Penumbra: Overture PC

DarkZero: Hello, please introduce yourself and tell us your role on the project.

Hi, My name is Thomas Grip and I am the project lead and main programmer of Penumbra: Overture.

DarkZero: What is Penumbra: Overture about?

Thomas Grip: It is a mixture of a first person sneaker and an adventure game that uses advanced physics to simulate world interaction. The game uses a 3d engine with real-time lighting and shadows that is capable of simulating a very realistic and dynamic world. The physical interaction means that the player does not simply click on things to interact but uses the mouse to simulate real-life motions. For example, if you want to open a door you can open it how you like and can just open it slightly to peek into the next room, making the player really feel part of the game world.

The story of the game starts the same way as the tech demo. The protagonist, Philip, gets a letter from his late father where he finds out there is a book in a safe deposit. The letter instructs Philip to burn the book, but he is too curious about its content and starts studying it instead. This leads him to a place on Greenland and wanting to know what happened to his father Philip decides to go there. Arriving at Greenland Philip gets caught in violent snow storm and barely escapes it by climbing down into a strange metal hatch in the middle of nowhere. This is where the game starts and the player needs to figure out what is going on.

DarkZero: What changes can we expect since the free tech demo version of Penumbra?

Thomas Grip: One thing that we have worked hard on is to make the engine better looking, faster and more stable. The various crashes that were in the tech demo are all gone and many new features such as depth of field, reflections and fog have been added.

We are also putting a lot of energy into upgrading all the art for the game. In fact less then 5 percent of the art in the tech demo are used in Overture. Our goal is to create an interesting and lifelike world that the players will feel an urge to explore.

Gameplay wise there have been a lot of additions. One of the bigger is a melee weapon system. This is not like the ones you find in other first person games though. First of all creatures the player encounters are very lethal and combat is just used as a last resort. Normally it is just used to knock down an enemy for a short time leaving the player some room to escape. Secondly the melee system uses mouse movements for swinging the weapons giving a more realistic and immersive feel.

DarkZero: There are 3 episodes scheduled for release in 2007, will they feature the same story?

Thomas Grip: The episodes will tell the same story of Philip trying to find out that has happened to his father. We are however trying to make the episodes have their own self contained stories as well so that the player will feel some kind of achievement when finishing an episode.

DarkZero: What kind of gameplay experiences can we expect?

Thomas Grip: One of our main design goals is to make a very scary and disturbing experience and not just by making frightening cut scenes like most other horror games. What we are trying to do is to make the actual gameplay frightening as well. For example the main tool for avoiding enemy encounters is to listen for suspicious sounds. This will keep player on their toes when exploring the environments and force him/her to be afraid of any unfamiliar sound heard.

Another design goal is to give each location character and its own story. This means that when visiting a location the player will find clues that will hint of past or future events in the game and not just be a generic prop. We really want the game to have depth and make it easy for the player to get really immersed in the world.

DarkZero: Are there cut-scenes? If so, will they be in-game graphics, storyboard or CGI?

Thomas Grip: All of the story progression will be told though in-game content such as notes, dialog and scripted scenes. We believe this leads to greater immersion by keeping the player within the game world.

DarkZero: How do you plan on tackling the varying experience and skills of your players?

Thomas Grip: We will have 3 different difficulty settings in the game so that most types of players will be able to get through the game and have a good experience. On the lowest setting enemy encounters are much simpler and not too much of a worry while enemies are extremely dangerous on the hardest setting. Certain skill required moments of the game will also be changed depending on the difficulty settings.

DarkZero: What can we expect in the audio department?

Thomas Grip: We are putting a huge effort into making the soundscape of game very scary and immersive. Countless of hours have been spent creating a very advanced sound system for the physics that mixes sounds depending on material, speed and on what motion is taking place. This creates a very realistic experience and we know no other game today that can match it.

A lot of work is also being made into sounds for the world and so far we have over 1000 original sounds that are used for ambience, creatures, physics and more. All of this adds to a very natural and scary sound environment.

We also have a musician that is creating several pieces for the game. These are put into a dynamic music system that changes what is played depending on the mood and situation.

DarkZero: The system requirements must be fairly high. If someone was planning on buying a gaming system for 2007 and beyond, what will they need in order to play games such as Penumbra: Overture?

Thomas Grip: It all depends on the quality of graphics you would like. The engine supports cards as old as Geforce 2 but a lot of the graphical features will be turned off for these cards. We would recommend using at least a Radeon 9800 or Geforce FX to be able to use most of the graphical features. A 2 Ghz CPU and 512 mb RAM is also recommended.

DarkZero: Anything you can tell us about the bad guys?

Thomas Grip: We believe that the world that we live in is not made of good and bad people but rather that people are in a grey area being part good and part bad. The creatures and people that you meet in the game will reflect this and we think that is much more interesting than just have 100% evil guys as the player’s enemy.

DarkZero: What games will you be playing next month?

Thomas Grip: For my part I will buy Resident Evil 4 as soon as it comes out for PC in Feburary. Will see if I get any time to play it though since I will spend most waken hours trying to get “Penumbra: Overture” done.

DarkZero: Thank you every much for your time Thomas!

Visit the game’s official site for media and further info.