Monday, 5 October 2015

Hiring: Producer / Project Manager

Frictional is looking for a producer / project manager to employ full time.

First up, the two most basic requirements:
  • That you live in Sweden (preferably in Skåne) or can move here.
  • That you speak Swedish.
På grund av detta kommer resten av ansökan att vara på svenska.

Som producer / project manager på Frictional Games kommer du att få väldigt varierande uppgifter. De huvudsakliga sysslorna kommer att vara följande:
  • Sköta stor del av företagets planering och budget.
  • Att överse och förbättra företagets arbetsmetodik.
  • Göra planer för PR och sköta kontakter.
  • Ansvara för kontakten med butiker, förläggare, outsourcers och andra samarbetspartners. 
  • Följa upp och utvärdera diverse förslag från andra företag.
Egenskaper vi vill att du ska ha är:
  • Beredd på att jobba hemifrån. Frictional Games har inget kontor.
  • Tidigare erfarenhet att driva eller vara manager på ett IT-företag. Bakgrund inom spel är ett plus, men inte nödvändigt.
  • Inte rädd för att jobba med kalkylark och liknande.
  • God datorvana.
  • Förstår dig på grundläggande ekonomi.
  • Goda kunskaper i personaldynamik.
  • Självständig, inte rädd för att ta ansvar och god initativförmåga.
  • Inte rädd för att lära dig nya saker.
  • Tala flytande engelska.
Tycker du att detta låter som något för dig, skicka ett mejl till

Thursday, 1 October 2015

SOMA - 10 days after launch

SOMA has now been out in the wild for 10 day so it felt fitting to write a summary of how things have gone so far. But first a little trailer:

I'm going to start with what I think most people are interested in: how much has the game sold? The current number now is at about 92,000 copies across all platforms (due to legal reasons we can't give a per-platform breakdown). This is quite good for 10 days (+ preorder time) of sales! The money that we've got from this will pretty much pay our company expenses for another 2 years. Sales are still going pretty strongly too, with a total of around 2,000 copies sold per day. This number is bound to drop over time, and it'll be interesting to see just how fast and where it stabilizes. While a lot of sales obviously come close to launch, a big part of our normal earnings comes from a slow daily trickle over the years of our existing titles. So our average daily sales a month or so from now on is actually more important than all of the units sold up to this point.

How does this compare to our other releases? Well, Amnesia: The Dark Descent sold 30,000 copies in the first month (and around 20,000 the first week). So SOMA's launch is obviously a lot better than that. Compared to Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs, though, the launch is a little bit worse. That game sold about 120,000 copies the first week.

Our goal for SOMA's sales is 100,000 after a month, and at the current pace it should be able to reach pretty much exactly that with a few units to spare. However, this doesn't mean that we've come close to recouping all our costs. We need to sell almost 3 times that amount to do that. But given that it took us 5 years to make the project, there's no immediate stress to do so. One of the great things about funding SOMA 100% ourselves is that all money earned goes into our own pockets and is directly used to fund our upcoming projects. So we are under no pressure to recoup immediately so long as we get enough to keep going - which we certainly have now.

Finally, another very interesting aspect is how new titles tend to cannibalize on the previous ones. We saw this with A Machine for Pigs; after it launched the daily sales of The Dark Descent were almost cut in half. That was not that unexpected though, given that they are both from the same franchise, but still a bit weird that the games' combined sales ended up being pretty much what The Dark Descent sold on its own before. What we didn't expect was for SOMA to do the same. When the pre-orders for SOMA started, Amnesia sales dropped by about 30% or so and this drop still remains. This feels strange as the two games are not connected apart from being made by the same company, so we wonder what mechanism it is that causes this. It might be that Amnesia's sales will rise again a bit later on though, so it's too soon to tell yet just what the effects are.

The critical reception of SOMA has been, overall, really, really great. MetaCritic is currently at 85 and the Steam reviews are 94% positive.

The thing that I worried most about personally was how the themes would be received. It turns out that I needn't have worried - that's the thing we have fewest problems with. Even reviews that gave us so-so scores lauded the game for the thought-provoking narrative. This feels awesome, as this has been the core focus during our five years of development.

The most common issue people have had is that they've felt the game wasn't scary enough. This is quite interesting, so I'd like to take a little time to discuss this.

One reason this was so is probably due to expectations. While we've tried to be very clear that SOMA will be a different game from Amnesia: The Dark Descent, we have still used the name "Amnesia" as a way to grab attention. This sends a bit of a mixed message, as people might simply assume that because we say "from the creators of Amnesia", a similar experience will be provided. One idea would have been not to mention the studio's heritage, but that feels stupid from a PR perspective. Another idea would have been to tone it down a bit, but it's hard to say exactly how to do that. The fact of the matter is that SOMA, just like Amnesia,  is very much a horror game. It's just that it is presented in a different manner, using slower build-up and more focus on the psychological aspects.

Another reason why some people felt it was not scary enough is because horror is extremely subjective. The reactions to how scary SOMA is range from "not at all" to "the scariest game I have played", and some of the people in the latter camp are survival horror veterans. We had this sort of reaction to Amnesia: TDD as well, but it feels even more spread out for SOMA. When we released The Dark Descent, horror with no combat was still a very fresh concept, but five years later that is no longer the case, and it has lost its impact for some people. SOMA also employs a riskier approach to monster AI that assumes the player will act in certain ways and reach a certain understanding about how the creatures work. If players don't do this the experience might suffer. Above all, the main horror in SOMA is supposed to come from the existential dread that's slowly unveiled as the game progresses. And in order for this to work properly, a lot of pieces need to align, and it will not work for everyone.

So in the light of that, it doesn't feel all that bad that we didn't get a more universal praise for the game's scariness. But it's taught us a valuable lesson: that one should be very careful in managing people's expectations. This is a lesson that we thought we knew after A Machine For Pigs (which didn't turn out to be the game many wanted it to be) but apparently we hadn't learned enough. Once your studio gets associated with a particular game, it'll play a huge role in what people expect from upcoming releases. That said, the vast majority of people that had expected another Amnesia ended up enjoying SOMA once they realized the game was different. So I don't feel it has been a complete failure by any means, but just one of those things that needs more work in the future.

It is interesting that this is no longer a subject brought up much. So I thought I would quickly get into it. And the first thing to note is that SOMA is the first game we have launched without having a pirated version out before release!

Another thing I have noticed is that we get fewer tech support requests from people with pirated versions than we used to have. It's often pretty easy to spot these people as we issue new patches frequently, so there are lots of telltale signs in the log files. I'm not sure if this means piracy has decreased for SOMA, or if these people find tech support elsewhere, but I felt it worth mentioning.

As for us personally, we haven't even talked about piracy. The only time it matters to us is when sending out review copies. Amnesia had a pirated version leaked before release, so now we make sure that we at least send out a DRM-protected version of the game to reviewers. But other than that, I don't think we've discussed it for even a second. This is quite different from back in 2007 when I know me and Jens had hours of discussions on the subject.

I've already touched upon this above when discussing the game's reception. However, how to market SOMA in terms of horror was the easy part. The hard part was to explain what makes the game special. When we released Amnesia, showing off the physics and explaining that you couldn't fight back was more than a enough for the game to stand out. But now the market is filled with these types of games, and more is needed to get people excited.

The main unique feature of SOMA is its exploration of consciousness and what it means to be human. This is also what has been the most celebrated feature of the game after launch. But explaining this to press and gamers prior to release has been exceptionally difficult. This is not some gameplay gimmick that can be shown off during a short demo session, but something that requires hours of build-up. So when you talk about the game, you have to be fuzzy and talk about very high-level concepts. When doing interviews like this I often got the impression that I wasn't really taken seriously. The press don't expect any lofty design aspirations to come true and would rather hear about concrete and more easily-digested (and explained) features.

To make things even harder, SOMA is very hard to talk about without spoiling the experience. I could never give an example of exactly how we handle our thematics through gameplay without spoiling a big chunk of the game. This problem of spoilers also makes the game hard to demo and to give to YouTubers. If we just give people a part of the game where you are chased by monsters, that would misrepresent the game (making the expectation problem worse) and fail to explain what is so special about SOMA. And if we show off one of slower sections that are all about build-up, mood and thematics, we have to show off really long segments, which becomes too spoiler-filled and takes way too much time for a demo. (For more discussion on making a demo for SOMA, see here).

We solved the YouTuber issue by only sending it out to a few trusted people, and only allowing a maximum of 15 minutes to be shown. That way we got people to play a lengthy part of the game (around 3 hours) and then show a distilled, and fairly spoiler-free, video to their viewers. We could only do this pretty late in development though, and given how important streamers and YouTubers are for PR these days, it felt like we would have like to do more earlier.

Another issue is that we might have unveiled the game a bit too early. We first showed off SOMA back in October 2013 and the plan was to keep content coming out until release. This turned out way harder to keep up with than what we'd initially thought. Because we were so unwilling to spoil the game, we could provide very little in terms of playable material for the press. Because of this, we had issues getting proper coverage at the end, as most of the standard things like "first playable preview" had already been done over a year back. We'd also had a plan to release a monthly live-action video clip to keep interest up, but because of production problems it got delayed and this plan fell through. (We are however showing them now!)

So it feels like it might have been better to have unveiled the game a year or so later to be able to keep up interest all the way to release and to have a more massive promotion campaign that way. A big issue with that is that it would have been very bad for the team morale. It's quite hard to work on a project in the dark for several years, and there was a very evident boost in spirit once we had let the world know that SOMA was coming. Added to this is that we got a lot of good feedback from press and fan reactions, which helped us shaped not just our PR but the actual game too. This is makes it much more uncertain if a later unveiling really would have been a better move.

So what is next for Frictional Games? First of all, now just about all of the major post-release issues have been patched up, most of the team will take some rest. We'll then focus a bit on documenting how the game and engine works, in the hopes that modding will reach the glorious heights it did for Amnesia. After that we are on to new secret projects.  But those secret projects are really secret, so we can't say a word.

Finally a gigantic thanks to all who have bought the game! We love hearing about your experiences so please tweet, comment on Facebook, or leave a comment here and say what you thought about the game!

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

SOMA Has Been Released!

The day has finally come. What started out as a vague idea back in 2010 has finally become an actual game. It's been quite the journey to get here, and we're all really proud of what we've achieved. SOMA is now available on Windows, Mac, Linux and PS4!

Our most important goal for SOMA was to create a game that delivered a different kind of fear. In Amnesia the horror came from a more primal feeling, from things like being hunted by monsters. This time we wanted to evoke something deeper. We wanted the sense of dread and terror come from thinking about disturbing subjects dealing with consciousness and what makes us human. Achieving this turned out to be really hard, and it's what made the game take so long to finish.

So it's been incredible to get reviews like these:

“In the 10 or so hours it took me to finish SOMA I was hooked for the entire experience, from shocking beginning to one of the best game endings I’ve seen since Portal. SOMA will destroy you emotionally, and that’s a very good thing indeed. - GameWatcher

SOMA succeeds at crafting something much more meaningful in a genre that’s deserving of more than just simple jump scares. - GameSpot

I’ve never played a game that’s affected me as much as SOMA, and to be honest I’m not sure I want to ever again, although I’m very glad I did. It has the DNA of movies like Alien, 2001, Sunlight, and Event Horizon, with a splash of the original Dead Space and Bioshock, but brings plenty of new ideas to the table. It makes you think about what it means to be alive, and indeed how you classify life, and is a brilliant example of just how far video games have evolved.” - TheSixthAxis

“The best horror sticks with you long after the credits roll, an uneasy feeling that lingers uncomfortably in the moments before you fall asleep. I’ve been thinking about what happened in SOMA for days now, especially the game’s closing minutes, and can’t let it go. Just thinking about it makes me sick to my stomach. If that’s not a sign of success, I’m not sure what is.”  - Kotaku

Now we're eager to hear what all of you think of the game! Our aim is to evoke a long-lasting sense of dread, and to leave you with disturbing questions that keep coming back to haunt you. If we've succeeded, please tell us all about it!

Finally, we'd like to say thanks to everybody who has supported us over the years! We hope we can continue to fuel your nightmares long into the future!

Thursday, 17 September 2015

SOMA - Behind The Sound

How do you design sound for a game that takes place miles under the ocean in an abandoned complex with a plot that deals with the perception of reality? The answer is... experimentation!

My name’s Samuel Justice, I’m audio director on SOMA where I lead a team of 6 fantastic folk to help create the audio for the universe of SOMA.

SOMA is an audio designer’s dream. Horror games are well known to give room for sound to breathe and live, which is why sound is so memorable in many horror titles. When you couple this with a rich and diverse universe such as lies behind SOMA, the audio potential is endless. This is something we really wanted to play with.

For those of you who don’t know, SOMA takes place in two very distinct sonic spaces, underwater and the non-underwater world of Pathos-II. What we were really after was to establish two very different and unique soundscapes: the underwater soundscape and the “air” soundscape. From the get-go we knew that these two soundscapes had to contrast with each other heavily, so if we were to turn off the visuals, you could instantly tell where you were. We also developed some new and very special systems to tie into these worlds.

I could go on for far longer than you’d want about how we approached the sound in SOMA, but instead I thought I’d pick out some audio treats that we hope you’ll like.

SOMA deals with many interesting themes, but the main focus is on what it means to be a living, breathing, conscious entity. From the start we decided to take that description and run with it for the “air” soundscape, where everything is heavily grounded in reality. The world of Pathos-II sounds dirty, gritty, crumbly. When walking through the corridors of Upsilon we want you to feel cold and lonely through the sound alone and when you hear something that doesn’t sound quite human in the distance, that still needs to sound realistic and grounded.

To achieve this we introduced a new system which was never given a formal name, but we’ll call it the room size system for now. What this allows us to do is read how large a room is and play content relative to the size of the space - one prime example is the player’s own sounds. A recent tweet went out saying that SOMA featured over 2000 footstep sounds, and this is due to the room size system. Instead of recording a bunch of footsteps on various surfaces, our foley artist Tapio Liukkonen actually went out and scouted for interesting-sounding locations of varying size.

This is where the footsteps were recorded, so when you’re running through a large hall, you’re actually hearing the sound of a large hall, none of it faked through reverbs or other processing (which can end up taking away some of the life of the sound). Instead you get the air and size of real spaces. This might sound like a minor detail, but in a game about exploration and discovery, this lends itself massively to a sense of reality when roaming the halls and corridors of Pathos-II.

So how about underwater? Again, we wanted this to be grounded in reality, so instead of processing various sounds or making them muffled, we opted for recording a huge amount of fresh content with underwater microphones (known as hydrophones) and contact microphones (special microphones that only pick up vibrations in objects rather than the air). This gave us a huge palette of interesting yet grounded textures to play with.

Here is a clip showing Tapio during a recording session:

One example is a sequence where the player has to climb out of a vessel, in the audio clip you can hear the squeaking and interesting sounds made by the player that you wouldn’t really capture from a regular microphone.

Another cool feature for the underwater environment that we introduced was that we wanted all of Simon’s sounds to be binaural - his footsteps, his diving suit and even his speech. So when we recorded his dialogue at SIDE studios in London, we requested a special setup that recorded all his lines Binaurally as well as normally for the underwater dialogue. That means that if you play the game with headphones - you will feel as though you’re in the helmet with Simon, wandering the depths of ocean floor.

Another very interesting topic we could talk about are the many variety of creatures in the game and the unique systems created to make them feel hofrrifically real and pant-wettingly scary… but some things are best left a secret :)

For the voiceover implementation and processing of the game, we turned to Kpow Audio, a small team of 2 from Australia responsible for the amazing sound in games such as L.A. Noire and The Banner Saga. Here’s what they had to say about their experience:

"The job of processing the SOMA dialogue was fairly wide-ranging: we had underwater helmets; audio logs of all different shapes, sizes and conditions; public address systems; video postcards; dispatch messages; a host of robotic devices and more. The audio team have done an amazing job at creating an audio environment that balances impact and authenticity, and it was obvious from the start of our involvement that the dialogue needed that same balance.

To imbue our own work with this type of authenticity, we tried – wherever possible – to recreate the signal paths described on screen. Due to the huge variation in speaker types and placements in SOMA, our first step was to record a unique set of Impulse Responses, capturing the behaviour and tone of a number of different speakers, which could then be applied to sounds in post production. The speakers were then recorded inside different metal objects, to recreate the numerous resonant environments found within SOMA's sprawling landscape. These “enclosed” reverb responses were also used to produce the underwater helmet effects found throughout the game.

The same technique was employed in a more direct way as we piped large portions of the dialogue out of the speakers and rerecorded the results in a process called “re-airing”, a technique used for many years in the film world. Compared to digital processing this is a very labour intensive approach, but the ear immediately recognises the results as “real”, so the effort is often more than justified.

By far the biggest component of our work was spent on the historical blackbox recordings of life aboard the aquatic facility in which the player finds themselves. Predominantly made of conversations between the crew, these recordings provide insight into the backstory of the game. The initial direction we got from the team was toward the style of a period radio play, and this most accurately describes their function in the game. They operate as live action, casting the player as a silent witness to past events, and as historical documents. The dramatic narrative and the locational positioning have to be conveyed simultaneously. To support the narrative, many of these recordings play back in stereo, which draws them outside of the world slightly. A major focus became describing the different locations of the characters. One might be in a diving suit underwater, talking to a dispatcher in a small dry room, via a submerged intercom. Successfully enunciating these differences was very much a team effort. We received amazing foley tracks from Tapio Liukkonen, which took the conversations from being a collection of disassociated vocal recordings and gave them character and a physical presence. All this was then processed to fit the device it was playing through, which was in turn given the reverberant character of the room in which it was being emitted.

Tapio's foley room

This process could happen multiple times when numerous locations, emitters and recording devices were present in the one scene. Often one speaker would be run-down, whilst another in the conversation was new at the time the recording was made.

A huge array of tools were employed to get the right tone for these recordings. Often we turned to more traditional analogue processing such as guitar pedals, outboard compression, tube saturation, analogue filters, tape delay and some very dusty, old digital effects units to give us the fuzzy, squelching distortion we were after. As much is it's fun plugging in the “toys”, this gear was vital in imparting authenticity to the sound….still, I won't pretend it wasn't fun.

Of course, a huge amount of back-end work went into ensuring the processed dialogue and Foley behaved correctly in game. Tuning the various behaviours and in-game effects is very much the glue that ties the audio to the world and makes it believable in an interactive environment.

Looking at the project as a whole, our goals were to impart a sense of history, to communicate the drama of the backstory, whilst at the same time give life to the technology and inner workings of their surroundings. Suits, speakers, microphones, broken cables and half heard conversations, all with their own unique character, but also needing a strong sense of consistency across the game.

Hopefully we have achieved this and added something positive to the project and the experience of the players.”

Because of the approaches we took, the final SFX count for SOMA is slightly eye-watering, clocking in at a little over 18,000 SFX files (not including voiceover and music). SOMA was a fantastic project for us to all to work on, we were extremely happy with the end result and we hope you enjoy listening to the game as much as you do playing it!

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Top Three Questions About SOMA

First up, here's a new trailer for SOMA that shows off some of the environments:

Now I'm going to answer three common questions that we've seen all over the internet:

1) Is SOMA scarier than Amnesia: The Dark Descent?
We think that SOMA is just as scary, if not even more so, but in a different fashion.

In Amnesia: The Dark Descent, there's constant oppression that starts from the get go, peaks somewhere half-way through, and then continues until the end. What you get is a game that's very nerve-wracking, but which also becomes numbing after while. It's pretty common for players to feel the game loses much of its impact halfway through. SOMA is laid out a bit differently. At first it relies more on a mysterious and creepy tone, slowly ramps up the scariness, and peaks pretty late in the game.

Another aspect is that SOMA's horror relies a lot on the player starting to understand the underlying subjects we're exploring. These elements will be present from the very start, and then as the game progresses you'll encounter them in increasingly disturbing situations; things which seem trivial at the start of the game will become much more deeply entangled with your own story later in the game.

It's also important to point out that SOMA relies on very different scare tactics. In Amnesia the focus was on having a "haunted house"-style ride where creepy supernatural things could pop up any point. Most of the scares were all about inducing primal "afraid of the dark"-like responses. SOMA, on the other hand, derives much of its horror from the subject matter. The real terror will not just come from hard-wired gut reactions, but from thinking about your situation and the events that unfold from it.

2) Will SOMA have proper puzzles?
Short answer: Yes. It will have puzzles similar to those in Amnesia: The Dark Descent.

Long answer: While SOMA does have a bunch of puzzles, they are designed a bit differently.

First, the puzzles in SOMA have been designed to flow along with the narrative. Our goal is for you to never feel like puzzles have been added merely to provide some extra padding. We want them to feel as an integral part of the experience. For example, in one area we have a door that needs to be opened. But there is also a communications device that runs off the same power source as the door, so the puzzle-goal becomes entangled with a narrative one. On top of that, you also need to take part in a creepy activity in order to get the power running. This means that solving the puzzle is far from a purely mechanical exercise, but includes a strong sense of narrative too. Just about all of the puzzles are structured along similar lines.

Second, many puzzles are spiced up with some kind of hard decision, making them a lot less straightforward to solve. For instance, in one scene you need to decide whether you want to inflict terrible pain on a robot, or take your chances with the warning signs that the former residents of Pathos have left for you. Which one to choose?

Third, the complexity of the puzzles will rise as the game progresses. The reason for this is to give the player some time to understand the world and their place in it. And then when that's established we start to demand a bit more from the players, and crank the difficulty up a bit. This doesn't mean that the game becomes all about puzzle-solving, though, it just means that we include more elements that you need to keep track of, we make the world more open, and we hold your hand less. Puzzles will be an integral part of the game's narrative from start to finish.

3) How is the story told?

The storytelling in SOMA has both an active and a passive part. The active part is the narrative that unfolds that as you play the game. These are the things that happen to you as a player and what the gameplay is built around. On top of that is the passive part, that tells you about past events. It's told through notes, pictures, terminals, audio and the environment itself.

An important thing to note is that the passive part is almost completely optional. It'll obviously give you a much greater understanding of the game's world and lore but it's not our major means of getting the story across. This is very different from Amnesia: The Dark Descent where reading the diary entries scattered across the game was crucial for understanding what was going on. This means that you are free to choose how much you want to invest into uncovering all of the backstory. For instance, you could choose to only check the fragmentary audio buffers of intercoms, and just skim any notes. Or you could decide to find everything in one area, but skip most in another. The game has been designed to support a variety of play styles and still give a complete experience, but we hope you'll find that by immersing yourself in the world of SOMA your story experience will be considerably enhanced.

There is also a big emphasis on making everything coherent. You won't find any haphazardly strewn notes, documents or props in SOMA; everything is there for a reason. This to the point where you can get story information from merely pondering the placement of a book or a picture on a desk.

SOMA is easily the most story-heavy game we have made so far. But unlike our other titles, a major part of that story comes from simply playing the game.

Monday, 29 June 2015

What We Showed At E3

So this year we went to E3 for first time and did two things we have never done before.

First, we took part in an E3 show, the PC Gaming Show, and showed off a brand new trailer. You can watch that trailer here:

This showcases the player's first encounter with a type of creature that roams this part of the game, and gives some hints on how to best deal with them. This clip is a bit shorter than we wanted it to be and therefore misses some build-up and is a bit hurried. But one minute was all we were allowed for the show. Still, hope you all liked it!

Second, we showed off a public demo of the game (something we only did after release for previous games).

Choosing a demo for SOMA proved to be quite difficult as we wanted to have something that we felt represented the game properly without giving away lots of spoilers. The problem is that SOMA is not the sort of game that can be easily explained in a short session. For E3 we had to make it last 15 - 20 minutes, which for us is really short indeed.

SOMA is a slow burn experience with a primary focus on the exploration of high-level concepts. Trying to showcase this is very different from showing off a game that is about exploring an environment or one that's focused on a set of core mechanics - in those sort of games it's much easier to find a short segment that serves as a good example. But for SOMA, that sort of segment really doesn't exist. SOMA is designed to carefully introduce the player to a variety of concepts and to ease the player into a certain kind of atmosphere and state of mind.

The best solution would have been to do a special map, similar to how we did with the announcement video. That way we could have tried to condense the intended experience into a shorter level. But this takes a lot of time. Setting up the announcement video took several weeks. Doing one meant for public demoing would take even longer as we'd have to make sure it was bug free and that the gameplay worked as intended. So the next best thing was to take something from the game and modify it slightly to avoid big spoilers.

But the problem was: what section from the game should we use? As I noted above, SOMA takes its time to establish concepts and atmosphere, and any 15 minute segment we just chopped out would lack the context needed to properly understand the situation at hand and to be immersed in it.

Our first plan was simply to take one of our more intense monster sequences. That would provide a quick demo that was easy to get into and would provide a thrilling experience. But the issue was that we then would fail to showcase what's special about our game. The game would just look like yet another "run from the monster"-ordeal, and making sure that people understand that SOMA is something way beyond this is very important to us.

So after much discussion we decided to rip the latter half of a level that is about 1-2 hours into the game. This part would showcase player choices, environmental storytelling, our philosophical aspects, provide an underwater revelation at the end and (if the player chose to take a particular path) would have a short monster encounter.

However, our choice of demo was not perfect. Most importantly, by itself, this part of the game isn't particularly scary. This in part is because the demo lacks a lot of the intended build-up, and in part because it wasn't (apart from a final monster encounter) designed to be all that frightening. And while SOMA doesn't focus on "run from monsters", it is a horror game and we are very much intending to induce terror in our players. Therefore it felt annoying to have a demo that didn't bring home that aspect. But still, making players whimper from fear is not really a unique concept any more, so given the choice, it felt much more important to give a taste of the disturbing feel our themes give rise to.

Another issue was that our demo took place in a section of game that we'd already showed off in our release date reveal trailer (check it out here). I think this has led to a bit less coverage than we'd have had otherwise. There was quite a bit of new stuff that players could do in the demo, such as checking out black boxes on corpses, interacting in different ways with "Carl" the robot, exploring the computer system etc. and a previously unseen sequence at the end. But the demo still took place in the same locale and all of the major elements were still the same.

That said, I feel we did the best we could given the constraints we had. And judging from the reactions that we got at E3, people enjoyed it quite a lot and almost all the players came away with the right impression. Both Ian and Aaron (the Frictional Games team members that attended E3) were actually quite surprised how well most people picked up on our deeper aspects. This despite playing the game under far from optimal conditions (a well-lit, loud and crowded room is not all that great for games that thrive on immersion and introspection). Again, just like in our last round of testing, the way people connect to the themes in SOMA went way better than expected, and that makes us even more even more thrilled to unleash our creation on the world!

On that note, SOMA is less than three months from release now! So close!