I think one of the major mistakes they keep making with the Silent Hill series is that they keep trying to tell stories about the town itself and the cult that got things started. I don’t think the story of Silent Hill is what we’re here for. We’re here for the premise, which is a spooky town that can pull people into the otherword. Once we have that, we don’t need an ongoing tale. Grafting new people and events onto the established narrative doesn’t make the setting more interesting or compelling.
|This graph depicts the highly accurate and scientific readings of several games in the Silent Hill franchise, using equipment to measure the freakishness (using the standard Lovecraft logarithmic scale) against the innate wackyness (as measured in kilostooges) of the content. All devices were calibrated against solitaire prior to measurements.|
I think a much better approach would be to leave the origin alone and take a Martian Chronicles approach. Or even better, a Twilight Zone approach. Each game can take place in its own (undefined) time, without needing to worry about stepping on the toes of its predecessors or getting in the way of its successors. If they did that, the designers would get all the benefits of sequels (ongoing sales and loyalty) without the hassle of maintaining an increasingly large and unwieldy continuity.
The extreme subjective nature of the town already gives writers immense freedom to change the scenery, monsters, combat, mechanics, and the various rules about how the whole thing works. The origin has fulfilled its purpose and given us a malleable reality. We don’t need it anymore. Making games focused on the history of Silent Hill is like making movies about Luke Skywalker working on a moisture farm.
The other advantage of this is that that the games would be more accessible to newcomers. Silent Hill: Origins naturally excludes people who aren’t up to speed on their Silent Hill lore, which means that the potential audience can’t be anything larger than a subset of previous audiences. That’s no way to grow a franchise. By contrast, a newbie can pick up Silent Hill 2 and be able to to follow the plot without needing to jump over to Wikipedia to find out who the hell the latest NPC is and why they should care.
It’s a very simple formula:
- Somebody with a few skeletons in their mental closet is compelled by both internal and external forces to enter the town of Silent Hill.
- Things build slowly, working from mildly unsettling to profound madness.
- The monsters and challenges are a product of the protagonist’s own psyche, so that by seeing the monsters we indirectly learn about them.
- As they progress through the town, their secrets are unearthed and we learn more about who they are and why they’re so messed up.
- Their story culminates when they finally face their personal demons and overcome them.
I think this is a winning recipe for a game. It’s simple, it’s elegant, and it offers endless possibilities. Instead of telling us more about the cult and their baby-snatching, demon-worshiping shenanigans, each game would be a story about a person.
I don’t see why Silent Hill developers continue to make things so hard on themselves.
This is not to say I won’t end up playing Silent Hill 5 at some point. I can be counted on to faithfully purchase each new iteration and then complain about it at length. I know my banging on about the greatness of Silent Hill 2 is old. I’m like those Final Fantasy fans who play each each new version for a hundred hours and then decry it because they’re waiting for the FFVII lightning to strike again.
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