We are continuing the retrospective of the first part of Silent Hill, described by Rely on Horror in honor of the 20th anniversary of the series. The first part of the material can be found here.
Another important distinguishing feature of the game is the emphasis on psychological horror. Many other games before Silent Hill have explored horror on PC. From Alone in the Dark  to text-based adventures, adaptations of stories such as Lovecraft and Phantasmagoria , they explored various aspects of the genre with varying degrees of success. Speaking of consoles, the most famous were the more action-oriented Castlevania from Konami  and Splatterhouse . Exceptions were the famous Sweet Home  on Famicom and Uninvited , where the emphasis was on atmosphere and plot. But only with the arrival of 32-bit consoles did the developers have the opportunity to experiment with psychological pressure on the player.
"The peculiarity of Silent Hill is that when creating monsters, I made sure that they did not have fangs, horns or eyes." - Masahiro Ito, artist.
Silent Hill was one of the first serious attempts by game developers to understand what psychological horror is. Character designer Takayashi Sato said the team didn't want to make things too obvious and avoided unremarkable monsters. They carefully selected ideas that were ambiguous and chaotic, capable of generating distorted images in the minds of gamers. But sometimes, developers cheat players when they expect something to pop up and scare them, but nothing happens, but it also happens the other way around.
Monster designer Masahiro Ito created creatures in an abstract and amorphous form, allowing players to guess what they mean. He drew inspiration from the work of the English philosopher and artist Francis Bacon and came up with his own concepts of monsters, making them "meaty". Grotesque creatures such as skinless dogs, pterodactyl-like screamers, dead children with knives, and stalkers all inhabit the city and terrorize the player in different ways. Silent Hill, both the game and the city, perfectly recreates what is called psychological terror. And just this approach, when the player's imagination itself forms individual fear, was innovative.
Simple but effective
The game has overcome the graphics capabilities of the PlayStation. Characters, objects, and environments were designed using a limited number of polygons to create simple yet recognizable shapes. Silent Hill's polygonal graphic style helped define the visual language of the game, presenting objects, environments and characters as simplified 3D models, further developing the abstract aesthetic of the overall design. One of her achievements was the use of a dynamic camera in real time, as opposed to static frames in the same Resident Evil.
The fog that covers the entire city is a critical visual element in the game. It hides undeveloped details of the world behind itself, plus it creates additional tension [the player can see only limited space around him, which helps the console to load certain elements, reducing the load on the iron; the fact is that the engine could not fully display the vast environment - WorldOfTopics]. The gamer couldn't see far. Therefore, there was always a danger that something might jump out at him. So, technical flaws led to the creation of one of the most iconic components of the series and the world of horror in principle.
Another important visual element of the game is the flashlight, which performs the same gameplay function as fog. Most of the time, players travel between two worlds, where light replaces darkness and vice versa. Depending on the area, they are shrouded in fog or darkness. The flashlight, which can be turned on or off, was supposed to help navigate in the dark. Players turned it on to see where they were going. At the same time, the light attracted monsters. This dynamic also created additional tension.
Despite the fact that Harry was pursued by psychological terror, he was armed with different types of weapons, both cold and firearms. Combat and exploration of the city were mixed with puzzles. Players could inspect the environment for clues. Often, puzzles feature everyday objects such as pianos and gutters, further reinforcing the idea that the city and the logic behind it are based on the real world. The puzzles are story-driven, making it clear that the game isn't just a mindless slasher with no depth.
Another of the gameplay features [although you can't make out this is a plus or a minus] is a character control system called a "tank". When you manually had to direct the character's gaze so that he walked in the direction you wanted, without moving the camera. While some players find this setup clumsy and cumbersome, others can easily get used to it and appreciate the ability to easily maneuver their character, regardless of changes in the camera angle. Now, someone perceives it as a relic of the time, and someone as an additional challenge.
“I've done character design and created all CGI cinematography alone [moderation to rendering]. I created most of what you see in the game. ”- Takayoshi Sato, Lead Artist and Designer
The character designs and cutscenes in the game were created by Takayoshi Sato. He was also responsible for creation, environmental modeling, texturing, animation and lighting. Sato didn't think players would be afraid of the typical "scary" designs. Instead, he used two factors that cause fear in players to help him through the design process: first, it was the concept of players seeing something beyond their understanding. Second, so that they can see the hidden truth. So he displayed the whole essence of the city in heroes.
Many may have noticed that some of the characters have a similar appearance to Hollywood actors [Bill Pullman, Cameron Diaz and Julianne Moore], the reason is that Tkayoshi did not have real models so he focused on the faces of celebrities from the West as another referrals.
He did the rendering and environment work himself, but not because he wanted to, but because of management pressure to pay. Because he was too young in the opinion of his superiors, they refused to credit him [ageism is a very common problem in Japanese society when older employees are considered experienced and more trustworthy than the same young talents - WorldOfTopics].
According to Sato, one second of the video took three to four hours of rendering. After all employees went home, he used the computing power of about 150 workstations to do his job. In total, he spent almost 3 years working on the game. It might not be said that no other creator has had the same impact on the game's appearance as Sato. His work laid the foundation for how the characters would appear in the episode.
“I wanted to do something different from other games, which is why I chose industrial music. It seemed to me that this genre has a lot of necessary for the game, which is difficult to find in other genres. In addition, it seems to me that it is she who perfectly betrays the atmosphere of rust and decay. ”- Akira Yamaoka, composer.
No Silent Hill retrospective is complete without mentioning music. Both the soundtrack and the sound effects were created by sound engineer Akira Yamaoka [we even dedicated a separate material to this composer's music, we advise you to read it to fully understand the revolutionary], who asked to join the development team after the departure of the original composer. Yamaoka uses harsh industrial sounds, blurring the line between sound effects and traditional scores.
Players are never sure if there is a loud clanging noise they hear inside the game or if it is just a soundtrack. This already adds to the overall uncertainty and atmosphere. Other ambient sounds, such as constant low pulsating and droning tones throughout most of the game, add a darker nature to it. The cacophony in the lane scene, the bursting soundtrack of the Incubator fight, string arrangements, different styles from calm to tense - all this is a huge part of the game soundtrack.
Another thing pressing on the player's psyche is the radio, which the player finds at the beginning of the game. It has become a kind of radar showing monsters. And although the players do not see the monsters, the radio shows that they are and it presses, making them feel goosebumps. Another iconic sound from the game is the siren. It is first heard in the alley when Harry follows Cheryl, after the accident, it portends the transition between the ordinary world and the other world. This is a warning to players that major changes are imminent.
“My character Harry, it seems to me, was always scared, but at the same time felt annoyed, angry and powerless because he did not understand what happened to his daughter. So I tried to always be fearful and angry at the same time. ”- Michael Guiin, voice of Harry Mison.
Silent Hill was released at a time when voice acting in video games was still finding its way, especially with regard to English-speaking actors in Japanese games.
Resident Evil has become famous for its productions, while games like Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver and Metal Gear Solid have used professional actors and have been recognized for their quality voice acting. Silent Hill found its place somewhere in the middle of this spectrum, using a combination of talented actors and technical ability.
Silent Hill is a masterpiece of horror that has stood the test of time and remains as powerful and relevant today as it was the first time. In the same way that good stories are eternal, an impactful horror will always be scary on some level. Even if the players guess when the corpse will fall out of the closet or when the dog will jump around the corner, the things that really scare them remain in the game forever - the fear of the unknown and the darkness of their own minds.
We can now see the echoes of this game and its influence everywhere and although the fog of the series has cleared and it is dead, its legacy serves as a new background for the revival of the horror genre in games.
The Topic of Article: Silent Hill: 20 Years Retrospective. Part two. Cadelta Horror Month.