It was June 2009 and we were running out of money. So far we’d spent nearly two years making a game called “Lux Tenebras”. Our idea was to make a Super Mario version of a horror game; something that could be enjoyed in bite-sized chunks, was replayable, and mostly relied on easily repeatable gameplay mechanics. The problem was, this game wasn’t working out. Despite a lot of time and effort, it never really clicked. A publishing deal had recently evaporated, leaving our funds basically drained. We had at most a month left in our budget, and while we had a lot of assets, we didn’t have a working game. It felt like the company was on the verge of going bankrupt, and I recall starting on my CV.
Then we had a lucky break. Our older games – the Penumbra series – went on sale, and against all expectations we got an injection of cash. We worked out that if everyone cut their salaries in half, we could go on for another 12 months – enough time to finish a game. The trouble was that our work-in-progress game just wasn’t very good. But the recent sale had almost doubled our fan base, and everyone praised the horror aspects of our past titles. It seemed that we knew how to scare people – and more importantly, it was something people wanted more of. So we decided: screw all of this Super Mario stuff. Instead, our goal became to make the most frightening game we possibly could.
Now we had a clear aim: to scare the player senseless. We took the assets, gameplay and story we already had and scrapped everything that didn’t help us achieve that goal. Using all we learned from our previous games, we tried to come up with the most terror-filled design imaginable. For example, we emphasized vulnerability by removing the ability to fight back, and we gave the protagonist a phobia of the most common aspect of the game, darkness. We did our utmost to place the player in a hostile and oppressive world.
Just over a year later, Amnesia: The Dark Descent was ready to be unleashed upon the world.
We had a pretty good reception right from the start, many calling it one of the scariest games ever. Things didn’t stop there, though. Thanks to word of mouth, and the timely expansion of the community of Let’s Players, the buzz around the game just kept growing. For a couple of months, we saw something Amnesia-related on the front page of reddit just about every week. The amount of attention we got was truly astounding, and really gratifying for a small company.
However, we never brought Amnesia to consoles. Over the years, we’ve been close to making it happen, but deals either fell through or we simply didn’t have time for it. It’s now time to change that. On the 22nd of November, Amnesia will be available on PlayStation 4 and for the first time console gamers will be able to take part in the terror.
But we won’t just be releasing Amnesia: The Dark Descent alone. We’ll be including two other games in the package as well.
One of them is Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs, which was developed by The Chinese Room (who I’m sure many PS4 players remember from Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture). We asked The Chinese Room to make this game because we loved the stuff they’d done in the past (especially an obscure horror game called Korsakovia) and were curious to see what they’d do with the Amnesia universe.
Our initial expectation was just a short 1-2 hour game, but their ambitions went far beyond that, and in the end it turned into a full-featured release. The result is something that takes a slightly different direction from the first game, putting the themes of human evil from The Dark Descent into a global perspective with very disturbing results. We’re very proud to have it in the collection.
The third game is a lesser known Amnesia title called Amnesia: Justine. This game was made as part of a promotion for Valve’s Portal 2, where we, together with a bunch of other indie developers, took part in an Alternative Reality Game. We decided to use this as an excuse to do something different and went full in on making a whole new story in the Amnesia universe. Justine is a shorter game, taking the form of a series of trials and is heavily inspired by films such as Saw and the historical persona of Elisabeth Báthory.
Together, all three games should provide a wide range of horrors for all PS4 players to face, and I hope it’ll produce many pleasant nightmares and sleepless nights upon release!