Tuesday, 15 October 2019

9 Years, 9 Lessons on Horror

By Thomas Grip
Edited by Kira

It has now been over 9 years since we released Amnesia: The Dark Descent. That is a bloody long time, and feels like we should celebrate that by talking about the craft of horror games.

Horror games are quite a different beast when it comes to the game industry at large. Most other genres revolve around what the player does. In a turn-based strategy you take turns doing strategy:

Into the Breach

 In a first-person shooter you shoot things from a first-person perspective:

Doom

In a Match 3 game you match three thingies:

Candy Crush: Soda


In a horror game, the activity is not at all as important. What is important is that the experience is a spooky one. This makes designing horror games different from designing within other genres. Many times the standard industry tricks just won’t work, which makes one think about game design in a different light.

In the past 9 years we have learned a great deal about horror games, and to celebrate the occasion, I wanted to share 9 lessons we have learned over the years.

That being said, I don’t see these lessons as only useful for horror games. There’s quite a bit of overlap with other genres, especially any games that aim for a narrative-heavy experience.

And finally – this is by no means an exhaustive list. Still, the lessons here are at the core of the craft of making scary video games.


Lesson 1: Horror is not enjoyable

The basic emotion of horror is not a pleasant one – yet people play horror games wanting to experience horror. This is the paradox of horror as entertainment. This paradox requires game developers to be careful in how they deliver the experience to the player.

You could draw an analogy between horror games and rollercoasters. The basic purpose of a rollercoaster is to simulate the sensation of falling. Under controlled circumstances the experience of falling is thrilling and fun (at least for a good portion of people). But if you put someone in a barrel and push them down a cliff, chances are they will not find the experience fun at all. Even if they survive unscathed, the whole ordeal would be a horrible experience.

The same is true for horror games. If you have a game that only relies on jumpscares – figuratively throwing people off a cliff in a barrel – few people will consider that fun. This became apparent in certain maps in Penumbra. We thought it would be good enough for a scary gameplay section to have a maze and some monsters. Instead of becoming mazes of fear, they instead became mostly... annoying. Amnesia: The Dark Descent had similar issues towards the end, where the monster encounters were just that, not supported by any other aspects. At that point the game no longer felt as entertaining.

Well this is a familiar face.


Lesson 2: Players are working against you

For a horror game developer, the worst enemy is… the players. Seriously, if we could sit around and make games without having to worry about what the players will do and think when playing the game, life would be so much simpler!

As mentioned before, being scared is not a pleasant feeling. Therefore the players will try to optimize the feeling away, often unconsciously. In the end, the players will ruin the intended experience for themselves.

Take the demon dogs from our first game, Penumbra: Overture. The game takes a bunch of time to build them up as creepy monsters that stalk the dark mines. However their AI has some weaknesses that some people are very quick to catch. Hence the dogs become easy to defeat, and are no longer scary.

Can't get me. I'm on a box.

And the crazy thing is that the players complain when this happens! They probe the system for flaws and choose to exploit them, yet want the dogs to remain scary. So their behaviour ends up going against their will.

Some games solve issues of player exploitation simply by making the enemies extremely hard (think Dark Souls): they make sure the monsters are just as hard to beat as they look scary. Another approach is to instead skip much of the gameplay (think Dear Esther): if there are no mechanics, there’s nothing for the player to exploit – problem solved, right?

I don’t think either of these solutions is optimal. Instead I think one should aim for a third route: making the players think about actions in a more narrative fashion. More about that later!


Lesson 3: Scares alone won’t make a horror game

Horror is like a spice that defines a dish. You cannot do without it, but you can’t cook a dish solely out of spices either. That would be just gross.

As an example, let’s take three horror movies I consider to be at the top of their genre: Alien, The Exorcist and Ringu. All three movies deal with very different subjects, have different styles, and are overall different from one another. But there is one thing they have in common: they all have very few scares in them!

Instead each movie is mostly about the characters, the discussions, the anticipation of the horror – building up the atmosphere and the dread of things to come. Very little time is spent actually facing the horror.

Let’s get back to our roller coaster analogy. When you think about it, the actual roller coaster ride lasts a very short time. Most of the time is spent doing things like buying a ticket, standing in line, and hearing other people scream. All these actions are not superfluous extras – they build up for the actual ride, and are crucial to the overall experience.

When we first made the study section of Amnesia: The Dark Descent, we implemented a ton of jumpscares. Books fell down from shelves, doors banged, pianos started playing and so forth. But as the map became more complete, it felt like something was off. So we reduces the scares to just a couple, and instead focused on letting the player learn the castle’s mysteries. At first we were afraid this would make the level too boring – but as it turns out, spacing the scares apart made players much more scared than previously.

In horror, less is often more.


Lesson 4: Fun gameplay is just too… fun

In a horror game more than any other, the players go in expecting to have a bad time. And as designers we want them to feel anxiety, despair, and a whole array of negative emotions. But gameplay – because it’s so damn engaging – tends to counteract all these juicy emotions.

Let’s use Dead Space as an example. When I started playing it, I was really scared, walking around slowly and peeking around every corner. Then, about an hour in, I learned how to kill the monsters, and what tricks I needed to survive.

Dead Space 2 promo art
All of the fun, none of the horror!

Not only did I get good at killing the monsters, I thought it was great fun! The things that used to terrify me now became a source of amusement. Instead of dreading the monster sounds they now made me excited – oh great, another necromorph to dismember!

So where did the fear go? It was simply overshadowed by the rewarding gameplay.

Us humans tend to have this thing called attention, and we only have a limited amount of it. If the game is constantly engaging the player with thinking about their aim, checking ammo, and looking for loot, there’s no room left for much else. In other words, the players’ brain will lack resources to frighten themselves.

The early designs of Amnesia: The Dark Descent included genre-typical weapons, and even guns. We also experimented with very elaborate puzzle set-ups, everything from swinging chandeliers to redirecting rays of light. All these caused the same issues as Dead Space. They were too fun, and took attention away from what mattered: getting scared.

Eventually we decided to reduce the “fun” elements the gameplay had – and it paid off.

We saw this very clearly when watching Let’s Plays of the Amnesia games. Since players didn’t have things like combat to pay attention to, they reacted to things they might not have even noticed in other games. A vague sound, almost like a footstep, was suddenly a reason to look for the nearest cupboard to hide in. Had the players minds been filled with thoughts of loot boxes, they would have never reacted like this.


Lesson 5: Narrative is a core element in good horror

So if engaging gameplay can be counteractive to the horror, and you need to be careful with the scares, what do you fill a horror game with?

While no silver bullet, narrative is a big part of the equation.

By building up a narrative, us game designers can make game worlds bigger and more intricate than they actually are in-game. We can prime the player into doing a lot of the scaring for themselves.

In order to explain this, let’s take a random image let’s take a random image of a quaint town:

Aww, I wanna go there. :)

This feels like a great place for an evening stroll, right?

Now let’s give this image some backstory. Put on some spooky music, like the Amnesia soundtrack, and read the following:

It has been two weeks since a huge storm cut the town from the rest of the world. All means of communication are down.
Today, our emergency services received a call – it just started out as static, a joke that kids would play, but then the screaming started. The screaming of people, then an otherworldly roar, nothing a man nor beast on Earth could make. I had to find out what happened to these people up the serpentine road from us. 
I am now here, yet no one else seems to be. It’s like everyone vanished. But as the cold sun sets down over the mountain, I get a sense of unease…

...And now look at the picture again.

The worst monster of all is leaving the lights you've been murdered horribly.

Not so cozy anymore, right?

A new context leads to re-interpreting the environment based on this information, and get into a different mindset based on it. While you previously admired the view, you are now scanning it for signs of danger.

A big part of horror takes place inside a player’s head. And by fueling their imagination, we can turn a cozy village into a place of terror and despair.

Looking back on which areas worked in Penumbra, this component became apparent. The most loved environments were those where players could use lore and environmental clues to fantasize what happened… and what could happen. The expansion, Penumbra: Requiem, lacked a lot of this background information. So despite us designing some of our best puzzles and implementing interesting visuals, Requiem was received quite badly. Without a strong narrative component, the players didn’t get the experience they wanted.

Penumbra: Requiem, or as we call it, The Marc Game.


Lesson 6: The world must feel real

In order for a horror narrative to have proper impact, the world it takes place in must be taken seriously by the players. But what does “serious” mean? Grey and brown tones with no cartoonish elements? Not quite.

Let’s draw a parallel between real and imagined worlds. If you suffer from nightmares, there’s a trick to that: make a habit out of knocking on walls, tables, or whatever is closest to you. Eventually you will start doing the same when you’re asleep. However, when you knock on walls or a table in a dream, your hand is likely to go through the surface – that’s how you’ll know you are in a dream, and no longer need to be afraid of the world around you.

Making horror games is basically a business of creating nightmares. But it’s hard to be successful when you have a bunch of players (those damn players again!) constantly doing the equivalent of “knocking on surfaces”, simply by playing the game. As soon as they discover some sort of glitch the immersion of a terrifying world breaks, and it takes a long time to build it back up again.

Let’s look at an example from Penumbra again. In Penumbra we want the players to imagine that the demon dogs are “real”, implying all the traits (demon) dogs possess. So, we want players to be worried about encountering a dog, and hiding from it. However, some players “knocked on surfaces” by messing around with the environments, and figured out that the dogs can’t reach you if you camp on top of a box. So, whereas a real dog could jump up on the box and chomp the player up, the AI dog cannot. Therefore the fantasy of dogs as “real” is lost, and the game loses a bunch of its scariness.

The intended reaction when encountering a demon dog

Because of this effect, game developers have to be careful about how they construct environments, and what tools they give to the player. There should be enough things to do to make the place feel real. But not so many as to aid players in breaking the illusion.


Lesson 7: Keep it vague

You know creepypasta and scary photos you can find on the internet? Almost always the thing that makes them scary is that they leave a lot to the imagination. Seeing a silhouette and glowing eyes out in the corner of a photo feels threatening. A close-up glamour photo of the same monster does not.

AAH! What IS that?

Oh, just our good friend Terry bringing us a gift. (by ThiccBoiMyers on Discord)

As mentioned before, much of the horror comes from simply not being sure what the hell you’re looking at. It’s when there is a gap in our knowledge, a certain amount of uncertainty, that horror can really shine. This is especially true when you combine it with some sort of danger element.

It is quite common in games to make sure the player understands the systems in place as clearly as possible. This often results in some really daunting tutorials. Of course for some games, like fighting games, it’s important to have in-depth knowledge about the systems to be able to optimise the game. In horror games we actually want the opposite!

A vague and uncertain game system is like a creepy photo. You can make out enough to get an idea of what’s going on, but there’s still room for the imagination to go wild. Let’s use the health meter in Resident Evil as an example. Internally it is an analog property, a decimal number from 0 to some value, but the player will only ever know that it has “three” states. This strikes a great balance between giving information and being vague, and helps crank up the tension.

The sanity system in Amnesia: The Dark Descent is similarly vague. You know scary things – whatever those are – lower your sanity, and bad things – whatever those are – will happen if it drops too low, so you don’t want to risk it.

This was not always the case. We started out with a pretty straightforward gameplay system, hoping players would play along with it. However, people either game it or got frustrated by it. When we tweaked it so it was much less clear how it worked, it sparked player’s imaginations and it was much more enjoyable.

Alex isn't looking so good.


Lesson 8: Players need a role

All stories are driven by the characters that are contained within it, and how a plot plays out is determined by the characteristics of these characters. Just imagine how different Jurassic Park would be if the annoying lawyer guy was replaced by Judge Dredd! So, in order to get the most of any narrative, it is crucial to establish roles.

Games are no different. The role that a player inhabits will determine what actions they have at their disposal, what their goals ore, and so forth. Knowing the character is a vital component in order for the player to be an active part of the story.

Yet this is one of those components that many horror games forget. You are often thrust into a story as some generic character. Often the thought behind this is that the player would “play as themselves”, but this is not how any narrative really works. In order to properly parse a story situation, you need to understand what kind of person is dealing with it.

Say that you come across a corpse. You are playing as Sherlock Holmes, a corpse means a case! You will want to search for clues and try to solve the mystery of how this person died.

Now imagine you’re playing as a flesh-eating ghoul. Now the same corpse is suddenly dinner - yum!

An alternate universe where Daniel is turned into a ghoul. Bon appetit!

In most areas, horror games are well beyond your average game in terms of narrative. But for some reason, a large portion of horror games just fail to set the player role properly. It’s strange, relying on a narrative backbone, yet losing so much of the atmosphere by not defining the player role.

Another big reason for defining roles is that it can help with some of the issues addressed earlier. For instance, it can limit the number of actions the player feels is rational to take. For example Penumbra’s protagonist Philip is a physics teacher, so while he could perhaps fight some demon dogs, it would be more logical to run and hide from aggressive humanoids.

This lesson we clearly learned in SOMA. At first we thought about having a non-speaking Simon with very little character. However, this made player distance themselves from the events. Things got a lot more personal when they played as a character who was reacting to what was happening. While players previously wouldn’t ponder the strange events in-depth, Simon pushing them in the right direction it worked much better.


Lesson 9: Agency is crucial

When I talk about agency, I’m not talking about the CIA. What I mean is agency of the free will kind. A game that has a lot of agency lets the players make decisions and feel like an active part of the narrative.

This is closely tied to the previous lesson. Not only do we want to give players a role, we also want them to own that role. They need to feel like they really inhabit the character they are supposed to play. A game can achieve a lot by combining agency with keeping things vague – and letting players decide to take uncertain decisions.

Say that you are faced with a dark tunnel – dark tunnels are pretty scary!

Now imagine that the game explicitly tells you that your goal lies beyond the tunnel. There’s no choice, you gotta go in. And if the game forces you do something, it will also make sure you do actually have the means to complete this quest – in this case get to the other side of the tunnel.

What's the worst that could happen? :)

But what if entering this dark tunnel was voluntary, or at least presented as such? The game vaguely tells you that there might be something important there – but you don’t know, and might also be a certain death. All of a sudden the tunnel feels a lot less safe. By adding agency and making entering the tunnel an uncertain choice, all sorts of doubts pop up in the player’s mind.

There’s also a number of other ways to add agency. Say the player needs to do something unnerving, like Amnesia’s Daniel drilling into a corpse to get blood out. In the game it is clear that there is no other option. Overall reactions to this was not very strong.

Just petting a guy's head while the drill drills a hole in it.

Compare this to similar moments in SOMA, where intended course of action is much less clear. Here players are forced to actually think through what they need to do, and get emotionally involved in the process of it.

While SOMA did do this part better, it also had its shortcomings. In Amnesia: The Dark Descent, the game was divided into hub maps, so there was no one path or right order to do things. These choices increased anxiety. Whereas maps in SOMA were way more streamlined, and we noticed a considerable drop in scariness due to this.


In closing

And them’s the rules! As said before, these are not the only ones, but I believe these come out on top when listing the most important ones. You could also go into them with a lot more depth, but I wanted to keep this blog concise. A lot of my previous blogs in the design tag dive deeper into related subjects.

Finally, I want to close by saying that, because of all these special requirements for horror games, I don’t think you can approach them like other games. Instead of “finding the fun” and iteratively building upon that, horror game design needs to start with some strong principles.

When designing a horror game, you want to hone into what you’ve chosen as your core principles, be it atmosphere, theme, or something else. Then, as you progress in development, you don’t want to evaluate the game on how “fun” or “nice” it is to play – but in how well it fulfills its set core principles. And a cornerstone for being able to do that evaluation is to keep the above lessons in mind.

This in itself is a huge topic of its own, and will need to be dealt with in some future post. Stay tuned for more!


Friday, 4 October 2019

Winner Showcase of Frictional Fan Jam 2019

The autumn is getting cold, but our hearts have been warmed by the participation in the Frictional Fan Jam 2019! We would like to extend an equally warm "thank you" to everyone who participated. The outpour of love and creativity has been overwhelming!

We have now gone through the entries, voted among the Frictional Games staff and the Discord Moderator team, and picked the winners - as well as a few special mentions! The entries were divided into Mods/Games, Fanart, Fanfiction, and Other, and one or more winners were picked of each category.

As promised, the winners will receive a few physical goodies, a mention in our video, as well as keys for the upcoming game. People who got special mentions will receive keys! We will be in contact with these people next week.

This is enough bureaucratic talk: please behold our winners! The winners of each category will be showcased in the video below, or you can read about the entries under the video. All entries can be seen on our the Fan Jam Showcase on our Discord server.





Mods/Games


SOMA: The Fall of Freedom
by Rubyes

The Fall of Freedom takes us on one Pathos-II employee's journey through the now-infested station. Unlike the mods, this game is made in Unity and uses a minimalist yet efficient pixel style. It's short and (bitter)sweet, with Frictional-type puzzles translated into a 2D environment, and great sound design.


Hollow
by TiMan

Ever wondered how Alexander ended up on Earth? TiMan's Hollow imagines Alexander's story on his home planet, and how his banishment came to be. It has a distinct Amnesia feel despite being made on HPL3, the SOMA engine, and the custom assets make it fun to explore. The puzzles and gameplay have a classic Frictional feel, making it easy to play as a standalone installment.


Special mention:
Amnesia: Decayed History
by Sabatu

Sabatu's Decayed History mod did not fit the requirements of expanding upon one of Frictional's titles, yet we felt that it deserves a special mention. The HPL2 mod is an impressive length considering it was made in three short weeks, and the writing is great despite Sabatu only having studied English for about a year. The protagonist is given a task to find old documents in their childhood home, claiming their right to the house. But things are not quite as they seem...


Art

Castle Brennenburg
by Kripi

Kripi's cutoff of Castle Brennenburg might as well be a professional technical drawing! The longer you look at it, the more details you see, making it an ideal doll house for tiny Daniel, Alexander, and the rest of the residents.


Some things mustn't be forgotten...
by Lou

Some things mustn't be forgotten... and this artwork is one of them! Lou's piece reveals more than you see at first glance - the falling leaves are petals of the Damascus Rose, akin the drops of blood, and a spider looms in the background, tying the characters together.


As the autumn leaves wither away...
by cypii

Hazel, Daniel's sister, has a melancholy story told in the notes of The Dark Descent, and Cypii has captured this mood with lonely composition and muted tones. You don't need to see Hazel's face to know that she is withering away, just as the leaves outside.


Special mention:
SOMAuse
by i3670

I (Kira, your community manager) almost drove my bike into a traffic sign because I got teary-eyed from thinking about this picture. The little mouse in the reflection still has hope in its eyes... and thankfully we don't see the expression on the other side. Dammit, I'm crying again. And that deserves a special mention.


Writing


A Hymn for the Curie
by FrenchRoast

A Hymn for the Curie takes us aboard MS Curie around the time of the comet's destruction. FrenchRoast's version of the events features a cast of believable characters, from the stoic Captain Palander to the empathetic Hopper, whose points of view have you live the events alongside them - have hope, despair, and ultimately perish.

You can read A Hymn for the Curie on French Roast's Drive.


Special mention:
SOMA - Cadiz
by Clyde Cash


Cadiz also tells the survivor story of another team, landing ashore Cadiz - a realistic description of a landscape ravaged by desperate humans before the comet has the chance to strike. The characters have have very human musings about the imminent destruction. The story starts a bit slowly, but the end had us in tears.

Unfortunately this piece of writing didn't have a link, but you can find it on our Discord server.

Other

Untitled Song
by Tosha
   

Themes can be hard to portray through music alone, but we truly felt the cold winds of autumn in the Untitled Song by Tosha. It plays on the themes of Amnesia: The Dark Descent's soundtrack, but delivers an original composition.

Thank you once again for participating and cheering others on! We hope to see you back for another Fan Jam in the future.

PS. We played the mod entries and read some fanfiction during a stream. You can find the video in our Twitch archive!


Thursday, 12 September 2019

Releasing on Nintendo Switch: Unattainable dream to reality

By Thomas Grip, Creative director

This is one of my earliest memories. Eons ago, when I was about 5, my dad took me with him to his work, a department store. He then proceeded to dump me in the electronics department.

Nowadays you can find game test booths everywhere, but back in the day this was definitely not the case. Instead every single item was locked inside a glass cupboard. Usually these cupboards remained locked unless you bought something… but that day was different. Tony, my dad’s co-worker, let me try out a game.

As I trembled with the excitement of a 5-year-old boy, he jangled his keys, and took out the showcase version of a grey box called the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Ice Climber for the NES was my first video game experience, and from that moment I was hooked.

Since that watershed moment, Nintendo games have always had a special place in my heart. Super Mario, Zelda, Mega Man, Battle Toads, Blaster Master and many others were all a part of my childhood magic. The plastic feel of the controller, the chunky cartridges, and instant-booting games still evoke fuzzy feelings in me.

Because of these magical childhood memories, and how video games were perceived back in the day, Nintendo has always had a certain mysterious feel to it – like an enchanted factory in a far-away country, creating games through some sort of wizardry.

When I started making games myself, some 20 years back, I never thought the hobby would evolve into anything bigger. It felt highly unlikely that people would want to buy anything I produced. But, eventually, what started as a hobby turned into a job. That felt so surreal. There I was, with my stupid hobby, except it was suddenly a source of income to me. Game development still felt like that enchanted factory, full of people who knew a lot more than me with tech I couldn’t possibly afford to have. But it was real, as I came to realize over time.

Yet consoles, and especially Nintendo, retained a very illusory feel. While I released my games on Steam and similar stores, the birthplace of my childhood magic felt far off.
That’s why it’s so special to announce the following:

AMNESIA: COLLECTION IS NOW OUT ON THE NINTENDO SWITCH


Finally – Frictional Games has made it to a Nintendo console! What had, for most of my life, felt like a distant and far-fetched dream, has now become reality. Sure, it’s not shipped on one of those fantastic grey cartridges, nor will it have a Nintendo “seal of quality” slapped on top, but I’ll take what I can.

If the 5-year-old me heard about this, he would never believe me.

But this is by no means the end of a journey for me – quite the opposite! It’s thrilling to think just how far the company has come, and it makes me super excited for what the future will hold.


A huge thank you to our friends at BlitWorks for making the port possible, and Evolve PR (with special thanks to Ryan!) for the great trailer!


Friday, 6 September 2019

Frictional Fan Jam 2019


Screenshot courtesy of Newsman Waterpaper and their mod The Streets of London.


#FrictionalFanJam

September is a meaningful month for Frictional Games, as it marks several of our anniversaries. This year on the 8th of September Amnesia: The Dark Descent will be turning 9, on 10th Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs will be 6 years old, and on 22nd SOMA will have been released for 4 years.

Therefore we would like to make this month special by celebrating your community creations. Please join us for Frictional’s Fan Jam of 2019!

We have recently launched an official Discord server, so you are welcome to ask questions, share ideas, and chat with other participants in the #fan_jam channel.

Overview

The goal is to create a new fan work related to one of Frictional’s games: SOMA, Amnesia games and the Penumbra series, or older titles such as Unbirth. You are free to create any transformative work: a mod, fanart and fanfiction, cosplay, or something different like a video or a plushie. The project should be at least loosely related to the given theme.

Since some projects (for example mods) can require more effort than others, you are also welcome to participate in teams.

Please see submission guidelines below!

Theme

Autumn/Decay

Deadline

The event kicks off on Friday the 6th of September. The deadline for submissions is 23:59 UTC on Sunday the 22nd of September. The jury will be going through submissions starting Monday the 23rd.

Prizes

The jury of Frictional Games employees and Frictional Games Discord moderation team will pick the winners of the jam. Jury members can participate in the event, but are disqualified from winning.

The winners will receive a poster of a game of their choosing, signed by the Frictional team members, sent to their home address (teams can decide on one address, max 4 prizes per team). The Frictional Team will also be featuring the works on a video with comments from Thomas and other employees. And finally - upon release of the next game, the winners will receive download codes for the game on an available platform of their choosing.

Contact

The jam is organised by Frictional Game’s community manager Kira together with the moderation team of the official Discord server, proposed and drafted by Draugemalf. The easiest way to contact the organisers is on the Frictional Games Discord server’s #fan_jam channel. The channel can also be used to share ideas with other community members, get feedback and look for team members.

If you don’t have a Discord account, you are also welcome to contact Frictional Games through Twitter or our Contact Form, and we will help you as soon as we can.

Submission guidelines


  • The works must be related to one or more of Frictional’s games (SOMA, Amnesia: TDD, Amnesia: AMFP, Penumbra, and Unbirth, Fiend, Energetic)
  • The works must be at least loosely related to the the thematic of Autumn/Decay
  • The creation must be submitted on 22nd of September the latest
  • The work must be your or your team’s original creation
  • For mods you are free to use assets you can legally use, or have the permission to use from the creators


Submitting your work

You can submit your works through several channels, either by posting an image (for fanart, cosplay and similar) and/or a link (mods, fanfiction and similar).

  • On Discord, you can share the project on the #fan_jam channel. Please make it clear that it's your final version.
  • On Twitter and Tumblr, you should mention @frictionalgames and tag the submission with #FrictionalFanJam.
  • If you don’t have a social media account, please send your submission to team@frictionalgames.com with the title “Frictional Fan Jam”.
  • Due to Instagram and Facebook’s limited searching and tagging tools, we will not be accepting submissions through those platforms.
  • All submissions will be posted by the jury on Discord’s #fan_jam_showcase channel for easier judging.



And that’s it! Go get creative! We’re looking forward to all your great projects!

If you have any questions, just let us know.


Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Hiring: 3D Art Lead



Title: 3D Art Lead
Focus: Pipeline development, 3D modeling
Type: Full-time, permanent
Last day to apply: 8th of September 2019
Location: Sweden, applicants residing in European countries welcome


A door swings open, a dim light beckons you to come step further, pick up the dusty items, give them a long look before venturing forward, the architecture leading you ever deeper. Frictional’s games are filled with intrigue and emotion, the art subtly guiding  the players. To keep up the illusion of a living world, the execution has to be consistent across the board.

This is where you come in.


What will you work on?

We are looking for an experienced 3D Art Lead to join Secret Project #2. This is a senior position, meaning you will have responsibility over foundational elements of the project. You will work closely with other team leads, such as the creative lead and art lead.

Right now Secret Project #2 is in pre-production, which means that you would find yourself working on establishing pipelines and practices for a good workflow.  On the creative side you will be working within the established style of the game – creating art, researching and documenting. The 3D art you would work on include architecture and complicated props, as well as putting everything together into functional and beautiful environments..

Once the project shifts into production, your role will involve more lead work. You will find yourself communicating with other employees and outsourcers, making sure tasks get assigned and done, and giving feedback. Alongside you will still be able to participate in creating art.

As a small team, everyone in the company has a wide variety of responsibilities as well as rights, but we consider that our strength – no day in development will look the same!


What are we looking for?

You have to be a European (EU/EEA) resident to apply. We cannot consider other applicants.

The person we’re looking for is creative, self-motivated, and comfortable in a lead position. We need you to fulfill the essential requirements, but are flexible with how you have acquired your experience.

We welcome applicants regardless of background, situation, sexual orientation, religion, and similar, so don't let anything like that hold you back from applying!

Here are the essential requirements:
  • Knowledge in 3D asset creation pipelines in digital games
  • Being up to date with the latest trends in 3D art tools and techniques
  • Not being afraid to give feedback to coworkers and outsourcers
  • Substance Designer skills in creating procedural textures
  • Ability to adjust artwork based on an established art style
  • Major role in at least one released title (not as a student/intern/trainee)

And here are some more technical skills:
  • Experience with face weighted normals
  • Experience with trim sheets and tiling textures
  • Experience in Medium Poly Modeling
  • Knowledge in Modo, or willingness to learn it as a main 3D modeling tool
  • Some technical art knowledge (you will not have to create anything from scratch, but you should be able to communicate your needs to the programmers, or have suggestions such as saving performance on assets)

If you want to impress us:
  • Experience with character art and/or organic art
  • Knowledge in blendshapes
  • Knowledge in motion capture
  • Experience with scripting tools in Modo
  • Experience with Marvelous Designer
  • Experience in  setting up lighting and doing basic level set dressing
  • Love for hard sci-fi
  • Penchant for bold design

What do we offer?

We at Frictional make games, because making games is what we love. But we know that’s not all there is – there’s also playing games, doing sports, or spending time with loved ones. We believe that a healthy balance between work and life creates positive ripples throughout, which is why we discourage crunch.

We also offer:
  • Variety in tasks
  • Opportunities to influence your workflow and workload
  • Flexible working hours
  • Participation in internal Show & Tell sessions for both projects, meaning giving feedback to and receiving feedback from all members of the projects
  • An inclusive and respectful work environment

We welcome remote applicants from European (EU/EEA, UK) countries. However, you are welcome to join us in our office in Malmö if you live in the area, or would be willing to relocate after the trial period.


Apply!

If all of the above piqued your interest, we would love to hear from you! Send us your application 8th of September 2019 the latest - but the sooner, the better! Please attach your:
  • Cover letter
  • Why should we hire YOU?
  • CV
  • Portfolio (link and/or PDF)
  • Answers to preliminary questions (see below)

Send your application to apply@frictionalgames.com!

Please note that we require all the attachments to consider you.


Preliminary questions

Please provide a document answering the following questions:
  1. When is the earliest you could start working?
  2. Tell us about the daily work you did on your last finished game project.
  3. Name two games you think have high quality 3D art. Explain why.
  4. Imagine you are in charge of the 3D art pipeline for a new sci-fi game. Name the top 3 things you think need to be included.

If you are not living in Sweden, please also answer the following:
  • Do you have the ability to invoice?
  • What kind of hardware do you have?
  • What kind of internet connection do you have?


Wonder how we hire? Read our blog on How we hire at Frictional Games.
What kind of application are we looking for? Read our blog on Writing the best application for a Frictional Games job.


Privacy Policy

By sending us your application, you give us permission to store your personal information and attachments.

We store all applications in a secure system. The applications are stored for two years, after which they are deleted. If you want your your information removed earlier, please contact us through our Contact form. Read more in our Privacy Policy.


Thursday, 22 August 2019

We're launching an official Discord server!



Join our server here!

Frictional Games is a distant and cryptic game developer, quietly tinkering with unspeakable horrors in the darkest depths of Europe. Yet over the past while we have been chipping away at that image, exposing a softer core. And now we’re ready for the final nail in the coffin of mystery: an official Frictional Games Discord server, where you can talk directly to us, or to other fans!

We hope that having a fluid, shared space like this will help casual and hardcore fans alike connect over topics that interest them, from lore conversations to sharing the cutest K8 plushie sewing patterns, from best uses of AddUseItemCallback to fanfiction tips. And, of course, anything and everything Frictional Games.

Aside from community-centered involvement, we hope to bring us developers closer to you with events like Ask Me Anything threads, and an occasional casual chat. Who knows what else the future will bring?

Upon launch the server includes channels for:
- Frictional’s news, sales and patch notes,
- Discussions about SOMA, Amnesia games, Penumbra games and Frictional Games in general,
- Showcasing your mods and other fan creations like art, cosplay and videos,
- Connecting with peers and discussing modding, creating fanart, or how to avoid overheating when wearing a Grunt suit,
- Social media feeds,
- Buying our games directly from Discord.

To celebrate the launch, all our games are heavily discounted at the Discord store pages.

Welcome!

PS. We are open to getting a few more members for our moderator team, especially persons to balance out the majority of men. Contact community etc manager Kira for more details!