Original Amnesia Studio Explains The Chinese Room Hand-Off

Original Amnesia Studio Explains The Chinese Room Hand-Off

The Chinese Room logo

Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs was offered to The Chinese Room because original developer Frictional Games felt it wouldn't be able to come up with a successful sequel on its own.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent was a big hit as indie games go and is seen by many as the standard to which other horror games aspire. It's also the game, as detailed in Thomas Grip's fantastic 2011 feature story about its development, that saved Frictional Games from oblivion. So why, you might wonder, would the studio hand development of the hotly-anticipated sequel to a completely separate outfit - Dear Esther developer The Chinese Room?

"We felt that there was a huge interest in the game, but also knew we did not have an interest ourselves to sit down and try to figure out what a good next Amnesia would be," Jens Nilsson of Frictional told Gamasutra. "We had a quite certain feeling it would fail miserably."

Uncomfortable with the idea of doing it themselves, the team decided to ask someone else to take a crack at it. Nilsson said that having The Chinese Room handle the follow-up was a "dream scenario" and when it accepted, a back-and-forth development process began.

"We checked builds now and then and gave our input on it," he explained. "Then this year we got the final game from The Chinese Room, and we have worked with gameplay flow, bugs, performance and that type of tweaking and fixing to hopefully make their work be presented in the best manner possible. The Chinese Room also put in extra work during this time, and [we] somewhat reversed the setup, with them testing and giving their input on our progress."

Nilsson said Frictional is very pleased with what The Chinese Room came up with, citing the art, level design, sound, music and writing as "really good stuff" and adding, "I think and hope there is a good balance of meeting expectations of what an Amnesia game should be and at the same time not be too much of the same."

Our review of Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs can be read right here.

Source: Gamasutra

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And what did we get? Dear Amnesia. I'd rather have had no sequel than what we ended up getting, so disappointing.

Jennacide:
And what did we get? Dear Amnesia. I'd rather have had no sequel than what we ended up getting, so disappointing.

I agree completely. Dear Amnesia is exactly what we got. It's so boring I can barely stand to play it. No more hiding, no insanity level, wander down hallways to find notes, secret rooms with notes... it's just boring.

Something tells me that if Frictional had developed Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs that it would have been just as good as Amnesia or perhaps even better. Hopefully if they do make another horror game that they decide to develop it themselves.

Wait has the game come out yet?
I was under the assumption that it will release soon.

Baresark:

Jennacide:
And what did we get? Dear Amnesia. I'd rather have had no sequel than what we ended up getting, so disappointing.

I agree completely. Dear Amnesia is exactly what we got. It's so boring I can barely stand to play it. No more hiding, no insanity level, wander down hallways to find notes, secret rooms with notes... it's just boring.

To be fair the insanity meter in the original game was completely useless, all it did was make your screen go wonky, added that annoying teeth grinding noise, and made you faint if it went to deep in the negative.

I haven't gotten far enough in to this game (just got to the church) to speak on your other points but the insanity meter is something that I don't mind them omitting from this game.

piinyouri:
Wait has the game come out yet?
I was under the assumption that it will release soon.

It came out today.

I already went on a rant in the review's comment section, but I think the main difference between Frictional and TCR is that Frictional considers that player/protagonist to be a character - as much as I thought of Daniel from The Dark Descent as a complete pussy who was scared of the dark, and as much as I honestly hated playing such a weak and defenseless character, I still think that playing as a character at all made all the difference as to how I perceived the environment of Castle Brennenburg - there was an "oh shit" factor as I had to wonder, with monsters outside the cabinet or wardrobe I hid myself in, if my BITCH character was going to start whimpering and gibbering loud enough for whatever was outside to hear me because the closet just happened to be a little too dark for our 5 year old protagonist to handle without his blankie. I didn't like it, but god damn, it gave a whole new dimension to the term "survival horror". It meant I had to adapt to a character who had different fears than my own, united by the mutual fear of being mauled to death by murderous fleshbeasts with straight-razors for fingers.

From "playing" (you cannot "play" a walking cutscene) Dear Esther and from what I heard in the review here and elsewhere on the net, I think this is what TCR fails to understand: who the player plays as is important to how we ourselves respond to the setting. Compared to the annoying whimpering, simpering bitch in the first Amnesia, you play as a victorian-era Sam Fisher minus the killing. No reaction to the disturbing environment, no quirks, no characteristics, for all we know, the guy could be a cylon with flesh-colored rubber gloves.

I can see why Frictional, in a fit of poor self-esteem would choose TCR for narrative and setting tips, but I think that it should have just stayed at that: letting TCR do all the story and atmosphere stuff - the stuff they are, admittedly, very good at. However, I thought Dear Esther established, if anything else other than that like all other mediums gaming can be polluted with pretentious art-house trite as well, that they suck HORRIBLY at gameplay mechanics. I HAVE NO IDEA WHY IN THEIR RIGHT MINDS THEY WOULD THINK OTHERWISE!

Hm... Maybe somebody should make a mod where they make a map for A Machine For Pigs for the original Amnesia so we can have our (albeit annoying) sanity meter and trippy fear-effects back while enjoying the new, disturbing environment. Or maybe, if Frictional continues after this point, they'll decide not to outsource their games to a bunch of pretentious hacks who made their name off of a 2deep4u "shuffling-senior-citizen" simulator that they credit as "t3h aRt".

They feared that they would fail miserably, so they handed it off, and got a very Dear Esther-esque semi-success/semi-failure.

Uh. Mission... accomplished?

I'm going to stick with Penumbra, which is in the High Five sale at gog.com.

I've said this before about Thechineseroom...and I'll say it again.

When you cut too much fat, you ruin the bacon.

AMFP isn't awful by any standard, but now I think we all understand why the production took so long...Thechineseroom's "idea" for what they wanted seemed to conflict heavily with what made the original so great.

Sadly, Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs was an absolutely boring let down. A complete lack of tension and horror. The only dread I felt in the pit of my stomach was when I knew The Chinese Room was involved. Sadly, all my fears were correct and it was a big let down. Nothing like walking around and sometimes the screen gets blurry and I am fed some exposition. These guys have no idea how to do horror, or even further, no idea how to do a game. Perhaps they should try visual novels.

Corven:

To be fair the insanity meter in the original game was completely useless, all it did was make your screen go wonky, added that annoying teeth grinding noise, and made you faint if it went to deep in the negative.

Does a little more than that, creatures in the area go into searching mode if they are in the vicinity of Daniel in one of his spells. Caused me more than a little trouble on more than one occasion.

On Topic: A little disappointed with the reviews, I hope I didn't make a mistake choosing Amnesia over Outlast. Have higher hopes for Among The Sleep, having played the backers release (level 2) I am now glad I spent the money to back this project, well even more so, I knew for sure after the public alpha.

Thought Amnesia was okay. Of course people think that because you can't fight back, it's ground breaking. Know now that if any survival horror game has jump scares, well it automatically gets docked points. Yeah I don't think so. Stupid to do it, it needs to go away. Of course Amnesia does have it's high points, this just seems like more of the same thing. Pretty much wouldn't be a bad thing, it is kind of limited. Really shot themselves in the foot with the inability to fight back because all the monster attacks just feel so scripted. Always running through Amnesia because of it. Know I can't stand my ground, so I just end up running whenever I do some sort of action. Outlast does the same thing, at least it feels more scary and fresh.

Baresark:

Jennacide:
And what did we get? Dear Amnesia. I'd rather have had no sequel than what we ended up getting, so disappointing.

I agree completely. Dear Amnesia is exactly what we got. It's so boring I can barely stand to play it. No more hiding, no insanity level, wander down hallways to find notes, secret rooms with notes... it's just boring.

my vote, too.

Pigs is a good follow up to Dear Esther but the let down of the year as Amnesia Sequel!

Corven:
To be fair the insanity meter in the original game was completely useless, all it did was make your screen go wonky, added that annoying teeth grinding noise, and made you faint if it went to deep in the negative.

I haven't gotten far enough in to this game (just got to the church) to speak on your other points but the insanity meter is something that I don't mind them omitting from this game.

I think you would be easier to notice if you were going insane. Didn't it also kill you?

Anyway, The Dark Descent was mildly Lovecraftian, so insanity is kind of implied. As a sequel, it's weird for it to abandon one of the biggest mechanics of the first. I haven't played A Machine for Pigs, but if the description "Dear Amnesia" is accurate, I'm not sure that I want to...

Well it is completely fine to try new things, but when you release the game you need to make it absolutely clear what your new product is like, in this case all the gameplay is gone... not something an Amnesia fan could expect.

Chimichanga:
I already went on a rant in the review's comment section, but I think the main difference between Frictional and TCR is that Frictional considers that player/protagonist to be a character - as much as I thought of Daniel from The Dark Descent as a complete pussy who was scared of the dark, and as much as I honestly hated playing such a weak and defenseless character, I still think that playing as a character at all made all the difference as to how I perceived the environment of Castle Brennenburg - there was an "oh shit" factor as I had to wonder, with monsters outside the cabinet or wardrobe I hid myself in, if my BITCH character was going to start whimpering and gibbering loud enough for whatever was outside to hear me because the closet just happened to be a little too dark for our 5 year old protagonist to handle without his blankie. I didn't like it, but god damn, it gave a whole new dimension to the term "survival horror". It meant I had to adapt to a character who had different fears than my own, united by the mutual fear of being mauled to death by murderous fleshbeasts with straight-razors for fingers.

Little off-topic, but I doubt you'd react much differently in the same situation in reality, lol.

Even if the sanitydrop in darkness was a little overdoing it.(though Daniel might have Nyctophobia, who knows?)

kyonshee77:

Chimichanga:
Blah blah blah I talk too much.

Little off-topic, but I doubt you'd react much differently in the same situation in reality, lol.

Even if the sanitydrop in darkness was a little overdoing it.(though Daniel might have Nyctophobia, who knows?)

Nah, go ahead. In retrospect, I guess I made myself sound like an internet toughguy when they do the whole "OMFG-I'MMA-BADASS-EX-NAVY-SEAL-I-CAN-KILL-YOU-WITH-MY-NINJA-SKILLS-I'LL-FIND-YOU" schlock - It's actually because I think of myself as the opposite of that kind of persona that Daniel's heavy breathing, whimpering, and aversion to the dark areas was making me more nervous as I was all like "Shit shit SHIT, Stay quiet, you're going to get me killed, you troglodyte! Holy CRAP, scary monster music! God damn it, turn that light off-OH GOD IT SEES ME! RUN BITCH, RUUUUUUNNN!" throughout the first playthrough. Honestly, I didn't mind how he reacted to the monsters, The Shadow, and all the other weird/paranormal shit happening throughout the game - I know I'd be freaked out as Hell if that were me. I mean, I'm a squishy bag of flesh too.

But his fear of the dark - that's what bothered me and clashed with my own set of fears. Personally, while I find not being able to see my environment to be a little unnerving as well like everyone else, I prefer not being visible compared to being seen and butchered. I actually found it more nerve-wracking to have the lights on than skulking around in the shadows. That's my preference - if I were to be hunted and stalked, by anything really, I would not want whatever it is to know I'm there - i.e. not clomping around while breathing heavily like some sort of troglodyte suffering from a bad case of asthma while carrying a freaking torch in a dark castle to just ring the dinner bell louder for all the potential nasties hiding around corners.

I mean, when I'm scared I tend to try and be quieter, to try and avoid attention! With all the noise Daniel made and his need of a nightlight, he was doing more to unnerve me than the actual freaking monsters because it was counter-intuitive to my own ideas of self-preservation and survival instincts. But I also think that's the missing ingredient that TCR left out - maybe playing steampunk Sam Fisher would be less grating against my own fears, but when the character you play as has his own share of problems that immediately become your problems upon threat of gruesome virtual death, it adds to the atmosphere and better grounds you into the reality of the game's world. You are not a man-refrigerator hybrid, you are not going to ninja-stab the pig-demons and level up your 'sneak' and 'small blades skill', you are not going to survive more than a single hit or two, and the current situation terrifies the shit out of you.

That being said, while I like the sanity effects I still liked the predecessor series, Penumbra a bit more despite it not being as refined as it's successor. The protagonist, Phillip, could actually keep his mouth shut. Color me unsympathetic, but Nyctophobia is something most people grow out of when they're ten, as well as clowns and the Quaker Oatmeal guy.

Well, maybe not the Quaker Oatmeal guy... The way that spooky bastard just stares self-confidently at you from the box only hints at what nightmares he plans to unleash upon you when you turn your back.

I've yet to play it, but after reading all the reviews I'm quite disappointed of the outcome. On the other hand, I did really enjoy Dear Esther, so I might enjoy AMFP as long as I don't think about it as an Amnesia game. I think I'll grab Outlast instead though, for my survival horror fix.

Chimichanga:

Well, maybe not the Quaker Oatmeal guy... The way that spooky bastard just stares self-confidently at you from the box only hints at what nightmares he plans to unleash upon you when you turn your back.

OT: Considering the pedigree that Frictional has built up with Penumbra and Amnesia, I'm pretty sure people would've been at least relatively satisfied with whatever they came up with as a follow-up.

I mean, really, even just the loss of the character reactions to the environment sounds like a massive back-step to me, because they're a big reason why Amnesia was so impactful in the first place. Even if it wasn't as good as The Dark Descent, Frictional knows how to effectively give a payoff to the tension-building, which is something that it seems like The Chinese Room has no experience with.

I don't think changing the insanity mechanics was a good idea for a "horror" game, I don't think that will stop me from enjoying the game. I didn't really consider the horror aspects of Amnesia as the most interesting part. I've always thought of Frictional as making really fantastic "adventure games", that happened to be in the horror genre. I keep hoping they'll make a game in a different genre.

I don't get the hate for The Chinese Room just because they made a "non-game" or whatever silly description people give "Dear Esther"*. I haven't read anything indicating this is "Dear Amnesia", including the Escapist review that was much harsher than others I've read. It still contains adventure game puzzles and figuring out a narrative, so the most interesting parts of A:DD are still there for me. You still have to deal with the creatures, just not in the same way you did in Amnesia.

* I enjoyed "Dear Esther" for what it was. I didn't think it was "SO DEEP" as it's detractors like to claim anyone who enjoyed it must have been thinking. I've never seen anything indicating that TCR thought they were revolutionizing games or that they were geniuses or something. They made a game about environment and tone. I don't know what kind of "interaction" people wanted. Oh boy, I can flip a lever and solve a sliding-puzzle! It's a "game" now! If only I could fight a rat on this lonely island, then this wouldn't be so "pretentious". Oh, the horror, a game that allowed a player to think for a little while instead of mashing buttons to kill some dudes. People enjoy games for a lot of reasons, it's not wrong for someone to enjoy or create something like "Dear Esther". It's not hurting your gaming experience in some other gameplay focused title. Saying it's "Press W" walking simulator reduces all games to nothing but gameplay, which is terrible. Video Games include gameplay, visuals, sound, story, etc. And exploration is a gameplay mechanic even if the payoff is only a cool area or snippet of story.

Different people different perceiving.I only watched stream, and noticed what our foes do when they
sees you - they start their growling for a 5s and play animation of preparing to charge and then
they start chasing you.You can get hit one, time, twice, you will still live.After this event,
games lost all atmosphere.

I can draw similar lines from Amnesia Dark Descent and Outlast - both of those games got heavy breathing -
they represent scary protagonist, while Amnesia MFP is streamlined (no inventory, no oil, no tinderboxes
and most importantly no sanity system)

shrekfan246:

Chimichanga:

Well, maybe not the Quaker Oatmeal guy... The way that spooky bastard just stares self-confidently at you from the box only hints at what nightmares he plans to unleash upon you when you turn your back.

No! No, no, no, no! FUCK! NONONONONONONO! NO! FUCK YOU, GET AWAY FROM ME! NO! NO! NO!

*Starts gibbering and sobbing while my vision blurs and cockroaches suddenly start appearing on the floor*

captcha: 'Doodah man'

No Mr. Captcha, worse, muuuch worse! If that... thing can even be called a man at all!

Chimichanga:

shrekfan246:

Chimichanga:

Well, maybe not the Quaker Oatmeal guy... The way that spooky bastard just stares self-confidently at you from the box only hints at what nightmares he plans to unleash upon you when you turn your back.

No! No, no, no, no! FUCK! NONONONONONONO! NO! FUCK YOU, GET AWAY FROM ME! NO! NO! NO!

*Starts gibbering and sobbing while my vision blurs and cockroaches suddenly start appearing on the floor*

captcha: 'Doodah man'

No Mr. Captcha, worse, muuuch worse! If that... thing can even be called a man at all!

"I fear no man, but... That thing, it scares me."

Also: That should be a mod for Amnesia: The Dark decent.

 

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