The nature of Resident Evil Revelations 2, a weekly episodic game that plays through its horror story over the course of a month, is driven as much by a desire to experiment with downloadable games as it is by a need to get gamers talking about their creation, said producer Michiteru Okabe in an interview.
From the get go, Revelations 2 is a throw-back to the classic Capcom take on horror: tension that leads to jump scares mixed in with a dash of action. Players swap between mainstay Claire Redfield and Moira Burton as they try to escape an island infested with lunatic, mutilated enemies. This isn't an action game, at least the 30 minutes or so I played wasn't. This is flight or fight with a heavy dose of the horrific.
The game, due out on PlayStation 3, PlayStatation 4, Windows PC, Xbox 360 and Xbox One early next year, is in the works at a time when there seems to be an increased interest in frightening games. Bethesda's The Evil Within hit this month, last month Konami released its P.T. demo, a playable teaser for an upcoming Silent Hill game, and FEAR Online hits this month.
"There does seem to be some interest there," Okabe said through a translator. "There are a lot of different kinds of horror games. I think there's room for all kinds of games. I know for our purpose, for Revelations 2, we're focusing on horror and survival and resource management. That seems like something our fans are wanting."
Resident Evil's brand of fear comes with an interesting twist, though.
"One of the really cool things about the survival aspect of our games is being frightened and then finding a solution that you can use to defeat that fear," he said. "You don't just get scared and run away, you get scared and came back with new resolve."
And of course the developers hope that players keep coming back. That's one of the reasons the game is being released episodically.
"Its kind of an experiment on our part," Okabe said. "We wanted to see what we could do episodically in a digital space.
"Our hope, and only time will tell, is that we can encourage people to play until the end. There is a cliffhanger at the end of each episode that should make you want to find out what happened. It might be a big ask to devote 10 to 20 hours of their life to this when they have so many entertainment opportunities to choose from. How do you keep people interested and get people to invest not only their money but their time to play these games all of the way through?"
In designing the game's episodic take, the developers didn't look as much at television as they did they way people consume content on Netflix, he added.
"Even though it's a release cadence of weekly, it doesn't feel like old-school TV," he said.
That's because the hope is that people don't just play through the entire game, but that they also begin to discuss it between episodes. That's what the game makers at Capcom see happening with big shows like Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead. And they want their games to get that same social buzz as well.
"It will be like watching a TV drama so people can talk," he said. "I think our format is a bit different, but we definitely had an eye on Telltale and the games they put together. One thing they do really well, and we took inspiration from, even though their episodes are really spread out, people remained very interested because they talked about the game with each other."
While the game itself doesn't have any built-in social hooks, Okabe said the team is discussing ways they can extend this social experiment outside the game.
"Like Talking Dead," he said, referencing the live talk show in which host Chris Hardwick discusses episodes of the AMC television show with guests.
"It's a little early to make any specific announcements, but the goal is to interact with the audience," he said. "To communicate with them in some way."