Paranormal Activity influenced me a lot, says Alone for Oculus Rift creator

Let’s talk about Alone, the closest thing to a playable Inception game. ORI interviewed Bryan Cohen, one of the developers of Alone, who answered our questions about the game and Oculus Rift. Are you ready to discover about the secrets of the scariest living room of video game history? And if the premise gets you even barely interested, our suggestion is to fund this truly promising project through its ongoing Kickstarter campaign.

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Let’s start by talking about the title. What kind of experience is Alone?

Alone is a brand new type of horror experience. Once you put on your Rift, you will find yourself in a virtual living room with the usual assortment of house-hold comforts. In front of you is a television where you will be playing an FPS horror title called The Witching Hour.

As your progress through the story you’ll find that the game world of The Witching Hour begins bleeding out into the virtual living room. You will experience all the sights and sounds of horror from The Witching Hour as it becomes all too real, leading you to questioning whether or not these frightening events are in your own home.

How does the Rift influence your creative process and your way of designing the situations of the game?

It opens up the doors to a true Virtual-Reality experience in which the player is more immersed to the situations they are placed in. This strongly helps our game by fully immersing the player inside the virtual living-room and aids to the belief that you really are playing a game on your television at home. For Alone and it’s continued development we have the challenge of entertaining the player while they remaining stationary for the entire game. Thanks to the Rift however, players can still look around and the experience becomes about looking and listening.

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There are many ways to create fear inside the player. In your experience, which of these tools are the best suited to virtual reality?

My two favorite are fear of the unknown, and of course – being alone. Virtual Reality is providing new windows for us to look out of and see exciting new worlds. Along with all those wondrous sights and sounds however there will be the experiences that people fear to see – their greatest fears come true, terrifying beasts, anxiety-filling heights, the list goes on.

The other is being alone. This is something that you can’t really be understood until you’ve tried a Rift but as soon as you put it on you’re no longer sitting at your computer. You’re someplace new, someplace unknown – and the friends that were once maybe sitting in the room with you are gone as well. You are all alone, vulnerable, helpless and easily terrified. This is why it’s the main focus of our game.

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How much you will explore the “game inside the game” theme? Are we to expect some metagame gimmick, like the famous Psycho Mantis sequence from Metal Gear Solid?

Hah, I don’t think we will spying on your USB sticks anytime soon but we are doing a lot of new exciting things. We have an incredibly talented team this time around and the game-inside-a-game really can stand on it’s own – It’s frightening and and exciting and would probably be a great game in its own right. On top of that however, we’ve developed an amazing experience that really brings the game out of the TV and into your world. We have more elements of the game bleeding into your VR living-room, more aspects that connect them, and a superbly written story that will have you believing. There is more we’d like to say – but we don’t want to give away too much of the plot!

What can be done with the Rift that can’t be done while developing on traditional platforms?

Our game for one! Our game relies heavily on the use of the Oculus Rift and wouldn’t be the same without it. In general, playing with elements of how the player can look and interact with the game-world in more believable ways is the major selling point. We’re going to see more games that focus on detailed cockpits for racing, mech and flying games. More games that cleverly use space and ambiance to create a more immersive mood. We imagine seeing a lot more games where “looking behind you” becomes the core mechanic, hah.

I suppose that after spending a lot of time in creating fearful game they eventually become not fearful anymore for the developers itself. Who helps you out in this case?

You’re right. After a while it’s more akin to running a haunted house than going through one. Our fans are the ones who help us out here. We’ve gotten nothing but amazing and constructive feedback since Day 1 and it’s helped us understand where and how people are getting scared. To me, that’s what makes developing horror games so enjoyable – it’s more fun scaring others then myself!

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Which were the scariest titles that you played as gamers? Did they inspired you somehow?

Ha! There are lots of games that have scared me over the years that I didn’t finish because they were just too scary.. There is one however that I will never be able to forget and it’s kinda silly.

Jurassic Park for the SNES had this part of the game where you would have to go inside buildings. When you entered, the camera would shift from a happy over-the-head view to this horrifying first-person nonsense where your view would be partially obscured by goggles and blackness. One area in particular was a boat filled with Raptors and it was nothing but long hallways and sharp-right-angle turns. I remember as a kid being HORRIFIED to even turn the corner.

That said – when we were developing Alone and creating the layout for the living room, in the back of my mind I kept thinking “Make those corner’s sharper! Make sure they can’t see beyond them!” Haha!

One of the themes of Alone is the fear of being alone at home during a video game marathon at night. Are there a real-life experiences that have influenced the production of Alone?

I think we were inspired by the actual experience of being alone at home playing video games, hah. Everyone has sat in a dark room, heard a noise, and then proceeded to be highly suspicious for the next few minutes of burglars or generic paranormal events that had decided to manifest themselves in your tiny 1-bedroom apartment. During the development I would often sit on my couch at night and think about whats the most creepy thing that could happen and when I gave myself goosebumps I would jot it down. As a result, the sounds in the night no longer leave me wondering!

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When we heard about Alone, we immediately thought of the Inception movie. Are there any movies that inspired you?

We actually weren’t original inspired by Inception but the similarities were obvious once we had the idea. Paranormal Activityscared the daylights out of me and was a strong inspiration for the style of scares. Blair Witch and Jumanji were also movies that were tossed around. I really am a fan of Hitchcock’s Fridge-Horror style of pacing as well, which is where something only becomes terrifying after the fact.

Many titles for Oculus Rift are developed in Unity3D. What does it mean to develop a video game with the Oculus VR’s viewer?

We love working in Unity3D – everything is super easy to learn and use, they offer tools and an engine that can easily stand-alone, and the community is full of helping and wonderful people. Developing for the Oculus Rift was even easier due to a simple drag-and-drop method of install. It took me about 5 minutes to get the Oculus Rift working in my game, and I would HIGHLY recommend anyone interested in VR game development to check out both!