Broken Silence: Fan interaction

WeeklyVania, eat your heart out. reHorror, you’ve got nothing on this. Broken Silence is an article series for the Silent Hill franchise. Future titles, ideas, theories, and anything else pertaining to the foggy town will be discussed. Hopefully the psychological horror fans among you all will enjoy it. Pretend you were linked these articles by your dead wife.

The internet allows for developers and publishers to interact with fans of their videogames more than ever. When it comes to Silent Hill, developers either get praised for listening to us or attacked.

On our very own forum, we are lucky enough to have not only one person behind the latest Silent Hill game, but two. Devin Shatsky and Tomm Hulett often come by to engage us fans with either an opposing viewpoint to series changes, or address concerns. They are actively listening to our suggestions as well. The Silent Hill community caused a big enough fuss over button prompts in Downpour that the team made it a toggle option under the games’s settings. We helped something change for the better. But this begs the question: how much is too much? Should fans take advantage of developers who are vocal? Well, yes, but it all matters on how it’s done.

Despite giving us time and an open ear, some fans rather attack those behind their beloved series. The human factor completely disappears, and instead developers (creators in general) are seen as the slaves of the fanbase who must create an ideal image of what makes a “perfect” Silent Hill game. Some believe that will only happen if “Team Silent” came back. I even witnessed a forum thread that demanded that Silent Hill producer Tomm Hulett be fired.

Fan interaction can be a double edged sword. I for one am extremely pleased that I have the chance to interact with Tomm and Devin; these guys are working on my favorite series, and their concern for what us fans want is great. Although, I can only imagine the dribble that must bombard them on a daily basis. Death threats are not uncommon from a community this passionate about a series that can easily be defined as artistic. Those who resort to something so drastic should perhaps re-evaluate their priorities if a work of fiction works them up so much. There’s no question that fans shouldn’t be passionate about something they love, but that’s downright scary. This brings to mind the people who became obsessed with the world of Pandora in James Cameron’s Avatar so much so that they found their very own lives mundane and meaningless.

A close friend of mine who has a Silent Hill podcast has been under attack by rabid fans on more than one occasion, because they despise her optimistic viewpoint of upcoming titles. So have I. It’s hard to state an opinion that is willing to experience changes with an open mind without becoming “cancer” to the series. For such a mature and intelligent series, it’s depressing to see such childish drama between optimistic and pessimistic fans. Is my friend a bitch for wanting to wait and hear the Korn track before saying she dislikes it? No. Am I a c*nt for thinking the same? I hope not.

The next issue with fan interaction is when decisions made by someone higher-up are made, and those who interact with us are blamed. In this case, Korn’s opening title theme for Silent Hill: Downpour. Both Tomm and Devin know the ramifications behind including a song by a band like Korn in a Silent Hill game. It’s not hard to conclude that this was not their decision, but it’s one they will have to stand behind.

Korn, new voiceovers, and a big departure in the series (Book of Memories) are at the forefront of the backlash right now. Is it justified? To an extent I think so. Korn, although just an opening theme stuck to the main menu, was still a big “wut?” for me. Its inclusion has no affect on the actual game, but it is still an odd choice. I will go more in depth with it perhaps on another entry of this series.

I hate hearing about a cooperation being evil and doing something that equates to a big “f**k you” to fans, but is it appropriate to call shenanigans on Konami’s actions just yet?

The Silent Hill HD Collection was something fans clamored for, but now there seems to be a large outcry against the new voiceovers. Fan demand brought this project to life, and most recently an Xbox 360 version as well. To me it sounds like we’re still being heard, but disagreement has continued.

The new voiceovers don’t phase me as I see legitimate reasoning behind them -and for the most part think they will be good, but I do think the classic performances should live on in the HD Collection. For nostalgia and for the sense of a more complete package. The original tracks may have acting that is not up to par by today’s standards, but that was part of the charm. Awkward lines, whether intentional or not gave the voices a dream-like quality.

Book of Memories is an odd little thing. Many fans already see it as a blight on the series, but I personally categorize it in the same field as Silent Hill Arcade. It’s a side game that is toying with a new genre on a different venue. Even if the story is canon, the gameplay changes have no effect on the “main” series. The Playstation Vita is a mobile platform, and the style of Book of Memories seems appropriate. Silent Hill: Origins was a fantastic game, but did it feel mobile? No. It felt like a full fledged title that required dedicated time and immersion. Not something you would play while on a fifteen minute bus ride. You would miss your stop! Book of Memories appears to be better suited for a mobile platform. Playing online with friends is a part of that. Whether it’s good or not remains to be seen. Given WayForward’s track record (Boy and His Blob, LIT, and the upcoming BloodRayne: Betrayal) I wouldn’t be surprised if ended up being at least fun.

I dislike Korn as a band, but am willing to be a optimist when it comes to Silent Hill. Maybe they will do a decent track. I have high hopes for Downpour and one song can’t ruin it; bad gameplay and a predictable story will. Same goes with the HD Collection. Well, not gameplay since its a port of a game I love, but the voiceovers.

In the end, no matter what happens in the future with the series, the original games that made me fall in love with that sleepy town still exist. They’re in my home and are always ready to be played. I will be happy if the future releases can keep that love alive, and I hope they will.

  • calcinf

    I think they listen to fans no doubt about it but stuff like a free roam Silent Hill I cant imagine is because of some forum suggestion. It’s just not something you decide because of that.

    HD Collection? Well the amount of interest for it probably made them realize there was a market for it, but in the end if they didn’t feel like it would end up making them money they wouldn’t do it and that’s not to try and make konami or any other publisher sound bad, it’s just the way any corporation works.

    • http://www.relyonhorror.com CJ Melendez

      I mentioned the open world Silent Hill because it was something I was hoping for after years of being blocked by 3ft tall barricades. Who knows if it was because of forums. But it made my day. I’ll fix that as to avoid confusion.

  • Tony

    Great article! My thoughts?:

    The reason I’m bothered by the Korn issue is that it could reflect a mindset for the entire game. In other words, if the song by Korn actually fits the game, the game seems like it might be a bit suckish. A bit of a gimmick to bring in new fans while ignoring the old ones. If it doesn’t fit the game, and it’s just a blunder on marketing’s part, so be it. No problem. But I worry. . .

    I DO think Silent Hill fans can be a little harsh. But I think in part it is because we feel so ignored. There are some obviously great qualities that Silent Hill has brought to the table over the years, and it feels like the designers are ignoring those in favor of their own vision for the series. Certainly, be innovative, but don’t ignore what made the game great in the first place. It’s as silly as removing zombies from Resident Evil.

    And then there is the obsession with Silent Hill 2. It’s a fan favorite, true, but we don’t want clones. Homecoming and Origins were both alright, I guess, but they still felt like marketing ploys rather than serious games. Just attempts to play off Silent Hill 2′s success.

    So yeah, we’re a little frustrated.

    I certainly don’t want the designers to be fired. . .or caught on fire. I just want them to make a game that can put Silent Hill back on the map for horror gaming. Something that’ll knock Dead Space down a peg or two. That’ll make people forget about Resident Evil (which can hardly even be called survival “horror” anymore). I’m a fan of Silent Hill, and I’m sad that it’s not making as big a splash as it could be. But I think it will if fans keep speaking out. Just so long as they stop with the threats.

  • Smiley

    I find this article to be a bit ironic since it’s coming out just as the new lineup of Silent Hill content has been met with negative reactions from fans who are simply fed up with how things are being handled. I have nothing against Tomm Huelett, but he’s placed himself as a figurehead to Silent Hill so if the fan base has a problem they know who to single out. It’s a hard position to be in so he has to be aware of what comes with taking that title. He’s the one presenting the games to us and trying to sway our minds. If he fails then that is on him.

    Another thing is that when you have a long lasting series you will always have a group of over-the-top fans and haters alike that take things too far. This is the same from video games like Metal Gear Solid to movies such as Star Wars to even the Harry Potter books. But you should never try to group up passionate fans with plain old lunatics. These fans are the loyal consumers who spread the word and keep the series interesting. Cherry picking the death threats from them doesn’t help anything nor does throwing off events where a few sad disturbed people took their lives over a work of fiction.

    Next up you’re not really giving off a definitive view on where you stand. Complaints work and do not work. Fan reactions help and do not help. All you’re doing is acknowledging the gray area of where these complaints stem from and how they influence the series. So we’re still back to square one here.

    But let me give you the benefit of the doubt here. If you want to really boil down on this then let’s discuss it. Team Silent is gone. Some people can’t accept it, but they are. With them are the games they left behind. And they still exist to grace our favorite series in all its glory.

    When Konami reached out to other developers they made a series of recent games that followed the Silent Hill series, but were never actually a part of the collection Team Silent left behind. You could have the same composer or same enemies, but eventually you would miss something in the canon or change something out of place unknowingly. As a result purist fans believed that the people working on these new games didn’t know what Silent Hill was about. What they can’t accept is that the series moved passed Team Silent and would always be at risk to have retcons in the story or a new atmosphere in the game play.

    I’m glad Homecoming was never titled Silent Hill 5. I might have enjoyed that game to a degree, but it never made a dent large enough to reach Japanese shores. And I’m perfectly fine with Shattered Memories being a re-imagining because it doesn’t restrain new developers with trying to fit it into the canon and allows them to creatively put their stamp on it. The only restraint they would have would be making nods to the first game and its characters that inspired it.

    With Downpour I’m excited to see where we go from here. Akira Yamaoka has left the series. It was inevitable if the franchise was to continue, and for what it’s worth it was nice to see him come full circle from the first game all the way to its re-imagining. Daniel Licht has made some great music that I enjoyed watching the Dexter series and I can’t think of a suitable replacement for Yamaoka. I don’t hate Korn, and I’m not against their inclusion either. If some are then it’ll be a segment they can overlook and continue with the rest of the game.

    Not much is known of Book of Memories for me to even care. But again I hope Daniel Licht’s music is good.

    The only problem I have is how the HD releases of the Silent Hill collection are being handled. I have no problem seeing how the new games come along. I do however take offense when classics are being tampered with and given shoddy treatment. This is a Konami complaint as I’ve also had gripes over the aspect ratio quality for the cutscenes in the MGS HD collection as well as the lack of MGS1. When it comes to Silent Hill HD I think fans will agree that they’d rather pay $40 and under for two HD games rather than to shell out an extra ten dollars. This is comparing to the prices of other HD releases including the MGS HD set which has MGS2, 3 and Peace Walker for $50. If I’m going to pay $50 then why not release Silent Hill 1 or 4 alongside it? Even if Konami doesn’t believe “The Room” is worth giving an HD conversion it’ll still ensure that gamers get what they pay for when they buy the Silent Hill HD collection.

    As far as the new vocal performances are concerned this was always a matter of business and money. There’s no artistic drive behind it. I have nothing against Mary Elizabeth McGlynn or any of the new voice actors. To them this is just another job that most actors in the voice over business would jump at and I have no problem with that. But what is insulting is when the decision to pass their performances off is claimed to be the “ideal way” to play Silent Hill 2 and 3. It’s not Tomm Huelett. The ideal way is to play them as Team Silent released them.

    Troy Baker also gave a rather confusing interview. Was the decision to use new voices a means to freshen the series or was it because Guy wanted residuals? Troy has no way of knowing in the last ten years what Guy Cihi was issued through the use of his voice and mocap. He can only speak on Konami’s behalf as the new voice artist. Guy Cihi on the other hand is a company CEO. He knows his contract, knows his rights and knows where Konami was in the wrong regarding what they owed him and the other actors. He’s not asking for a percentage for every unit sold. He just wants to be paid for the use of his performances in completely different releases (XBox, PC). And to me, that’s not fair for any performer to get screwed over yet they have pretend like nothing ever happened for their employer’s best interest.

    That’s where I stand. I’ll let the other fans speak for themselves.

  • Joe

    Instead of wasting half an hour responding to inconsistencies and incoherencies in 12 paragraph posts, i’ll just sum up my own opinion like this:

    I agree, CJ.

  • http://www.relyonhorror.com CJ Melendez

    My side is to wait and see before saying I despise something. I don’t like Korn as a band. The selection does not make sense to me, but I am willing to give it a listen before I call it a horrible creation that belongs no where near Silent Hill.

    I do mention that suggestions and interactions lead to positive influences like the button prompts being removed, Xbox 360 port of the HD Collection, and who else knows?

    The negatives are clearly those who rather harshly attack with nonsensical comments, and not a clear and concise disagreement. Basically mindless trolling.

    My side is that the latter is not necessary. It’s detrimental to the contact between fans and developer. Hating something with blind rage will bring no good. Showing concern, without losing civility is IMO the way to go.

  • Smiley

    Writing what’s on your mind is never wasted time. Reading someone’s thoughts for half an hour might be though if you didn’t gain anything from it. If that’s the case then feel free to voice your concern over to Idontgiveacrap@whocares.net

  • Smiley

    CJ not all the harsh criticism is mindless trolling. I gave clear reasons why I’m not satisfied with how the HD collection is being handled without resulting to childish flaming. Some voice that concern on the internet the only way they think it’ll get through….being blunt.

    You can wait and buy the product once it’s already out, but the problem is once you do that you throw your criticism out the window for Konami. You already gave them your money and played the game so their work is finished.

    And we’re at this day and age where even the biggest gaming sites can’t really speak out on a thorough review of the product because they miss out on interview opportunities and lots of goodies. Consider how the reviews for MGS4 were handled. Critics taken and given the spa treatment. Allowed to play the game under contract that those that wish to do so have to intentionally leave out specific features of the game that might otherwise sway consumer opinion such as MGS4 installing after every chapter.

    These days the only way to get through to a company is with your wallet. I think Konami learned the hard way when Homecoming’s lack of support didn’t even allow for them to market the game in Japan.

    I can’t change Konami’s mind about the HD collection since it’s already coming along in the development. But I hope the responses will be enough so that Konami learns next time how to go about re-releasing a game on future consoles. MGS has it right for the most part despite the aspect ratio on their cutscenes.

  • http://www.relyonhorror.com CJ Melendez

    Of course not all criticism is trolling. That’s what I said. Negative opinions or a disagreement (like you have) worded in a civil way is what should be done. Being blunt is fine. You’re being blunt, but in a good way. It’s not raging rants. That is how it should be done, and that is how I agree it should be said.

    I still think they can rectify any disagreement fans have with the HD Collection. Optional classic voice overs put in now, or via a free update. But perhaps that’s too much to wish for.

    As for the $50 price point for two games? I agree. The PS3 version should at least have a voucher for SH1. I’m also hoping for a ton of extras. High def making ofs, art, videos. At $10 more than most HD Collections, and along side the MGSHD Collection, this one needs some extras.

  • Earthbound_X

    I’ve noticed lately that gamers seem to be pessimists by nature.

    Which makes me think so many gamers now a days are very unhappy people.

    Gamers who are optimists like myself, and you CJ, seem to be a small dying group.

    I’ll never understand what the hell is so hard about waiting and seeing. So many gamers seem to have a need and want to hate and attack just about anything. I noticed a ton of this when the Wii U was announced, we still have pretty much little to no info on it, but some many gamers are just ready to dismiss it right away.

    I think that’s pretty sad.

  • Nekroido

    I totally agree with everything you said here, CJ. Davin and Tomm showed theirselves as the most dedicated developer for the series so far, and I’d love to play their products. I disliked Tomm for a while and believed that he might spoil Downpour. But now I see that he _knows_ what is Silent Hill. I run a Silent Hill community on a russian social network and there lots of shit is said about the future of the series. These bums think that they’re the only ones who loves Silent Hill and knows it better than a regullar player, that the only one who loves it should hate everything new. And this ultimate fatalism with the nostradamus-like prediction is f★cking everywhere (did you see that ‘lie to me’ish crap video by Twin Perfect?). Oh c’mon, get a life. If you’re so pissed of with ‘what they’re doing to the series’ just ignore it and play only the good them oldies, right? Just stop blaming something before you see how it came out.

    BTW, I think the big nice ‘F★CK YOU FANS’ would be if producers had just stopped contacting with the community and releasing something beside teasers: nothing to see, nothing to talk about, nothing to blame or love.

  • Smiley

    I’m keeping optimism about Downpour. I cannot however support the decisions of the HD collection based on what I said earlier. I cannot blindly remain optimistic just because it brands the “Silent Hill” name. All those trailers, pictures, interviews and promos? That’s stuff released to display what you’re investing your interest into. If people are not satisfied then it’s not the fault of gamers.

    Even as I type this the latest Kojima Report addresses the aspect ratio issue and allows comments and a reply section to openly voice the fan’s opinions on if they want to support the “super widescreen” or 16:9 ratios. They’re saying that it’s not too late to change the ratio and if the fans want it they will work to have it. I’m amazed at how dedicated they are in that respect.

    Now if only we had something like that for the HD collection of Silent Hill. I’m glad to see the influence of Downpour, but I’m seeing a lot of fans really invested in how these classic games will be done in HD. So here’s what I’d like and let me know if you agree or not. I promise you these are not hard to accomplish.

    1. New voices are inevitable. I don’t expect Konami to take fault for residuals so if they’re going with a new cast let’s hear some good performances. They’ll never be the original, but that’s why fans still have those copies to begin with.

    2. Do not over-do the trophies/achievements to include useless stuff we’re already expected to do. Gamers already lose the tension when you have some kind of pop up displayed reminding you you’re in a game. Most newcomers will be affected by this so keep it as minimal as possible.

    3. No removing/changing the music whatsoever. 5.1 sound? Sure, but no changes to the tracks beyond that.

    4. The price for this should be no greater than $39.99 or below. Anything above is a complete rip off compared to other HD releases in the market. If you’re going to make this $50 why not include remastered HD versions of SH1 or SH4 to complete this “Collection” of yours? At the very least give gamers a SH1 downloadable code from psn. I already bought it on psn, but the fact that it’s available would ensure new sales as well as make sense for a price raise.

    I stand strongly that Konami is doing wrong to the HD collection and it doesn’t bode well with my optimism for the other SH games coming soon. With such insulting treatment to classic games no less how can we expect them to handle the new games any better?

  • Elyssa

    Great article CJ & I agree with what point you were trying to make. Mindless raging & cussing & downright idiocy will get your voice nowhere except taken as childish as is deserved. I however had no idea Korn was doing the opening of the main menu theme for this game or that the HD collection was that pricey, which miffed me just a bit. Other than that, I can’t wait for this game & have high hopes for a great entry to this series.

  • http://www.alchemillahospital.net Amy Balot

    Yeah, I pretty much said the same about BoM on my site, I said I consider it to be in the same category as the mobile games or the arcade. Just something that should be a fun addition, not to be taken too seriously.

    As for the other stuff, people are gonna bitch no matter what. It’s just especially appalling when they blatantly disrespect devs who are actually reading it and trying to be helpful.

  • Lycaon

    I agree with Smiley.

  • Ben May

    That was an excellent article CJ, which I pretty much wholeheartedly agree with. Between yourself and the person from the excellent podcast you mentioned, it has been a pleasure to actually hear some sane voices among all the madness.

    I feel really optimistic about the Silent Hill series at the moment. Although I’ve no interest in getting a PlayStation Vita (or whatever they’re called), I think Book of Memories looks good and sounds interesting. Hopefully we’ll get XBLA or PSN versions somewhere down the line.

    The new voices for Silent Hill HD Collection sound OK to me, but I’ll be able to make a better judgement after I’ve played it. As of now I’m thinking they sound as though they could be as good as, or maybe even better than the old voices. I can’t think that they’d be any worse. I do think an option to have the old voices would be a nice gesture though. For the price it is, some bonus content would be nice. Like others, I would’ve liked to have seen the original Silent Hill included, even if they can’t do it in HD. A code for the PSN download and a port for XBLA would have been nice. However, I’m still really hyped for this and I think I actually punched the air when I heard that this would be coming out on the Xbox 360 after all.

    I’m really liking the look of Silent Hill Downpour. Everything I’ve heard the developer say about it seems reassuring to me! It has been great the way the developers have interacted with the fans over this. The resultant option to remove the button prompts is, to me at least, proof enough of this.

    I shall be voting with my wallet. I shall be buying both the HD Collection and Downpour.

  • roque

    Pessimism has become endemic to internet fandom. It never affects sales. The most vocal SH4 hater I know admitted to owning TWO copies of the game.

    Developers, if they’re smart, mine fan forums for ideas but aren’t wishy-washy about making decisions and sticking to them. I liked a Korn song once. ONCE. Based on that, I’m willing to hold out hope. (That and I thought they were funny as shit on South Park. But then, I am clinically insane.)