bioshock, Call of Duty 4, and Fallout 3.
DC: When F.E.A.R. came out, horror games were few and far between unless they had Resident Evil in the title. Since then, we've seen a revolution of the genre, all the way up to a hardcore horror game like Bioshock winning most Game of the Year awards last year. Given that F.E.A.R. was a forerunner of this new wave of interactive horror, what are you doing with F.E.A.R. 2 to step up and raise the bar for the next wave?
CH: We really just focus on doing what’s right for the game. The hope is that when you play FEAR 2, everything will seem like it’s there for a reason and all the elements will add up to a satisfying experience.
DC: F.E.A.R. was one of the first games to blend a really strong first-person shooter with truly intense horror. How do you balance the two genres and keep the integrity of both maintained? Is there any give and take between nailing that perfect scare and making sure the gunplay meets the scrutiny of your average Call of Duty fan?
CH: I think horror has always been a part of the FPS genre, going all the way back to Doom. If you ever played Terminator: Future Shock, it had a great mix of action and tension. Same with Quake, Unreal, Half-Life, AVP—all the way up to FarCry, STALKER, and Dead Space. The thing that distinguishes FEAR is that it’s a paramilitary ghost story, which hadn’t really been done before. Trying to get the pacing right is always a struggle because it’s so subjective. I’ve talked to people who were too scared to play FEAR as well as people who didn’t think it was scary at all, so no matter what you do, you can’t satisfy everyone. All you can do in the end is trust your judgment and hope for the best. And do tons and tons of playtesting.
DC: F.E.A.R.'s fright moments were some of the strongest I'd ever seen at the time. (They won F.E.A.R. my vote for Best Of Show at E3 that year, in fact.) If you can, walk us through how you design a scare. FPS design is fairly straightforward when it comes to placing enemies, ammo, health, but how do you know when that next corner will hold the next horror once you turn it?
CH: Setting up scares tends to be pretty organic and iterative. You may be playing through a section of a level and get an idea for a scare. Or maybe you have a scare in mind and have to figure out where to put it. In either case, you’ll often get something roughed in and have a few people play through it to gauge their reactions. Then you polish the hell out of it.
DC: F.E.A.R. was unique in that it emulated the Japanese style of horror as opposed to more traditional American scares. Does Project: Origin still stick to those Asian roots? What were the influences of the team this time around?
CH: Just to be clear, our emphasis has always been on good ghost stories in general rather than Asian horror in particular. We definitely drew heavily on Ring, Dark Water, and Séance, but there’s also a lot of Devil’s Backbone, Sixth Sense, and The Shining in FEAR. So for FEAR 2, it’s not so much that the influences have changed as that Alma’s motivations and behaviors have changed. Now that she’s been released and has come to understand what she is, she’s much more aggressive and dangerous.
DC: This is a sequel, of course, and the original game ended on quite the cliffhanger. Do you foresee this as a long-term franchise, or does Alma see her end in Project: Origin?
CH: Nice try! You’ll have to play the game to find out.
DC: My traditional last question: What's your favorite horror movie?
CH: If I had to pick an all around favorite, it would probably be Alien.
Big thanks to Scott Fry for making this possible. Look for F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin early next year! Click the links below to pre-order!
- Mr. Dark
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