"Amusement parks are happy places, filled with the innocent joys of childhood and the exhilarating rush of hair-raising, but safe adventure. Balloons, cotton candy and fantastic rides to be dared. Perhaps that is how Lorraine pictured it too when she brought her son Callum to one... just before it descended into the most terrifying nightmare of her life.
"'The Park' is a psychological horror experience and Funcom's first single-player game since its award-winning adventure 'Dreamfall: The Longest Journey'. Releasing on the PC in October this year, 'The Park' puts you in the shoes of a mother whose son goes missing. When night falls and the lights go out, what follows is an intense story set against the backdrop of an amusement park where a dark and sinister secret is just waiting to be uncovered."
WARNING: This video contains content which could trigger seizures for people with photosensitive epilepsy.
Ahead of the release of Funcom's new horror title The Park, we got the chance to put some questions to Creative director Joel Bylos about the game, why people should get playing and more - find out what he had to say below...
Players of The Secret World may recognise the amusement park in The Park - why was the decision made to explore this area in more depth?
It kind of goes back to the story of the development of the game. Late March/early April we were testing out Unreal 4 and considering using it to handle our rendering and front end development needs. Three people were assigned to test and evaluate the new tech; an artist, a game designer and myself. We decided that the best way to learn and understand the flexibility of the Unreal technology was to build an entire game from scratch.
We decided that the amusement park from The Secret World was a good idea because it had a backstory that we could expand upon, it was a set of self-contained art assets - rides/park entrance etc. - and it was easily turned into something quite creepy.
Of course, there were strong narrative considerations - we wanted the game to be accessible to players who have never heard of The Secret World and we also wanted it to be the story of a mother searching for her son - and what better location than a creepy amusement park?
Was influence or inspiration for the game drawn from anywhere other than The Secret World?
The Secret World itself draws inspiration from dozens of sources such as Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft and those bleed through into the game. I think it was games like Gone Home and Dear Esther that gave us the courage as a company to say that perhaps it is okay to release a game that focuses on quality over quantity. Otherwise I have read quite a lot of psychology texts - my wife is a Psychologist - to help me understand various aspects of the game.
I should probably also mention that Hansel and Gretel in particular has had a very strong influence on the game.
Lorraine isn't the typical protaganist for this type of story - why was she chosen to lead this title?
Hmm, that's a tough one. Lorraine fits this story like a hand fits into a highly personalised fitted glove. She's the momentum and the heart of the entire experience. You join her as she searches the park for her son and it is through her reactions to events in the world that the story is told. There are moments in the game, where Lorraine monologues about the circumstances of her life and her relationship with Callum. These moments come from a place that I think parents will recognise and hopefully empathise with.
Honestly, we set out to tell a story that just wouldn't make sense without Lorraine at the heart of it. There was only one choice of character for the role.
On a side note, Lorraine is voiced by the incredibly talented Fryda Wolff. She's awesome!
A missing child really is a parent's biggest fear; is that something you really wanted to play on with this story?
I think that the story starts from a place that any parent can recognise - a child running away and taunting you as they flee. Seasoned parents tend not to sweat this, they know the game and they understand that the child is probably exploring the limit of their comfort zone before returning.
But what if your child doesn't come back? What if you can call out to them and hear them always just out of sight and just out of reach? We wanted to explore the sinking feeling that every parent feels when they realise that it might not be a game anymore.
Which other elements of fear will be played on throughout The Park?
The amusement park itself has a story that is being told throughout The Park. This brings its own set of questions - why were there so many accidents during the construction of the park, and why were there so many deaths after it opened?
It plays upon fears built upon age old urban legends - about the family who died when the rollercoaster derailed. About the out-of-control bumper car that crushed a child. I think these stories build upon the tension and character of the location and help to immerse you in the fear that comes along.
And, we have a few cheap jump scares in there because - why not?
What do you think it is about amusement parks that holds a certain level of creepiness?
I don't think anybody goes to an amusement park and gets on the rides without a certain amount of tension. Yes, it's probably safe - but 'probably' is not 'definitely' and there is a very human wish to walk that fine line between danger and pleasure.
Beyond that, I think that it is the marked contrast between daytime and nighttime in a place like an amusement park. The daytime is hustle and bustle and smiles and crowds and laughter and screams - the nighttime is silence and stillness and loneliness and whatever-that-was-you-saw-out-of-the-corner-of-your-eye. The plastic silhouettes are more threatening that comforting, the gaily painted smiles become snarling grins in the faded light.
How long a process has the creation of The Park been?
The Park has been an incredible fast project on our end, conceived in March and ready for delivery on October 27. I think that is likely to be Funcom's fastest developed game ever.
The original seed for the game came to me back in 2013 when my second daughter was born, and at the time I tucked it away as a quest idea I could use in The Secret World.
Why should people pick up a copy of The Park and play the game?
If you are interested in an experience that takes a couple of hours and is focused on slowly building tension and creating an atmosphere that will hopefully leave you shuddering and shaking by the end, I'd humbly suggest that The Park might be for you. Just be warned, it's best played alone in a dark room wearing headphones.
What's next for you?
We have several projects on the boil right now, and while I can't talk about any of them I can say this - if The Park is a success we might end up exploring similar themes and ideas in the future!
The Park is available now for pre-order on Steam, ahead of release on October 27: http://store.steampowered.com/app/402020/
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