After more than two weeks of teasing, we are happy to properly announce our new game: SOMA. It is a sci-fi horror game played from a first person perspective with the goal to deliver a truly disturbing experience. Having worked on this project for over three years now, it is really nice to finally reveal it to the world!
The game will be released for PS4 and PC, and it will be out some time in 2015.
Here is the official reveal trailer featuring some gameplay:
Making The Trailer
While the footage above is unedited gameplay footage (I played through and recorded it myself), it is not from an actual game level. Just like with our Amnesia teaser video, it is a custom made map that is meant to show off the general feel and tone of the game over a four minute long trailer. This means that it is not an exact representation of how the game is actually played. It gives a pretty good idea of how the gameplay works though.
Coming up with the idea for this trailer was quite hard. We knew from the start that we wanted to have it as recorded gameplay. It was crucial that it showed that SOMA will allow you to play through its central themes. The subject matters of the game are not some kind of wrapper, they are an integral part of the gameplay. So having a trailer entirely made out of uncut gameplay felt like the best way to show this.
With Amnesia doing this sort of thing was fairly simple as the core ingredient was the player running and hiding from monsters. In SOMA it is much more complex. While the game also has its share of monsters, hiding and stuff like that, it is not what makes the game special. What sets SOMA apart is that it gives a first person account of some deep and really disturbing ideas regarding the self, mind and consciousness. These are things that we take a lot of time to build up in the actual game, so showing it off in a few minutes is quite difficult.
Our first idea was to use a lot of dialog to get this across, but that did not feel right. The player will be be an active participant, and do not sit by passively listening to characters having discussions. So instead we approached the themes in a very direct and visceral manner.
A final aspect of making the trailer was not to have too many spoilers. Because of this, the video does not star the protagonist from the actual game, but a totally different (and minor) character. The events that occur in the trailer are not taken directly from the game either. They just showcase the kind of happenings one can expect from the final game. This means that we can give a good overview of what the game is about, without spoiling the actual game experience. But don't worry, the things in the video are very much related to the game's story. Everything you see are hints of things to come.
Live Action Videos
Another big part of the reveal for our game was the release some creepy and mysterious teaser material. You can see texts and films here:
First I guess I have to settle the big debate: Are these inspired by SCP? And, yes they are! That was actually the pitch for the whole thing: "Let's have some SCP-like texts on the website to give out spooky and fragmented info before the final trailer is released.". The game itself is however not very close to the SCP-style at all. There are some SCP inspiration in SOMA for sure, but it is a lot more subtle and has to do with how we think about monsters and artifacts. They play a larger role now, the foreboding is much deeper and there is a bigger connection with them and the central themes in the game. Actually, a lot of the SOMA's themes are directly expressed through interactions with enemies, an idea that stems from SCP.
Enough SCP, let's move on to the actual teaser texts and films. At first the teasers had a much weaker production values. The idea was just to use plain text and perhaps a few images. As Mikael wrote these he suggested that we might add sounds to them, e.g. a recorded interview, and that felt like a good idea. But that was as far as we thought about going.
When discussing a release trailer for Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs, we came upon Imagos Films and decided to give them a go. Jens contacted them about making a trailer, and they were really excited about it. They even agreed to having a meeting in the middle of the night in order to fit our schedule. Some quick drafts were made for a trailer, but because of various issues, it all fell through in the end. We felt bad about this and promised they would be our first choice when needing some other video material.
A few days after Mikael suggested having voices for the texts, it hit me that we could perhaps use Imagos Films to do some simple clips instead. We mailed them and they said they were up for it, so Mikael converted the transcribed audio from the documents to film scripts and then we set the ball rolling. I did not really expect much from the films, but after seeing the first few WIP shots and production designs, I knew that it could actually turn out really cool. But the end result turned out even better, and it blew my (and everyone else's at FG) mind.
It has to be mentioned how quickly these films were put together. The first script drafts + instructions were sent on the 2nd of september. This meant they had a less than a month to produce the first movie. Then another movie needed to be done a week after that. Given the amount steps needed to go from script to final film, this is insanely fast.
Will there be more movies? We would really like that to happen, but nothing is set yet. Stay tuned for more news regarding that!
This reveal has been quite a lot of hard work and there have been way more things to deal with than I first thought. Worst must have been the major server failures that we had on the days before the first teaser would go live. This turned out to be because of a DDoS attack and took quite a while to fix (Jens had to come out of a parental leave to work on it). We had to put off the whole first reveal for a day because of this. It was quite embarrassing, as people wondered what the hell happened and we had to reschedule a bunch of other stuff connected to the reveal (like the PlayStation Europe twitter).
And then of course the final trailer reveal had to be problematic too. Early on the day before reveal (as of writing, yesterday) Tapio, external sound person, had finished editing the trailer, all of David's, external art person, animations were in and all sound was synced and nice. However, as he exported the final version the quality was crap. I had hoped to have a calm day and just code stuff but instead I had to help Tapio search for the error, trying to convert files better, etc. Nothing worked. On top of this, our ftp servers were really slow and sending files took a long time and was a general pain. Eventually, I had to re-edit the entire trailer (adding animations, fades and syncing sound) using Windows Movie Maker as quick tests showed the final quality was much better there. At the same time we became aware that we also needed an ESRB logo and had to scavenge the net for a proper one. We were now much later than planned and stress was taking its toll. After many grueling hours we finally got it working though. Only to find out the next morning (day of the reveal) that the damn ESRB logo was not shown long enough, so more editing, exporting and uploaded were needed.
In the end it worked out fine though and the whole reveal has been very successful. (As I am writing this we have not seen any reactions to the final video, so I am hoping those are good .. :) )
Now it is time to go back full time on work for the actual game. We are all incredibly excited about SOMA and hope that these 2+ weeks of teasing and reveal have gotten you all interested aswell.
And do not worry, between now and the 2015 release there will be a lot more unsettling stuff revealed!
Want to end with some links to the non-Frictional people that helped this reveal happen:
The makers of the two live action teaser films.
The coder of our teaser site.
Made gameplay trailer animations, SOMA and FG logo, website graphics and some teasing images.
Made all the sound work for the gameplay teaser.
Who sent out PR and nagged various publications. Jens, who normally does this, has been on parental leave and I would have gone mad if I were to do all that too....
Made trailer-specific animations for the corpse and monster encounter.