Alone in the Dark: Dev Diary 3
To build all this variety of gameplay elements and features in Alone in the Dark we built our own technology. There is a full R&D department working on the tool we use at Eden – it’s an in-house tool called Twilight 2. The interesting thing about Twilight 2 is it’s the same tool we used for TDU. It was so flexible that with updates on it we can make all that we need for Alone in the Dark.
There is another technical team working on the game engine specifically for all the different platforms to run everything in the game. We had the chance to develop a very open engine to bring together everything in the game – I don’t know if it would have been possible with another engine. The great thing for the designers is that everything has been thought of like Lego blocks, so if you have an idea you can pick a little part of the engine, add another part, meld them together and you have what you expect to have. After that you can play with it inside the game and build some specific situations or puzzles. The designers were able to prototype the game mechanics themselves and the engine helped us a lot to do that.
How we managed to balance the innovation with fun in the game is by working nights (a lot) and the key word is iteration. You don’t have any other method. If something was never done before you need to build it, test it, see what goes well, what goes wrong, and you need to improve it and improve it, test it, improve it. We do this for all the features in the game, lots of iteration, iteration, iteration.
It was fun because when we talked together about some gameplay situations in the game after some discussion we realised that nobody in the development team played the same situation the same way. Sometimes we talked about it and someone would say “we need to improve that because when you use this object to fight these monsters and…” I would say, “but you used that object to fight these monsters? You’re supposed to do that!” “No, no you can combine this with that and it gives you this result”, and I’d realise that yes it’s logical. We had lots of unexpected situations just from the creativity of the player – that was really, really interesting.
On the other hand, it was difficult to manage lots of people on the project, and the new generation of game console brought lots of new issues. The team grew so fast that we needed to re-think all our processes to build a game. With this new type of content it created a new type of issue so our everyday work was re-thinking everything, which was very, very hard.
The choice of Central Park is important, because what we want with Central Park is to give to the player some realistic environments to put all the extraordinary things in perspective. If you have a realistic environment everything not normal seems very, very weird. If you are in a completely weird environment the weirdness is normal, so what we want is to use the park to give the perspective on all the paranormal activity.
Of course the park is also very useful in terms of environment because it’s very rich in terms of variety, there are plenty of buildings, there is a huge museum, lots of lakes, there are some parts which are very cute and charming and there are some more wild forest parts, and you have lots of bridges and roads.
When we went to Central Park to do some research in terms of environments, we took tons of photography and we walked miles and miles. When we saw something we stopped and said oh, we can have something here, and we thought about how to build specific situations. Sometimes we simulated the situations of the game in the park, so it was quite dangerous sometimes, but it was interesting!