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Daddy's Here - AusGamers Interviews the Father of Survival-Horror - Shinji Mikami, for The Evil Within
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 10:45am 03/07/14 | Comments
AusGamers was given a chance to talk with Shinji Mikami, the father of the survival-horror genre, about his place in the genre's history and his return to it with The Evil Within. Read on for what he had to say...

Note: This interview was conducted through a translator.

AusGamers: First of all, I want to say that it is an honour for me to be able to chat to you -- Resident Evil 4 is [one of] my favourite games, and horror games are my favourite type of game -- I don’t like horror movies, but I love horror games.

So for you, what was the desire to get back into survival-horror?

Shinji Mikami: A lot of surviva- horror games are becoming more action games, so I wanted to make something that I think is the best balance of survival-horror.

AusGamers: We played the demo at the pre-E3 event in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago, and I was having panic attacks, because it was so scary. There was a good balance between a lot of puzzle-solving type stuff, and exploration and learning a little bit about the world, as well as survival-action -- I don’t even want to call it action; it’s more about strategising and surviving -- is that all in an even mixture throughout the game?

Shinji: Yes, that’s the most difficult part to get the right balance of those.

AusGamers: And obviously, the mansion scenario that I played is a nod to the history of survival-horror?

Shinji: It’s of course influenced from Resident Evil 1, that’s where survival-horror started, with the mansion there.

AusGamers: What separates Sebastian from previous heroes in the genre?

Shinji: Well, his occupation is different from others, he’s a detective. It’s the first time for me using a detective as the protagonist. The captives from Resident Evil, they are a more modern day character settings and fashion, but Sebastian looks old, not of age, but his fashion -- he’s an old-fashioned guy.

AusGamers: Does it make more sense to go with a detective, given that those games are so much about solving puzzles and investigating your way through the story and things like that?

Shinji: It doesn’t really relate to that, because the puzzles in the game aren’t really the same as a detective solving problems.

AusGamers: This is probably the most gory horror game you’ve ever made, and I’ve only seen a little bit of it. How far do you push the envelope in that regard?

Shinji: I’m not intentionally making it a gory game, but gore expression is somewhat exciting. I want to make it exciting to users, so gore expressions are a part of that.

AusGamers: Has it changed the way you approach development, working under a Western publisher like Bethesda, and being part of a group of Western studios, and Bethesda is well known for being relatively unique and not following trends.

Shinji: I guess the way I make a game under Bethesda becomes a bit more organised, but other than that, it’s not so different.

AusGamers: Is it your desire for The Evil Within to become a franchise that you can expand the story and the universe in?

Shinji: I’m really focusing on finishing up this game, so I’m trying not to think about the future too much.

AusGamers: The feedback that has come from people that have played the game, like myself, is it the sort of feedback that you’re excited to hear about? Are you changing little bits here and there?

Shinji: There have been some bits of unexpected feedback, and we’re trying to address that as much as possible within the time left.

AusGamers: On that topic, is the game relatively finished from a development perspective? Are you sort of just fixing bugs and tightening up little bits and pieces here and there?

Shinji: Yeah, fixing bugs basically.

AusGamers: This is a bit of a broader question, but you mentioned before that horror games are a little more action-oriented now. What’s the core principle behind a good survival-horror game, from the perspective of someone that popularised it and helped create it?

Shinji: You’re scared and you’re running and hiding; that’s a horror game. Not only that, but you can defeat those enemies, and a fine balance between those two makes survival-horror.

When I was making Resident Evil 1… if you watch a horror movie, all you can do is watch; people watch the protagonist running around. But in a game, you can actually go against the situation, and you can think about how to overcome those situations -- that’s only possible with a game. That was the kind of original idea of making Resident Evil 1.

AusGamers: I notice that there’s a lot of options of places to hide in The Evil Within. Are there going to be situations where you have to hide for an extended period of time -- where I have to turn the lights on in my house because it’s going to be so scary? How does that mechanic work in the game?

Shinji: You have to hide in situations where you encounter an enemy and you have no ammunition, or if you encounter a very strong creature. Those creatures chase you around if they find you, so it’s important that you hide so that enemies that have found you will lose sight of you, so that you can continue looking around again.

AusGamers: Are there currently plans to continue Sebastian's story with DLC or anything like that?

Shinji: I’m still focusing on the first story, so I don’t know what’s going to happen yet, to be honest.

AusGamers: When you go down to that basement and the stairs disappear and you’re just in a corridor -- the environment switches on you -- is that a mechanic that frequently happens throughout the game?

Shinji: Not too often, but not too little. As you progress you’ll experience that several times.

AusGamers: Does the game have a central hub location that you keep coming back to, or is it sort of one path forward with different environments all of the time? is there any revisiting older environments or anything?

Shinji: There won’t be a central hub, but there are many options that you can choose in terms of the playstyle. So you can enjoy playing through many times, by changing your playstyle and having a different experience.

There’s not really a hub, but the save rooms… sometimes you can go to that save room and it’s the only place you can feel safe. But there was no save room in the demo.

AusGamers: When you talk about upgrading in the save room, what can you upgrade?

Shinji: You can upgrade your weapons, or you physical traits. So, like, with sprint, you can sprint longer if you upgrade that; and the number of ammo clips you can carry; stuff like that. Basic firepower and stuff like that.

AusGamers: Between when you finished working on survival-horror to coming back to it now, are there any games that have helped inspire where The Evil Within has ended up, from a gameplay perspective or from a tone perspective?

Shinji: It’s a different genre, so not really anything I can think of.

AusGamers: So this is totally unique to just Shinji’s style of gameplay?

Shinji: Yes.

AusGamers: Has the power of next-gen, and working with id Tech 5 and stuff, has that helped -- apart from being able to make the game more gory looking -- has that changed the way you approached things like level design or expansive areas and environments?

Shinji: It was very tough. I want to take a vacation when I finish the game [laughs].

AusGamers: Have you had a chance to check out any other games on the show floor? Is there anything that’s standing out to you at E3?

Shinji: Batman!

AusGamers: Yeah I just played that, it’s very good. I think Batman owes a lot to Resident Evil 4, actually. (Too hard to explain to him why, through a translator -- but it does - Steve.)

Shinji: I didn’t feel that, but… [laughs]

AusGamers: Ok great, thank you very much.

Shinji: Thank you very much.

Be sure to check out our pre-E3 hand-on preview of the game too, where I legitimately suffered minor panic attacks play, by clicking right here.

Read more about The Evil Within on the game page - we've got the latest news, screenshots, videos, and more!

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