Alfred Hitchcock’s influence can be felt everywhere in the psychological thriller genre no matter which medium of entertainment you look at, but for fans of his work, there’s something to look forward to it that owes a great deal to it in more overt ways. Pendulo Studios’ upcoming narrative adventure title Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo adopts the storytelling style of the filmmaker and the themes and motifs of the film after which it is named, and concocts its own new story and characters. There’s clear potential here something very interesting, and curious to learn more about it, we recently reached out to the game’s developers. Below, you can read our conversation with Josue Monchan (narrative designer and writer), Carlos Colomé (technical director), and Pepe Romero (lead programmer).
"The game is freely inspired by Hitchcock’s movie, but it features indeed a completely new story with all brand-new characters."
Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo is, of course, inspired by the classic Hitchcock movie, but it’s not a straight adaptation of it- can you talk a little bit more about that? How much does the game stick to the source material? How much does it stray from it?
The game is freely inspired by Hitchcock’s movie, but it features indeed a completely new story with all brand-new characters. So, the likeness is to be found in the main themes, but also in the structure, the camera work (from detail shots that immerse us into the characters’ psyche to the actual “dolly zoom” or “Vertigo” effect, which was first used in this movie), the Hitchcockian use of suspense (as opposed to surprise), the intricate plot, the “quid pro quo”, and even Hitchock’s signature move, the MacGuffin.
Sticking with the themes of the movie but presenting them via a different story is an interesting challenge to take on. How does the game strike a balance between remaining true to the movie in essence but still doing something new of its own?
The main question that we had to ask ourselves during the early stages of the development was: “What is Vertigo really about?”. Of course, the main theme of the movie was not just “vertigo” per se, as in fear of heights or dizziness. Instead, “vertigo” is a specific and unique way for Hitchcock to talk about obsession, madness, manipulation, identity, and the confusion between imagination, dreams, memory and reality. Once we made sure we were tackling the same primary topics, we created a storyline that departs from the original story while being consistent with the movie’s essence.
Where exploring multiple timelines is concerned, can you tell us how this will be implemented in the game as a gameplay mechanic, and what role it will play in the core loop? Additionally, What can you tell us about the three playable characters? How are their stories going to interact with each other, and will gameplay mechanics differ across all of them?
While there are no multiple timelines per se, we created a unique narration aimed at giving players the impression to complete piece by piece. By using this unique narration, we wanted to give the players the impression to complete piece by piece the whole picture of the story. For example, we will be able to play the same event controlling two different characters, and each one of them will give us a different understanding of what really happened. One of the main gameplay mechanics consists of exploring the past and memories, by means of a new feature in which we will control a psychiatrist entering the mind of another character via hypnosis.
"One of the main gameplay mechanics consists of exploring the past and memories, by means of a new feature in which we will control a psychiatrist entering the mind of another character via hypnosis."
Pendulo Studios as a developer has a long history of working on graphic adventure games. What lessons have you taken from your previous games into the development of Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo?
As big fans of Hitchcock’s movies, we already drew inspiration from his work into our previous titles. Besides, ever since we started making video game thrillers, like Yesterday: Origins or Blacksad: Under the Skin, we’ve found ourselves consciously using his cinematographic techniques or watching over and over particular scenes from his movies, or even making open references to him. Regarding what we learnt before and brought into Vertigo… Well, it’s not easy to summarize almost three decades since Pendulo was born, and every new game has taught us things that we would implement in the next one.
Roughly how long will an average playthrough of the game be?
Depending on the player experience, it would take between 12 to 14 hours to fully complete the game.
The PS5 features an incredibly fast SSD with 5.5GB/s raw bandwidth. How can developers take advantage of this, and how does this compare to the Xbox Series X’s 2.4GB/s raw bandwidth?
This was the main bottleneck during the previous generation. The PCs, with fast SSD, allowed sometimes a better experience & performance than consoles, until now. This reading bandwidth from the disks gives us the opportunity to load massive and detailed environments really fast, having short loading times and a smoother experience in-game overall. It’s a substantial improvement for developers that also provides players with a much better experience. Another important topic is the new memory capacity, on both platforms, improving the final quality of the textures, details and graphics.
The Xbox Series S features lesser hardware compared to Xbox Series and Microsoft is pushing it as a 1440p/60fps console. Do you think it will be able to hold up for the graphically intensive next-gen games?
Both Xbox Series consoles are very similar, with the Xbox Series X benefitting from a helpful boost in terms of graphics. The hardware remains a very important thing, of course, but in our opinion, the most crucial element is the improvement and the time that developers could spend on optimizing the games’ framerate as well. With this in mind, next-gen games will be able to hold up as much as the developers want.
"As big fans of Hitchcock’s movies, we already drew inspiration from his work into our previous titles."
Super Resolution is coming to PS5 and Xbox Series X/S. How do you think this will help game developers?
This new technology is really helpful because one of the things that could increase the framerate of a game is the target resolution. In a minor resolution, the game will run much better than in higher resolution… so, if the developers could use lower resolutions (for example 1080p), and the graphics card (with their AI algorithm) upscale it to 4K without performance impact and only losing a little bit of graphic quality, it’d be a very big deal for developers and players.