So Much Clanky, Creepy Foreboding In This SOMA Trailer

By Nathan Grayson on December 13th, 2013 at 11:00 am.

SOMA-uch? No, that doesn't work at all

Everyone knows that the scariest things aren’t actually monsters themselves. It’s the horrors lurking in our own runaway imaginations, creatures of such impossible (and impossibly specific) phobia that our only recourse is to head for the hills long before we ever see them. That’s the power of a great horror environment. SOMA‘s Upsilon research facility, for instance, creaks, groans, and whines quietly to itself like a child who’s afraid of the dark. From there, your mind does the heavy lifting. Watch below, and then read about Amnesia: The Dark Descent developer Frictional’s core design pillars for its sci-fi madhouse.

Frictional unleashed the brief trailer alongside a blog post about the most important ingredients in SOMA’s development process. The big five? 1) Everything is story, 2) take the world seriously, 3) the player is in charge, 4) trust the player, and 5) thematics emerge through play.

The summation of that is more or less that Frictional wants to create a seamless experience where puzzles, narrative, and action all exist as one. If a location or scenario’s main justification is, “Well, because it’s a game and we need that to happen there,” then it’s getting tossed out the airlock.

All of that, Frictional hopes, will culminate in a largely player-driven experience, even though the game itself is a pre-written narrative. If you’re of the “OH MAN NO. DON’T GO IN THERE” school of thought/panicked popcorn spewing, no one’s gonna force you to do it. Frictional wants you to take away from SOMA as much as you put in.

“SOMA is meant to explore deep subjects such as consciousness and the nature of existence,” the blog post concludes. “We could have done this with cutscenes and long conversations, but we chose not to. We want players to become immersed in these thematics, and the discussions to emerge from within themselves.”

“It feels wrong to just shove information down the player’s throat. What I find so exciting about having these thematics in a game is that the player is an active participant. There are plenty of books and movies that cover these sort of subjects, but videogames provide a personal involvement that other mediums lack. We want to explore this to the fullest degree.”

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  1. ViktorBerg says:

    Pardon if this is an inappropriate place to start this, but am I the only one who would be interested in seeing a horror game set in something other than pitch-black interiors? I understand that making people afraid while in a brightly lit room is hard, but the early live-action trailers of SOMA convinced me that it would be more of a sort of unconventional psychological horror, where the main scares are the foreign, alien experience and the sense of unfamiliarity. Maybe with a bit of body horror, what with robots that copy human personalities.

    That’s one of the reasons I am waiting eagerly for Routine, which combines the dark, murky places with brightly lit, but still sterile and abandoned open rooms, with the contrast striking one harder than ever.

    I mean, this is a Frictional game, I would expect them to continue their legacy of their Penumbra games in gameplay, but the trailers gave me false hope.

    • Vexing Vision says:

      I totally agree. I love horror, I hate scares – I wish there was a game for me that’d actually get that over. For now, there’s only a few rare TV series that do…

    • Thotep says:

      I’m hoping that the dark-corridor-and-a-flashlight as a default horror theme will go away after The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.

      • Shooop says:

        I still don’t know anything about that game other than there’s railroad tracks in it somewhere.

        They’re doing a terrible job getting the word out about it.

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    • Lone Gunman says:

      The Stalker games manged to convey a scary atmosphere in brightly lit open grassy fields.

      Also the dark is scary to us humans for a reason.

    • The Random One says:

      I once wrote a self-contained RPG campaign in which supernatural monsters were weakened by darkness. I never ran it but I should – I imagine giving players conflicting goals – weaken the monsters vs. be able to see what the hell is going on – would be more interesting than treating them like five-year-olds who sleep with nightlights on.

    • DarkFarmer says:

      Disappointing trailer. More SCP’s please (like the tv screen and the robot one).

      • CookPassBabtridge says:

        Just in case this is what you were hoping for, they have already said that the trailers were very much a different direction to that which the game will take. The SCP vibe was just a theme that their advertising company proposed

        • Amun says:

          How does that happen? If I had a new soft drink flavor to sell (not grape) and the advertising company came up with a great 30 second spot about how it’s the grapeyest thing ever…. why would I use it?

          My mind is aboggle. >_>

          • CookPassBabtridge says:

            Hmm well I can’t find the link where I read that before, but here is some info on the devblog http://frictionalgames.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/soma-officially-revealed.html

            If you scroll down to the bit titled “Live Action Videos” that will give some background. It doesn’t mention it being Imagos Films idea, so its possible I imagined that after some form of household carbon monoxide induced hallucination.

            MIND: DEBOGGLED ^_^

    • SillyWizard says:

      The voice-acting is almost game-breakingly bad, but MagRunner (so far) is a well-lit, reasonably creepy title. (I’m still pretty early on. Around puzzle 10, maybe?)

      And even beyond the Future-Steampunk-Cthulhu theme (which is just…it’s brilliant), the puzzles — while sometimes not as good as those in the Portal entries — definitely scratch the same itch, and I feel comfortable recommending it.

    • Niko says:

      It would be just harder to pull. Our brain is wired to fear the dark, after all.

    • Lestibournes says:

      Quoting from the developer of the game in the comment section of the blog post:
      “The light is so low because of video conversion problems. We liked it though and kept it for the video. The game has lamps that cast realistically long light ;)”

  2. Marar Patrunjica says:

    I read the headline and couldn’t help but hear “so clanky, much foreboding, wow”. I think the internet finally broke me.

  3. Marmalade Man says:

    Upsilon research facility: abandoned because nobody could see what the hell they were doing.

  4. Nim says:

    Flourescent fungus illuminate more than those lights.

  5. ucfalumknight says:

    Apparently Upsilon was testing out low wattage 1 lumen fluorescent light bulbs. Yes, the future looks dim indeed!

  6. ucfalumknight says:

    Stupid double post! I was all clicky clicky…

  7. Mittens89 says:

    That trailer did nothing for me. Ooo, scary, dark setting with creepy, look behind you noises. Come on, try something different.

    I’m disappointed, I was hoping this would be something other than Amnesia in space. Maybe it will be, but this trailer suggests that the game is sticking to the same old, tried and tested scare methods.

    • Lestibournes says:

      Just to clarify, this isn’t a trailer. If you look at the description of the video on YouTube it says “In-game shots from the upcoming sci-fi horror game SOMA.”.

      Also, it’s early in development, so I expect anything we see may eventually change.

  8. Sardonic says:

    The rotunda of death! The only way out of here is death!

  9. Turkey says:

    I oftentimes feel like story gets in the way of horror. When you’re 2/3rds into a horror thing and they start explaining the internal rules of the universe, all the mystery goes straight out the window, and all you’re left with is an unengaging “confront the evil” bossfight.

    I think horror is way scarier when it operates on dream logic.

  10. Shooop says:

    And this everyone, is how to make a trailer that causes people to loose interest in a game.

    • Hauskamies says:

      No, it really isn’t. This game will never have a trailer that is “interesting” and get people hyped up.

      • Shooop says:

        The two live action ones made it look a good deal more promising, at least to me.

    • Lestibournes says:

      It’s not a trailer. RPS got it wrong. It’s just a bunch on in-game footage to show progress on the development of the game to fans who follow Frictional’s work.

  11. stele says:

    A setting like this should be brightly lit. A Machine for Pigs really annoyed me because the electric lamps all seemed to be about one candle power.

    • Shooop says:

      They’re still stuck to the (wrong) idea that dark = scary.

      A space station/ship would be unsettling with proper lighting if you were alone on it. Haven’t they ever seen the movie Moon?

      • Razumen says:

        Darkness IS scary, terrifying even, we are intrinsically wired to be afraid of it, because it puts us into the good ol’fashioned fight or flight mode. What it isn’t however is horrifying.

      • Serenegoose says:

        The idea that dark = scary isn’t wrong. The idea that scary can -only- come from established tropes like excessive darkness and so on is wrong. Trying to make a scary game without using any of the things humans are intrinsically unnerved by would be stupid – like making a rollercoaster with no ups and downs just for innovations sake. It’s the excessive, unadventurous reliance on it that’s grating, not that it happens at all.

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    bear912 says:

    I get a sort of Black Mesa Research Facility vibe from this trailer, for whatever reason. The previous trailer had more of an Alien/H.R. Giger feel.

    Also, I think you should have gone with the alt-text pun.

  13. CookPassBabtridge says:

    I think the problem is this is just a tech demo – it put me in mind of the teaser trailers from the Black Mesa team wayyyyyy before launch. Its only showing areas of the game, with none of the cool consciousness exploring stuff that is currently driving my enthusiasm for it. And as a tech demo, its nothing to write home about, not especially pretty or evocative or showcasing any particularly original design.

    What DOES interest me is what appears to be all in-world control systems and interactivity, very much in the mold of Routine. If we are talking about sharing a consciousness with machines, these interfaces might make for some cool moments

  14. Lestibournes says:

    If it’s a trailer to a Frictional game, I watch it backward. I love their work, but I have difficulty stomaching it.

  15. The Bright Side says:

    From developer Thomas Grip on his post’s discussion thread:

    “The light is so low because of video conversion problems. We liked it though and kept it for the video. The game has lamps that cast realistically long light ;)”

    Cool!