Why So Serious?: Devin Shatsky’s Response to Silent Hill/ Alan Wake Comparison is Flawed

A batch of new screens have been recently released from Vatra Games’ upcoming Silent Hill: Downpour that  were quickly met with comparisons to another survival horror title. The images showed off Downpour’s out-of-town forest areas and what was shown lead people to quickly draw comparisons to Remedy’s Alan Wake and its heavily forest-themed environments. So what’s the big deal? Well, Devin Shatsky (producer behind Downpour) gave his response to these comparisons that were going around and it wasn’t exactly evident of a strong defensive stance, to say the very least. Before we go any further, here’s Shatsky’s response, given to our friends over at Hell Descent:

I think it’s a bit odd for anyone who hasn’t even seen the game to be drawing comparisons to any other games. They can only judge from the screenshots they’ve seen, so I don’t blame them. If they think we are looking “Alan Wake-ish” just because we have a forest area in part of the game, then so be it. But it could easily be said that Alan Wake ripped off SH in a number of ways with the look and feel of their entire game. Granted, all games evolve from each other in some capacity, so I think its narrow minded to think like that.

I would like to point out we have WAY more variety of environments in Downpour than Alan Wake does, so I feel very comfortable that the comparisons will end at these forest shots. There are a multitude of other environments in Downpour that people will be hard-pressed to compare to ANY other games, we have a very unique variety of landscapes and interiors, and I think the fans will be very pleased with the job Vatra is doing on our environments. The forest is just a drop in the bucket (pun intended) of where we take the player in this game.

Now, it’s time for my raw and honest opinion over this somewhat misguided comment in which I specifically take two excerpts that signify an almost lack of respect for another developer’s work. Be sure to bash me or agree with me in the comments below.

First off, let’s address this part of Shatsky’s response:”But it could easily be said that Alan Wake ripped off SH in a number of ways with the look and feel of their entire game”. Such a comment seems like it came from a random user on a message board and isn’t something that one should expect from a developer/publisher.

The mere notion of stating that a game “ripped off” another game is just dumb, for lack of a better word. And in this particular scenario, it would’ve been more appropriate to replace “ripped off” with “was inspired by” to refer to the relations between Silent Hill and Alan Wake. The thing is, Silent Hill has been in a decline ever since the release of Silent Hill 3 all those years ago, so such a defensive comment can be due to that. Sure there have been some games since the three-quel that have been remarkable among the series’ fans and some that have been properly acclaimed like Shattered Memories, but the series has sort of lost their way in terms of delivering quality offerings. Opposite from the Resident Evil franchise that has lost its way in terms of its essence (survival horror). But even the most controversial, among fans, Resident Evil titles like Resident Evil 5 have been critically praised and met with a lot of commercial success. Silent Hill, on the other hand, can’t say the same for itself thus leading to Vatra’s defensive stance over what may be the franchise’s best title since the original 3.

Another excerpt from Shatsky’s response to the Alan Wake comparisons that deserves mention is: “I would like to point out we have WAY more variety of environments in Downpour than Alan Wake does”. He also later goes on to complement this by stating that: “There are a multitude of other environments in Downpour that people will be hard-pressed to compare to ANY other games,”. Emphasizing “any” there just shows that Vatra is really aiming at delivering a survival horror experience that can stand out from what genre fans are able to currently get, like recent Resident Evil entries, Dead Space series, and independent titles like Amnesia: The Dark Descent just to name a few. But such an ambitious mindset comes at the price of courtesy.

While Alan Wake did draw inspirations from survival horror classics like Silent Hill it also provided a refreshing and high quality experience wrapped around superb production values. And this lack of variety that Shatsky is implying actually proved to be one of 2010’s most memorable video game settings. What Remedy did with the forest areas in Alan Wake was pit players into a setting with a very dreadful atmosphere where you would even find yourself tense at the sight of branches swaying in the wind. But apparently, the game’s environments weren’t offered in enough variety suitable for Vatra’s liking.

What I’m trying to say, quite simply, is that when a developer quickly calls out particular aspects from a game theirs is being compared to and labeling them, via implications, as flaws just gives off a wrong vibe. Shatsky even suggests this in his response, but the current state of video games is one where originality isn’t as plentiful as say ratatas are in the early Pokemon titles. It’s hard to come across a truly original IP these days where we’re littered with countless, and also mindless, shooters that have gotten modern gamers used to experiences that lack true substance. Konami has put Silent Hill in the hands of Vatra Games and so far everything we’ve seen paints a positive outcome for the game, but a comment such as the one dissected is just not “professional” at all. Fans should feel free to make comparisons to other games when looking at screenshots, trailers, etc. It’s just the way responses to those forms of media are. When was the last time you truly heard someone say that a certain screenshot showed something that was “totally unique”. Because often times those “totally unique” comments are ended with ” it’s like a mix of X game and X game”. It’s not until players actually get their hands on a game that they can draw concrete judgements over the game’s originality or lack thereof.

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