Masachika Kawata talks building Resi’s haunted house
Discussing the construction of Resident Evil VII’s haunted house with producer Masachika Kawata
Where did the inspiration for Resident Evil VII’s derelict plantation mansion come from?
We felt it was the best setting for creating the horror experience we had in mind, as it allows us to create an unsettling atmosphere where you don’t know what lies in wait, while being a fairly realistic type of location.
When it came to designing the location, what feelings were you trying to evoke from players? What was the intent behind the demo?
Our strategic intent was of course to show the Resident Evil VII concept to the world as early as possible after announcement, but in terms of design, we wanted to create a scary kind of “ghost house” where the player is afraid to even move forward and see what awaits them. When we designed the location we didn’t start out from a ‘level design’ perspective; rather, we focused on designing a house with a layout that lets you feel people could really live there. That contributes to the feeling that there is a presence somewhere in the house and I think that has turned out really well.
What is it that we find so terrifying about the idea of being trapped in a haunted house? This is a theme Capcom has returned to time and time again since Sweet Home back in 1989 and, of course, the original Resident Evil.
Dark halls leading to unknown spaces bring out the natural curiosity in we humans, where we want to know what lies ahead despite our instincts telling us not to look. I think it’s a universal kind of fear and thrill. And despite the fact that we know it’s a game and we aren’t going to be in real danger, we still feel the terror of that exploration because we are able to immerse ourselves in the situation. This is exactly the kind of horror experience we wanted to prioritise in the design of the game right from the start of the project, and we’re using our visual and game design expertise to bring you the state of the art in survival horror.
Whether it is in real life, film or videogames, what do you actually count as ‘terror’? What is the feeling of terror?
To me, terror is the unknown, and the possibility of myself coming to harm. Those things are related but not exactly the same, and I think that’s why we often fear things we can’t understand.
What was behind the decision to shift into a more intimate first-person perspective?
It was in order to let players experience the terror more directly. Seeing the darkness and mysterious spaces unfold through your ‘own eyes’ has such a direct way of scaring people.
Two interesting elements for us were the heavy supernatural elements of the game – with the continued ghost sighting – and how the VHS tape impacted the regular world, will these be important elements in the final game?
I think the VHS tapes are a fascinating idea and you’ll have to wait and see what role they play in the final game! When it comes to the supernatural parts… We wanted to add something a little different and felt the ghosts were a fun addition to the demo. We’re not saying the final game will be full of supernatural elements though!
What is your personal favourite part of the demo?
I like it when you kick a bottle or can on the floor and make a sudden noise. The more carefully and deliberately you try to move through the house, the more frightened you get by those sudden noises, which I find really fun.
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