Alone in the Dark Interview – Protagonists, Exploration, Length, and More

THQ Nordic associate producer Andreas Schmiedecker speaks with GamingBolt about the survival horror franchise's upcoming reboot.

Posted By | On 21st, Jul. 2023

Alone in the Dark Interview – Protagonists, Exploration, Length, and More

The survival horror genre has never been as strong as it is right now, and a number of beloved franchises in the genre have either seen remarkable turnarounds in recent years, or are hoping for successful imminent revivals, from Resident Evil to Dead Space to Silent Hill. Another long-running horror series that belongs in that list, of course, is Alone in the Dark. One of the oldest survival horror experiences out there, the franchise has been dormant for a long time now, and it has suffered failed attempts at revivals- though things are looking quite promising where its upcoming reboot is concerned. As a reimagination of the original game that expands upon and modernizes its foundation in a number of ways, the upcoming Alone in the Dark is shaping up to be an intriguing prospect, and ahead of its launch later this year, we recently reached out to the people working on it with a number of our questions. Below, you can read our interview with THQ Nordic associate producer Andreas Schmiedecker.

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"At the core, the original game is a haunted house experience: a creepy mansion that you get to explore step by step as you uncover the plot of the game."

Given how long it’s been since the last Alone in the Dark game came out, what changes have you made to the series’ identity in order to modernize it? How have you balanced that against making sure that you keep its core and spirit intact?

At the core, the original game is a haunted house experience: a creepy mansion that you get to explore step by step as you uncover the plot of the game. Mechanically, we conserve the classic survival horror elements of (scary) exploration, challenging puzzles, fraught combat and a deep story (in the best tradition of Silent Hill and earlier Resident Evil games) with the presentation of a contemporary 3rd-person game. This modernization goes hand in hand with, for instance, an over-the-shoulder-camera and a control scheme that has become standard.

We basically approached the original 1992 game as the foundational text for everything we did . And quite literally so, as we dug through every little piece of information, every text or miniscule detail that we could find to expand on. This is how we approached the lore as well – the themes we explore and how we deal with the inspirations for the original is through the lense of that 1992 game. Sometimes that also means taking the “cosmic” aspect quite literally. Whether our destinies are ruled by something beyond our capabilities of influence or even understanding.

How did the idea for an Alone in the Dark reimagining first emerge? Was it always the plan to do a game of this type, or were there any early discussions about a full-fledged sequel?

We explored several options and settled on the idea of a re-imagination. A straight-up remake with the same content of the first game would have resulted in a very short and probably underwhelming experience – simply by way of how much game design has developed since then. On the other hand, we felt that the original’s core setting, ideas and narrative themes were still going strong, so we wanted to provide that experience to a new generation of gamers while still giving those who know and love the original a great & rewarding experience as well.

The survival horror genre has been flourishing in recent years. What kind of an influence have recent major successes in the genre like Dead Space and the Resident Evil games had on Alone in the Dark and its development?

As you know, Alone in the Dark actually predates all other popular survival horror franchises and established most of the genre’s rules and traditions. So we’re excited to bring it back – and we think that grounding in the original game is also what makes our re-imagination (our “love-letter to the original”) so interesting and unique.

And while many other games go more into the “terror”-part of survival horror, we see ourselves more in the tradition of psychological horror – and in that regard we’re lucky to have David Harbour and Jodie Comer on board, whose spellbinding performances will convince everybody who’s here for the story-experience.

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"If you remember the original story, you’ll find a lot of hints and references, but also a couple of surprises; while new players will get to enjoy the story without the need for any prior knowledge."

What has working with Jodie Comer and David Harbour been like? What have they brought to the characters of Emily and Edward that players may not have seen before?

Casting David and Jodie in the lead roles has been a great inspiration for writers and artists alike. First, both of them have a distinctive physicality that helped us get the movement and the cutscenes right and fitting for the characters. Even more importantly, how they chose to act with their faces and voices gave feedback on the development of the characters and allowed the writers to adapt the characters to the actors playing them. So it was an inspiring and beneficial process.

Alone in the Dark is being billed as an original story, but one that pulls in elements, themes, and characters from the original trilogy. How familiar should returning players expect the experience to be? 

While we play a lot with elements and characters from the 1992 game and our story starts a lot like the original, we actually have a unique story that takes the original’s premise to all new places. If you remember the original story, you’ll find a lot of hints and references, but also a couple of surprises; while new players will get to enjoy the story without the need for any prior knowledge.

If you follow the story of our re-imagination closely, you will find numerous callbacks to the original game and their characters, as well as some almost post-modern reflections on the nature of remakes. What, for instance, changes if Jeremy, the character that kickstarts the story with his letter, didn’t kill himself (as h did in the original) but instead sought therapy? In that sense the question of whether history is doomed to repeat itself has been very much on the developers’ minds.

And there’s, of course, a couple of iconic aspects of the original (for instance, in the intro) and its setting that we’re expanding on. The setting in or close to the bayou is a wonderful opportunity to go deeper into something that was merely hinted at in the original – the historic setting of Derceto, the relationship of the people to voudou and other traditions.

How significantly will the two campaigns differ from each other? Should players expect a lot of overlap where story and gameplay sections are concerned, or will each character have enough exclusive content to justify a playthrough with each?

From a narrative perspective it’s very exciting to show how the story plays out differently, depending on who you chose. Emily and Edward are very different characters and have different relations to the plot – while Edward is more of a hired gun who learns step by step how the mystery of Derceto is related to him, Emily has a more personal connection to the plot as she needs to find her own uncle and deal with the strange affliction called “The Hartwood Curse”. All this will be reflected in the cutscenes the player gets to see and in the reactions from the different NPCs you meet.

Additionally, the player will get to see exclusive levels and parts of the mansion depending on your chosen protagonist. So it’s a great incentive to play through the game more than once. If you go for a second playthrough with the other characters, there will be slight influences in your game depending on which items you found in your first playthrough.

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"We’re striving for an equal distribution between the classic pillars of survival horor (combat, exploration, puzzles and story), with a light tendency towards exploration and puzzles. Combat is not the main focus of the game, but will be tough and intense when it comes to it."

Exploration is obviously a crucial part of any survival horror experience, but what should players expect from Alone in the Dark on that front? What can you tell us about how large Dorcet Mansion is and how you approached its design, especially in terms of things such as backtracking and optional areas?

As stated previously, we feel the “haunted house” aspect is a core pillar of what makes Alone in the Dark interesting and special. Therefore, exploring Derceto, meeting its residents, finding keys and clues and getting access to previously inaccessible areas will play a substantial role in the experience. Going into exploration and various puzzles without any aid will require some patience as well as a willingness to do non-linear thinking and finding your own path through the mansion. Many players will enjoy this; however we don’t want this to be a limit for players who enjoy going through the game a bit faster. This is why we are offering additional help with puzzles and navigation – they will affect how much information you will find on your map, how many hints you get for a puzzle and how easy it will be to find interaction points.

While designing Derceto, we also wanted it to feel like a real place – we really took historic architecture seriously and designed a house these people would actually live and work in. We paid lots of attention to small detail to render a realistic setting.

When it comes to combat, what can players expect from Alone in the Dark when it comes to things like bosses, enemy variety, and weapons?

We’re striving for an equal distribution between the classic pillars of survival horor (combat, exploration, puzzles and story), with a light tendency towards exploration and puzzles. Combat is not the main focus of the game, but will be tough and intense when it comes to it.

Roughly how long will an average playthrough of the game be?

We target a playtime of 6-10 hours for one campaign. For the full story experience, we would expect players to play the game at least twice.

Is this a franchise that players should expect to see more of going forward?

We’re excited to bring back Alone in the Dark with the attention the franchise deserves and are eager to know what old and new fans think of our attempt. We’re commited to the franchise in the long run and will be happy to explore if further if audience reception stays as positive as we have been experiencing since the announcement.

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"We’re currently targeting a 60 FPS performance mode with variable resolution and a quality mode at 30 FPS with 4K resolution."

What frame rate and resolution will the game target on the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S?

We’re committed to providing an equally immersive experience for all current-gen console players (and PC players alike) as we already did with releasing the prologue “Grace in the Dark” on all platforms. We’re currently targeting a 60 FPS performance mode with variable resolution and a quality mode at 30 FPS with 4K resolution.


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