Wales Interactive’s marketing manager Ben Tester speaks to us about their upcoming survival horror title.
Wales Interactive have developed a knack for creating unique horror experiences that seem to know exactly. Interactive FMV horror titles like Late Shift and The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker have received accolades from many who’ve played them- their next game, in spite of being decidedly a more traditional video game in terms of structure and interactivity, also looks quite promising. Based on spooky Welsh folklore, an area where they obviously have plenty of knowledge themselves, with Maid of Sker, Wales Interactive are going for something that is looking truly terrifying. Recently, we sent across a few of our questions about the game to the studio- the following questions were answered by their marketing manager Ben Tester.
"Anyone who’s followed our catalogue of titles will know that we have a soft spot for creating horror games. We’ve always injected a little bit of Welsh – and British – culture into them too but nothing to the extent of where we’re taking Maid of Sker."
What made you want to make a horror game revolving around what is admittedly very spooky Welsh folklore?
Anyone who’s followed our catalogue of titles will know that we have a soft spot for creating horror games. We’ve always injected a little bit of Welsh – and British – culture into them too but nothing to the extent of where we’re taking Maid of Sker. Our studio is based a short drive away from where Elizabeth Williams lived, and where the haunting folklore originated. The tale is truly terrifying but we’ve gathered inspiration from many different versions of the story and put our own Wales Interactive spin on it. In this industry, little is known about Welsh folklore and it’s not all that often you find British culture portrayed in a video game either. As both developers and publishers, we have the creative licence to tell a story to the world — it’s going to be dark, twisted and unsettling for sure.
Survival horror games, due to their very nature, are always in danger of perhaps relying too much on jump scares, and while jump scares certainly have some value in moderation, audiences don’t seem to respond too well to games that rely on them too much. Is this something that’s been in your mind with Maid of Sker? Do you believe there’s any value in jump scares, even in small doses, and can we expect to see some good ones in Maid of Sker?
One thing we often get a lot of credit for is creating atmosphere in our horror games. Don’t Knock Twice for example featured very little jump scares and almost entirely relied on atmosphere, player immersion and story to scare the player. With that said, the few jump scares that did feature in the game brought some grown adults to their knees! There is most definitely value in jump scares but only when they are few and far between. They are risky because, if done incorrectly, it could ruin the entire gaming experience from then on for the player. Thankfully we don’t have to rely on them too much because Maid of Sker will have the complete package of eerie atmospherics, a unique sound-based game mechanic, stories we can elaborate on from Welsh folklore and an art direction that’s far surpassed anything we have done before. You can expect to be terrified in more ways than just jump scares alone.
Will Maid of Sker be veering into psychological horror territory, or is it going to be a more traditional horror experience?
Maid of Sker will be a hybrid of the two for sure, and is one of the reasons why this game will stand out amongst other horrors that often tend to present just one kind of experience. With that said, it is a stealth survival horror at heart. You can die and you can lose progress if you haven’t found a manual save point. Death is avoidable but not with the use of weapons.
"Comparisons are always difficult but let’s say you should expect the stealth elements of Alien: Isolation with the atmosphere of Resident Evil 7 and the drama of Outlast. In terms of narrative, inspiration has been taken from several of our FMV and interactive movie titles including Late Shift and The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker."
Given its first person perspective, comparisons with the likes of P.T. and Resident Evil 7 are bound to be made, while its stealth-focused mechanics seem reminiscent of Amnesia– have any of those influenced Maid of Sker in any way? Are there any other games or other media that influenced it significantly?
We’re inspired and influenced by many different games including the ones mentioned but we try to be as original as possible or else we’ll end up just regurgitating what’s out there already, and there’s no fun in that! Comparisons are always difficult but let’s say you should expect the stealth elements of Alien: Isolation with the atmosphere of Resident Evil 7 and the drama of Outlast. In terms of narrative, inspiration has been taken from several of our FMV and interactive movie titles including Late Shift and The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker.
The entire concept of a “sound-based” AI system and being able to trap and distract enemies sounds excellent. Can you elaborate a bit on it, and how it translates to gameplay mechanics?
Almost anything and everything that moves will create a certain level of sound that could potentially alarm the Quiet Men. Get to know specific items that can be used as a trap or a lure, some more effective than others depending on the amount of sound it could create. Everything from footsteps, environment creaks and even your breath has various levels of sound than could attract different enemies. Sure, you can hold your breath whilst an enemy walks past but happens if you time it wrong and run out of breath? You pant. You could run away from an enemy — also making more sound — but what happens when your legs are tired and you run out of breath? You’re slow, vulnerable and panting even louder!
Speaking of, what are the enemies we’ll be facing in the game? How much variety can we expect to see in the types of enemies we come across in Maid of Sker?
We can’t go into too much detail regarding the enemies but what we can say about the Quiet Men is that they will be tiered in terms of difficulty, and will require different stealth tactics to avoid. They cannot actually see anything but that doesn’t mean they can’t hunt you down. We’re currently working on a demo which will reveal more in Q1 2019.
How much of an impact will our decisions have on how the story pans out? Can we expect wildly different consequences, or is it more about inserting flavour into a concrete tale?
We have many FMVs and interactive movie titles that utilizes the multi-threaded narrative approach and so we’re using that experience to influence the story in Maid of Sker. We’re implementing a decision based event list that features in all our FMV titles. This essentially calculates all the small or big decisions made throughout the game with a consequence later on in the story. It’s more than just, “you do this and later on this happens”. It can calculate decisions to determine what sort of character you are, what sort of personality you have or what relationships you have with other characters. This will in turn take you on a slightly different path, discovering hidden areas, bypassing certain events or unlocking different endings.
"While 4k will not be supported, we are working towards 1080/60fps with HDR enhancements for Xbox One X."
Will the game will feature Xbox One X specific enhancements? What can players expect if they are playing the game on Xbox One X? Is 4K/60fps on the cards?
While 4k will not be supported, we are working towards 1080/60fps with HDR enhancements for Xbox One X. With that, we are going beyond anything we have created before in terms of visual aesthetics. Similar to most of our games, we are using Unity game engine and with Maid of Sker, we are proudly pushing the engine to its limits with a High Definition Render Pipeline (HDRP) and a new Post-processing Stack. We have a small development team but we’re here delivering AAA quality visuals. Don’t just take our word for it, watch the early teaser trailer and stay tuned for the upcoming demo release!
And how will the PS4 Pro version turn out in terms of resolution and frame rate?
The PS4 Pro will receive all the same enhancements as the Xbox One X.