William Oertel is a producer at Konami Digital Entertainment's, and is responsible for the recent U.S.-sourced game entries in the Silent Hill franchise; namely, the visual novel, art, and music hybrid Silent Hill Experience and the upcoming Climax-developed series prequel, Silent Hill Origins which revisits many of the elements from the original Silent Hill on the Sony PlayStation. Both of these titles were conceived for Sony's PSP platform, to take advantage of its portability.
Gamasutra caught Oertel at Konami's 2006 Comic-Con International booth to talk about Silent Hill, how the movie adaptation has affected the game series' direction, and the hardships of making portable games scary.
Gamasutra: Silent Hill Origins, as a visual novel, is a type of product that hasn't been done successfully in the United States before, as opposed to Japan, where the genre is popular. Do you see this turning around?
William Oertel: I think there's opportunity. Konami saw, especially with the PSP, that you can use the hardware in so many different ways, so why not mix mediums together? You see a lot of properties integrating the comic medium's mechanics, Sin City was a very direct approach as an example. I think there's an opportunity to kind of make comics and, with my experience on this one, and seeing Metal Gear Solid: DGN, that there is a lot of room to kind of create something different by taking comics and animating them. I think there are still a lot of ways for us to exploit that, or explore that. I don't think we've hit the pinnacle yet of where that could be, and this is one step in that direction.
GS: So the sales have been good on these experiments?
WO: They did okay! It's a hard concept to communicate to people, retailers in particular. They pick it up and they expect a game, and it's not a game. So they say well, is it a movie? And it's not a movie, it's a combination of many different things. With Silent Hill Experience, in that particular case, Silent Hill is more than a game. You have comic books, you have soundtracks, you the videos, and of course you have the movie. All these elements make for something that allows you to create something unique out of all that. A lot of games don't have that level of depth to what they make. And so in Experience's case, we tap into all that. We take the comics and video games and the soundtrack and the stills and wrap it all into this very game-like setting. Based on things I've read and people who have purchased it, they really like it.
GS: Who is this product marketed towards, specifically?
WO: There are two groups. First of all, the Silent Hill demographic, males, both teens and adults. Of course, the Silent Hill fan. I'm thinking of them, and making sure there's value in there for them. But additionally, with the movie coming out, we knew that a lot of people weren't going to be familiar with Silent Hill. They would watch the movie and they would think, 'I wonder what else there is?' So let's give them a slice into what Silent Hill is all about, and that's what Experience is.
GS: So it does kind of double as sort of an entry-level introduction to the franchise?
WO: Yeah! It's one of those tough products that you have to appeal to both. And I think with anything Silent Hill-related, you want to expand the fanbase, you want to get more users, but at the same time you've got this core that really loves what you've done, and you want to make sure they're happy as well.