Ye Olde Update

Sorry for the lack of updates, but I haven’t been on the proper continent.

The Only Political Post I’ll Hopefully Ever Make

Every four years we have to experience the worst day ever: the day after election day. Traditionally this is celebrated by half the country going absolutely nutballs about how they “won”, and the other half coming up with creative ways to complain about the country descending into nonsense and making empty threats about moving to Canada (more entertaining when that particular example comes from the Conservative half, admittedly).

This is dumb and has to stop. Political parties are not “teams”. You are not striving to be on the winning team. When you vote you are saying “This is what I feel is the best direction for my country” and between 8 and 10 PST you find out how much of the country agrees. The only “team” is America.  Having elections open to everybody without the threat of horrible personal consequences means we all “won”.

Posting online “We did it guys, we saved the country from the powers of evil!” is just as ludicrous as the posts saying “It’s all over guys – hopefully Rapture comes sooner rather than later.”

So please stop. If the election went your way, be happy that America is seeming to go in a better direction (and hope it actually does!), and if the election disappointed you then work hard to make your views heard next time (and elect better candidates geez come on guys).

(Full disclosure, this “Day after Election” crap bothered me when Bush won, and it bothered me when Obama won. It doesn’t matter if my candidate wins or not we just shouldn’t behave this way.  Though to be honest it was a little more understandable the first time Obama won because seriously first black President–that’s cool)

 

Happy Tommy Konami Day

As I begin my 7th year at Konami, I thought it would be nice to reflect on all the opportunities I wouldn’t have had if not for the big 573 (or not by this point, anyway).

  • Meeting my wife
  • Celebrating Contra’s 20th Anniversary with a rad game
  • Working on 6 Silent Hill games in various capacities
  • Reviving Rocket Knight
  • Localizing a Castlevania game
  • Watching a trailer for my game on Konami’s ginormous E3 screen
  • Getting a Writer’s Guild membership
  • Writing a comic illustrated by Atsushi Tsujimoto
  • Hanging out with Akira Yamaoka
  • Chatting with Nobuya Nakazato
  • Meeting Iga
  • Traveling to New York
  • Traveling to Germany
  • Traveling to England
  • Having a reason to go to the Czech Republic
  • Traveling to Canada
  • Being an on-camera extra (MGS4)
  • Visiting a movie set
  • Walking the red carpet at a film premiere (SH:R)

So, thanks Konami. You’re not so bad. :)

 

BoM: Karma Chameleons

The general consensus on GameFAQs and the like is that BoM’s Note Alignments are decided by your Karma Meter.

This is not the case*

For those of you who want to break the story system wide open you’ll need to recall I said it’s a giant puzzle.  Here are three hints:

  1. Not every note is changeable. Only the notes with symbols can be changed.
  2. Only the Boss Notes can be Neutral.
  3. Stare at Note 8 until it makes sense.

I hope this helps!

*generally.

UPDATE: Hi GameFAQs! Glad you guys are enjoying the game. Still nope, though :) Just because a note isn’t changeable doesn’t mean it isn’t important.

 

UPDATE 2: This one’s dedicated to darkparodius, who is trying so very hard. Note 13. Note 22.
I can’t get much more obvious than this.

 

UPDATE 3: Point lionhart

I’ve waited the better part of a year to write this post.

 

Finally! Book of Memories is now available (in the US) and you all finally get to play it. That was quite the development cycle, and I definitely sensed a little friction from the fanbase (sigh).

Making such a “weird” Silent Hill was something I knew many players would balk at, and could cause a lot of heartbreak if handled improperly. So, since the general idea was to make a gameplay-focused SH I maneuvered into the writer’s chair for this title and resolved to do something unique. My first order of business was to create a compelling SH story. Yes, the game was to have a lot of fanservice, but I wanted the story to be new and different so it wouldn’t just feel like a rehash. We’ve had Origins and the movie, and all these things that make a point to “tie things together” so I didn’t want to go down that road again–I wanted to share a brand new story (with a hopefully compelling premise).

Second, I wanted to do something in the spirit of Shattered Memories. Not to the level of reimagining a previous game, but to take the actual “storytelling” and twist it a bit, all while allowing the player to control it to some degree. I wanted the story to be married entirely to the gameplay, so the player would feel like an active participant. While in Czech for Downpour, I spent most of my downtime (any moment I wasn’t out taking pictures) composing and writing BoM’s story. They were very Silent Hillful trips. (There’s also a lot of Order stuff in the game, so I spent my time stuck in airports reading up on cults and how they work)

Now, we were somewhat limited on what we could do, given a tight schedule. So the challenge was coming up with a way to tell a complex story with a ton of moving pieces (so there are things for the player to move) on a budget? Well, SH is known for note collecting, so much of the story is told via 100+ Notes that you find while exploring your nightmare. Many of these notes represent memories of various people, and you’ll need to ponder what it all means as you play–something I really wanted to accomplish to bring back those good times of SH1 obfuscation. These memories take many forms, from outright diary entries to movie stubs, newspaper clippings, and the like. It’s challenging telling a story in snippets of text, but it’s a skill I honed in college trying to cram meaning into freewrite sessions–so I was thrilled to be back in my element. (I got into a graduate-level class writing an argument between ex-lovers in a sci-fi setting.) Speaking of which, remember all that digi-ink I spilled talking about voyeurism? Relevant!

All this ties very closely into my own Book of Memories.

Some of you know, but after high school I started my own game development team and we set about the impossible task of creating a Japanese-style RPG for Gameboy Color. After assembling a team and securing licensed Developer status with NOA, then discovering MGS, I set about writing the story for Mythri. Somewhere beneath the anime cliches, game tropes, and hopeless fanboyism I completed the story I wanted to tell (a month before SH1 came out, fwiw). Mythri was my message to the world, spoken in the voice of an 18-year-old.

Five years, two failed publishing deals, a petition, and a GBA port later… we closed the doors of Team XKalibur, locking Mythri inside forever.

But a weird thing happens when a story you need to tell is denied release–it stays inside you. It simmers in your soul and evolves, changing as you do, pressing against the creative walls that trap it inside you. The characters change and themes mature as it’s melted down time and again, without a cast to be poured into. I’m sure anybody with an untold story can relate. You don’t even notice it, and there’s a certain refusal to acknowledge it because the reality of the situation is depressing.

So I was a bit surprised, a few months after completing BoM’s story, when I reflected on the tale as a whole, what I was trying to say, and realized I’d finally told that story. Mythri, aged 13 years, had snaked its way into the story of Book of Memories. In a way, BoM is the culmination of 14 years of my career; the irony of it being a portable RPG is not lost on me.

Don’t misunderstand, BoM is not just Mythri in Silent Hill. The two stories are entirely different (or else I wouldn’t have posted Mythri’s entire story online–feel free to compare). You actually can’t go back and tell the same story you wrote over a decade ago. It feels old, tired, childish. I guess it might be impossible to understand the comparison I’m making if you aren’t me… basically,  in BoM my “message” is finally being shared. It’s very exciting.

So if anybody remembers Mythri and wonders what the essence–the point–of that story was, don’t worry about what could have been. Just give BoM a shot to experience the final draft.

Or at least listen to Love Psalm. You’ll get the idea.

(Mythri images drawn by Carolyn Carter. BoM image and boss design by Matt Long.)

I’ve been waiting 13 years for this.

So 13 years ago (and 8 months) I, like many of you readers, was introduced to the world of Silent Hill. I played it with my girlfriend at the time who was the perfect partner for such a thing because she scared easily. Very easily. So having her next to me freaking out freaked ME out, and added to things like Alchemilla’s otherworld and what have you. Then a few years later came Silent Hill 2 and its injection of personal meaning to the whole thing. The town became a very real place in all of our minds, and foggy days would remind us of it, and so on.

Then I was given the thrilling chance to be part of the series itself! Unbelievable. And, contrary to what you might read on the internet, something I take very seriously and am honored to be a part of. It was a huge relief when I met with Universal and learned that they took their contribution to SH history just as seriously–and as we all know by now they added Silent Hill to their annual Halloween Horror Nights event, which I went to last night.

Being there was very cool. I’d seen the maze set in the daytime, without effects, and without creatures–so I knew what to expect… kind of. Seeing it “working” was another story altogether. Here was Silent Hill, a place I used to visit as a player, a place which came to infect most of the creative corner of my brain–now a physical space that I could occupy and explore. Surreal. Adding to this effect is the fact that you have to descend down 4 long escalators to even reach Silent Hill–escalators which, by the way, feature classic SH music by Akira Yamaoka. It’s hard not to get into the Silent Hill mood.

The maze itself is incredibly cool. It stretches from the crashsite of a car, through the woods, the stretched corpse from the very first Otherworld, onto the streets and then into classic settings like Midwich and Alchemilla. There are several Otherworld transitions where the images of a wall literally melt away to a rusty metal world where Alessa appears to creep out visitors. Pyramid Head and Bogeyman scared the hell out of the people I was with, and it ends of course in Lakeside with the scent of blue cotton candy wafting in the air.

Astronomical production values aside, the maze isn’t even my favorite part. No, outside the maze (technically on the street that leads to Transformers The Ride 3D), is a scare zone. However unlike the other scare zones in the park (each one with a generic theme like “Klownz” or “Witches”) this one is a Silent Hill scare zone. this translates into an intensely foggy street where Nurses, Pyramid Head, and Bogeyman wander through the crowds, sneaking up on people to freak them out when they think they’re safe reading a map or buying a churro. There is no Halloween sight cooler than seeing Pyramid Head emerge from the fog, towering over attendees, brandishing his great spear. Most of these scare zones at Halloween attractions I’ve been to are generic. I assume the thinking is, people who aren’t familiar with a franchise are likely to ignore its maze, and probably won’t be as frightened of its creatures. But SH apparently rates above that. Nurses and hulking embodiments of Guilt can be as universally scary as chainsaw maniacs and werewolves.

It’s absolutely mindblowing that Silent Hill has reached this point. For all the hand-wringing, mud-slinging fans who wish the series would have died 8 years ago I need to point out–if that had happened, it would never have reached this point. Normal, mainstream people who just enjoy horror-themed amusement parks would never have seen Pyramid Head, or Lying Figure. They would never have heard Theme of Laura! This is a big deal for your favorite Survival Horror franchise. You can’t visit Raccoon City. To most horror fans Wesker is just some throwaway movie character.

When you love a fictional world, I think the natural response is a desire to share it with as many people as possible in hopes they find what makes it so special to you. The hope they will share that, or find their own specific draw to that world and place–that maybe in the process you’ll learn more about one another. I’m honored to have played a part in sharing this wonderful(ly horrific) world with so many people. Enough people to maintain a queue of 60-90 minutes every night for a month and a half, anyway.

We waited 20 years for this?

Guess what kids – that’s right, I’ve been in the video game industry for 20 years now. It actually didn’t occur to me until a few weeks ago when I was carpooling to my job in the Santa Ana area with the head of my division. This seemed eerily familiar, seeing as my career began with carpooling to the Santa Ana area with the head of my division. So 20 years later and I’ve advanced a couple of blocks. But I design games now instead of testing them, so that’s something at least.

You see, I knew somebody who worked for Virgin Games and so the summer after I completed sixth grade, I was hired over the summer to come in and test games one day a week. This was back before anybody knew who Dave Perry was, and when Tommy Tallarico made game music. Some of you reading this weren’t born yet. I feel incredibly old now.

A few years later I was designing levels for a PC game that never came out, and then after that Producing and Designing an indie GBC RPG that also never came out before going to Atlus and doing QA. So basically I spent the last 12 years getting back to where I was 12 years ago–but people actually get to play my games now. Looper is really good, by the way.

This post may or may not have everything to do with Book of Memories.

It’s about time. Like the past, I guess technically.

rad, right?

SH:BoM’s demo is available free on PSN!

You can try it out starting tomorrow (Tuesday, October 2) in North & Latin Americas.

If you’re in Europe you should have started playing it last week.

If you’re in Japan, uh, just hold on a bit longer.

I’ve Heard There’s a Cool New Video

Look Around, Silent Hill Fans

It really is just you.

         

Related: Theatrhythm is secretly amazing.