Supermassive games. please be afraid

Although they’ve been on the market for over a dozen years, it’s only relatively recently that they’ve started speaking their own language. So don’t beat yourself up if you thought ‘Until Dawn’ was the debut of British studio Supermassive Games, which today is famous for its interactive horror.

The company founded by Pete Samuels started out as a kind of moonlighting subsidiary of Sony. Samuels, who previously worked for Psygnosis and Electronic Arts, where he was primarily responsible for quality control, signed a contract with the company to provide content commissioned by the giant for the PlayStation console. However, these were neither important nor prestigious projects, by any means. Supermassive Games was responsible for either game add-ons produced by others (such as DLC for “LittleBigPlanet”) or remasters or ports of existing items (“Killzone HD”, “LittleBigPlanet” on PlayStation Vita), or experimental attempts to use sophisticated devices supported by Sony equipment.

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The studio, dedicated to small needlework, started modestly the previous decade, with the “Start the Party!” Dilogue, a collection of family mini-games using the PlayStation Eye webcam. The Doctor Who trilogy planned for Supermassive Games was meant to be a chance to break into a higher league, but after the commercial and artistic defeat of the first of them, titled “The Eternity Clock”, the BBC withdrew the license. Perhaps that’s why the next project, “Walking with Dinosaurs”, was nothing more than a digital educational gadget for children, but operated using a forgotten Wonderbook.

Another game produced by studio Samuels – aimed at a younger audience, but inspired by slasher horror – was originally meant to be hooked up to another gadget from the Sony stable, namely Move controllers, and that would force their purchase. It was only after a snippet of the game was shown at Gamescom that attendees, though excited about the gameplay, bristled at the thought of having to control Move. Therefore, the idea was abandoned, the title was transferred to the PlayStation 4 console, the younger players were abandoned and made an interactive movie, allowing you to control an ordinary pad. This decision was to determine the future of Supermassive Games. The excellent “Until Dawn” was born.

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The mechanics developed at that time are still used by the studio, which is why we can speak of a key moment in the development of the company, which created an original and voluminous formula based on three pillars: strong narration, truly cinematic storytelling and a flexible story that reacts to player choices on an ongoing basis. Because “Until Dawn” was nothing less than a horror film, in which it was up to us to determine how the fate of a group of young people would go on vacation to a remote region. where evil lurks. The game, consciously using genre cliches and delicate patterns, emphasizing the character portraits of the characters, and actually differentiating their fates based on the decisions we made, turned out to be a success.

Supermassive, still under Sony’s wing, was named to a studio specializing not only in horror, but also in innovative ways of telling stories. Although Samuels chose a clear direction for further development, he was unable to implement it immediately. Decision makers insist on using the team’s talent in other areas. That’s why three of the Supermassive Team’s next four games are compatible with PlayStation VR Goggles, and two of them are spinoffs from none other than “Until Dawn.” However, while “Rush of Blood” is an on-rails shooter referring to this shot only nominally, “Inpatient” is a fairly interesting prequel to the events of that game, although the technically flawed VR equipment does not. didn’t allow for the dynamic storytelling that players are used to. Samuels and his family also had an episode with the PlayLink app, which allows multiple people to play PlayStation 4 via mobile phone as well. However, it’s hard to consider the ‘Hidden Agenda’ thriller as anything more than a mere curiosity, albeit an expertly written one. It was time to start a whole new chapter.

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But is it really new? Supermassive Games, licensed from Sony as soon as it signed a publishing contract with Bandai Namco Entertainment, immediately turned to the proven recipe of “Until Dawn”, embarking on the ambitious project “The Dark Pictures Anthology”. The games in the series released each year are relatively short hour-long adventures that use and modify the mechanics of that game, based on various ideas characteristic of horror movies. The first, “Man of Medan,” is nothing but a story about a haunted ship (with a twist). The second, “Little Hope,” is the story of a town suffering from a tragedy that happened years ago (with a twist). The third, “House of Ashes,” is a true love story about an ancient and powerful evil (with a twist). Although deliberately based on the same scheme, they are not punch-out productions.

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We can talk about the constant evolution of relatively simple gameplay. Besides the obvious storyline differences, there are various new options from game to game (like choice of difficulty level, where players can animate sometimes instantaneous QTE sequences, or various game modes for multiple players) and the very approach to storytelling and gameplay. While “Man of Medan” offered only fixed shots of the camera, “House of Ashes” allows any manipulation of it. The last of the games mentioned above, which closes the first season of this particular series, also allows the player to shoot, which is a complete novelty. This year we will star in “The Devil in Me”, of which we still know little about the plot, but which is based on the case of the infamous serial killer Henry Howard Holmes.

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Given the huge volume of work, it was quite surprising that only three months ago The Quarry was announced, the spiritual successor to Until Dawn, another major non-The Dark Pictures Anthology game. Although the gameplay is based on rules similar to the previous ones, “The Quarry” promises to be the studio’s most ambitious project to date, with a thousand-page storyline and no less than 186 directions of action. possible. The game’s vibe is meant to reference 1980s slasher cinema, and the cast was joined by, among others, David Arquette (“The Scream”), Lin Shaye (“Insidious”) and Lance Henriksen (“Aliens” ). Designed for a wider audience than the studio’s previous offerings, the game places more emphasis on the cinematic experience than the gaming experience.
Quarry is available today on PC and Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

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