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.

  • Chewy

    btw, Devin works for Konami, not Vatra

  • blake

    At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what the developer/producer says. People were drawing comparisons to Alan Wake, saying that it’s been completely ripped off, and Devin is defending the title that very few people have seen in action.

    Lack of professionalism aside, defending something you’ve put a lot of work into is natural. Silent Hill may haven’t had a quality game in years, but many of them contain forest levels, so it’s a bit ridiculous to claim that a video game series that has a history of bringing the player into such levels is ripping off a more recent game.

    In that respect, everyone is being unprofessional, and we won’t have any sort of solid answer until Downpour hits shelves.

  • SHFandemon

    Ok, to clear something up: it doesn’t just look like Alan Wake, because of the forest parts. Almost everything around the town looks like Alan Wake -so far-. The mine, the cableway, the bridge in the screen of this article, etc., etc.

    Anyway, he’s right, it’s probably too early to say that it sucks, so i hope that they will keep their promises. What i want to see is how the fog looks like. The fog in the previous SHs was very thick, you couldn’t see almost anything. I hope they include that in this game aswell, because it makes the game a lot creepier.

  • http://helldescent.com cj

    By ripped off, I think he was using their wording, the complainers, to make a satirical remark.

    You don’t know the community all to well, so I can understand when you think Devin was out of line. Silent Hill fans can be an annoying bunch. Perhaps one of the most uptight, nostalgia craved fandom ever. Responses to the fans is something that is becoming increasingly common. You need to see how they act, to understand why the devs need to talk to them directly.

    None of his remarks were insults. Alan Wake’s primary environments are forests. Downpour will not just take place in a forest. I don’t think that can be seen as an insult.It’s not like he said AW sucks. You can’t simply say Vatra hates AW when Devin works for Konami, and his remarks did not seem like an insult. It’s simple fact that AW was mostly forest environments.

  • http://www.relyonhorror.com Ryan Stanford

    I was thinking it when reading it but I wasn’t going to say anything.

    I think some word choice was a bit poor but I wasn’t going to judge him on it because I know how much love developers and those involved can put into games. A major misconception is that gaming is all about the money. Now, it is important that money plays a big role, but games take a lot of time and skill and commitment. It takes a lot of creative work, working with a team often, to develop something of your own. And it’s really easy to get attached to it, as so much of your life for the span of a few years were centered around this game. As such, you want people to enjoy your title. It’s more than something for money, you put a lot of time and hard work into something and you want other people to enjoy your labor.

    So when today’s audiences judge something before it even see’s the light of day it can be a bit heart-breaking or annoying. And often times, the pre-discussion crowds of games can be quite a battlefield might be the appropriate term. There is rarely a game that can stand without having complaints, whiners, and comparisons before it’s release.

    However, in the end, these words mean nothing. An individual is allowed to think what he or she thinks and trolls are a fact of the internet. I love it when developers take the time to comment to the fanbase, but I also think they have to sometimes be a bit careful with what they said. I think this message could of been deliberately better off if he hadn’t responded to the reaction bu putting down Alan Wake. Putting down direct competition comes off in a numerous amounts, most very negative, ways.

    While Silent Hill: Downpour is being compared to Alan Wakie right now, Alan Wake had it’s fair shares of comparisons before it’s release. and you know what? None of those comparisons exist any more. Alan Wake is now a game that stands on it’s own legs and now people compare other games to Alan Wake, even. And when Silent Hill: Downpour releases, I am sure if it contains what the developers says it does that it too will stand on it’s own.

    I am personally very excited for the game, and looking at it as a whole from what we know I can already see this isn’t an Alan Wake clone. However, I do understand where the comparisons are coming from. One thing he needed to consider is when he said people shouldn’t judge from what they saw, unfortunately that’s all people can do. They don’t see the whole picture like you do, they can only judge and make opinions off what is in front of them. HOWEVER, they should not draw conclusions as they only have pieces of the whole and only a small part of the finish product. That is something that audiences should practice doing as an open mind that didn’t draw conclusions early will likely also get the most enjoyment from the title.

    This is at least my take on it all.

  • Chewy

    It’s not like Devin even said “This is nothing like Alan Wake” he acknowledged that from the screenshots he can’t blame people for thinking it look similar

    “They can only judge from the screenshots they’ve seen, so I don’t blame them.”

    Hell, he even says it’s “Narrow minded to think like that” (Refering to the ripped off thing)

  • Elyssa

    Completely agree with you. Fans of video games draw thoughts/opinions on new upcoming releases from other games they’ve played that seem similar because, well, that’s actually just a human trait. People do it all the time in various situations. & frankly, I would have taken that comparison as a compliment. Secondly, mister Shatsky more than likely just probably hasn’t gotten laid in awhile from actually having to work to put out a decent seeming Silent Hill game in a looong while… i’ll cut him some slack.

  • connah

    Sam lakes going to be shitting blood for a week when he see’s what shatsky said about his baby hahahahaha serves the constipated self serving ass right!

  • Pingback: Silent Hill Downpour: Rely on Horror shows some competence. « Survival Horror Explored

  • http://www.relyonhorror.com Mike Angileri

    if anything ripped anything else off, it’s alan wake ripping silent hill 2 off in terms of atmosphere and missing wives.