The new Theta trailer is apparently to give us all “a taste of the feel and atmosphere that SOMA will have”. It also contains a few clues to the story, something that seems to be based on technology and reality by the looks of a previous Soma trailers.
The game’s apparently about a week away from alpha (majority of mechanics in place without all the art & sound) and due for release in 2015. Frictional Games say it currently takes about five hours to complete and it’s predicting eight hours by the time it’s finished.
Frictional Games has also provided a fairly detailed series of goals it wants to achieve:
Goal 1: The feeling of playing a narrative
It’s important that the game is constantly drenching the player in storytelling. We need to make sure there is always a red thread of narrative running through the game. We don’t want you to go “Oh, here comes a puzzle section”, but to constantly feel as if you are being told an interactive story.
Getting this right is tricky as there still needs to be some challenge in progressing, but not so much that solving a difficult puzzle becomes your sole focus. Now that we’re close to alpha it’s possible for us to test this and tweak where needed.
Goal 2: A coherently crafted world
When creating Amnesia our setting was basically just “Old castle where supernatural stuff happens”. This allowed us to get away with just about anything and explain it with “because, magic”. But in SOMA we are building a world that is supposed to be tied into the real world and to make sense. Our goal here is to make proper sci-fi and not just a magical fantasy with futuristic designs.
This raises a whole load of issues that we might not have cared about in Amnesia. Puzzles that don’t make sense in the world, tech levels that vary throughout the game, basic physics principles that are broken and so forth. When you have a large part of the game playable a lot of these become visible, and we intend to squash them all!
Goal 3: Gameplay with plenty of variation
As mentioned above, SOMA does not rely on a core gameplay loop and there is a very good reason for this: we don’t want the player to become too fixated on figuring out the game’s underlying abstract systems. We want players to approach the game from how it looks, sounds and feels. In order for this to work the game’s different scenes can’t have the same setup, as that would make you familiar with how everything works. Instead, we need to keep things fresh and avoid repeating ourselves.
Now that we are in alpha we can more easily identify patterns and similarities in scenarios. If anything overstays its welcome it needs to be replaced by something else.
Goal 4: Deep, disturbing themes that makes you think
A crucial design goal for us is to allow a deep exploration of what it means to be a sentient being.
The first step towards doing this is to make sure that SOMA’s gameplay, plot, characters and setting reflect the subjects we want to discuss. If you approach the game in the right way, some seriously unsettling implications should be become clear.
And here lies the problem. Are we getting through to you in the right way? Will the really interesting details just rush past you, or will you stop and give them some serious consideration.
What’s crucial here is that we don’t simply spell everything out for you, but that you can come to conclusions on your own. These sorts of things take a while to come together, and it’s not until this alpha that we’ll get a clear idea as to how it is working out.
Goal 5: A pervasive sense of horror
Finally, the game should be utterly terrifying. We do not want you to calmly stroll through the various environments; it must be emotionally tasking to progress. We want this blanket of oppression and fear wrapped around the entire experience. Sustaining this through eight or so hours takes some finesse – if we repeat something too often then you’ll get used to it and be able to second-guess the events. The build-up must take time, but without being dull, and there needs to be a nice rhythm of ups and downs throughout the journey.
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