Friday, 9 September 2011

Amnesia - One year later

Introduction
A year has passed since we first released Amnesia and a lot has changed for us at Frictional Games since. We have gone from being pretty much out of money, to being financially stable in a way we never thought we would be. Everybody in the company has gotten raised salaries and we have more than enough money to complete our next game.

Our financial situation is far from the only change though. The success of Amnesia has led to us getting a lot more known among players and the press. Reactions to the game are still pouring in, and it feels extremely good and humbling to be able to have that kind of impact on people.

With that little summary, now let's get down and dirty with some more detailed information. (And oh, see end of post for a wee surprise.)


Sales
Let's start with what most people probably are the most interested in: how many units have we actually sold? During the GDC EU lecture I noted that we were now above 400k units total, but as we scrutinized all of the figures it turns out this was not quite correct. Jens did a recount of all income we have gotten so far and the figure ended on 391 102 units (which is of course not correct when you read this as the game sells at about 2 mHz).

This sounds like a huge amount for sure, but there is something to consider with this figure. About 75% of all the sold copies, that is 300k, were on discounted sale. This is quite substantial really, especially when you note that a good deal (almost half) of the remaining 100k were sold at launch. In the end this amounts to around 50% of all our earnings coming purely from discounted sales (most at a 66% or higher discount).

While discounted sales indeed dwarfs our normal sales, the day-to-day sales are quite expectational as well. Right now we are selling around 6000 units per month at full price. This is actually more than enough to cover all salaries and operational costs for each month, which is a situation we still have not really gotten used to. Another interesting fact is that monthly sales have actually increased, they are almost double now from what they were half a year ago. What all this means is that we can work with a healthy buffer that makes it possible to take more risks and down the road spend more money on outsourcing for sound, voices, art and more. Both of which should allows to make our next game as good as possible.

The distribution between platforms depends a bit on how you count it. In our own store it is as follows:
Windows: 70%
Linux: 15%
Mac: 15%
However, our store is the only one that sell a Linux version of the game, so in total sales the percentage of Linux is a lot less. When looking at other stores the distribution is around 11% Mac and 89% Windows. The Mac percentage goes down a bit during sales, where Windows sales increase 3 times or so more compared to the Mac ones. An interesting note here is that Mac sales in our own store did not go down as a other online outlets like Steam started to provide mac versions; meaning it did not steal our customers but opened up to a new market. We think it is a good incentive for other stores to support Linux as well!

The final data regarding sales is the difference between physical and digital sales. As of now, a total of 35, 000 boxed copies of the game has been sold, or around 9% of total sales. This is not too shabby considering we had no release in Europe and that the American box came out half a year after launch. The money earned from a physical unit is much less than from a digital one, but a physical release can still be helpful (however, other problem arise that might make it not worth it, something we will cover later on).


Impact on Penumbra
As Amnesia gained popularity, we already had our Penumbra games up for sale. We were quite curious in seeing how these sales would be affected by Amnesia's success. As Penumbra is quite similar to Amnesia i terms of gameplay and mood, and that both were made by the same company, we thought that we would see a boost in sales and attention for Penumbra. Turns out that Penumbra was almost not affected at all.

The number of monthly visitors for Penumbra are still the same as they were before Amnesia. Same with sales; the monthly total is still a little above 500, which it has been for over two years now. The only influence Amnesia could have had is to keep the average up.

So why did Amnesia have no (or very little impact) on the sales of Penumbra? We think one reason is that main bulk of Amnesia buyers simply does not connect the two. While they are similar, the first look is quite different. Penumbra takes place in present day and Amnesia in the 19th century. Another reason is that whenever there is some exposure for Amnesia, Penumbra is almost never mentioned, so most people that enjoyed Amnesia never learn there is a similar game available.


User response
I noted earlier that the daily sales have gone up over the last year, and large part of that has been due this - responses from the players. Still now, a year later, once a week or more some new post about Amnesia goes up on reddit, youtube or a similar user generated site. This kind of constant bombardment of Amnesia related material has continued to raise awareness of the game.

The major example of this would be the the Amnesia WTF video that reached 4 million views before YouTube, because of mysterious reasons, removed it (here is a copy). Others include this pug picture that managed to spread quite virally, images like this one, and much more.

Another pleasant surprise was the amount of custom stories that have been made. In Penumbra we only knew of a single attempt to make a user-created level and that one was never released in public. For Amnesia at least 300 custom story projects have been started, and 20 or so have actually become completed, high quality, experiences. There has even been a Tetris clone made with the tools!

This surge in interest has made our community a lot more active too. A year after we released Penumbra: Black Plague, our forum was quite dead, having a post every other day or so. Right now we average about 200 posts / day, and all of it is pretty much thanks to the custom story creation. This has also spread to other parts of the forum, and there is a lot more general chatter, technical help between users, etc . It really shows that supplying users with creation tools is well worth the time.


The making of Amnesia
As a year has gone by a few resources on how Amnesia was made has popped up, so it seems like a good time to sum them up now:

The Terrifying Tale of Amnesia
A post-mortem of Amnesia at the Escapist, that describes what we went through when creating the game. It mostly deals with the financial side, but also on how corporate decisions lead to changes in design, screwed everything up, and other juicy stuff like that.

Birth of a Monster
The design and production process of the grunt monster, written by several of the people involved. Do not forget that there is a second part.

Evoking Emotions and Achieving Success By Breaking all the Rules
A talk I gave at GDC Europe about a month ago. It goes over a lot of the design decisions that went into Amnesia.


Next for Frictional
So what is next for us at Frictional Games?

First of all, we want to get up to speed on our next game. Since we spent all resources we had on getting Amnesia done, we had to start the new project without any sort of momentum. Added to this was the potato thingie that also took a lot of time (but was really worthwhile). This has lead to a discrepancy between design, technology and art that we just about caught up to now. We have done a lot of work on the next game, but it is not until now we are close to having a nice work flow.

Because of this, a major issue for us to fix is to be able to manage multiple projects. We want to have a nice reallocation of resources at the end of each project and make sure to keep the flow going. However we do not want to grow the company too much, and thus we are looking into other avenues. If everything goes as it should we will announce our first stab at a solution to this quite soon!

Another big change for the future will be consoles. The main reason for choosing consoles is purely financial. Right now our main income comes from very few channels, and we need to spread out the risk somehow. The other reason is that we feel we are missing out on exposure by not being on a console and not reaching as many players as we should be able to. Unfortunately consoles are really old compared to the PC right now, so it will be far from straightforward to develop for two platforms. Our current thinking is to make the console get a lower end version and make sure console specs influence the PC version as little as possible.

Finally, in regards to what our next project is about, the basic idea is to use lessons learned from Amnesia and then take it to the next level. We have mentioned before that the next game will not be as horror focused as our past ones, but still have a scary atmosphere. Our intention this time is to dig into deeper and more intellectually demanding subjects. Another goal for us is to get past having classical puzzles that break the flow, but without making the game into a spoon-fed type of experience.

We are all really excited about the future, with tons of ideas we want to try out and now with the resources to do so properly. This is the first time for us developing a project that we know we can fund all the way and not worry about tight resources. It will be very interesting so see what will be possible to create this time!


More questions?
Anything else you want to know? Well, you are in luck because the entire team will be available for an Ask-Us-Anything at Reddit! Just go here:

http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/k9vwj/we_are_frictional_games_creators_of_amnesia_the/

It is really simple to register at reddit, so just do so and fire away in case you are curious! And do make sure to up-vote it so it gets some exposure!

And finally, thanks to all who have supported us, pre-ordered our games, put up crazy stuff on the internet, provided help in the forums and in other ways helped to spread the word!


61 comments:

  1. The cake is a lie!

    (Sorry, but I could not resist :D )

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  2. Sure as hell looks interesting and i congratulate you on your success. That said i hope you stick to the horror genre, its amazing what you guys achived compared to others and its one of the main reasons i bought your games.

    I can only imagine how much of an awesome experience #DeadSpace could've been with you behind the developer controls instead of EA.

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  3. Very good read, thank you.

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  4. Congratz!
    Hope you'll keep going even better (:

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  5. Congrats, guys. You deserved everything. I can't wait for your latest games!

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  6. I think, another reason for the little influence on Penumbra was the fact, that a lot of people (myself partially included) consider Amnesia to be an evolved version of Penumbra games. So it feels like "why buy and older game if i played a superior one".
    I don't fully feel like that, because Penumbra was a very different type of horror and story, but the gameplay in Amnesia is a clear evolution of the one from Penumbra.

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  7. Nice work guys, keep up the good work

    Im so pleased things went so well for you because you guys really deserve it :)

    I actually feel bad now as I got amnesia on the sale, but I might not have heard of the game without the sale so I guess it worked out for the best

    And to make up for it I went out to buy all the penumbra games so Im at least 1 penumbra sale that was carried over from buying amnesia :)

    Keep up the good work, cant wait to see your next game

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  8. could you give us more info about the general background of your next game?

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  9. If you want Penumbra to get attention then update the games according to user feedback and technology and then re-release them as a Platinum edition. Also, releasing the whole set (ala Valve Orange box) for the consoles shouldn't require recreating everything and will allow console sales to ride the current wave of attention that you are getting.

    Finally, your reputation as the 'scariest' game is what is making everything travel via word-of-mouth and creating the youtube 'watch me play' videos. Don't step away from that formula.

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  10. A big YES to a console move down the road. I think both Penumbra and Amnesia would benefit from a decent port by the team at some point. The horror genre is huge on consoles, but the amount of truly scary games that aren't all killing all the time is rare.The three Penumbra games and Amnesia make you think while you play and get under the skin right from their beginnings and that overall sense of dread never lets up.

    Granted, we're also in a time where too many gamers want spoon-fed, hand-holding experiences and sometimes this hurts innovation. One of the best horror games on the Wii in terms of story and art direction was Cursed Mountain, but it died at retail because people went in expecting a complete Resident Evil clone. I was one of the few reviewers that "got" the game and I ended up grabbing the PC version just because I liked the original so much.

    Back on topic - I know it's early, but I'm hoping we see your games on a disc as well as download, as I think serving as many people who want to play these games as possible is better than shutting out those who don't have broadband access (or have to drop their accounts for a bit due to the economy to save a little money) but still want to play a good game from time to time.

    Best of Luck!

    g.

    P.S. Maybe a FIEND remake, but in 3D?

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  11. I'm actually glad to hear that the next game won't be so terrifying. I was a huge fan of Penumbra and pre-ordered Amnesia, but it took me months to finish the game as it just scared the hell out of me. I ended up doing it with a friend watching me play as him making fun of my terrified girl screams took the edge off.

    Definitely a big fan though. I'll be buying anything you guys do at release until you stop making games.

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  12. Will there be amnesia source code? Pretty Please? XD
    I am planning to make one crazy ass mod :D

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  13. Well that is cool about hearing you will make games for the PS3 & 360. I want to know would that include the PSVita too? Because I think it would be great to play Frictional Games on a powerful handheld like the Vita.

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  14. I want to say thanks for making Amnesia one of the best games I have played in my life, I highly recommended it to all my friends. i played through the main story about 3 times the first was obviously like any other first time very scary the story was awesome and drove me to want more.

    The second play through I listened to the commentary for the game, all I have to say is it was great I really wish games did this more often, while I wasn't as scared because it was second play through I also had the FG guys talking to me through out the game. Knowing with what little you worked with to make Amnesia, the only thing I could think of was what you're next game will be like with more funds behind it, feels like you guys really put you're heart and soul into everything.

    As for 3rd play through I did a speed run still quite scary ;p

    DLC was amazing whole game is amazing FG is amazing thanks for the great games you put out!

    -Nox

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  15. If you're making the next game for consoles, I guess that will mean you have to abandon the mouse-driven control of doors and objects? I can't see how the control method in Penumbra and Amnesia would work on consoles.

    It would be a shame if you do abandon that. I love the intimate interaction with the environment in your games.

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  16. So I'm in the usual 15% GNU/Linux users, and specifically in the pre-order wave.
    I'm glad I supported you, even though my computer is not powerful enough to play Amnesia correctly. I believe in your work and if you next title is as good as Penumbra and Amnesia I'l lcertainly have to think about upgrading my hardware.

    I'm whishing you the best for your next project and the current sale of your games.

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  17. Congratulations! loved amnesia and a friend bought penumbra and i played it over there and loved that too (will be buying soon)!

    can't wait for your next game. make sure we get to pre-order on steam!

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  18. Amnesia is one of the best horror-games I have played, so please keep the scary-part! I think most of the people like that about the game..

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  19. Check out this cool fan blog :D
    Amazing, people cosplaying Daniel, creating fan art, videos and all.

    BTW: How they even know what Daniel is supposed to look like?
    Is there a Daniel concept art? What?
    http://fuckyeahamnesia.tumblr.com/

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  20. I can't wait for your next game!

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  21. I'm sad to hear you're moving away from horror by any degree, but I eagerly await future titles from frictional regardless. Thanks for the update!

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  22. Amnesia took me a month to finish, because it is a game made of pure evil. Primal, disgusting, pissed-off, baby-eating evil.But honestly? I fucking loved the experience. It is very rare for a game to have this kind of effect on the player, and this characteristic was what helped building Amnesia's intrisic uniqueness.

    Best of luck, but I wish you would release at least one more game in the constipation-aid genre. By the way, I am one of those who bought Penumbra because of Amnesia. Both games rock, but Penumbra's atmosphere seems to grow weaker as you approach the ending, while Amnesia descends into despair so convincingly that even when you are not scared (5% of the time) the game still makes you feel disgusted and depressive.

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  23. Frictional games, thank you for all the support, and a great game.

    Yours truly,
    EVIL

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  24. Congratulations! :D

    I'm kind of sad to hear that Penumbra's sales didn't go up with Amnesia's popularity, though..................

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  25. actually more than enough to cover all salaries and operational costs for each month, which is a situation we still have not really gotten used to. Another interesting fact is that monthly sales have actually increased

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  26. I loved Penumbra. Bought 'em on Steam. Sorry I couldn't do more. Trust your heart.

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  27. I'm really glad that Amnesia went so well for you guys.

    I actually owned all the Penumbra games for quite a while prior to Amnesia, but never really felt inclined to play them until I caught the first gameplay trailer for Amnesia and realised just how good you guys were at horror. I immediately pre-ordered Amnesia and set about playing through Penumbra.

    After finishing Amnesia I also went and gifted it to three of my friends at full price, because you guys damn-well deserve it. You are one of a scant handful of developers that I trust to deliver a solid game sight unseen. You've definitely put every big studio to shame in every regard (except maybe the development budget? :D) Honestly, I could harp on for pages about how good Amnesia is, but I'll save everyone by not doing so.

    Especially if you do decide to keep designing games around the PC first and foremost, you guys will always get my money.

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  28. Nice to hear everything is fine. I'm surprised that 400k copies is so good for you, but I guess that's the charm of small studios.

    By the way, be careful with Microsoft, they are teh evil, they will try to suck your soul if you release for the Xbox 360. Someone has read this?

    http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2011-08-24-why-microsoft-wont-publish-psn-firsts

    There you have a proof that developing for Xbox 360 can be very damaging for the PC version. Please, keep your independence.

    Good luck for your next game, I'm sure it's going to be great comming for you! (fingers crossed for it to be more open-world, less closed-sections-separated-by-loading-screens type)

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  29. What? You cant just, put the download out there, and have nothing to do with Microsoft? Who cares what they say - a program is a program. Or there's some legal mumbo-jumbo?

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  30. Thank you for Linux client!
    It is good to see that more and more serious game developers are releasing multi-platform clients for their games.
    And there is some serious market for it, so why not :)

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  31. I am one of those who bought Penumbra because of Amnesia. Both games rock, but Penumbra's atmosphere seems to grow weaker as you approach the ending, while Amnesia descends into despair so convincingly

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  32. I too bought Penumbra after buying Amnesia, and loved both of them. I remember way back when I was playing Fiend, it's amazing how much has been accomplished since then.

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  33. I'm really happy for you guys, enjoy ! Can't wait for your next game :-)

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  34. @Anonymous
    There is a bunch of legal "mumbo jumbo" involved with the consoles, which is unfortunate.

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  35. QUOTE: "Another goal for us is to get past having classical puzzles that break the flow, but without making the game into a spoon-fed type of experience."

    What's wrong with classical puzzles? I miss puzzles greatly in "modern" mainstream games. I loved Amnesia, how it brought back the exploration and puzzle solving to modern games, without feeling "old" or "dated". On the contrary, all the physics stuff was purely great and exctiting, done mostly in a quite organic manner.

    Why indie developers that start go get some notoriety usually come up with this kind of talk? Puzzles and braiteasers done right do not "break" any flow. Please don't loose your soul in the way of getting bigger Frictional.

    I'm sightly worried about next Frictional game now.

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  36. @Eder RM:
    They don't wanna go down the path the mainstream games take; they just want to take it to the next level, they want puzzles that are more a part of the world, and not necessarily obvious as puzzle-sections to the player.

    Take Amnesia's trap door puzzle, with the (huge, obvious) stick jammed in the pulley, preventing the rope from lifting it: it's not very well thought of, and it's obviously there just to hinder your progress.
    Somehow, u could try and explain it, by saying that someone/something put it there for some reason... but that somehow doesn't seem convincing.
    So, it's kinda a bad puzzle.
    So, is for example, the one where u cant lover the ladder because there's a god damn pipe sticking out right beneath it?!
    So obviously contrived...

    But, remember when, in the sewers, there is a monster right at your path, and you have to distract it in order to pass? That one is simple, but makes perfect sense.
    Or when you have to hide in the closet, so that the monster doesn't get you.
    I think they want to extend this kind of quality to more complex puzzles as well.

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  37. Congratulations you guys! (Eller grattis hehe, stolt över att vara svensk ju!) I Loved Amnesia sooo much, finished it today, and now I'm quite sad that it's over. It doesn't seem like you're going to make a sequel, but please do make one! It doesn't have to be right now, but sometime! Love you guys so much.

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  38. Congratulations! This monster is scary even with this funny hat and cake.

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  39. I am kinda bummed that you guys want to move away from the horror aspect a bit and move on to more puzzle oriented gameplay, tbh Overture was the only heavily puzzle oriented game you guys did and it was also the only game I didn't like from you guys. If that game was any indication, then you guys aren't remotely as made out to puzzle/Quest oriented games as you are for horror games.

    Why try to neglect your biggest talent (creating atmosphere and horror feeling, I have never been frigthened more by playing a GAME) and try to go for a more puzzlish route, unless of course it's from a financial standpoint which would be understandable.

    I'm just saying that there's tons of adventures out there with heavy focus on intelligent puzzles much better than you could probably ever hope for since the puzzles weren't the main draw of the games you made. None of these games has the emersing atmosphere of Penumbra 1,2 and Amnesia and that's why Amnesia is my favourite Adventure/Horror game.

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  40. Edit: Meant Requiem

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  41. Anonymous:
    We are definitively not moving toward more puzzle game play. Horror will not be a main focus, but a focus on an atmospheric, adventure-like experience. We are actually moving more away from puzzles than in any game we have released in order to put more force into flow of a player conducted narrative (if that description makes sense :) )

    I promise you, we are not making another Requiem ;)

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  42. Hi geniuses. Really impressed with what you've done with Amnesia, so much so that I've done a recommendation article over at http://thefictionengine.com/2011/09/amnesia-2/
    Dark Descent is a leap in story-based gaming development as far as I'm concerned.

    Keep it coming!
    Edwin

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  43. @ Thomas:

    First off I'd like to thank you for taking your time and responding to my very critical post, I didn't expect it but it shows that you are open to critique and your argumentations are actually very pleasing if that's the route you really want to take. I'm sorry to have slandered Requiem, but I really didn't enjoy it and was scared you want to take that route again.

    I have no problem whatsoever with that progression type actually! If you can make your puzzles more storyline-related and realistic I can only imagine that it will help create EVEN more atmosphere than Amnesia and the first two penumbras, if that is even possible.

    As a huge fan of that horror-oriented, more emotionally than intellectually (aka puzzle) based style (I actually only like horror adventures, no normal classic or point and click ones so that should help explain my point). The depth of the storyline still makes the Amnesia and Penumbra more deep to me as a game overall, most games regardless of genre don't have as many details, flow, presentation and especially credibillity of your storylines while it's still kept logical and simple to follow.

    And like I said, I don't even count most horror games as legit horror games ala Left 4 Dead, Dead Space and Dead Island, those are just fun shooters with zombies instead of terrorists, nazis or aliens. I get more of a horror feeling from facing Barcelona and having Ibrahimovic run with the ball 20 meteres away from my goal at world class level on PES than shooting monsters in those games.

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  44. Amnesia impressed me A LOT. For me, it's among the best among horror oriented games. It seems your sales were good.

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  45. "I promise you, we are not making another Requiem ;)"

    Is that supposed to be a positive thing ??
    Then again, cant fight the big money, have to eat every day, and if that requires to make stupid games where nothing "breaks the flow" - i guess there's not much choice.

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  46. Hello I'm a fan of your games. You can name the approximate time, when will your next game?

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  47. So is your next game going to step away from the same tired straight-outta-Providence Lovecraft cliches that's been in every game you've ever made since that top-down one you did ages ago? Let me know so I know whether to skip it or not.

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  48. Regarding Lovecraft:
    Yeah, we are also a bit tired doing the lovecraft-dance all the time. While I am sure you can find the lovecraftian influences if you look closely (as you can do in anything horror-related since the last 60 years), it will not nearly be as evident as before.

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  49. I would not have bought Penumbra had I not picked up on a played amnesia. That's just me tho...

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  50. "I promise you, we are not making another Requiem ;)"

    Is that supposed to be a positive thing ??
    Then again, cant fight the big money, have to eat every day, and if that requires to make stupid games where nothing "breaks the flow" - i guess there's not much choice.

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  51. I am kinda bummed that you guys want to move away from the horror aspect a bit and move on to more puzzle oriented gameplay, tbh Overture was the only heavily puzzle oriented game you guys did and it was also the only game I didn't like from you guys. If that game was any indication, then you guys aren't remotely as made out to puzzle/Quest oriented games as you are for horror games.

    Why try to neglect your biggest talent (creating atmosphere and horror feeling, I have never been frigthened more by playing a GAME) and try to go for a more puzzlish route, unless of course it's from a financial standpoint which would be understandable.

    I'm just saying that there's tons of adventures out there with heavy focus on intelligent puzzles much better than you could probably ever hope for since the puzzles weren't the main draw of the games you made. None of these games has the emersing atmosphere of Penumbra 1,2 and Amnesia and that's why Amnesia is my favourite Adventure/Horror game.

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  52. So is your next game going to step away from the same tired straight-outta-Providence Lovecraft cliches that's been in every game you've ever made since that top-down one you did ages ago? Let me know so I know whether to skip it or not.

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  53. MORE WE WANT MORE! WILL PAY $60!

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  54. If you make a less horror game than AMnesia can you at least release more DLC's for Amnesia to still feed the Horror freaks..I will pay for it :) ..DLC not an entirely new game.

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  55. So will your next game still support Linux? Even though the share is kinda low, I would love to see a Linux version!

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  56. I am so excited about your next game! I first bought the penumbra series, played through each one. I was very impressed with what you did with physics in those games. I loved the story in penumbra and atmosphere. I heard about amnesia and played through it and again, I LOVED the story. It was just amazing! I have to admit that Amnesia is my favorite scary game of all time. I always felt alone even if someone was there. I felt terrified the whole entire time I was playing even if there were no monsters around because I never knew what was around the corner for me. The puzzle were very clever and very story driven which always made me feel immersed in the game. I love Frictional Game's style and I am definitely going to be pre-ordering any new games you guys release. BEST of luck to you and may your next game be an even bigger success!

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  57. YES CONSOLES PLEASE. Sorry, I got excited. Seriously, though, I can't afford a new computer just to be able to run this one game (I don't normally game on the computer at all, but this game is phenomenal). I'd love to be able to play it on my Wii though.

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  58. This is my favorite part of the note: "Our current thinking is to make the console get a lower end version and make sure console specs influence the PC version as little as possible."

    ^_^

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  59. I'm greatly looking forward to the next frictional game because I like the game designer behind it Thomas my man you are one of a kind and you should have all the fame you deserve and the money you get make the next game the best adventure atmosphere experience ever! fuck horror for now it was great while it lastest I'm all up for something totally different I'm all about it go for it! you rock I will be buying it

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  60. I was thinking that a good Frictional horror/scary game should have you as a detective (mid 1800s) looking into a grizzly murder case. Would be interesting.

    But as for your upcoming game, i think it sounds interesting. But the horror and fear that Amnesia put on it's players should still remain the same/close to. The lovecraftian horror is the best kind, you should use it some more!

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  61. thanks for the info!

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