Frictional Games creative director Thomas Grip took the time to chat with us about their upcoming Science Fiction/Survival Horror game SOMA which comes to the PC and Playstation 4 on September the 22nd.
PA2J: From what we’ve seen of the game so far it looks pretty amazing, how did you come up with the idea for SOMA?
Glad you are liking our stuff so far! The foundational thematic for soma, consciousness, is been a subject I been have interested in for many, many years, so it made sense to make a game that addressed it. The project then started with a premise (which is currently secret) and the whole underwater setting, and then the rest grew from there.
PA2J: SOMA definitely looks a world away from the sheer terror of Amnesia, can players expect a lot of jump scares throughout the game?
SOMA will be pretty light on jump scares. We want to build a different sort of fear for this game. Instead of being another “stuck in spooky place while you run from monster”-game, we want the horror to run deeper. SOMA is all about existential terror, the sort of fear that you just cannot easily shake off and that will stay with out a long time afterwards.
PA2J: The game is based on science fiction, what inspired you when making the game?
Lots of stuff. For one, sci-fi novels from writers such as Greg Egan, Philip K Dick and Peter Watts. Neurology, biology and philosophy that has to do with the brain and its cognitive functions has also been a big inspiration. For instance the mockingbird video is inspired by a state called Anosognosia, where people deny one of their limbs are paralysed. (check here for a great video on it: V.S Ramachandran’s lecture on Anosognosia
PA2J: The game takes place on the PATHOS-2, an underwater remote research facility can you tell us a little about the environment players can expect to experience while underwater?
One of the things we wanted to do with placing it underwater was to have a setting where you felt completely isolated, and yet close to home. For instance whenever you look up you will be able to see the brightness from the surface of the ocean. So you can sort of sense that there is a whole world out there and yet you are trapped in this nightmarish place and are unable to leave. On the flip-side, the ocean is this enormous, scary place, that you see all the time, but can only see the very surface of. You got this vast and mysterious world next to you. We really liked that sensation and felt it resonated very well with out other thematics. The brain and its cognitive functions is something we take for granted, but if you examine the whole setup more closely there is a lot of disturbing stuff to be found.
PA2J: You have stated before that players will encounter a number of strange creatures throughout SOMA, can you tell us a little about the creatures in the game?
In Amnesia the monsters got sort of boring and lost a lot of their scare-factor once you got them figured out. So in SOMA our goal is to never have a monster on long enough for that to happen. So once you feel like you start to understand how some creature works, we throw something else at the player. What all the differences between the creatures are is something we want players to discover by themselves.
PA2J: SOMA is made from a first person perspective, for Survival Horror games in particular do you think this view helps add to bring extra tension while playing the game?
The advantage of first person is that the player is very closely related to the protagonist. You have the same field of view and you basically experience the happenings like the character would. So it is very good at creating an immersive and tense experience. However, for SOMA, it runs deeper than that. In a first person game, the players sort of takes the role of a consciousness for the protagonist. You are the one that experiences what happens, and you are the one that makes all the critical decisions. And this fits perfectly with the themes we want to bring forward. So the first person POV is tightly ingrained in the game’s story, and I cannot see it being done in any other way.
PA2J: Can you tell us a little about the combat in the game, will players be able to defend themselves in the game, if so how?
You cannot really fight the monsters, but you do a few things to keep them away from you; close doors, lure them away by throwing objects and those sort of things. Also, in a few cases you can also skip encountering the monsters at all by behaving in a certain manner or by making certain choices. For instance, in the gameplay trailer it is possible to avoid the last monster encounter. The only problem is that you would have other disturbing complications instead.
PA2J: For the first time in Frictional Games history you will be releasing a game onto consoles with SOMA coming out on the Playstation 4, how excited are you about that?
Feels very fun and scary at the same time. It is our first console release so very eager to see how the reception is from that.
PA2J: SOMA will be showcased at this years E3, what can visitors expect from the game?
We will be showcasing part of the area that was in the gameplay trailer and a nother, never-shown before, locale. You will also be able to explore more details in the area and can make a few different choices in how you progress.
Huge thanks to Thomas Grip for taking the time to chat with us!