Resident Evil Creator Explains Why the Series Stopped Being Scary

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Resident Evil Creator Explains Why the Series Stopped Being Scary

Resident Evil 6 - Screen 15

Resident Evil ceased to be a survival horror series at some point and became an action series with zombies - and according to its creator, that was a decision we made with our wallets.

The Resident Evil games of today are very different from what they were fifteen years ago. The series began as pure survival horror, with scarce resources and more panicked fleeing than direct combat. The man who started it all, Shinji Mikami, says that the series kept that mentality until it became clear that gamers wouldn't buy another game with clunky movement controls and restrictive camera angles. While Resident Evil 2 and 3 had slowly increased the level of action, it wasn't until Resident Evil 4 that Mikami decided to create an "action game."

The turning point, Mikami says, was the lackluster commercial performance of the GameCube's remake of the original Resident Evil. "It didn't sell very well," Mikami says. "Because of the reaction to the Resident Evil remake, I decided to work more action into Resident Evil 4. Resident Evil 4 would have been a more scary, horror-focused game if the remake had sold well."

The change in development strategy was immediate. With earlier Resident Evil games the top priority had been scaring the player, but during development of Resident Evil 4 Mikami told the team that "fun gameplay" was the most important thing to have. "Then the second thing [would be] nothing," Mikami says. "And then the third thing is to be scary."

Apparently it worked - Resident Evil 4 was madly successful and managed to redefine both the horror and action genres. When Mikami stopped working on the series at that point, Capcom continued to move away from the series' horror roots with Resident Evil 5 and 6. These days, Mikami is hoping to get back into true survival horror with his upcoming game The Evil Within.

Source: IGN

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The sales to the Resident Evil remake were lackluster? Wow, I must be living in BizzaroWorld or something! I thought the remake was great! Obviously not many other people did. Perhaps it was it's GC exclusivity which were the cause of poor sales.

This is true, of course. Everyone likes to whine about changes to their franchises or that certain genres and games are popular. In the end though, everyone buys them, so why would developers go back to making games that all sold poorly? Most of my favorite games were commercial failures sadly. I never expect them to be made again in this day and age.

that's to be expected. Thing is, people were getting tired of RE's formula if the REmake and RE0 were any indication. Plus the series was one that ALWAYS tried to have its cake and eat it. Sure, they start out as survival horror AT FIRST (and even then most of their horror depends upon jump scares) but then quickly turn into action games with awkward movement. It just makes more sense to get rid of the monsters permanently with a shotgun blast to the face due to ammo and healing items becoming increasingly common. After 4 dropped the horror pretense and focused on being a fun shooter the series was all the better for it.

If it makes you feel any better, Mr. Mikami, Resident Evil was never "scary"; the ridiculous translations/voicework and plodding gameplay of the earlier iterations saw to that, and then from 5 on everything just got cartoony. Where the series excelled was when it made you feel trapped or overwhelmed, and in my mind RE4 probably had the best balance between that and the gameplay- it allowed you more freedom to move and see/respond to threats, but even with the fancy moves and accurate shooting, it was still possible for the enemies to overwhelm or outmaneuver you if you weren't careful.

As for the REmake... well, come on. The GameCube wasn't exactly the best or most popular platform of its generation, and recreating RE1's "tank" controls when other games were allowing ever-greater freedom of movement couldn't have helped anything.

The REmake sold only marginally worse than 4 did (I think it was 1.35 mil to 1.6) and that makes a lot of sense. A shiny new entry in a series that's very much critically acclaimed will probably do better than a remake, however decent, of a game a lot of people already own.

The Gamecube exclusivity must also have hurt it. Between the PS2 absolutely dominating that generation of consoles and most of the RE fanbase coming from the PS1 all this just... Really seems obvious.

I'm not a fan of horror myself but this seems like weird logic.

ShirowShirow:
The REmake sold only marginally worse than 4 did (I think it was 1.35 mil to 1.6) and that makes a lot of sense. A shiny new entry in a series that's very much critically acclaimed will probably do better than a remake, however decent, of a game a lot of people already own.

The Gamecube exclusivity must also have hurt it. Between the PS2 absolutely dominating that generation of consoles and most of the RE fanbase coming from the PS1 all this just... Really seems obvious.

I'm not a fan of horror myself but this seems like weird logic.

You mean just on the Cube, right? Across all platforms, RE4 sold 7.5 million copies. It was much, much more popular on the PS2.

Though I agree with you - I didn't buy the REmake for two reasons: one, I already owned the original (and I think Capcom did a poor job of advertising how much new content there'd be - I did play it later and it was definitely worth it), and the other was that it was a Cube-exclusive. The PS2 was by far the winner of the last generation's console war, making that a poorly-considered move.

Yeah, I'm not buying into that logic. As someone who has never enjoyed Resident Evil from day one, even just watching people play the first RE was painful for me. The controls were one thing, but the truly awful aspects of that game were the story and dialogue. "...You, the master of unlocking." Remember that? I could never get over the terrible writing and voice acting. On top of that glaring flaw, you control characters that are supposed to be some sort of top notch reaction force--which is incapable of shooting while moving. Pardon me?

What ultimately ruins games like RE for me is that these supposedly special units are special in name only. Their look, their gear, and their standard operating procedures were planned with all the knowledge and tact of a 10-year old child. There are other ways of making a game difficult without removing the distinguishing characteristics that make your "special" character special.

Maybe it's just me but I read this as "Resident Evil stopped being scary because of you people! It's not our fault, despite our sloppy writing and continued focus on things that players have already expressed distaste in!"

Always great when a dev blames their screwups on their players.

Revelations was a good return to the horror elements of the past games, and combining the elements of RE4/RE5, and the game was successful. Capcom can make a good scary RE game again, if they knew what to do.

Li Mu:
The sales to the Resident Evil remake were lackluster? Wow, I must be living in BizzaroWorld or something! I thought the remake was great! Obviously not many other people did. Perhaps it was it's GC exclusivity which were the cause of poor sales.

The thing there its that you thought the remake was great. and so did most of its other buyers, myself included. But history has show that good does not equal successful. Like you and others said, Gamecube wasn't that popular, so low numbers of that means low sales of the game, and I thing the GC has the same problem like the Wii that it was seen as the kids console, so RE a mature game did not get its audience, and then RE4 with similar sales on GC got more sales when ported to others. I own RE4 on PS2 because that is how it was available the GC version went out of print, but the PS2 version was sold in a pack with Outbreak and Code Veronica X.

Li Mu:
The sales to the Resident Evil remake were lackluster? Wow, I must be living in BizzaroWorld or something! I thought the remake was great! Obviously not many other people did. Perhaps it was it's GC exclusivity which were the cause of poor sales.

you are not living in bizzaro but in idiot world. almost like in Mom and Dad Save the World.

there wasn't any other outcome as this when your game is console exclusive.

i would had brought the game if it was available for other systems and not just the game cube.

I thought RE4 mostly hit the right note for balancing action and survival horror. It had better gameplay and was faster and really more fun to play, but you were dropped on your own in an eerie village, and being alone had to be careful to make your bullets count. Inventory management was key. And the events were just right... defending a log cabin from a horde of "zombies", harpooning a giant monster dragging your motorboat around a lake, using a sniper rifle to cover Ashley from monks as she turned the cranks for you, riding a mine cart with "zombies" jumping aboard... there were a lot of different scenarios that worked.

It was perfect up until you got to the Chapter 5 island... then it just turned into a straight-up gun battle and took a step back. Except for the Regenerators.

Where I think the RE series made a wrong turn in 5 and 6 was largely that resource management, a source of tension, went out the window. A game like RE doesn't necessarily need to be dark and eerie all the time if you're concerned about having only X bullets to kill Y monsters coming at you to add some tension. In 5, you could just give yourself a full inventory of bullets anytime you died or started a new section, including a rocket launcher from your stash if you died at a boss. And although 6 did the right thing by removing the massive headache of either managing your AI partner's inventory or trading equipment with your partner, the inventory in 6 was too tiny to use it smoothly. If you saw a red herb and a green herb sitting there, you'd often have to destroy entire stockpiles of ammo to pick them up and combine them... then you turned them into pills, and had 2 empty inventory spaces where your bullets used to be.

I enjoyed the co-op in RE6 for what it was, and they did a nice job of splitting the 2 of you up every so often and giving you separate tasks where one of you would need to help the other, and they provided some *really* fun co-op times to do with a friend, like the Jake/Sherry motorcycle ride, or fighting the enormous ogres, but the inventory system needs to be smoother. I didn't terribly mind the QTE sequences except for the ones where you had to hammer a button as fast as possible, but there were too many unnecessary ones, like rotating the controller stick to open a door.

The number of times you have to kill Leon's final boss was a little over the top, though. By the end of the game, you've gunned him down, hit him with a high-speed train, shot him through the eye, gunned him down again with the aid of a helicopter in the form of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, beat him to death, shot him again, stabbed him through the chest, thrown him off a roof, burned him, shot him again and let zombies eat him, gunned him down in the form of a giant fly, stabbed him in the eye with a giant metal spike, electrocuted him, shot him again with a rocket launcher, and finally, impaled him after a 40-floor drop on a spike.

When a musician broadens their music specifically to be more radio friendly or mass appeal, we call them sellouts. Because they are.

Mikami, you are a sellout. Capcom is your EMI.

Aiddon:
that's to be expected. Thing is, people were getting tired of RE's formula if the REmake and RE0 were any indication. Plus the series was one that ALWAYS tried to have its cake and eat it. Sure, they start out as survival horror AT FIRST (and even then most of their horror depends upon jump scares) but then quickly turn into action games with awkward movement. It just makes more sense to get rid of the monsters permanently with a shotgun blast to the face due to ammo and healing items becoming increasingly common. After 4 dropped the horror pretense and focused on being a fun shooter the series was all the better for it.

Pretty much.

REmake and RE0 restricted your movement even worse than before by making your character's turing speed that of a damn tortoise. By this point Capcom had exhausted every possible measure with this series, and it was RE4 that dragged the series' ass out of the mud. I mean, it was the game that made me buy a Gamecube, and I still remember it as one of the best game purchases I've ever made.

Leave it to Shinji Mikami to say "No fuck this, let's make something that's actually good" well into developement.

Clive Howlitzer:
This is true, of course. Everyone likes to whine about changes to their franchises or that certain genres and games are popular. In the end though, everyone buys them, so why would developers go back to making games that all sold poorly? Most of my favorite games were commercial failures sadly. I never expect them to be made again in this day and age.

The problem is that the biggest selling genres are already well represented and you'd need to spend a shitload of cash to compete with COD or Halo or WoW and making a better game won't guarantee being a real competition.

I don't know why game developers seem to think that COD clones will sell better than games in an underrepresented niche genre. A bigger slice of a small pie vs. a smaller slice of a big pie. Developers seem to believe that they'll be able to get the big slice of big pie by just emulating games that have managed that. Not true!

The other issue is that making games isn't just a business, it's supposed to be art as well. We're right to criticise when a band creates a more generic sound just to sell better and we're right to hold game developers to the same level of integrity.

K12:

Clive Howlitzer:
This is true, of course. Everyone likes to whine about changes to their franchises or that certain genres and games are popular. In the end though, everyone buys them, so why would developers go back to making games that all sold poorly? Most of my favorite games were commercial failures sadly. I never expect them to be made again in this day and age.

The problem is that the biggest selling genres are already well represented and you'd need to spend a shitload of cash to compete with COD or Halo or WoW and making a better game won't guarantee being a real competition.

I don't know why game developers seem to think that COD clones will sell better than games in an underrepresented niche genre. A bigger slice of a small pie vs. a smaller slice of a big pie. Developers seem to believe that they'll be able to get the big slice of big pie by just emulating games that have managed that. Not true!

The other issue is that making games isn't just a business, it's supposed to be art as well. We're right to criticise when a band creates a more generic sound just to sell better and we're right to hold game developers to the same level of integrity.

I also agree that the idea that a game has to sell on the same level of CoD to be considered a 'success' is rather silly. That is why I look less and less to AAA games nowadays.

understandable but still doesnt mean it has be action pure. i have to admit that i did enjoy RE6 for some odd reason. sure, it was action with some horror elements but when i think of the first title, it wasnt scary either. for me at least. plus i dint like the clunky controls and the fixed cameras that that caused me to die because i coulndt see anything.
and RE4 was for me the worst, not only because it was a poor pc port, but the controls really ruined it for me by not being able to strafe and having mouse support. plus, it only displayed the GC controls during QTEs. all this made RE4 the worst title ever.

revelations was really good and at some point creepy. but cant say scary. but i sure enjoyed this game more then any of the other titles.
if they would have made the remake for other platforms, it would have been more successful. i was actually pretty tempted to buy it once i have heard of it, but when i saw it was only for the GC, disappointment.
well, lets see what RE7 will deliver. if its planed.

CriticKitten:
Maybe it's just me but I read this as "Resident Evil stopped being scary because of you people! It's not our fault, despite our sloppy writing and continued focus on things that players have already expressed distaste in!"

Always great when a dev blames their screwups on their players.

Pretty much what they are doing. Trying to blame it on the fans because we enjoyed how refreshing RE4 was. So they then take the worst parts of 4, add horrible co-op and interface, and then wonder why people don't like their game anymore.

I bought RE5 and its the last one I will get ripped off by. I didn't touch 6 with a 10ft pole. Hell I didn't even watch others play it because the gameplay is so dull. :/

So he killed Resident Evil because he decided to make the remake exclusive to the worst console for third party sales at the time? Well done.

They should have just gotten rid of the camera angles and poor controls, then maybe they could have made a horror game that sold well. But then on the other hand, i don't really know how well Silent Hill sold, and those had better camera and better controls.

It kinda sucks to be i the demographic that doesn't enjoy story based action shooters, since that's basically the one demographic that everyone tries to please. I wished that someday, the AAA industry would acknowledge that there is a minority of gamers who would by survival horror games and stuff like that. I really hope The Evil Within delivers!

It's quite nice to hear this from the horses mouth, so to speak, as it's pretty much what I've been saying for years now. Not so much anything to do with the sales numbers, but more so that RE4 is where the series stopped being survival horror and started being an action game with a few horror elements. To me (and regardless of the fact that, in a vacuum, RE4 is not a bad game) RE4 is where the series started going downhill. People love to point at RE5 as where it all went wrong, but the steps towards that end clearly started in RE4.

Wait, they release the remake on a console that was basically third in the console race at the time and they wonder why it didn't sell very well? Morons.

Personally, I think this is just a scapegoat excuse anyways.

Clive Howlitzer:

K12:

Clive Howlitzer:
This is true, of course. Everyone likes to whine about changes to their franchises or that certain genres and games are popular. In the end though, everyone buys them, so why would developers go back to making games that all sold poorly? Most of my favorite games were commercial failures sadly. I never expect them to be made again in this day and age.

The problem is that the biggest selling genres are already well represented and you'd need to spend a shitload of cash to compete with COD or Halo or WoW and making a better game won't guarantee being a real competition.

I don't know why game developers seem to think that COD clones will sell better than games in an underrepresented niche genre. A bigger slice of a small pie vs. a smaller slice of a big pie. Developers seem to believe that they'll be able to get the big slice of big pie by just emulating games that have managed that. Not true!

The other issue is that making games isn't just a business, it's supposed to be art as well. We're right to criticise when a band creates a more generic sound just to sell better and we're right to hold game developers to the same level of integrity.

I also agree that the idea that a game has to sell on the same level of CoD to be considered a 'success' is rather silly. That is why I look less and less to AAA games nowadays.

COD sold 9 million units and cost 90 million to make (complete guess btw) so if we spend 90 million on a modern FPS then we'll sell 9 million copies, anything less is a failure.

... can't see any problem with that logic

I say again: Resident Evil was never scary. It was the kind of campy, so-bad-it's-good that nerds like us love.
The games have IMO actually been getting better, they're video games now instead of being weird, tank-controlled nightmares that make for excellent Youtube poop material.
You were almost a Jill sandwich.

That sounds like an answer that has the benefit of hindsight. Like George Lucas saying the lightsaber fights in the prequels were more frenetic because the jedi were better trained yadda yadda. When in reality the budget, style and technology changed.

RE 4 was a legitimately spooky game and the RE series has always been about spooking people rather than the silent hill, alone in the dark approach of making the player feel totally alienated by their environment.

RE 5 is when it started becoming a joke in my opinion. RE 4 had spooky mansions, caverns and foggy lakes. RE 5 had......black hawk down with zombies and a village of stereotypical tribesmen? You can have balls to the wall action and still shit someone up. Dead Space 1 proved that. RE 4 is a scary enough game, but more in a schlocky slasher movie way rather than trying to do the Shining

Stating the obvious is considered newsworthy now? Who knew?

Li Mu:
The sales to the Resident Evil remake were lackluster? Wow, I must be living in BizzaroWorld or something! I thought the remake was great! Obviously not many other people did. Perhaps it was it's GC exclusivity which were the cause of poor sales.

I bought my GC only for the exclusive RE's. :D

I would buy another game with clunky movement controls and restrictive camera angles. I would buy another ten of them. Also, Remake didn't sell very well because IT WAS ON THE FUCKING GAMECUBE. Your target audience had to buy that damned thing just to play it, but we already bought a PS2.

GAunderrated:

Pretty much what they are doing. Trying to blame it on the fans because we enjoyed how refreshing RE4 was. So they then take the worst parts of 4, add horrible co-op and interface, and then wonder why people don't like their game anymore.

I bought RE5 and its the last one I will get ripped off by. I didn't touch 6 with a 10ft pole. Hell I didn't even watch others play it because the gameplay is so dull. :/

CriticKitten:
Maybe it's just me but I read this as "Resident Evil stopped being scary because of you people! It's not our fault, despite our sloppy writing and continued focus on things that players have already expressed distaste in!"

Always great when a dev blames their screwups on their players.

Except that's not what's happening. Shinji Mikami had no hand in Resident Evil 5 or 6, and his point about why the control scheme of 4 was so vastly different is a good one; People were likely tired of tank controls. I know that personally, that's one of the biggest reasons I can't get into the older Resident Evil or Silent Hill titles.

It sounds more like he equates a clunky, unintuitive control scheme with a "scary" game, which is a bit of a double-edged blade because clunky controls alone won't make something tense and frightening, it'll just make it tedious and frustrating. He's not blaming the fans, simply stating that the development of Resident Evil 4 was altered because of the market. Arguably, due to Capcom's hilariously poor writing department, Resident Evil 4 probably could've been "a more scary, horror-focused game" even with the new control scheme if Resident Evil's writing hadn't always been B-movie quality.

Cognimancer:
...says that the series kept that mentality until it became clear that gamers wouldn't buy another game with clunky movement controls and restrictive camera angles.

So what he's saying is, they sold out because a GameCube exclusive didn't sell well (don't write *chuckle*, don't write *chuckle*... DAMMIT) and they couldn't be arsed fixing game controls.

Totally legitimate argument.

So basically it's our fault that he made Resident Evil 4? Great, then!

However what he's really saying is that we're responsible for Resident Evil's failure. Seriously? Not the god awful voice acting, the terrible gameplay, dodgy camera angles, bad writing and translation and crap story of the first three? There's also the fact that the remake was on the Gamecube, the third place of the 6th Generation. Talk about pretentious.

Resident Evil remade for the PS3 with RE6 graphics would be awesome and better then the new games IMO.

Except Resident Evil 4 was actually good and scary, so what the hell happened since then?

MrGalactus:
When a musician broadens their music specifically to be more radio friendly or mass appeal, we call them sellouts. Because they are.

Mikami, you are a sellout. Capcom is your EMI.

It's not a perfect metaphor. He was always selling his game, whereas most musicians labled sellouts were usually seen as putting their "art" first. Most developers are businessmen first, artists second.

I've never actually liked a Resident Evil game. Most of the suspense was caused by the fact that controls handled like arse and for the first installments the camera was 3d models on a 2d platform.

It was only "scary" because you couldn't see what the fuck was going on due to the third person camera being a crock of shit.

So he made a remake of a horror game for a console that focused on family entertainment and he was surprised of "bad" sales?
To recap this: he produced a game for a specific and smaller market to begin with on a console bought mostly by NOT that crowed... and was surprised that it did not sell CoD style.
Even on a mainstream system like the Xbox or PlayStation the remake would have not sold "stellar" because horror is not for everyone.

So to sum this up for me: You are a dumbass.
The remake was a great game. Now you produce mainstream shit. Be happy to feed the sheep but you can fuck right off for me.

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