Makin’ Bacon: Dan Pinchbeck On A Machine For Pigs

By Lewie Procter on March 12th, 2012 at 8:00 pm.

Fresh after winning the IGF award for most graphics for Dear Esther, thechineseroom Creative Director Dan Pinchbeck and I sat down for a natter about their upcoming continuation of Frictional Games’ Amnesia series, Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs. It went a little something like this:

RPS: How did Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs come about?

Pinchbeck: We’ve been fans of Frictional for a long time now. Around about the time Amnesia came out, I got an email from Thomas saying “we’re really big fans of your work”. I just sat there for a while and went “Woooo!”, and they said “Do you want to have a look at the game?” (I’d preordered it months before). We kind of got talking about stuff there, on and off chatting after that. We ended up at GDCE together, talking. Jens was there, and beer flowed. They’re investing quite heavilly in rebuilding the engine for their new game, and they didn’t want there to be a blank period where they did’t have a game on the market, so they said that they were interested in talking to someone about possibly making some sort of Amnesia game in the middle, and were we interested. We said “Yes, we’d love to”. That was in Summer, so we talked about it for the next couple of months, concept docs went back and forth, a lot of skype conversations, until we settled on something. We signed it all off in Autumn, and started development in December, then a couple of weeks later I sat their and said “Oh Christ, we have to make an Amnesia game. What have I done? These are really big shoes”, but yeah, it’s fantastic.

RPS: So you’re the main developer, what is Frictional’s involvement?

Pinchbeck: They’re executive producers. They’re effectively funding it, and we work for them. It’s almost like as a 3rd party, but we have full developmental responsibilities, and the great thing is we have more or less complete creative freedom. We signed off on a loose concept, and bounce ideas back and forth, but they’re really letting us run with it, they’re really trusting us to do it. I think because they know we’re such big fans of the original Amnesia game. I’m going “There’s real sacred ground here, we have to look after this game”. It’s kind of like making a sequel to half-life or something, there’s no way I’m ever going to be able to live with myself if we fuck this up.

RPS: What kind of things have to be in a game for it to be an Amnesia game?

Pinchbeck: It has to be absolutely, bone-shatteringly, terrifying. That was the key thing, Thomas said “If we don’t get as many Youtube videos of people spazzing out, then we haven’t done our job.” We’re looking at emphasis on story, which is there in Amnesia, which is a great common ground for us, obviously. It’s not just make you jump terrifying, but it’s got that deep, crawling horror. Even when you’re not being scared out of your wits by something on the screen, you’re really disturbed by what’s going on as well. One of the things that they did really well with Amnesia was unique events, so you couldn’t just apply the same logic that you’ve used before, you have to try and work out your environment. We’ve really looked at that as well, so the journey that you take through this game, you’re not ever going to the same kind of actions to get out of problems each time you’re presented with them. You have to think on your feet each time we throw something at you. Of course there’s no combat, you’re completely defenceless against anything you might come up against, which is such a cornerstone to how the series works.

RPS: So it’s a new setting, and new characters?

Pinchbeck: Yep. It’s 60 years later, the new game takes place on New Years Eve in 1899, in the streets of London, so it’s full of mist, Steampunk, Victoriana. It’s set broadly in the same universe, but it’s not a direct sequel, these aren’t descendants of any of the characters. The underlying mythos of Amnesia is present, but making itself felt in another story, another time, another part of the world. That’s been really great in term of making the game. Even if we’re not making it explicitly clear to the player, the logic of what’s going on, the development team are going “Well that makes sense, because that would fit in there. There are bits where it’s going to be interesting to see how direct a comparisson people draw. For us, we’ve got this amazing playground, fictionally, to build this new stuff off. Because we’ve gone that far forwards, it means we can do all kinds of other stuff, in terms of industrialisation, in terms of machines for pigs.

RPS: What is the Machine for pigs then?

Pinchbeck: That’s the story, that’s the central thing: What is a machine for pigs? The story is, We have this industrial tycoon, who works with livestock. He disappears off to Mexico, with his familly in tow, on this mysterious treasure hunt adventure thing. Something goes horribly wrong in Mexico, we don’t know what that is, but he becomes gravely ill, falls into a coma-fever, and the game starts with him waking up, not knowing how much time has passed, having had these terrifying dreams of this dark machine. As he wakes up, he hears something start up far below him. Your journey is is to discover what’s happened to him in that missing time, where he is, how much time has passed, and is this machine real, or is it fantasy. That’s where you jump in.

RPS: When are we going to get to play this?

Pinchbeck: The target is Halloween, we’d really like to release it on Halloween at midnight. Things going the way they are at the moment, we’re looking on course for that, so we’re hoping to start to let people have a glimpse of some of the stuff that might be happening around Summer.

RPS: Thank you for your time.

__________________

« | »

, , .

94 Comments »

  1. Cryo says:

    I hate to use a meme, but… SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!

  2. Drinking with Skeletons says:

    I know it’s perhaps asking too much, but I’d really love a game like this where the monster element–enemies that can kill you–is minimized. Partly because I’m a wuss, and partly because a few monsters (maybe even just one) that you encounter infrequently are far more frightening than a horde of critters.

    • QualityJeverage says:

      Have you played Amnesia or Penumbra (Frictional’s previous horror outing)?

      The monsters were a bit more common in Amnesia, but they still weren’t lurking around every turn. Penumbra had very few at all, so the encounters were always terrifying and fresh.

    • marcusfell says:

      Amensia doesn’t even give you a sighting of a monster till your like twelve hours in. By that time, you’re thinking that “if a monster comes out now, my pants are history.” and then you hear the slightly familiar audio cues that have resounded previously, but they’re…different this time. Now you’re really on your toes, and then you say:

      “Okay, it’s waaaayyyy too quiet in here. Maybe something screwed up-HOLY FUCKING SHIT AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH

      And then you fall out of your chair. When finally you come back into the room (with the lights on this time) you try again, except you have no memory of when the first sighting was and the exact same thing happens. At least that was my impression.

      • Squishpoke says:

        I beat the entire game in about 8 hours….

        • Loopy says:

          But did you enjoy it?

          • Aldehyde says:

            The game just isn’t much longer than that. I beat it in one sitting in 6-7 hours. Scariest night of my life but also one of the most thrilling ones.

        • Thants says:

          Which is what they recommend.

  3. CaLe says:

    Since I am unable to be scared by movies I need to get it from games. Amnesia got me scared. I want to be even more scared with this one. Do your worst! I’m ready for it.

  4. Shooop says:

    Why oh why does this have to have those awful “push and pull mouse to do anything” controls?

    I’d happily lock myself in a pitch black sound-proof room with this game if only it weren’t for that.

    • CaLe says:

      That has been part of Frictional’s games from the beginning with Penumbra. I rather like it actually. It adds some real physicality to the interaction.

    • Vartesz says:

      I love that control scheme! It really enhances immersion, I feel.

    • matnym says:

      Actually, the controls is partly what makes Amnesia and Penumbra so immersive. The fact that opening doors is not as simple as pressing a button makes stressful moments even more terrifying. How you behave behind the screen actually affect your performance. You can’t just slam the keyboard for the door to conveniently open. You have to grab it in panic and swing it open.

      It’s a minor challenge that rewards you with immersion.

    • Khemm says:

      Awful? When I originally played Penumbra, I felt that was one of the reasons it stood out from the crowd. I like that control scheme a lot.

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      I’m with these guys. I thought the mouse controls were like the Trespasser arm done correctly. There’s a very direct feeling of input on the world that, yes, is really immersive. And they’ve tuned the physics well enough that it feels eerily like I’m really opening a drawer or door.

    • Kaira- says:

      The controls are one of the best things in Frictional games. Which just hilights how they are one of the few devs who can rise up to horror game devs on consoles.

    • zxc says:

      I’m reeeally picky with controls, and Amnesia was one of those few games where I didn’t have anything to nitpick – it was all perfect.

    • equatorian says:

      Also respectfully disagreeing with you here, sir. I have a few bones to pick with each of Frictional’s games (to their credit, they’re all different bones and some of them are arbitrary, such as OMIGOD SOB WHY), but I have no complaints with their controls whatsoever. In fact, they are so good that I just wish they’d license it out so that more games could use it. It’s perfect for adventure games, and even more perfect for horror.

      • Mistabashi says:

        “In fact, they are so good that I just wish they’d license it out so that more games could use it.”

        The original version of the engine (the one used for the Penumbra games) is actually open-source, I’m quite surprised no-one seems to have made use of it yet, seems like it would also be great for adventure games.

    • thebigJ_A says:

      The controls are my absolute favorite part. You sir, are insane, and deserved to have your jaw removed, other people’s limbs sewn on in place of your own, and to be forced to work as my slave while I torture prisoners.

      What?

      (Seriously, though, I cannot fathom someone complaining about that control scheme.)

    • Phasma Felis says:

      Because the ability to slooooowly pull a dear open, hoping to catch a glimpse of what’s on the other side with time to hide before it sees you, is one of the best things that ever happened to horror games.

  5. Dana says:

    Oh my, another amnesia cliche :D

  6. MuscleHorse says:

    Oh, I forgot about this.

  7. Jim9137 says:

    I’m not sure if the pigs are making it less creepy or if it is making it worse.

    • Ushao says:

      It makes it creepier if I mention that “long pork” is cannibal slang for people.

  8. db1331 says:

    I got a little ways into Amnesia, but got “stuck” right at the part where the hallway collapses behind you and you have to find a new way around. I say “stuck” because I honestly didn’t look for a new way out for very long, since shit was starting to get scary. I used it as a cop-out to stop playing. I need to get back to it someday.

  9. dsch says:

    “in tow”

    “disappears”

  10. MistyMike says:

    He dissapears off to Mexico, with his familly in toe

    Should be ‘in tow’.
    *hides behind a chest-high wall*

  11. Cryptoshrimp says:

    So am I the only one in the world who didn’t find Amnesia very scary? Sure, it had a few scary moments, but I was too enthralled by the world to notice the monsters. Anything that gives me more of that sounds lovely to me.

    • CaLe says:

      Did you play it alone at night in a dark room while wearing headphones? I imagine the environment and mindset you play the game in will determine your reactions to it. I watched a youtube video of someone else playing a part that scared the life out of me, only to have it completely fall flat for him because he was busy running to get a closer look at a painting while talking loudly to himself. I imagine just looking in a different direction at that particular point would have lessened the impact but it got me pretty good.

    • USER47 says:

      I didn’t find it very scary either. The way it tried to scare me just felt very…shallow.

      I like Penumbra much more, especially Black Plague.

    • qrter says:

      Yeah, I didn’t think it was very scary really, myself.

      (There’s that one ‘mechanical spoiler’ regarding the monster that kind of spoils any real possible sense of tension for me.)

      Personally, for scary games I’d go to the Thief series, and the first STALKER.

  12. ResonanceCascade says:

    Great. Another game I’m going to buy day 1, play for ten minutes, crap my pants, and recommend to everyone because it’s so good at what it does that I can’t actually play it. Thanks a lot, guys.

    • felisc says:

      exactly.

    • mrosenki says:

      I found Amnesia to be one of the first games where I literally had to force myself to push through the darkness. I played mostly without lighting things/lantern so that monsters wouldn’t see me and the darkness literally felt viscous at times. Quite a unique sense of dread.

  13. skalpadda says:

    Any idea if Robert Briscoe will be involved in making it pretty?

  14. brau says:

    I hope they add some Eternal Dakness insanity elements. That game freaked the witts out of me and messed with my head more than a few times. I think Amnesia can benefit from looking at what they did.

    • mrosenki says:

      Yea, a sudden blue-screen and then blood running down your monitor…

  15. bitbot says:

    Imagine walking down a pitch black corridor, everything is quiet, but suddenly you hear this. Wouldn’t you crap your pants?

    • mrosenki says:

      Yes.
      Also makes me think of Hannibal

    • smokemeansfire says:

      FFFFFFFFF- yeah, one of the most horrible noises on the planet. Next to the horse whinny.

  16. AmateurScience says:

    I still haven’t plucked up the courage to play the first one yet. I am such a wuss.

    • mrosenki says:

      I had to find someone to play it with. We edge each other onwards and if one of us wigs out, the other can take over and be the “brave” one. Also, running around like a lunatic trying to actually get killed can sometimes help to get the tension out of your system.

  17. Unaco says:

    Fresh after winning the IGF award for most graphics for Dear Esther…

    Does the IGF judge on quantity, not quality?

    • CaLe says:

      Are you new around these parts? I have a shed. Would you like to come and see my shed?

    • Shuck says:

      Everywhere you look on the screen – graphics. How could they not win?

  18. ZIGS says:

    With less than a year of development time, I fear this game might turn out to be quite short. Good, maybe but also short

  19. Johnny Law says:

    I’m puzzled that no article or interview about this game ever mentions Korsakovia.

    thechineseroom has already made a horror game (mod) which has similarities to Amnesia, and I think it would be interesting to poke them a bit about that… see what lessons they think they learned & intend to handle differently for this Amnesia game.

    • eclipse mattaru says:

      This. I couldn’t even finish Korsakovia on account of a known particle-related bug (one that afaik never got fixed) that destroys my computer when exiting the warehouse. Which is a shame, really, because the game was *so good* up until that moment. The voiceovers were great at building atmosphere (that line about the eyes is one of my top-5 awesomest horror moments of all times), and the shapeless enemies were a great idea.

      At the very least, I want a fully functional version of Korsakovia.

  20. T4ffer says:

    Oh god, this is like the best game title ever. A Machine for Pigs. How did they come up with that? Brilliant. Anyway, I’m super-psyched for this game. Frictional made some of my favourite first person games and while I didn’t enjoy Dear Esther that much, I have a lot of respect for what it did and think it was an important experiment. Can’t wait to see what they do next.

    • bear912 says:

      I agree. At first I was a bit skeptical, but after rolling it around in my mind for a while, I can say with certainty that it is an extremely excellent title.

      • RagingLion says:

        Yeah. At first I was “What!?” but it really does grow on you by not staying normal. The weirdness of the name doesn’t go away and there’s a kind of dread of how awful a thing it might allude to.

        Pinchbeck had to persuade the Frictional guys about the name – but he was convinced by it and eventually convinced them.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      Seriously? I don’t mind the title, but I don’t find it terribly original. It sounds like an outtake from The Downward Spiral or something.

    • Derppy says:

      Dear Esther wasn’t a game and I didn’t like it because of that. The game had a great atmosphere, graphics (at least for a Source game) and pretty interesting story, but I simply felt so restricted it made the experience bad for me. Slowly walking few minutes to a dead-end and then walking back, without any means of interaction with the environment or any kind of events happening was boring.

      The whole time I wanted to explore outside of the pipe, press shift to run or even space to jump over some rocks, but I couldn’t.

      However, I think having the Dear Esther developers working on a new Amnesia title is a great thing. The fact it’s a sequel for Amnesia means it must have the basic gameplay elements, but they get to build a great story and atmospheric, scary world.

      Looking forward to playing the game, 30 minutes at a time, frequently pausing it to “check my lantern oil and sanity” for a minute.

  21. Kryopsis says:

    Could it be perhaps ‘A Machine For PIGS’? A deus ex machina resolution to the economic troubles plaguing Portual, Italy, Greece and Spain?

    • mrosenki says:

      Don’t you mean EFIGS?

      • Kryopsis says:

        EFIGS is English, French, Italian, German, Spanish. It’s a term used in game development. PIGS, or sometimes, PIIGS, is a term used in political economy.

        • mrosenki says:

          I was actually trying really hard to kid (double fine adventure reference), but….failed. Interesting with PIIGS though. So much more to learn, so little time…

  22. pixelprime says:

    There’s a few people saying that player Amnesia with headphones on, in a dark room, was scary. Am I the only person who was crapping his pants playing this game with the lights on, or during the daytime?

    That’s the mark of a really good game – one whose atmosphere is so rich and immersive that you forget about the world around you and get pulled into the tension and horrors that lurk within.

    That said, I can’t even begin to imagine how terrifying the game would have been WITH headphones on. In a dark room. Honestly, every time I heard that scratching noise in the darkness, I could feel another few years shaved off my life. Fantastically chilling stuff, loved it.

    • caddyB says:

      I can’t play it at all because after a hour long session in daylight I can’t sleep for days.

    • equatorian says:

      I was playing Amnesia in the student’s lounge with the bright summer sun shining through the windows and I STILL screamed and jumped out of my chair and generally behaved like a scared two-year-old, so you’re not the only one. I tend to get immersed in games fairly easily, but that’s still a hallmark of good immersion right there.

  23. pixelprime says:

    And maybe I’m the only one who, when hearing the name of this game, is reminded of that scene in one of the SAW films involving the pig carcasses? The title ‘Machine for Pigs’ conjures up all kinds of mechanical horrors in my mind.

  24. man-eater chimp says:

    I’ve played about half an hour of Amnesia about 2 months ago and I haven’t touched it since just from pure fear.

    I can’t be the only one who has it sitting on my computer but too scared to play it.

    • Loopy says:

      Lol no, I’ve had it since I pre-ordered it and still haven’t played it, I really am a wuss. :P

    • caddyB says:

      Like I said earlier: I can’t play it at all because after a hour long session in daylight I can’t sleep for days.

  25. whitebrice says:

    Machine for pigs, huh? Is anyone else getting a distinct Pathologic vibe from this?

    • equatorian says:

      Yes, and also it shared a general ‘shut up and take my money’ vibe with Pathologic, too. (Pathologic would REALLY be a shut up and take my money game if the translation wasn’t done by a blind idiot. It makes me feel sad every time I think about it.)

      • Thants says:

        I’m still angry that there isn’t an intelligible translation of Pathological.

  26. McDan says:

    Even now I still can’t play more than 10 minutes of Amnesia consecutively without a break, it’s silly but I’m scared easy. And I love it. When I eventually finish the game, and don’t hate on me I get scared ridiculously easy, I’ll be wanting more. Excellent stuff to hear.

  27. thebigJ_A says:

    Aw, shit. I thought they were just helping Frictional. Now I find out they’re making it themselves. I don’t want to be a downer, but isn’t this the classic story? New dev comes along and stomps all over the franchise you loved.

    I *really* hope they succeed. I’m just bummed because where before I had confidence and anticipation, I now have apprehension.

  28. Bungle says:

    This game needs more graphics!

    • essentialatom says:

      Yeah, how else can they expect to win the award for most graphics next year?

  29. MadMatty says:

    yeah first was shit scary- mooooar

  30. Bhazor says:

    Is this machine real life?
    Is it just fantasy?
    Caught in a landslide.
    Theres no escape from reality.

    • Irony says:

      I’m amazed it took this long for someone to point that out.

      Uh…I mean, “Open your eyes, look up to the skies and seeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee…..”