TCR: Machine For Pigs Now ‘Much More’ Like Amnesia

By Nathan Grayson on March 12th, 2013 at 11:00 am.

After spending many eerily silent ages in the dark, Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs is finally just about ready to see the light of day. Games, however, don’t usually stew in the boiling juices of development because it feels nice. (That’s why I do it, but shush, don’t tell anyone.) Thechineseroom’s take on Frictional tour de force of terror, then, has fleshvomited all manner of new appendages, morphing itself into an entirely different beast than originally conceived. But what, exactly, does that entail? During a recent interview with RPS, thechineseroom creative director Dan Pinchbeck outlined what’s happened and explained why A Machine For Pigs ultimately ended up a far more natural successor to Amnesia: The Dark Descent than anyone – himself included – expected.

“I think we started working on it sometime around November [of 2011], and we thought it was going to be a couple hours-long,” he began. “But we started building it, and the story came out, and we really got sucked into it in terms of where we could push the engine and the stuff we could do. I guess we kind of got over-excited and just went with it.”

“It was last summer when we realized we could make it into something much [bigger]. Not just small-scale. Maybe 13 or 14 levels and a really strong story arc. If we had that extra time, we could invest even more into things like the art and music and really push the production values hard as well.”

Not everything I write is Dear Esther.

Given that thechineseroom’s biggest claim to fame, Dear Esther, can be finished in under two hours, it sounds like quite a change of pace. Pinchbeck, however, was actually quite grateful to end up so far outside his apparent element, and that, he explained, ultimately helped spur the change in A Machine For Pigs’ direction.

“In Esther, the story doesn’t really actually exist,” he said. “It’s just a whole bunch of ideas about a story that the player then uses to create the story themselves. Machine For Pigs has definitely got a much more traditional game story to it. I was really keen to write something that was a bit more straightforward. It’s like, sometimes you want to read someone like William Burroughs, and sometimes you want to read Stephen Hunt.”

“It just felt like I’d done something very, very, very experimental, so the idea of writing something that was kind of steampunk and cool and not having to be incredibly serious all the time, it was just fun. I felt like doing Dear Esther was poetry, and this was a chance to write a comic book. Not everything I write is Dear Esther. In terms of my taste in games, I play a lot more things that are kind of like [triple-A action games]. More Far Cry 3 than Dear Esther.”

Machine For Pigs certainly isn’t without its experimental moments, though, and it’s definitely not about impossibly large men in tights vanquishing beasties that go bump in the night. Make no mistake: this is psychological horror, and snaking ugly tendrils of fear and doubt under your skin has always been thechinesroom’s number one goal.

“What I think we have in common with Frictional is that kind of emotional, psychological element of, like, what’s real and madness, and what mind and personality are,” Pinchbeck explained. “What’s true. What’s not true. I think there’s an awful lot of that in Dark Descent. I think we didn’t want to move completely away from that, because we’re still really interested in that angle.”

“I think this has ended up more of a natural successor to Dark Descent than we ever thought it’d be. Originally, we thought it’d be this halfway point between Dark Descent and Esther, but in a lot of ways, it’s much more like Dark Descent.”

The twist? Apparently, we’ll actually care about the characters this time around. How exactly that’ll work, however, remains to be seen. But, if nothing else, there’ll be quite a lot of it – or so Pinchbeck claims.

“Once you’ve kind of seen where you can go, not going there is very hard. It just made sense to spend that extra time and reach for something a bit bigger.”

Check back soon for the full interview, in which we discuss everything from how thechineseroom’s adding new elements of horror to the mix, to Frictional’s involvement in the process, to mysterious new developments with thechineseroom’s other game, Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture. Also, the whole interview was haunted. No, seriously. You’ll see what I mean. Probably.

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49 Comments »

  1. KikiJiki says:

    No matter how terrifying it is, it will never compare to the sense of horror that the pull quotes instill in me every time I see one.

    I’m just going to cower in the corner until they wander off, ok?

    On a lighter note, looking forward very much to this. Amnesia makes me a big gender-undisclosed pants and I want to actually play through one of these games dammit!

    • BubuIIC says:

      If you have AdBlock Plus, you can add a custom filter with

      rockpapershotgun.com##div.simplePullQuote

      to hide all the pull quotes.

      • SuicideKing says:

        or use the “create easy filter” by clicking on the ABP icon in the address bar.

      • KikiJiki says:

        Thanks for the tip. I don’t mind pull quotes per se. These ones are horrible ugly abominations that seem to have been frankensteined onto the page though. A simple border style could fix so much of what’s wrong with them.

        • jkz says:

          I find the suggestion of pull quotes more terrifying than the pull quotes themselves. A pull quote glimpsed from the corner of the eye that is gone when you look at it but you are pretty sure it said something horrific.*shivers*

          • JackShandy says:

            Everybody says that, but no amount of suggestion could ever compare to the grisly horror of a real pull-quote, shown with shocking clarity.

      • povu says:

        Naturally you’ve all already filtered back in the actual RPS advertisements.

    • Kein says:

      RPS: A Machine for Pullquotes

    • Jake Albano says:

      Seriously Nathan. Nobody here likes them and you’re the only person who uses them. You have the power to stop this before it gets any worse.

    • Kamos says:

      I think that, if I were an indie dev desperately looking for some exposure, then I finally managed to get covered by RPS and saw that the very first thread in the comments was not about my game but about the site’s layout, a small manly teardrop would roll from the corner of my eye.

  2. foda500 says:

    Bears!

  3. Calneon says:

    This is good news! Do we have a more specific release date than Q2 2013?

  4. Mr. Mister says:

    Iberian ham!

  5. FurryLippedSquid says:

    I shan’t be going near this.

    Brrrrrr.

    • Lars Westergren says:

      You won’t need to, it will come to you.

    • Kiya says:

      You are not alone. I have Amnesia: The dark descent in my Steam library because my husband gifted it to me – I don’t know what he was thinking.

      • Mr. Mister says:

        You could at least leave open it and let the hour count grow, so he doesn’t suspect that much.

        • Kiya says:

          He knows :-)

          I have trouble getting past Ravenholm in Half Life 2 for goodness sake :-D

      • Kamos says:

        I played it long, reached a part where I was feeling too anxious, closed it and never played it again. The game is so good at what it set out to do that I had to stop playing it. So, in a sense, it is bad. Because it is good.

        Of course The problem isn’t that I’m a big coward. No way. :-)

  6. Niko says:

    A Machine for Pugs?

  7. analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

    Apparently an early Alpha release went horribly wrong on the Huangpu River .

  8. Jumwa says:

    Would love to say I would get this, as I enjoyed Dear Esther and ADORED Amnesia. Though something tells me to wait for reviews and see how the actual thing pans out before I commit myself to getting this one.

  9. Freud says:

    Spoiler: It’s not pig but horse meat.

    • Niko says:

      Spoiler: it’s also human meat!

      • DickSocrates says:

        Spoiler: We think “aah, pigs, bet it’s human meat” but it turns out to be Quorn’s horse substitute.

        • solidsquid says:

          Actually it is pig, but the pig meat has been stripped off the carcass then re-attached, leaving you with the lingering feeling that there’s something wrong with it but never able to prove anything

    • Zeewolf says:

      Well done, sir.

  10. DickSocrates says:

    Dear Esther was awful poetry, will this be awful steampunk?

    The lack of story didn’t bother me, I’ve read lots of William Burroughs, it was the overblown, overwrought, plain old silly “I’M BEING EXPERIMENTAL” writing. If it sounds like writing, rewrite it, as Elmore Leonard said. And was right. Also, Burroughs wrote Naked Lunch BEFORE he used the cut up technique and the strongest parts of the book are the most linear. He eventually abandoned it and went back to ‘normal’ writing, even inserting more linear passages into previously released works. He realised that no story was a dead end.

    I’m prepared to give TCR a second chance, most “serious” writers go through their embarrassing “I want to write the next Finnegans Wake” period.

    • Pathetic Phallacy says:

      @DickSocrates

      “The lack of story didn’t bother me, I’ve read lots of William Burroughs, it was the overblown, overwrought, plain old silly “I’M BEING EXPERIMENTAL” writing. If it sounds like writing, rewrite it, as Elmore Leonard said. And was right. Also, Burroughs wrote Naked Lunch BEFORE he used the cut up technique and the strongest parts of the book are the most linear. He eventually abandoned it and went back to ‘normal’ writing, even inserting more linear passages into previously released works. He realised that no story was a dead end.”

      Dead end?

      Jesus, I hope you’re not trying to pass off that shit as common opinion or even the opinion of literary scholars because post-modernism is all about non-linearity and experimentation. You want a book that’s easy to follow, read Twilight.

      • Harlander says:

        He’s right, you know.

        Those are the only two options.

        • MattM says:

          True, and any work that incorporates non-conventional, experimental, or abstract storytelling is automatically good and should not receive any negative criticism.

  11. GameCat says:

    SO we will have another overrated boring horror game?

    • misterT0AST says:

      What is a comment like this trying to accomplish?
      Just offending the game and those who like it, or deliberately waiting for someone to ask “what exactly did you think” to then write something more meaningful?

  12. Sirnizz says:

    I know I will buy this game but I also know I’ll never finish it.

    The Dark Descent is still lurking around in my steam library as well, and everytime I’am saying “Come on dude you can do it” then 30 min later I’am lighting all my appartments and starting some Scribblenauts to be ready to sleep !

    This is sad but I won’t lose hope I will clear this one !

  13. faelnor says:

    I was thinking “wow, that guy sure likes talking about himself when more than half of the standalone version of Dear Esther was actually Robert Briscoe’s work”. Then I looked online for the composition of the thechineseroom team.
    I don’t want to debate here of the value of Dear Esther without its visuals, but since I haven’t seen it mentioned elsewhere, I thought some people might be interested to know that Robert Briscoe is not working on A Machine for Pigs.

  14. JonNotAvailable says:

    So, when’s the full interview going to be published?

  15. Kippe says:

    I just hope the game will be able to run in 3D or something this time… Kinda sad that the first Amnesia wasnt programed with DirectX but in Open-GL…