Ken Levine: The GamesRadar Interview

GR: The art deco environment looks quite unlike any game we can think of. Do you anticipate modern audiences having any problems relating to a fantasy world from 60 years ago?

KL: We're not trying to make a 15 million dollar architecture appreciation class.  The audience wants something that looks cool, unique and feels believable. They don't care if it's art deco or fart gecko.
GR: How has the undersea, frozen-in-time environment been a design challenge? Were there things you wanted to do, but the game's own fiction wouldn't allow?
KL: The great thing about building an underwater Utopia that split off from society with the best and the brightest and created amazing unheard of technology is it frees you up from a lot of constraints. That said, we need the world of Rapture to be believable and consistent. We've done a lot of work to make it so, from the buildings, to the advertisements and products of the world, to the dozens of characters who you'll meet and learn about in the game.

GR: How do you create and sustain a scary game without just stringing together a bunch of "boo" moments?

KL: There's a difference between making people jump and creeping people out. We tend to specialize in the latter. It's also a lot harder to do, but more rewarding in the end. With that said, here's the extreme cliff notes version of making creepy video games:

1) Make the world believable. Horror requires empathy. Nobody ever made a horror movie where the victim is a shrimp cocktail.  The audience need to care about the world and the people affected by the horror, and to care about them, the audience needs to emotionally connect to them.
2) The audience needs to feel vulnerable. There's you don't cast Arnold Schwarzenegger or The Rock as the protagonist in a horror movie. You need to feel that the hero, or the player in the case of a game, is actually vulnerable. They could lose this thing.
3) Mess with their head. Video games tend to be very literal. Make a world where the gamer is not always sure that what they think they see is actually what they see. Don't let them ever become too comfortable with their perception of reality
4) Build things up. Good horror is like good foreplay. Take your time.


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