Anyone who plays the game for four hours or less hates it, and anyone who plays over six hours loves it, says Dan Pinchbeck.
Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs, thechineseroom's collaboration with Frictional to create the second Amnesia game, has enthralled and polarized fans of the original. "So many people said, if you had taken one word out - Amnesia - you'd have been getting nines and 10s from reviews," says Jessica Curry, Dan Pinchbeck's partner. But that's OK, say Pinchbeck and Curry; thechineseroom wasn't trying to create something that beat Amnesia, and Frictional wouldn't have thanked it if it had. Thechineseroom wanted to make something that burrowed under your skin, and it thinks it succeeded.
"What you've got to remember, if you get flak, is that you are being compared to a game that never existed," Thomas Grip of Frictional told thechineseroom team just before Machine For Pigs launched. It was true; many of the complaints from fans boiled down to 'it's not how we remember Dark Descent', whether or not their memories of the original were accurate. But, Pinchbeck discovered, many of those same fans who initially wrote emails saying 'it's not Dark Descent' would write him again, days later, to confess that Machine For Pigs had gotten to them, at a fundamental level.
"That's really interesting to me to have people write twice," says Pinchbeck. "Either, 'I loved it,' or 'it's shit', in your emails, in your in-tray, but to have so many people come back and say: 'Oh, it's got a really ... insidious crawl to it." Playing with your nerve endings, creating something that sticks with you long after the denouement, that was what thechineseroom wanted. It certainly helps if you spend longer in the world, exploring it as you would an old fashioned RPG, but the point - particularly in the early stages - is to teach you "the emotional way of playing the game," says Pinchbeck.
Nail that, and you've got the essence of Pigs. Everything after that is gravy.