Silent Hill Experienced Exclusive Interview with Devin Shatsky and Tomm Hulett!

Posted By: Whitney   September 20th, 2011 | 11:13 pm

Well this is very exciting, Silent Hill Experienced, the Silent Hill podcast I co-host with Austin and Destiny, was able to snag an email fan interview with Downpour producers Devin Shatsky and Tomm Hulett!  We wanted to share this opportunity so we invited fans of the podcast to submit their own questions over on our facebook fan page and on the Silent Hill Community forums as well.

This interview mainly consists of Downpour related questions but it does touch on the future of the series and a bit of both the HD Collection and Book of Memories. We want to thank Devin and Tomm again for taking the time from their busy schedules to do this. We hope you enjoy!

Silent Hill Experienced – You guys have been pretty vocal with the Silent Hill fan base during production, talking on fan forums, facebook, fan interviews etc. Has this contact during production help shape Downpour in any way? Do you think this fan contact is helpful?

Devin Shatsky – It’s been very useful in validating certain design decisions along the way. Granted, it also tends to be an exercise in frustration at times, as the fans can be very opinionated, and they’ll let you hear about it when they disagree with a specific gameplay component (or their interpretation of it). Most of the core design decisions were made long ago during pre-production, but we have actually made a few course corrections along the way based on fan suggestions and comments, so we do listen when the fans have suggestions that make sense.

SHE – So far we’ve seen the box art for both the US HD Collection and Downpour and each are looking very nice! We were wondering just how much input do you guys have on these covers? Do you get to choose the graphic artist and theme? Or is it all up to Konami’s marketing team?

Devin Shatsky – It falls mostly on Marketing’s shoulders, they usually come at us with a few directions and we give them our preference, as well as feedback to validate our decisions. It’s pretty interesting, because we do the same thing with our European and Japanese divisions as well, so it’s always cool to see the different ideas that come from each territory. My personal favorite was the box art we’re doing for the European version. It was really on par with a concept I had originally pitched to our Marketing department early on.

SHE – What has been your favorite part of working on the series and what do you feel is the biggest contribution Downpour’s installment will bring to the series?

Devin Shatsky – I’m really excited about the amount of focus we’ve put back on the town itself. After Homecoming, (to me) it was starting to feel like the back-story of the town was starting to take too much of a backseat to the The Order and all it’s inner workings. I always felt like the town of Silent Hill had so much more of a story to tell, and we had barely scratched the surface. I think Downpour will have much more of a contribution on that front.

SHE – How big of a role (if any) do you have in the upcoming Silent Hill HD Collection or Book of Memories?

Tomm Hulett – I was in charge of the voice re-recording in HD Collection. Which included compiling the script and helping select the new actors. I’m the Producer on Book of Memories so I’m directly involved in pretty much everything. I’m also writing the storyline.

SHE – Speaking of the HD Collection there’s been a lot of controversy over Konami’s decision to use new voice talent. We’ve heard from both Monica Taylor Horgan (Maria/Mary) and Guy Cihi (James) from the original cast and even from some of the new cast, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn and Troy Baker and on the decision but yet nothing from Konami’s side. Can you expand a bit on why new voice talent was used?

Tomm Hulett – The new voices were something I was very excited about from the start. Creating a definitive “HD Version” of the game is meant to bring it up to modern standards. This goes beyond graphics and effects and includes the acting. The original acting was obviously good in 2001—we all love it. However, the industry standard for VO in 2011 is much, much higher. So we sought out the best voice actors available to us. Were SH2 being made today, these are the actors “Team Silent” would be requesting.

As for the Guy Cihi issue, I want to stress that by contacting Cihi, Konami was doing the right thing and trying to make certain everything was buttoned-up regarding voice use. None of us were in Japan ten years ago when SH2 was being recorded, so we really have no idea what went down. I will say that Mr. Cihi’s claim of there being no contract whatsoever sounds very strange and not at all like Konami. I’ve also never worked on a project where voice actors or mo-cap actors get residuals. The people who spent years creating James (writers, artists, animators, directors) don’t get residuals. Voicing a character in a game is a lot different than being a headlining actor in a big-budget film.

Jorge Esparza – Will the rain in Downpour have an effect on gameplay and combat or is it just a storyline-based element within the game?

Devin Shatsky – Water plays a major role in Silent Hill: Downpour, in both gameplay and overall theme. We’ve developed a pretty elaborate weather system that ties into the pacing of some of our enemy encounters. Storms come and go, and they vary in intensity, which means the threat level does as well. The player will need to learn when and where they can go to hide from the weather. People shouldn’t misinterpret this to mean when the rain stops, they’re going to be totally safe, that isn’t the case.

Cj Melendez – Have there been any sort of personal experiences you or the team has had that have made it into the game?

Tomm Hulett – Definitely. It’s kind of inevitable when you spend years of your life working on something creative like a game. I know one person on staff had a child diagnosed with some behavioral issues, and you’ll see some of their fears in some of the notes found around town. A lot of times the personal horrors the characters in SH experience are our own horrors getting worked out. The same is currently happning on Book of Memories as I create the story text.

Cj Melendez – How is the last few weeks of development time treating you?

Tomm Hulett – Well I just returned from the Czech Republic, and Devin is heading back out there in a couple weeks, so we’re still traveling quite frequently. It’s always pretty stressful at this stage—trying to get last minute fixes in, polishing elements so they’re as good as can be, getting sidetracked by particularly tricky bugs, etc. Everyone is working hard.

Miriam Natasja Karoline McCann – Compared to the previous Silent Hill installments where would Downpour rank in combat difficulty? Can we expect Silent Hill Homecoming intensity? The gameplay video of the Screamer battle seems really intense!

Tomm Hulett – The combat can get pretty intense! The biggest differences is that in Homecoming you were usually more-or-less forced to confront the creatures. That wasn’t our goal in Downpour. When you’re overwhelmed and don’t think you can survive direction confrontation, it’s always better to run, hide, get somewhere the creatures can’t follow. Murphy’s able to fight decently, using every day objects as makeshift weapons, but he’s not a “fighter” by any means. So the intensity doesn’t come from doing 5 hit string combos and rolling out of the way—it comes from aggressive creatures that are going to kill you if you let them.

John Kubiak – For Downpour will there be no loading times between areas a la Shattered Memories?

Tomm Hulett – Our goal at the start was to have no load screens whatsoever. Once all our technical systems (weather, etc.) went in, this became an impossibility. However, the load times are restricted to when you duck into a sidequest. When you’re exploring a specific area (in the old SH games: hospital, school, etc) there won’t be any loads at all—so worry not, your immersion is safe. Also, the load times that are there aren’t very long at all. We’re talking a couple of seconds.

Silent Haven –  When can we expect to hear the theme song by Korn? Any hints on whether it will include Mary Elizabeth McGlynn and Daniel Licht?

Devin Shatsky – We just unveiled the song at Tokyo Game Show this month, and the reception has been very positive overall. I think a lot of the initial “freaking out” from some of the more “vocal” fans has mellowed out, once they heard the song. It’s a great fit for Downpour, and I personally like the song a lot. Those who don’t? Feel free to press ‘START’ at the attract mode screen.

Silent Haven – Is there a special physics engine used for the dynamics of the water?

Devin Shatsky – We’re using Nvidia’s PhysX engine.

Silent Haven – Who essentially is involved in the team behind Downpour aka “Team Silence” ? Will Team Silence be a stable presence in the future with the franchise or is this just a one time deal with Downpour and everyone with go on to create other games?

Tomm Hulett – We coined “Team Silence” to indicate that Konami is very much present and involved in creating the series. We aren’t just handing the game off to a developer and waiting for it to be completed. So core members of Team Silence like Devin and I are likely to remain the same. However, the developers per project may change (Vatra for Downpour, WayForward for Book of Memories, etc).

Xuchilbara – In terms of vagueness of the SH stories, how important is this in Downpour?

Tomm Hulett – It’s very important. Vagueness is a really difficult thing to accomplish in narrative, though. To have a good story, you can’t just *not know* what happens. The writer has to know everything about their characters, from the color of Murphy’s hair to what his Email address might be. But that doesn’t mean you reveal all that—it’s just in the author’s mind. When you apply that over the whole story, it’s even harder. You put in the time thinking about this stuff, so obviously you WANT to share it. But then, how much info will spoil the “vague” aspect of the game? You have to give enough for fans to latch onto and discuss, but leave enough out there’s some mystery. Finding that ideal balance is one of the hardest parts of an SH story.

Xuchilbara – What are your influences that are incorporated in the game? (Besides the obvious previous things like the Omen.)

Devin Shatsky – There’s too many to list… but I’ll rattle off a few. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,  Jacob’s Ladder, Suspiria, The Walking Dead, Rubber Johnny, Shawshank Redemption, The Fugitive, The Call of Cthulhu… the list goes on.

Aegophthalmos – Will we ever get to explore the town of Brahms? (SHE Side note – From the forum response to his question the idea seems very popular with other Silent Hill fans!)

Tomm Hulett – It would definitely be an interesting place to visit! I will say that Downpour will give fans a much clearer picture of where the series’ locations (SH, SG, Brahms, Ashfield) are in relation to one another.

Aegophthalmos -Do you have any ideas floating around that you’d like to see in a future Silent Hill installment? Will future Silent Hill games have a focus on developing the history of Silent Hill and/or the surrounding region (such as how SH2 did with mentioning the plague, the lost name of the town, the executioners – SH4 referencing the Native Americans)? Not necessarily meaning the game itself needs to take place in the past rather will there be more history mentions in memos, statues, etc in future games that would expand on the town’s history.

Tomm Hulett – You’ll definitely get to see some more glimpses into SH’s past. In fact, two weeks ago I started doing some fact checking into the existing history (as a last safeguard to avoid any hiccups like the Origins/Homecoming map problem). I got so absorbed that I spent several days mildly obsessed with the lore. A lot of that has bled over into Book of Memories. So all you SH Historians will have more fuel soon enough.

samael21walter – About how long will Downpour be on a first time playthrough?

Devin Shatsky – We’re guesstimating about 10 hours minimum for the average gamer, and upwards of 15-20 for the completionists out there.

samael21walter – What is the developer’s next step for the franchise after Downpour and Book of Memories? Have they thought about a new installment in the main series after Downpour?

Devin Shatsky – We’ve got some really cool concepts in the works, that’s about all I can divulge.

samael21walter – Any plans for the HD collection to be released on Vita and/or PC?

Devin Shatsky – No, for now these are strictly PS3 and Xbox 360.

The Gentleman -Will the breakable weapon system be more sophisticated in Downpour than the the one in Origins. For example, can we expect things like crowbars or hammers to last a lot longer than chairs or wooden planks?

Tomm Hulett – Yes, it works entirely differently. We’re still tweaking it to be perfect, but in general wooden weapons are going to break more quickly than metal ones. You’ve seen in some of the videos, the “chair” weapon breaks pretty much immediately. But then, if you happen to run across a steel pipe, hold on to that baby as long as you possibly can. Also, blocking with a weapon will damage it as well. So simply holding block and waiting for an opening isn’t going to do you much good. I’ve been putting the combat through its paces this last week and I think we’ve found a good balance between modern  expectations for combat, and “fighting isn’t the point” classic Silent Hill combat. It should be easy to control like Homecoming, but “feel” like SH 1 – 4.

The Gentleman – Although they won’t be pivotal to the plot of the game, will there still be nods in the form of optional notes or iconography to elements of the previous games like the cult or the original settlers?

Tomm Hulett – of course! I would say if you combined Downpour and Book of Memories, you’ll have as much “historical town/cult lore” as SH2 and SH3 combined. That seems like a good amount to me. (And of course you GET SH2 and 3 combined in SH Collection… so the next few months will be a great time for people to get into the lore).

The Gentleman – Will there be things like joke unlockables like we saw in Silent Hill 3?

Devin Shatsky – Spoiler Alert! Yes.

The Gentleman – How far will puzzles go in terms of complexity? Will items be scattered around to encourage exploration?

Devin Shatsky – We’ve got 3 difficulty levels for Puzzles, so depending on the setting you choose, they range quite a bit in terms of complexity. Some people don’t want to rack their brains on puzzles, some do, so we’ve given players the luxury of choosing just how much they want to think. And to the 2nd question, the answer is definitely yes. Not only do we have items scattered around, but we also have a number of side quests within town that are tied directly to unlockable bonus content as rewards.

Wooden Plank – Will Downpour feature the same amount of endings as the past Silent Hill games and can we expect any joke endings?

Devin Shatsky – Yes there are multiple endings, and you might even find one of them funny .

Wooden Plank – Will any areas from the previous games return?

Tomm Hulett – There will certainly be mention of other areas.

Agent of God –  Have you guys considered the examination of the town’s origins (spiritual power/natives)?

Tomm Hulett – It’s something I’d like to explore soon. Obviously we haven’t heard a whole lot about them since SH2, mainly. However, it’s not something you can ever fully explain because then the town loses some of its mystery. So it’s a tricky line to walk. That said, I definitely think it’s important to flesh out since many people still think Alessa is the source of SH’s “weirdness”.

Agent of God – Are you even considering a return to the SH2/SH3 map, for the sake of exploring never before visited locations such as the Toluca Lake island, Ridgeview Medical Clinic, St.Stella church, etc?

Devin Shatsky – Yes that’s something we’ve discussed for future concepts. I wish I could say more about some of the ideas we’re working on, but of course I can’t yet.

Wren – Will you have a continued role in the future of the series and what do you personally consider your biggest contribution to the series so far?

Tomm Hulett – I hope so! Silent Hill is close to my heart so obviously I’d love to keep making future games. I would say my biggest contribution is making sure the series changes in a “Silent Hill” direction. What I mean is, every series has to update itself. SH is 13 years old. Look at the difference between Super Mario Bros. and Mario 64. Super Metroid and Metroid Prime. Castlevania 64 and Lords of Shadow. Silent Hill can’t be the exact same game it was in 1999 – it just can’t. But, as our resident Silent Hill Encyclopedia, I’ve been able to make sure it doesn’t change so drastically it loses its identity. How successful you think I am is up for debate I suppose, and some games are easier to affect than others. I know Homecoming was the black sheep of the family, but at least I was able to keep it in the same flock.  I’d count that as a victory.

Wren – How do you handle this infamously un-pleasable fan base?

Tomm Hulett – I’ve tried a lot of approaches. Reasoning with them, ignoring them, worrying about them, hiding from them. Things have been really ridiculous since the GamesCom announcements, so I’m considering changing things up and outright taunting them. We’ll see. Seriously though at the end of the day, we have to just make the decisions we believe in and make the best SH titles we can. If the fans champion those games, that’s a bonus.

2 responses to “Silent Hill Experienced Exclusive Interview with Devin Shatsky and Tomm Hulett!”

  1. avatar Alex says:

    Thank you for the interview! It was really informative. I love those guys. Wish them good luck.

    By the way, i got goosebumps when Tomm said that Ashfield from SH4 will come into play in Downpour.

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