At the risk of sounding pretentious, survival horror games aren’t what they used to be.
Post 2010, the survival horror genre was stagnating. To remain marketable the industry demanded that games in long time horror franchises become more action oriented, and the oppressive settings and compelling narratives that made the genre great were compromised to appeal to a wider audience. True survival horror became more niche than ever. Creating fear of an unseen threat is an art form, but doesn’t sell quite as well as snappy dialogue and chainsaws.
During a behind the scenes feature for 2013’s The Evil Within, classic horror game creator Shinji Mikami himself stated “…survival horror as a genre is becoming all action now. There aren’t any real survival horror games in the world right now. ” (eurogamer)
The Silent Hill franchise in particular had dwindled since being taken from Team Silent and put in the hands of western developers. But at Gamescom 2014, P.T. completly changed expectations. With the perfect mix of terror, isolation, and a mystery to unravel, it became the most sublime horror experience ever created.
The “Playable Teaser” was meant to be an appetizer for a Silent Hill reboot helmed by Hideo Kojima, Guillermo Del Toro and, according to a recent tweet by Del Toro, master of Japanese horror, Junji Ito.
Turns out, some things really are too good to be true.
Konami’s dispute with Hideo Kojima led to the project’s demise. To add insult to injury, P.T. was wiped from their servers, officially making the game a limited commodity. In the following months, Konami as a company moved away from its image as a beloved games developer, and moved on to more profitable things like mobile games and pachinko machines.
Then came Allison Road. What has been called P.T.’s spiritual successor actually began production months before Silent Hills was canceled. The teaser shared P.T.’s first-person view and managed to reproduce just how creepy a “perfectly normal” house can be when desserted.
If you’ve been following development on Allison Road, it’s clear that developer Lillith knows exactly what makes a good horror game tick. On their Kickstarter page, the creators stress how important atmosphere and narrative are to giving a game the right feel. The campaign opened strong, but pledges dwindled after the first week of funding.
With time running out and almost half of their 250,000 goal left unfunded, fans wondered what would become of the project. A similarly beautiful, story-driven game called Gray Dawn failed to meet even a fraction of its Kickstarter goal, despite having an impressive teaser trailer rendered in Unreal Engine 4. Indie games have become our last hope for fresh, artistic horror experiences, but it doesn’t count for much if they are unable to get off the ground.
This time around, things were not as bleak as they seemed. Backers were notified on Monday morning that Allison Road’s Kickstarter campaign was going to be scrapped in favor of joining established publisher Team17, known for the Worms franchise. Lillith states that they will remain “unhindered creatively”, but look forward to the backing of an experienced studio.
And if you were one of the game’s loyal backers? According to Lillith, they will be looking into ways to include fans in different ways later on in the games development.
P.T. left a lot of gamers excited to be scared again. Conditions are ripe for a survival horror rennaissance, and Allison Road’s success could inspire more developers to create games that are faithful to the genre. Look out for more details on Allison Road’s release in 2016.