Alone in the Dark Prologue Shows Promise for Full Game, Plus Producer Interview
I am sure that my dear readers are very familiar with the original Alone in the Dark, and its Cthulhu-sized influence on the survival horror genre. And you probably know from my previous writings that I am a zealous follower of the series. So it will surely come as no surprise that I am insatiably excited for the reboot of the seminal survival horror series that was announced back in late 2022. I still to this day occasionally return to the 1992 classic and take a tour through the Derceto manor, but time has not been as kind to the gameplay of the original as it has been to its legacy. I would love to be able to experience a similar experience that utilized modern gaming conventions and preferably took longer than 2 hours to beat. And so of course when my trip to PAX East presented me with the opportunity to speak with the producer for Alone in the Dark reboot, I seized the opportunity to uncover the arcane answers to my burning questions.
Making my way to the THQ Nordic booth, I was given the opportunity to play through a prologue for the reboot before the interview. The small section of gameplay was labeled Grace in the Dark, which was a nod to the interactive teaser that was launched ahead of Alone in the Dark 2. This teaser, titled Jack in the Dark, featured Grace as the playable character and saw the player navigating a haunted toy store. The similarities between the two teasers ends there, as Grace in the Dark sets the stakes much higher than the original sequel’s standalone sneak peek. The short demo sees Grace assisting Jeremy Hartwood, the center of the mystery at Derceto, as he attempts to send a letter to his niece, Emily.
The short gameplay demo certainly shows that the team at Pieces Interactive has a good eye for the movement and general machinations of modern survival horror games. The minimalist and non-intrusive UI elements were greatly appreciated. I found myself admiring the smart decisions made in displaying information to the player as I made my way around. While the demo did not feature any combat and was generally devoid of any risk to the player, it did convey the dark atmosphere and uncertainty of existing in an eldritch world. As Grace made her way through the manor on the way to deliver the letter, the architecture, and interior of the manor seemed to take on drastic changes. As the stress of possible threats loomed over me, Grace made her way along as though the odd and off-putting environment was nothing new to her. After making a bridge out of a taxidermized bear and avoiding indoor bayous and their accompanying alligators, the letter is delivered by Grace, and does indeed make its way to Emily, in turn setting up the events for the full title. All does not end well though as the teaser ends abruptly as a fearsome maw of meat and teeth leaped from the darkness to, assumedly, eat the hell out of the small child. While the trailers seem to indicate that is not the final fate for Grace, we will have to wait and see how the events play into Alone in the Dark at release.
After completing the prologue I met with Andreas Schmiedecker to talk about the series, its history, and the development of the reboot. I also took the opportunity to get some answers for myself and the other Camp Carnby superfans. After taking a moment to thank him for taking time to meet with me during the event, we exchanged introductions, and I began the interview amidst the sounds of con attendees and frightened gamers.
Kicking off the interview I asked Andreas if he could tell us a bit about his role on the reboot?
Andreas: I am the producer for THQ Nordic… So I was actually joining the project at some time when it was already started. But we at THQ Nordic, we care for the product in the way that we are close with the developers, look at every aspect and basically try to make great things, so it is correct to say that I am as a producer overseeing the production.
I asked Andreas if he had a lot of experience with the first Alone in the Dark, and what it was like to work on the reboot of a game that founded a genre which has changed drastically in the 30 years since its release?
Andreas: I am a bit too young to have started with the original, or rather, the original is a bit too old for me to have played it. I had first seen Alone in the Dark with The New Nightmare, but you are right, Alone In The Dark is an important entry into survival horror, it also historically is the first game of its kind. And I feel like it’s a great franchise or IP in the sense that you can do a lot with it, we can go back to the origins, people tried different things with that, for better or worse. And I think it has some things at its core that are really the fundamentals, the roots of the genre. It’s like, you know, you’re in a weird situation, you have to investigate, you’re exploring. And I think that is one of the things that is both great for video games, but specifically for that franchise.
As a follow up I asked Andreas how the team aimed to take modern survival horror conventions and apply them to the world of Alone in the Dark without sacrificing the spirit of the original series?
Andreas: So essentially, if you want to answer the question, you have to ask yourself, what is the genre? Like, what is the core of survival horror? So with lots of games we’re seeing right now they go more towards the action part, right? So you’re gonna have a fast paced, thrilling, intensive adventure. I mean, basically, that’s what Resident Evil 4 did for the genre. And, you know, you can see at the moment that they are remaking it with great success, good for them, great. For us, it’s a bit more of a mixture of pillars, I would say. So you’re gonna have your action, right, but in equal measure I would say you’re gonna have your exploration, you’re gonna have your puzzles, your thinking, and you’re gonna have your story, right. And I feel like, you know, some of these aspects have not been at the forefront of both, you know, how survival horror developed over the past 20 years, but also what’s being done at the moment. So I think this is something we want to focus on, to actually have an experience where, you know, of course, you’re gonna have fun at some point, right, but there is an element to it, where you want to think for a moment, you want to actually look at stuff, you want to actually take in the atmosphere at a pace that may be a bit slower, but it’s more sort of going into the investigative aspect of the whole genre. And we feel like this is something that is at the core of the genre that we’re super interested in, and it is not that well covered at the moment.
On the topic of the story and history of the series, I was curious as to how the reboot would handle the lore of Alone in the Dark. So I asked Andreas if the story of this game would fit in the original canon of the series, the way that the Resident Evil remakes all exist in the original timeline, or would the new title be a jumping off point for an entirely new story, separate and distinctly different from the original generation-spanning tale of the original Edward Carnby?
Andreas: So it’s interesting that you say that because, you know, I would say the canon is kind of loosely defined in that specific franchise because as you said, we have seen at least two reboots already. And also, you know, in terms of continuity, the first three games were sort of a bit loose, right? After the first game, they took the second one in a completely new direction, they were pirates, the third was a western setting. It always had Edward Carnby as a thread, so that’s a great thing, though. Because, of course, the first thing, we look at what we have, we’re not just making stuff up. But the way that the series is, you have a lot of things to work with, so you don’t strictly need to adhere, you know, by the books. What has been done before, you look at the elements we have, exactly how does this make an interesting game in this day and age? So for us, for instance, we of course toyed with the idea, just, you know, straight up remaking the first one. But if we had done that the game would have been over in 20 minutes. Because with modern sensibilities, the quality of life features, it would have been a short game. So we looked at the evolution of games that we like, basically, we thought, you know, at its core, this is a haunted house game, right? It is a game about a house that you got to explore and you know, find stuff out about so that was a set thing, like we kind of go back to the setup. Second thing is, we’re gonna go back to two playable characters. We feel like that’s one of the cornerstones so we’re gonna go back to both Edward and Emily because she’s kind of been sidelined since the first game, Emily Hartwood, who was playable at the first one. Actually, she’s way closer to the inciting incident for the first game, because it was her uncle Jeremy, who killed himself. And she actually, you know, gets in contact with Edward to investigate, right? So people would always associate the franchise with Edward Carnby, but actually she was the first one, she’s the one relative, so we’ll bring her back. And thirdly, we looked at like, if we take the original game, look at all the notes, right? Because we might remember the game actually came with a full physical book back then, I think of notes including the little things you find in the manor, all the notes of the characters. It’s like, how can we make a compelling narrative out of it? Our Narrative Director kind of jokingly said it felt like writing fanfiction in a way like you look at all the things that you have from the canon and ask how can we make this work? For instance, Grace, you probably have noticed she’s actually a character from Alone in the Dark 2. And so when we bring her back for the first one, we have a couple of elements that, you know, people who have played the first one and the other ones and know that canon, as you said, will recognize, but we’re doing our own thing.
It was good to hear that the new series would not be tied to the original Alone in the Dark, and would have a chance to create a new story that drew from the best parts of the cult classic. I told Andreas that I think a lot of people will be glad to hear that the 2008 reboot will not be in the same canon as the new game, and that I was excited to see how the series reimagined the story of the original.
Andreas: Everybody’s entitled to their own opinion. I mean, I personally appreciate what the guys were doing. I think [The 2008 reboot] was a very interesting game. But, one of the things we actually are super excited about is the setting, right? So we like, you know, we like 1920s-30s setting, and we like the physical setting, right, because people tend to forget, even though this was originally painted as a Lovecraftian experience, it is not your New England kind of horror. It’s actually southern horror, it’s set close to New Orleans, right? But still, you know, with a sort of New England-y vibe to it, which is an interesting combination. And so this was just the one thing because other games went for a different setting. Like, 2008 went for a modern setting, which is fine, but simply something we’re not focusing on.
I liked what I was hearing, and on the topic of the setting, I made a comparison to the original Spencer mansion from Resident Evil, which, while very memorable, felt very sterile, and did not feel like a home as much as a front for a laboratory. With this in mind I took a moment to compliment the team on how lived-in the environments seemed to be, and how it seemed like the home of an eccentric uncle instead of just being the setting for a horror game.
Andreas: It’s not his manor anymore. It is actually not their home Derceto is a home for the mentally troubled. So it is one of the things we said before like, what we want to do with the original premise and in our case, we thought like, what if Jeremy, the person who hung himself in the first game, what if he didn’t hang himself, what if he went to get therapy? And you know, actually, Emily would be coming to find out what happened to him because he wrote her a disturbing letter, right? So now we actually have people living in the house, we have residents there, we have people, you know, we have the staff, we have the psychiatrist, and we have you know, the patients. So you’re gonna meet these people, and in this case, you’re absolutely right. This is a house that people actually, you know, have been using as well, as you said, but you just played a playable teaser, right, you saw that stuff can happen to the house, things are switching up, the bio is creeping in, this is actually what’s happening.
Moving on to the topic of gameplay in the title, I was curious as to how Emily and Edward would handle the task at hand. In the original the two played similarly, as opposed to The New Nightmare, which drastically changed the game depending on the character, as one campaign would feature puzzles and the other would feature typical tank controlled combat. With this in mind, I asked Andreas if there would be a drastic difference in the campaigns between the two playable characters, aside from the beats of the story?
Andreas: There are still the most prominent differences in the story so you can, as we said before, when you arrive at the manor you can choose to either play as Edward or Emily and, of course, people gonna react to you differently, right? So the cutscene is gonna be completely different, you’re gonna meet different people at different points. And at some point in the narrative, their paths diverge. So there are places that only one of them goes to, that are related to their personal story, actually. And you know, they relate to the author differently. Because as I said before, it is actually Emily’s uncle, so it’s her family, right? She’s just caring for them, but on the other hand Edward is [an outsider]. But still, he finds out how the whole thing relates to him and his past. And so I think you will get a good closure if you just play once. I think to understand the full story, we’re gonna have to play twice.
I genuinely loved to hear that Emily would be playing a much larger role in the new canon, as it was kind of messed up that Carnby was second fiddle in the story but became the center of the entire series following the first title. Going back to something Andreas had touched on earlier, I wanted to know if there were any plans to recreate or incorporate an aspect of the original game’s packaging, and the litany of physical items included within. I asked Andreas if there was any talk behind the scenes to launch an edition of the game with the classic newspaper and other in-world items?
Andreas: I cannot really talk about it at the moment. But if you know, THQ Nordic, we’ve actually always been very keen on making special editions and bringing out collector’s editions for many of our games, you know, doing things like statues, collectors stuff, special items. So we like to do that.
Wrapping up the interview, I asked Andreas if he had a release window for the project outside of the “coming soon” that the demo ended on as the protagonists approached the manor?
Andreas: I really cannot say that at the moment. What I can say however, that you know, it was a teaser. There’s a lot of things you know, we haven’t really let slip, for instance, you saw the two protagonists approaching the house, but you haven’t seen their faces, which is something we would like to reveal at a date that is soon to come, on that date I think we will also have more info about the release window.
I was excited for that day, and even more excited to get my hands on the finished game. Before I ended the interview I asked Andreas if there was anything we didn’t touch on that he wanted the readers or returning fans of the series to know?
Andreas: I would just ask them to stay in touch, and watch out for news. We have big things coming up soon. Also, I’m happy that you’re waiting for us and happy that we’re back, you know, in the pantheon of survival games, to be revived.
With that I thanked Andreas for taking the time to speak with me on the PAX floor, and I let him get back to the busy show floor, so he could answer some other interested gamers’ questions.
If you want to stay up to date on the release of the Alone in the Dark reboot, you can find THQ Nordic on their website as well as Youtube and Twitter, or if you are on PC you can wishlist the item on Steam to be notified when it releases. And as always, if you are absolutely fiending for the latest and greatest in gruesome, ghoulish gaming, be sure to head back to DreadXP and read more of our spooky scoops!