Tuesday, June 14, 2011

SILENT HILL



Silent Hill
Developer - Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo
Publisher - Konami
Release date – January 31, 1999

Silent Hill is a survival horror video game for the PlayStation published by Konami and developed by Team Silent, a Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo group. The first installment in the Silent Hill series, the game was released in North America in January 1999, and in Japan and Europe later that year.


Story

Harry is driving to Silent Hill with his daughter Cheryl for a vacation. At the town's edge, he swerves his car to avoid hitting a girl in the road; as a result, he crashes the vehicle and loses consciousness. Waking up in town, he realizes that his daughter is missing, so he sets out to look for her in the town. He meets police officer Cybil Bennett, who works in a nearby town. Finding that the town is deserted and foggy, with snow falling out of season, Harry meets several other people in the monster-filled town: Dahlia Gillespie, who gives him a charm, the "Flauros"; Doctor Michael Kaufmann, director of Silent Hill's Alchemilla Hospital; and nurse Lisa Garland, who worked at Alchemilla. He also encounters a symbol throughout the town, which Dahlia claims will allow darkness to take over the town if it continues to multiply. Eventually, this darkness begins taking over the town. According to Dahlia, the girl from the road is a demon responsible for the symbol's duplication. She urges him to stop the demon, because if he does not, Cheryl will die. Harry soon finds himself attacked by Cybil, who is parasitized by a creature; the player must choose whether to save her or not.


Gameplay

The objective of the player is to guide main protagonist and player character Harry Mason through a monster-filled town as he searches for his lost daughter, Cheryl. Silent Hill's gameplay consists of combat, exploration, and puzzle-solving. The game uses a third-person view, with the camera occasionally switching to other angles for dramatic effect, in pre-scripted areas. This is a change from older survival horror games, which constantly shifted through a variety of camera angles. Because Silent Hill has no heads-up display, the player must consult a separate menu to check Harry's "health". If a DualShock controller is used a heart beat rhythm can be felt signifying that the player is at low health.

Harry confronts monsters in each area with both melee weapons and firearms. An ordinary man, Harry cannot sustain many blows from enemies, and gasps for breath after sprinting. His inexperience in handling firearms means that his aim, and therefore the player's targeting of enemies, is often unsteady. A portable radio collected early in the game alerts Harry to the presence of nearby creatures with bursts of static.

The player can locate and collect maps of each area, stylistically similar to tourist maps. Accessible from the menu and readable only when sufficient light is present, each map is marked with places of interest. Visibility is mostly low due to fog and darkness; the latter is prevalent in the "Otherworld". The player locates a pocket-size flashlight early in the game, but the light beam illuminates only a few feet. Navigating through Silent Hill requires the player to find keys and solve puzzles.



Development

Development of Silent Hill started in September 1996. The game was created by Team Silent, a group of staff members within the Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo studio. The new owners of its parent company Konami sought to produce a game that would be successful in the United States. For this reason, a Hollywood-like atmosphere was proposed for Silent Hill. The staff members that were assigned to the game's development had failed at their previous projects. They intended to leave Konami, as they were not allowed to realize their own ideas, and were not compatible with the company's other teams. According to composer Akira Yamaoka, the developers did not know how to proceed with the Silent Hill project, either. As the time passed, the personnel and management of Konami lost their faith in the game, and the members of Team Silent increasingly felt like outsiders. Despite the profit-oriented approach of the parent company, however, the developers of Silent Hill had much artistic freedom because the game was still produced as in the era of lower-budget 2D titles. Eventually, the development staff decided to ignore the limits of Konami's initial plan, and to make Silent Hill a game that would appeal to the emotions of players instead.

For this purpose, the team introduced a "fear of the unknown" as a psychological type of horror. The plot was made vague and occasionally contradictory to leave its true meaning in the dark, and to make players reflect upon unexplained parts. Director Keiichiro Toyama created the game's scenario, while programmer Hiroyuki Owaku wrote the text for the riddles. Toyama did not have much experience of horror movies but was interested in UFOs, the occult and David Lynch movies which influenced the game's development.

The localization company Latina International, which had previously worked on Final Fantasy VII, translated the script into English. The town of Silent Hill is an interpretation of a small American community as imagined by the Japanese team. It was based on Western literature and films, as well as on depictions of American towns in European and Russian culture. The game's joke ending came out of a suggestion box created to find alternative reasons for the occurrences in Silent Hill.
Artist Takayoshi Sato corrected inconsistencies in the plot, and designed the game's cast of characters. As a young employee, Sato was initially restricted to basic tasks such as font design and file sorting. He also created 3D demos and presentations, and taught older staff members the fundamentals of 3D modeling. However, he was not credited for this work as he did not have as much respect within Konami as older employees.

Sato eventually approached the company's higher-ups with a short demo movie he had rendered, and threatened to withhold this technical knowledge from other staff members if he was not assigned to 3D work. As a consequence, his superior had to give in to his demand, and he was allowed to do character designs. Instead of relying on illustrations, Sato conceived the characters of Silent Hill while creating their computer-generated models. He gave each their own distinctive characteristics, but made Harry almost completely neutral as he wanted to avoid forcing interpretations of the game on the players. Creating the skull shapes for the faces of the American cast was difficult because he had no Caucasian co-workers to use for reference. Although Sato was largely responsible for the game's cinematics and characters at this point, his superior still did not want to fully credit his work, and intended to assign a visual supervisor to him. To prevent this from happening, Sato volunteered to create the full-motion videos of Silent Hill by himself. Over the course of two and a half years, he lived in the development team's office, as he had to render the scenes with the approximately 150 Unix-based computers of his coworkers after they left work at the end of a day.

Sato estimated the game's budget at US$3–5 million. He said that the development team intended to make Silent Hill a masterpiece rather than a traditional sales-oriented game, and that they opted for an engaging story, which would persist over time – similar to successful literature. The game debuted at the 1998 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Atlanta, Georgia, United States, where the presentations of movies and in-game scenes garnered applause from the audience. This favorable reception persuaded Konami to allot more personnel and public relation initiatives to the project. Konami later showcased Silent Hill at the European Computer Trade Show in London, and included a demo with its stealth game Metal Gear Solid in Japan.

The names and designs of some Silent Hill creatures and puzzles are based on books enjoyed by the character of Alessa, including The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle and Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The game contains several real-life references, particularly in characters' names. Cheryl Mason's first name is based on actress Sheryl Lee's first name, and Lisa Garland's surname is taken from actress Judy Garland. "Michael Kaufmann" is a combination of Troma Studios producers Michael Herz's and Lloyd Kaufmann's first name and surname, respectively. Alessa's original name was "Asia", and Dahlia's was "Daria", based on the first names of actresses Asia Argento and Daria Nicolodi – Argento's mother.

Harry's name was originally "Humbert", and Cheryl's was "Dolores", in reference to the protagonist and title character of Vladimir Nabokov's novel Lolita. The American staff altered these names, as they considered them too uncommon. Fictitious religious items appearing in the game have used various religions as a basis: the evil spirit-dispelling substance Aglaophotis, which is said to be made from a medicinal herb, is based on a herb of similar name and nature in the Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism); the "Seal of Metatron"'s name references the angel Metatron; and the name of the "Flauros"' was taken from the eponymous demon appearing in the Lemegeton, a book on magic said to have been compiled by writings of King Solomon.Certain items and doors in the "nowhere" dimension of the game were given names based on occult elements in order to symbolize magical traits of Dahlia. The names of these doors were taken from the names of the angels Ophiel, Hagith, Phaleg, and Bethor, who appear in a medieval book of black magic and are supposed to rule over planets. This motif of giving names that suggest planets was used to signify that "a deeper part of the realm of Alessa's mind is being entered," according to Owaku.

Music

The soundtrack for Silent Hill was composed by sound director Akira Yamaoka, who requested to join the development staff after the original musician had left. In addition to the music, he was in charge of tasks such as sound effect creation and audio mastering. Yamaoka did not watch game scenes, but created the music independently from its visuals. The style of his compositions was influenced by Twin Peaks composer Angelo Badalamenti. To differentiate Silent Hill from other games as much as possible, and to give it a cold and rusty feel, Yamaoka opted for industrial music. When he presented his musical pieces to the other staff members for the first time, they misinterpreted their sound as a game bug. Yamaoka had to explain that this noise was intended for the music, and the team only withdrew their initial objection after he elaborated on his reasons for choosing this style.

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