Frictional’s Known Unknown

Unknown will feature windows. EXCLUSIVE.

Aw, man. This is a bit of shame. When we were doing our Unknown Pleasures Ultromegafeature in January we tried quite hard to get the Penumbra chaps Frictional Games to talk about what they were up to next. Alas, that slipped into February. Except now it gets worse, as they show footage of their game and the work-in-progress title is… Unknown. Man! That would have been too good. Anyway – first teaser footage beneath the cut.

More details on its website.


  1. Supraliminal says:

    Looking really nice.
    That spooky enviroment filled with shadows really create a unique moody atmosphere, and it also interracts with the physics engine. Hopefully they find some interresting ways to use that as a part of the gameplay.
    This engine would fit perfectly for making a Thief game. That would be sweet.

  2. Po0py says:

    Yup, I immediatly thought of Theif after watching this. I hope thats the vibe they are going for.

  3. Dreamhacker says:

    Is that a circle crosshair in the middle of the screenshot?

  4. Spatula says:

    Is it me or was there a hissing sound everytime he(she?) stepped into the light? Vampire game perhaps???

  5. NuZZ says:

    When he walks down the stairs he has about 4 feet according to the sounds.

    BTW I vote diablo (catacomb-ish) + dues ex (pickin up objects) + theif (dark) + stalker (footsteps)

  6. Markoff Chaney says:

    This does look excellent, if only a nice little light / environment / object / interaction demo. Thank you for a lean. You must want me to sneak around and know I’m going to do it in my chair anyway. Seriously though, just poking my head around the corner makes it for a much better experience than thinking I have a metal bar down my spine that’s made me have that regenerating health too.

  7. AndrewC says:

    We’ve slowly grown used to slower, more realistic avatar movement in our FPSs over the last decade (compare the lightning fast butter feet of, say, Doom with the trudging of Far Cry 2), so when are we going to start accepting that that flicky-flicky, lightning fast mouse look also destroys immersion?

  8. Angel Dust says:

    Looking very nice indeed. Hopefully the writing reverses the backward trend that the Penumbra games had going.

  9. MD says:

    Andrew C: (“We’ve slowly grown used to slower, more realistic avatar movement in our FPSs over the last decade (compare the lightning fast butter feet of, say, Doom with the trudging of Far Cry 2), so when are we going to start accepting that that flicky-flicky, lightning fast mouse look also destroys immersion?”) Disregard this if you were taking the piss and I misinterpreted, but I find it far more jarring to have my view artificially restricted. That extends to forced mouse acceleration, which basically feels like a (rather successful) attempt to cripple one of the PC’s main strengths as an FPS platform. Anything more extreme than that, such as a cap on mouse-look speeds, would be enough to destroy any chance of me enjoying (and buying) a game.

    As for ‘immersion’, in real life you can turn your head pretty quickly and jerkily if you choose to, just as you can choose to do it smoothly with a mouse.

    If it really bothers you, and if self-regulating the speed of your hand movements isn’t enough, you could turn your sensitivity way down or even use a gamepad (this will obviously add to the challenge, but most games would still be perfectly playable on Easy.)

    But yeah, just in case any developers reading this are tempted to institute some sort of mouse-crippling feature (aside from forced mouse accel, which unfortunately seems fairly standard these days) on their next first-person PC game: AndrewC does not speak for all of us!

  10. ZIGS says:

    But yeah, just in case any developers reading this are tempted to institute some sort of mouse-crippling feature (aside from forced mouse accel, which unfortunately seems fairly standard these days) on their next first-person PC game: AndrewC does not speak for all of us!

    I completely second this. Heck, I stopped playing Dead Space because the mouse sensitivity was sluggish as hell. I’m all for realism but don’t mess with my gameplay!
    That being said, I can’t wait for this. I too got a Thief vibe from it (which is awesome) and I simply LOVED the Penumbra series (Except Requiem, what the hell were they thinking)? This will probably be Frictional’s break into the mainstream gaming world (Haven’t decided yet if that’ll be a good or bad thing though…)

  11. schizoslayer says:

    At no point when I’m playing a game do I ever stop and think “Man I so can’t turn my head this fast in real life. This game sucks!”.

    I have however experienced the massive frustration of not being able to turn quickly with a mouse. If I have to pick up my mouse to turn 180 degrees then something is horribly wrong.

  12. AndrewC says:

    I’m not being *completely* serious, and certainly nothing would be worse than a half-arsed nerfing of mouse look.

    But there is a serious point to be made about control. I’m not sure anyone complained about the unrealistic movement of early FPSs at the time, or lack of fall damage, or being able to jump really far and high, or fakey mechanics like health packs, or being able to take a rocket to the face with only ’50’ damage.

    Yet in a modern shooter, like Far Cry 2 say, this stuff feels odd and does get commented on. See the backwards looking Fear 2 for that.

    And Mirror’s Edge feels (mildly) revolutionary not because of the graphics, but of development in movement.

    So how games will develop in future may not be in extra sexy graphics or shaders, but how we move through these worlds.

    Sfx in movies, for example, like computer generated characters, are already photo-realistic but fall down in how those characters move – the stuff that looks good or ‘realistic’ is stuff that has that faux ‘hand held’ look or are mo-capped.

    It is not the quality of the imagery that is selling the effect, but how it moves and how we interact with it.

    The real advances usually come from someone noticing the cliches that are in our blindspots – the things we’ve never thought of changing – and working on them.

    So, yes, that very gamey twitch movement of the mouse look might be something that gets looked at when developers try to create atmospheric, immersive games.

  13. Taillefer says:

    I suppose a way they could do it is by having the mouse speed on a curve. Becoming slower the greater the movement distance. This would sort of simulate the fact your eyes move first, much faster than your head. But eventually you’re going to have to move your head, unless you’re a chameleon, or something. (Hmm. How many first-person games are there where you don’t play a, uhm, person?)

    ‘course, in reality, you don’t have to look directly at something to interact with or shoot it. So in a way, fast turning speed is a compromise for that.

  14. Nighthood says:

    You can’t claim that Mirrors Edge did movement well, if you press Q you can turn 180 degrees INSTANTLY.

  15. Stuk says:

    While I do agree with you Andrew, in that medkits, damage and fast mouse look aren’t realistic, I feel that we have to remember we are playing games here. And they should be fun!

    I can’t shoot baddies or take a shotgun blast to the torso in real life (although I haven’t actually tried), and so I play games. This means that I don’t really want the same restrictions that I face in life.

    Of course I’m all up for innovation and new ideas in these areas, like Andrew suggests, I just don’t want to feel like I’m fighting the control system instead of KillBot 5000.

  16. AndrewC says:

    Yes, I can say Mirror’s Edge does movement well. You can, at least, say it does it better than any other FPS at the moment.

  17. Senethro says:

    My mouse sensitivity is about 50cm to turn 360 degrees. This means I have to move my mouse quite fast when playing games and things like mouse acceleration, turn limitation and other general shit-ness generally break for me.

    One of the main attractions of FPS for me is how simple and uncluttered the movement is. I really don’t want unfamiliar artificial limitations which are going to break my flow and foce me to relearn an established genre.

    But then I’ve played enough FPS that I don’t even notice jumping puzzles anymore because I’ve learned where my feet are! I could be biased.

  18. Ceremony says:

    It’s incredibly frustrating to die in a game based off of the game’s limitations (controls, poor camera cangles etc).

    This was a nice little video. I love the dark and slow atmosphere. It would be great to have a whole game that is similarly paced.

  19. Stuk says:

    Regarding the trailer; looks very nice, and very Theify, but will need to see a bit more of the actual gameplay before making a judgement.

    Also: when are they going to drop the £26 price on Mirror’s Edge so that I will actually buy it?! It’s £14 on the 360!

  20. Lewis says:

    May be of interest to some. This, from an interview I did with Frictional recently for Real Gamer:

    It’s a survival horror game in a more true sense than Penumbra. We are concentrating more on creating a game where there is a better flow in the gameplay, where we tie puzzles and other gameplay elements closer together. In Penumbra it is more divided; you have the sneaking and monster concentrated areas that are then leading to areas where you are presented with larger puzzles to solve without any danger lurking over you. For the new project we want to have a world with short puzzles that are more solved on the fly, linked to the overall world where a monster might show up at any time.

    There will be a bit more usage of fighting in the game compared to Penumbra, but the goal is to have a game about exploration, story and ambience in favour of mindless monster bashing. The game is set in the 18th century so the weapons options will be quite limited, or rather it’s not going to give the player much option in regards of point and shoot.

    There will be a continuation on exploring the means of story telling in games. Nothing fancy, but the core idea is to go as far as possible in always letting the player be free to move about. So, no locking the player in position, cut scenes or other control hampering actions. Where the player can decide how much story he wants, he can walk away from a dialogue or he can explore more carefully to find more details about events that are only told at a glance in the main story.

  21. Malagate says:

    Thanks Lewis, that’s sounding good! Although I am not sure what a continuously oppressive atmosphere will do to my nerves, the actiony bits in Penumbra got me quite panicky, to the point where it was a blessing to be in an area that I knew was safe and could just potter around and read things. To always have an ear and an eye out for trouble could be too tense for me, if the enemies are a real bother.

    Also to quote Senethro: “But then I’ve played enough FPS that I don’t even notice jumping puzzles anymore because I’ve learned where my feet are! I could be biased.”
    That is true of me too, and was brought into harsh relief when I was putting my girlfriend through the Half Life tutorial. She found it very hard to do the gap jumping part, she’d either run off the edge or jump too early, but I could not only do it perfectly, I could do it whilst running backwards. Backwards!

  22. Ronnie76er says:

    I think the problem is that while you can turn your head quickly, you can’t necessarily turn your body as quickly. Until you can have separate controls for each, you’ll probably have that issue. Right now, you just go where your head is pointed.

  23. diebroken says:

    Looks extremely interesting already – I can’t wait! Anything that feels like Thief/Arx Fatalis would be most welcome. :)

  24. Arnulf says:

    Peeking around corners!

    I just felt a shiver running down my spine.

    Now, where are my Thief 2 discs?

  25. psyk says:

    “Until you can have separate controls for each, you’ll probably have that issue. Right now, you just go where your head is pointed.” Like Track IR

  26. Markoff Chaney says:

    Thank you for sharing Lewis. Any more tidbits or a link to go to for all of it?

    To enter in to the FPS conventions fray, I’d like to say that I really enjoy having different games that do different things. I like that Painkiller can be non stop kill fest that’s completely divorced from reality and that Far Cry 2 is almost too immersive. Depending on my current mood, I’m happy playing either. That being said, one of the first things I do is move my sensitivity to about the 3/4 marker since that’s what I’m used to. Speaking of what I’m used to, it took a while after my Quake days to remember I couldn’t jump off that rocket to skip a ladder.

    Also, when can I see that FCS (First Chameleon Slitherer)? That might be fun. Like the Alien part of AVP or something.

  27. Chis says:

    Unless it turns out to be totally awful (what’s the chances?), I will have to buy this. Just the screenshot was evoking memories of many an hour playing Thief, the artistic style is very similar.

    Hopefully it will be moddable and as interactive as Thief. Would be a shame if it’s just a linear Silent Hill cop-off.

  28. Eponymouse says:

    Thief was very moddable? I wouldn’t have guessed, really.

    I love to see how much these guys have improved since the first tech-demo version of Penumbra until now. It’s kind of heart warming.

    I feel a little pang of desire. When was the last time I played an honest haunted house type game? And the eighteenth century setting is a nice idea.

    RE: mouselook, I want someone to prototype an idea where you have a range of eye movement, outside that you turn your head (up to 180 degrees) and then outside that you have to turn your body.

    Of course course this requires being an FPS where you actually have a body.

  29. Malagate says:

    Just seen the video, reminds me a lot of Penumbra, what with the similar sounds, the footsteps, the leaning and the hiding, but it also has some differences like picking up objects seems smoother and opening doors is a lot quicker (might be just one button press rather than the kind of manual way of pushing and pulling doors Penumbra had, or it was just an experienced player/one of the developers).

  30. Max says:

    I absolutely hate restricted mouse controls. Sluggish acceleration ruins any gaming experience for me.

  31. A-Scale says:

    Graphically this is less impressive than the Lost Coast tech demo that came out of Valve several years ago.

  32. diebroken says:

    @Eponymouse: Be amazed, possibly one of the best expansions ever, and it’s free!

    link to

  33. Guhndahb says:

    Just like they have difficulty settings for gamers of different skill levels, I think developers need to realize that there are people out there that really like the game play, style and story of games that fit the survival horror genre – I’m a stealth fanatic, but don’t enjoy, even a little bit, the fear element. I’d like to see an “I’m a pansy” checkbox for people like me who throw their mice halfway across the room when a monster jumps out (followed frequently by an Alt-F4). I like a little tension, but what causes some people a little tension can cause a much stronger reaction in others. Being able to tone that down for some while maintaining the full emotional onslaught for others would be wonderful.

    I can tolerate scary games much more when they aren’t scripted. If there are monsters about (but please not respawning – I loathe that) and they have an AI but I can use stealth/tactics/patience to turn things to my advantage, I’m happy. But, for example, Doom 3 where you step on spot A and monster B suddenly appears next to you at spot C and I poop my pants D, well, that’s just not fun for me.

    Another nice feature to relieve fear is having a (at least semi-intelligent) AI-controlled sidekick, at least for non-stealth games. Alyx did that in HL2ch1 for me and because of that I actually enjoyed it better than HL2.

    Then again, perhaps I’m the only wimp around here. And perhaps I shouldn’t draw the curtains and play with headphones… Nah!

  34. axed says:

    that trailer alone has more diabloe feel in it than anything already released showcasing D3. looks like good fun up ahead.

  35. OJ287 says:

    Ive not played Thief. It reminded me of Oblivion. I hope Bethesda go down this route for their next Elder Scrolls game.

  36. J. Edgar Hoover says:

    They already released this game. It’s called Penumbra.

  37. Charlie says:

    A good way to help with the ‘unnatural’ look of the twitchyness of mouselook, I think, is using motion blur.

  38. Sajmn says:

    Anyone else getting a strong Oblvion vibe?

  39. Malagate says:

    @Charlie, actually motion blur wouldn’t be good, it makes cases of motion sickness worse because when you actually move your head and eyes around quickly you don’t have motion blur. Your eyes just don’t process the times when you’re moving your eyes and head quickly, it’s something like for about 40 minutes every day you’re pretty much totally blind because of this. So to properly remove twitchyness of mouselook, you’d have to actually black out the screen for a few milliseconds when you move it around hurredly, or you’d have a ton of people experiencing motion sickness from all the blurring.
    Until we have VR headsets or have the image of the game beamed directly onto our retinas, mouselook will always be inelegant and frankly really unrealistic.

    Interesting to note that many people get different vibes from the video, we’ve had Thief, Oblivion, Stalker, Deus Ex, Diablo, even Penumbra itself. All that just from walking through a creepy mansion entrance hall. The fact that responses are so diverse seems to me like this is, in a way, more unique than other games out today. What other game can have Diablo, Deus Ex and Thief compared to it within the same thread? Although it’s a lot easier just to compare it to Penumbra, you know same guys and they’ve recycled some assets (in a good way).

    Also @A-Scale, oh what? Graphics not as good as Half-Life 2: Lost coast tech demo? Oh wow, small-swedish-independant-games-company-Frictional in not-as-rich-or-as-experienced-as-Valve Shocker!

  40. Mel Gibson says:

    This was a pretty lame teaser, but im interested in it since they made Penumbra.

  41. Lewis says:

    Markoff: The rest of the interview was more general Frictional stuff. That’s all they’d tell me about this one.

  42. diebroken says:

    @A-Scale: Personally I prefer gameplay more than graphics, like BioShock, Far Cry 2, Fallout 3, … oops, I meant to say Deus Ex, System Shock 1/2, Thief 1/2/2X, Arx Fatalis, etc. ;)

  43. RC-1290'Dreadnought' says:

    That was a Dark Messiah map, wasn’t it?

  44. The Shed says:

    Look basically like Thief: DS, and Oblivion (with a dashing of HL2). Considering I’m almost back on the PC gaming horse, and I love horror games- it’s ON.

  45. Markoff Chaney says:

    Lewis: Fair Enough. Thanks!

  46. Jetsetlemming says:

    I’m kinda surprised at everyone thinking of Thief first, because I thought it looked like Oblivion, engine-detail-wise, and setting-wise. If I concentrate I can definitely see some Thief DS in there, though.
    I loved the Penumbra games so I would probably buy this without knowing jack shit about it. Keep the unknown title, use an all black box, I’d buy it anyway.
    But then, I won’t be buying it without knowing about it simply because I’m too much a fan to not follow the news.