Revisiting A Classic Mansion In A New Way: You Will Die Here Tonight Interview

So a few weeks ago, we got to see an announcement trailer for this awesome Resident Evil 1-inspired, top down but also first person game. As soon as I saw that some of the great people over at Evolve were handling the PR I had to try and sit down to talk with the developers behind this wicked looking game. Cut to about two weeks later I was able to sit down with Jon (Creative Director) and Alex (Technical Director) for the upcoming You Will Die Here Tonight.

Justin: So I got to ask, where did the idea for You Will Die Here Tonight come from

Jon: So You Will Die Here Tonight was basically born out of a fond recollection I had for the original Resident Evil, obviously. But very specifically, as a kid, when it first came out. Like I’d see it previewed in magazines, it looked amazing. And this looked like the kind of game that I was going to dig. But to play it, I had to rent it from blockbuster, which was, you know, down the street from where my parents live. And I would call them because they never had a copy in like you go and just wouldn’t be there. So I would call them ahead of time. And then you know, every probably once every two months or so that blessed weekend would lineup where I’d call they’d had it. At this point, you can only rent the game for three days

Justin: It makes sense. Because I  also went to Blockbuster a lot as a kid, and I remember that feeling, but for me, it was Earthbound on the SNES.

Jon:  Right on! So I would rent the game, and At this point, I had not bought a memory card for the PlayStation yet, so I had to try and beat it in one in one go. Up until that point, okay, passwords and other things to kind of fall back on and compounded by the fact that it was a spooky game  I had never played a horror game before. So the combination of just this amazing graphical presentation is pretty laughable now. And this dread of getting to certain parts of the game and knowing that, if I screw anything up, I’m going to die, specifically getting run over by boulders in the caverns and the hunters. They could just kind of totally change the name of the game. So, sadly, I was never able to beat it during that rental phase, but eventually, I saved up enough money to buy a copy of it and a memory card and never had a problem again. But sorry, to answer your question, that fond memory of that experience playing the game, and obviously my love for the franchise, I reached a point over the years. Once it was the end of 2018, when my day job was working at Microsoft, I’d done a lot of video game stuff up until that point, but I’d never done my own thing before. So, the idea has started to kind of materialize into something. And yeah, like one night in, I think it was Thanksgiving. I picked up a copy of playmaker for unity, okay? And it was like the first time I’ve ever actually like, you know, script, something, like make something happen. And my first thing was, I tried to make a Resident Evil style fixed camera angle, like the whole works, and it worked. And it was hideous, but it kind of worked. And that was the day that You Will Die Here Tonight was born. Now it evolved many times past that, but that’s where it all began.

Justin: So, how long would you say that it’s been in development?

Jon: Well, so good question. I did not begin working full-time on it until I left Microsoft in 2019. And at that point, I was working on a game prototype in RPG Maker. So suddenly, I had a prototype, I had a granted, it was a turn-based RPG at this point, which was, you know, obviously not my initial plan for it. But it felt like a thing. I had multiple playable characters and a world you could run around. That’s when Alex and I first met, actually. It was me finishing the prototype. And then, as we headed into 2020, we formally began working together on the Unity version. Which, you know, as fate would have it, 2020 was not the best year.

Alex: We had a big demo built to go to GDC in March 2020. Yeah, that was like, what’s this COVID thing I keep reading about? You have to cancel the publisher dream. We talked to some publishers, but kind of went out the window because it was not worth it in the end.

Justin:  You mentioned a lot of Resident Evil love went into it. Are there any other inspirations that you looked to?

Jon: Silent Hill, you can’t throw a stone without hitting Silent Hill. So the thing we’d made for GDC had a happy ending. We were able to shore it up into a more representative experience. And embrace the dying mechanic as a thing. I lost my train of thought.

Alex: The inspirations in that demo.

Jon:  Oh, sorry. So the Silent Hill specific Thank you, Alex. We reached a point where we had one playable character, and if you got to a certain point in the demo and died, you had to do the whole demo. It wasn’t a particularly big demo like the main hall, the dining room, and a couple of like the hallway in a side room with a shotgun. And that was literally the entire environment for the demo with the expectation that if you knew what you were doing, you could get through in about 10 minutes. And the original version, if you died, you had to start over again. And then we toyed around with the idea that if you died, you could get to the key much faster and then progress from there. But then it evolved even more. It was like, what if you died and we like changed things like the atmosphere, we remove certain props, we like had the character become aware of the fact that they were somehow coming back to life again. And that really kind of shifted the overall trajectory of where the game is going. And I think to the Silent Hill thing, specifically P.T. Oh, yeah, taken the world by storm. I love that thing. They’ve managed to squeeze a very compelling 45 minutes out of what is effectively a single hallway environment. Yeah. And make it fuck that. It’s terrifying. It’s fresh. It’s crazy. So we tried our best to do something like that. Obviously, House of the Dead. Light gun shooters. Yeah. I was a big House of the Dead 2 person. 

Alex:  When we moved to Unity, we didn’t want it to be like the RPG Maker version, in the sense of like picking a menu-based system. But it was still very RPG-like in the sense of like, select which enemy in this first person view, you’re going to shoot by pressing left or right, and then press, you know, up or down to select the target on the body you want to shoot. And so we were definitely drawing from Gaiden a little bit in the sense of the guidance really. Their combat has this like golf swing mechanic, hit the timer right in the center, and these two points to land a shot. And we had all that. And now we have none of that, but along the way, there was like this sort of pseudo RPG, 2d combat thing, which was great fun, but we ultimately just found that the first person view, you know, players come to that, and they just import the model in their mind. So yeah, it’s been quite the journey.

Justin: So, is all of the combat going to be like in this first-person view?

Jon:  Yeah, more or less. I mean, there are interactions you have with certain enemies outside of the combat space, but in terms of like attacking and using weapons and things like that.

Justin:  Have you thought about implementing the possibility of using a light gun?

Jon: So, Alex, I don’t think we’ve ever done Talk about this. Certainly not in the shipping game.

Alex: Yeah, that would be an awesome update for sure.

Jon: I was gonna say, as a fun update, kind of you know, there are examples from the RE Pantheon that did this already, like the Dead Aim games and stuff like that. But was it the Namco gun con that had a controller built into it? So you could like run around and then actually use it to shoot. I would love that.

Justin: So you mentioned death is a mechanic in the game. Do you mind explaining that a little bit more, like delving deeper into it?

Jon: Sure. I’ll keep it mysterious. But we went back to that original demo when we embraced the idea that your character was going to die because we tried to make the demo as easy as possible. So that if you got to a place where you died halfway, or most of the way through, you had to restart again, it was unlikely to happen. It turns out that was the wrong approach. So we actually ended up making the game harder. But by virtue of the interesting things that would start happening after you died, it felt much better. So in that sense, there was a much more genuine representation of the game. 

Alex: One of the design pillars is, we want to make it feel like there are interesting choices around like, do I take things right now so that, you know, I have an easier time with this character? Or do I leave more bullets behind? So I have an easier time next time. So there will be things you’ll find throughout the game that will carry over across the characters. So there’s going to be a tension between taking more upfront so that you can find this stuff more readily for the next group. And also, if we do our jobs right, the characters will feel different. So it will not just feel like you have six lives.

Justin: Interesting. So are there any chances we’re going to get Spencer Mansion-style puzzles in the game?

Jon: Absolutely, yes. So we’ve adopted kind of the more Resident Evil 4 philosophy, okay, you’re not, you’re not walking around with a giant pile of what’s it called MacGuffins and things like that. In terms of how inventory works, puzzle items will mostly live in their own key items screen.

Justin:  So the release date on Steam says 2022. Is there any chance we’ll be playing this by, let’s say, Halloween?

Jon:  God willing.

Alex:  We are working really hard. October is an excellent month for horror games.

Thank you Jon and Alex for taking the time and sitting down with me to chat more about You Will Die Here Tonight, it was a genuine pleasure to talk to those guys and share some original Resident Evil love. I personally can’t wait for You Will Die Here Tonight and you should check it out on Steam, as well follow the studio to get updates and go to their website for lots of awesome gifs and trailers!

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