Allison Road is a first person horror game that is currently in the middle of their kickstarter campaign. The studio Lilith wants to capture the surreal and claustrophobic horror of P.T., with help from the Unreal Engine and VR support. With a new player on the horror market, I wanted to talk to them about what they are hoping to achieve with Allison Road.
The following interview was done with Chris Kesler, Project Lead from team Lilith
1. To begin with, could you talk a little about your studio and how it was started?
Hi there! Allison Road actually started as a one-man project, but then over time we built a small team to meet all the development needs like coding and audio etc and then we decided it would be great to bring us all under one umbrella, so we formed Lilith. 🙂
2.What led to your team basing your first game on the survival horror genre? Considering the ups and downs its had over recent years.
Oh we love horror. Well, narrative driven horror. Favorite genre for sure! I think ups and downs genre-wide are not real ups and downs, it just a perception based on lack of good content. I think horror is as popular as ever.
3.Before we talk more about general horror design, I think it’s best to talk a little more detail about Allison Road. For people coming to the interview without any prior knowledge of Allison Road, could you tell us what the game is about?
Allison Road is a narrative driven survival horror game with VR support, and you basically wake up in a seemingly unfamiliar Manchester suburban house without any recollection of prior events. You have to find out where your family is and what exactly happened to them in the course of the game.
4. Whenever I talk to developers doing a kickstarter, I like to ask them the following question: Was Allison Road created specifically to go to Kickstarter or did the idea to do a crowdfunding campaign came about during development?
No, Allison Road was and is a passion project. It’s done by a really small team on a tiny budget. After the game got more popular online we had a lot of people suggest to us to try some crowdfunding and after much deliberation we decided to give it a shot, because the additional resources could help us make the game bigger and speed up development. Furthermore it would be a great opportunity for people to become a real part of the game and it turns out all our ‘be in the game’ tiers are actually really popular. Which is great to see!
5. From watching the teaser video up on the kickstarter page, Allison Road is going for a very immersive feel using both the graphical power of UE and optional VR. How important was getting VR support for the game and what do you think of the VR push that has been happening in recent years?
VR takes the game to a different level, for sure. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried Alien:Isolation with the Oculus Rift, but it makes you feel like you are actually there. It’s a very bizarre experience.
Having said that, Allison Road is absolutely going to work just fine as a normal game experience. I think VR just adds another layer of realism to it, but it’s not essential by any means.
Personally I’m a huge fan of VR and I can’t wait to see what happens next year with all the big companies releasing their headsets.
6. Let’s talk a little about gameplay or what you hopefully have planned following the kickstarter. Your page mentioned a focus on exploration and stealth, could you talk a little more about what someone will be doing in the game?
I can’t really say much as to what we have planned after the Kickstarter at the moment, because first we have to see if it works out 🙂 Ask me again in 2 weeks time! And as for in the game: The focus is really on story driven horror. So you’ll explore the house and other areas, solve puzzles, discover clues and piece the story together. However, as you may have already seen, you are not alone in the house. Something is stalking you in the dark and while the story unfolds you have to really keep an eye out for dark things hunting you!
7.One of the sticking points for a lot of horror games today is just how replayable/random the experience can be; the more surprises is often better. With Allison Road, are you aiming for a linear story/experience or will there be unpredictable elements to keep plays different?
To a certain extent this will really depend on the success of our Kickstarter campaign. We have certain things planned which we’d love to realize which would definitely add to replayability, but it comes down to budget in the end. Having said that, the story is set up in a way that you’d very much want to play twice to get all the clues that you might not have caught the first time around.
8. When talking about horror design, I would be remiss not to bring up the aesthetic of the game. Could you talk a little about how you decided on the overall look of Allison Road along with the creature designs?
The entire premise of the game is that it’s really supposed to be grounded in reality as much as possible. Obviously we are taking some liberties here and there (especially in the environments outside the house), but it’s all going to be a coherent look and feel. Everything will make sense in a sort of realistic framework so to speak.
9. As an overall experience, how long of a game are you hoping to make Allison Road?
We are shooting for 5 to 6 hours, but that really depends on the outcome of the Kickstarter campaign in a way.
10. For these final questions, I want to talk more about overall horror design as the topic is one that I’m very interested in. Horror design comes in many forms: From jump scares like Five Nights at Freddy’s to the more psychological bent of Amnesia, when you think of an amazing horror experience, what comes to mind?
Personally I feel that you can’t have great horror without a good build-up and an emotional connection to the characters.
The anticipation of something happening without it actually happening; that tension that comes from waiting for something. That’s super important, too. If I had to choose one or two amazing horror experiences I’d definitely say Silent Hill 2 and The Last of Us. In fact these two might be my favorite games.
11. A major point that I love to debate is fight vs. flight in horror design. We’ve seen a lot of horror games move away from fight to focus on constant running. I personally think that games where your only option is to run and hide get repetitive after awhile. What do you think about these two polarizing options and their impact on horror design?
I think it really depends on the type of game you’re making. Allison Road for example is set in a typical / realistic UK house. It really wouldn’t make much sense to wield a shotgun in a game like this and shoot up the place. On the contrary, I think it would actually take away from the overall experience, because it would just be too far fetched. On the other hand, if you take a game like Resident Evil. Hard to imagine it with a hide & seek mechanic. I think both variants have their benefits, but really depends on the game you’re making.
12. Going back to talking about length, another difficult point of horror games is getting the pacing right. We’ve seen games fail for being too short and too long; how are you guys approaching the issue of making sure Allison Road is just right in this regard?
We are not really at that point yet, but when it comes to it we won’t shy away from cutting things or adding some wherever it may be necessary. I think it’s important to not be precious about things that are not really working.
13. Finally, for any fans or newcomers reading this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts you would like to share about horror design or Allison Road?
Actually if there are any newcomers reading this I’d very much like to encourage people to try and make their own games! 🙂
It’s never been easier. You can get a lot of the tools and assets for free these days to play around with. So if anybody ever toyed with the idea I’d highly recommend having a go at it. It’s really great fun! And if any fans of Allison Road are reading this: Thank you very much for your support, really appreciated! 🙂
For more on Lilith and Allison Road, you can follow them on twitter.