The year is 1899. Wealthy industrialist Oswald Mandus has returned home from a disastrous expedition to Mexico, which has ended in tragedy. Wracked by fever, haunted by dreams of a dark machine, he recovers consciousness in his own bed, with no idea of how much time has passed since his last memory. As he struggles to his feet, somewhere beneath him, an engine splutters, coughs, roars into life…

This is the setting for Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs (AAMFP), sequel to the hit horror game that scared the daylights out of even the bravest of gamers. We had the pleasure of speaking with Jens Nilsson, co-founder of Frictional Games, about what players can expect from A Machine for Pigs, and lessons learned along the way.

TechZwn

Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs. The title alone gives me anxiety. What dark surprises do you have in store for us this time?

Jens Nilsson

We asked another company to make AAMFP so that in itself will probably be a surprise. thechineseroom has recently released the excellent Dear Esther and with that success fresh in their mind they have been working on AAMFP, so the expectations are quite high to say the least. Our vision is a game that is the evil spawn of Esther and Amnesia, quite disturbing.

TechZwn

I haven’t felt that kind of terror and intrigue since I met my mother in law. Where do you draw your inspiration?

Jens Nilsson

It’s the same for us all, those in laws… an endless source of inspiration. A lot of inspiration comes from the previous work done and how it has been received, then discussing and figuring out how to improve or change to continue exploring how to make interactive experiences that send as much as possible of the traditional gameplay mechanics down the drain.

TechZwn

I’m sure your team learned quite a bit while developing Amnesia. I’m curious if there were any lessons you learned about creating atmosphere and terror that you plan to focus more on with A Machine for Pigs. Penumbra had weapons, for example, but you found games are scarier without them. Could you talk about this a bit?

Jens Nilsson

Not so much for AAMFP, I think most of the things we learned or felt could be improved and changed will be for our next title that comes after AAMFP. AAMFP is in many forms a controlled experiment, so the whole idea is basically to not do the exact same type of Amnesia game again rather to let thechineseroom work their magic within the directions and feedback we advice them.

TechZwn

With A Machine for Pigs, will the gameplay follow closely to its predecessor? What type of gameplay experience do you want players to have?

Jens Nilsson

It’s going to be a quite similar type of game, but also different. We wanted to have another company develop the game because we felt strongly that doing a new Amnesia game and making it exactly the same is of no interest to us. We want to deliver a game that continues to explore how to deliver an interactive narrative and how to do that with a unnerving atmosphere, while also keeping gameplay elements such as exploring and a bit of puzzle solving or activities as we call them internally.

TechZwn

Yours is a true success story. Not sure you noticed but you are an inspiration to Indie developers everywhere. I’m sure your journey came with challenges. Can you give us a little background?

Jens Nilsson

We started in 2006 and in 2007 we released our first game, Penumbra Overture. We basically worked as much as possible for as little as possible and as fast as we could, I don’t recall doing much more than sitting in front of the computer all the time. Then four years later and two more games completed and about to release our forth game (Amnesia) we finally got a bit of a break and success. So yeah, do nothing but work with games, get them out there and eventually you’ll do the right game at the right time and the moon and the stars are in their right positions and things might go quite well!

TechZwn

The music and voice acting (not to mention panicked breathing) is key. Can you tell us a little about your choices?

Jens Nilsson

We involve the composer from the very beginning of a project and we usually start by working towards making a theme track. This track might not be in the actual game, but it is rather used to discuss around and send feedback back and forth to slowly, but concentrated, get a style that we think fits the game. Then we try to have quite varied music in the game and also have areas with no music at all, which is something we are trying to work even more with for our upcoming games, to make music not be something that is just there but to have music that is only there when there is a purpose for it.

As for voice acting we spend quite a lot of time trying to find suitable voices, so often it is not the skill of the voice actor that makes us pick them, rather it is the actual sound of the voice and how they think that reflects and suits the character we have in our design. As we have had quite small resources in the past we have only done one take with all the voices and then one additional pass with a re-recording of those parts that really need it. So it has been quite a hit or miss approach, but as we have a bit more resources these days we are trying to have voices earlier in the game and then have several passes where we re-work and re-record the voices for a better result.

TechZwn

Is there a chance we may see Amnesia coming to consoles?

Jens Nilsson

Highly unlikely. We like and try to do everything ourselves and getting Amnesia onto consoles would be too much work for us at the moment. But possibly our future games will come to consoles.

TechZwn

Do you have an estimated release date for A Machine for Pigs?

Jens Nilsson

When it is done!

About The Author

Amy Gardiner lends her talents to content editing. She has also agreed to play all those silly Facebook games for us, and we are equally amazed and awed by her resilience to do so. She suffers from a slight point-and-click video game addiction and is always looking for a new fix.

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