/Dont Miss: Producing Silent Hill and the challenge of making portable games scary

Dont Miss: Producing Silent Hill and the challenge of making portable games scary


Oertel is a producer at Konami Digital Entertainment’s, and is
responsible for the recent U.S.-sourced game entries in the Silent Hill
franchise; namely, the visual novel, art, and music hybrid Silent Hill Experience and the upcoming Climax-developed series prequel, Silent Hill Origins which revisits many of the elements from the original Silent Hill on the Sony PlayStation. Both of these titles were conceived for Sony’s PSP platform, to take advantage of its portability.

caught Oertel at Konami’s 2006 Comic-Con International booth to talk
about Silent Hill, how the movie adaptation has affected the game
series’ direction, and the hardships of making portable games scary.

Gamasutra: Silent Hill Origins,
as a visual novel, is a type of product that hasn’t been done
successfully in the United States before, as opposed to Japan, where
the genre is popular. Do you see this turning around?

Oertel: I think there’s opportunity. Konami saw, especially with the
PSP, that you can use the hardware in so many different ways, so why
not mix mediums together? You see a lot of properties integrating the
comic medium’s mechanics, Sin City was a very direct approach as an
example. I think there’s an opportunity to kind of make comics and,
with my experience on this one, and seeing Metal Gear Solid: DGN, that
there is a lot of room to kind of create something different by taking
comics and animating them. I think there are still a lot of ways for us
to exploit that, or explore that. I don’t think we’ve hit the pinnacle
yet of where that could be, and this is one step in that direction.

William Oertel

GS: So the sales have been good on these experiments?

They did okay! It’s a hard concept to communicate to people, retailers
in particular. They pick it up and they expect a game, and it’s not a
game. So they say well, is it a movie? And it’s not a movie, it’s a
combination of many different things. With Silent Hill Experience, in that particular case, Silent Hill
is more than a game. You have comic books, you have soundtracks, you
the videos, and of course you have the movie. All these elements make
for something that allows you to create something unique out of all
that. A lot of games don’t have that level of depth to what they make.
And so in Experience’s case, we tap into all that. We take the comics
and video games and the soundtrack and the stills and wrap it all into
this very game-like setting. Based on things I’ve read and people who
have purchased it, they really like it.

GS: Who is this product marketed towards, specifically?

WO: There are two groups. First of all, the Silent Hill demographic, males, both teens and adults. Of course, the Silent Hill
fan. I’m thinking of them, and making sure there’s value in there for
them. But additionally, with the movie coming out, we knew that a lot
of people weren’t going to be familiar with Silent Hill. They would watch the movie and they would think, ‘I wonder what else there is?’ So let’s give them a slice into what Silent Hill is all about, and that’s what Experience is.

A comic scene from
Silent Hill Experience

GS: So it does kind of double as sort of an entry-level introduction to the franchise?

WO: Yeah! It’s one of those tough products that you have to appeal to both. And I think with anything Silent Hill-related,
you want to expand the fanbase, you want to get more users, but at the
same time you’ve got this core that really loves what you’ve done, and
you want to make sure they’re happy as well.