Michael Chiniquy: “The Horror Genre Is A Shell Of Its Former Self”
Last week, the fantastic concept video for Michael Chiniquy’s psychological-horror game Sound Of Silence went viral, notching up more than 150,000 views on YouTube, becoming one of the top stories on Reddit and proving a bona fide hit with gamers all around the web.
Utilizing moody graphics as well as music from Silent Hill legend Akira Yamaoka, the widely-acclaimed video neatly lays-out the central premise of the proposed title: an atmospheric chiller that tailors itself to the specific fears of those who play it, by altering the experience depending on each individual’s actions.
In just a few days Chiniquy received more than 400 emails – ranging from enthusiastic compliments to offers of hands-on assistance – and the 20-year-old graphics designer is in no doubt as to why the response has been so massive.
“Psychological-horror is neglected in gaming these days,” he says, “and there’s a big fanbase out there who have been putting up with sub-par horror titles for the last couple of years. The horror genre is a shell of its former self, and I want to do my best to breathe some life in to it.
“What I want to do with Sound of Silence is give horror fans the game that they deserve, for putting up with an industry that has ignored their pleas for a game that doesn’t treat them like toddlers. As far as I’m concerned, it’s up to us to bring back the genres we love – and I hope that we can prove to everyone that more games of this nature are needed.”
Chiniquy’s comments will doubtless strike a chord with many gamers, who are increasingly looking to independent developers in order to find more interesting, nuanced experiences away from the FPS and action-dominated mainstream.
“Because the gaming industry is such a juggernaut and development budgets are rising, big studios are scared to death of taking any risks whatsoever,” says Chiniquy. “To be fair, it doesn’t really seem to be the developers’ fault, since they usually have very big publishers that they have to answer to if they want to get their paycheck for the month.
“How many times have we heard ‘We want the Call of Duty audience’ from publishers who seem intent on turning our favorite franchises in to the next Call of Duty, even when it has no reason to be one in the first place? The newer installments of the Resident Evil franchise, for example, are much more like action games that happens to have horror elements.
“A lot of indie developers seem to have understood what is going on and can actually afford to create games for smaller fan bases without having to worry about not making much of a profit. Limbo comes to mind: an incredibly atmospheric game that’s also complemented by a rather slow and contemplative pacing that I consider to be a very strong contrast against the much more fast-paced Dead Space games, for instance.”
Chiniquy’s own plan for an atmosphere-led horror that directly alters to reflect what the player most fears, appears to be an example of another highly original, interesting indie project in practice.
“The idea of having a video game analyze our worst fears is something that hasn’t been truly fleshed out before,” he explains. “Silent Hill: Shattered Memories did feature a psychological profiling system, but it was ultimately just some spicing on top of an already completely linear story with the horror elements remaining completely unchanged. While I’m not making any promises that this system we’ll be developing will be completely perfect, I certainly think that it will bring the horror genre in the direction it truly needs to go towards at this point, towards a more cerebral direction.
“The main thing that inspired me to take on this rather ambitious project was the Silent Hill series. Team Silent very clearly understood the need for ambiance and atmosphere to create a sense of dread and urgency, as opposed to just throwing whatever monsters you could towards the player for the millionth time.
“My favorite horror game of all time is Silent Hill 2, no question about it. While it left a lot to be desired in terms of gameplay, the atmosphere and story is unrivaled with its very ominous surroundings and mature themes. Of course, who can also forget the amazing sound design by Akira Yamaoka?
“I intend to bring back this kind of psychological-horror with Sound of Silence. By taking a minimalistic approach to action and focusing more heavily on atmosphere, puzzles and a constant sense of dread and anxiety, I want to create an experience that will keep you on your toes at all times during gameplay.
“We aim to accomplish this by developing a system that will do its very best to figure out what the player is afraid of, and adjust the scenery, puzzles, threats and even entire rooms to fit the psychological profile. It goes without saying that a lot of testing will be required, and we intend to do that by adopting a similar model to how Minecraft was developed by offering free alpha versions with demo levels specifically tailored to test the Fear System, as I would like to call it. ”
Chiniquy, who is based in Sweden, admits that he will be working with a very slim budget, but he’s already secured the help of volunteers who are experienced in making games, and further gifted additions to the team look likely.
“At the moment, I’ve been keeping an eye out for concept artists, 3D modelers and environment artists, basically all the roles that are very necessary to get the pre-production ball rolling. Already on the team are my two brothers Daniel and Christoffer who are both very good at their own roles. Daniel has a very firm grasp of what gameplay elements should be present in the game and how they should behave. It also helps that he’s played even more horror games than me and knows exactly what this game will need to be not just scary, but fun to play. Christoffer will be helping out with programming and will be creating an engine from scratch which is something that he’s done quite a lot on his own free time. I will of course not be afraid to ask for more help from the community if it’s neccesary, as I feel that transparency and reaching out to the fans is the best way of steering the game in the right direction.
“My ultimate ambition for Sound of Silence is not money, not to become famous and certainly not to just have something fun to do aside from college as a time waster. It’s to create the experience that I feel that we horror fans have always deserved to play. I have no idea if it’s going to become the scariest game of all time, but I certainly hope that it will. As long as you keep your mind open to more cerebral gameplay, I’m sure you will like it.”
FMV will be keeping a close eye on Sound Of Silence, and we look forward to bringing you further updates on the project as and when we have them. Those wishing to find out more about the game, or looking to contact the team, can visit Michael Chiniquy’s website by clicking here.