When we first started with game creation at Frictional Games, we knew we wanted to make immersive horror experiences. We threw in everything we could think of: puzzles, physics, combat, creepy dream sequences – you name it. Those of you who played Penumbra: Overture will remember these elements well. Now, as we approach the launch of Amnesia: The Bunker – coming to PS4 on June 6 – we wanted to take a look back at how we’ve further refined our formula and approach to games.
The real breakthrough arrived with Amnesia: The Dark Descent. We started focusing on key aspects that led to a much more engaging experience. We cut away combat and all other aspects that didn’t directly fuel the horror experience. This led to players noticing more about their environment and becoming more deeply engaged. A simple sound effect, for instance, could trigger intense reactions, causing players to run and hide. Players become immersed with the happenings in a way we hadn’t seen before.
One of the only relatively safe places in Amnesia: The Bunker – the administration office. Check the map carefully, planning your next move is crucial to your survival.
This revelation showed us that we could use such techniques to propel the narrative in new ways. Few games at the time were doing this, and we felt we could still push the boundaries. This is how SOMA was born. We asked ourselves: Instead of scaring players, could you evoke similar immersion in more complex topics? In the case of SOMA it became: can you make them question the nature of consciousness? Five years of work later – turns out you could.
In Amnesia: The Bunker, the revolver is used to shoot off a padlock, showcasing how it can be used as more than just a weapon.
We then aimed to expand our studio into a two-project operation, splitting our team in two. One group worked on Amnesia: Rebirth, where we sought to intertwine gameplay and narrative more tightly, introducing mechanics (like simulating a belly rub) that carried significant story implications. We were proud of the result but felt we could have pushed further. A clear sign of this was that, once players knew the game, they would approach each section in a predictable manner. The gameplay simply wasn’t pushing far enough to truly empower the player.
The lighter. A very important item used to craft various tools, such as a torch that can be used to fend off rats.
With Rebirth launched, and our other project – let’s call it the Super Secret Project – still underway, Fredrik Olsson, who was the creative lead on Rebirth, proposed a simple idea: Why not have one monster, give the player a gun, and unleash them in an open world? This was a smaller, more focused project we could finish before the Super Secret Project. The Bunker was born.
This concept diverged significantly from our recent games, but if we trace back to our origins with Penumbra: Overture, it’s not that far off. In Overture, players tackled monsters in a freeform manner, using weapons, setting traps, and igniting canisters. The Bunker ai