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Interview: Lexis Numerique Breaks Down Its Downloadable Horror Title  Amy

Interview: Lexis Numerique Breaks Down Its Downloadable Horror Title Amy Exclusive

October 13, 2011 | By Brandon Sheffield, Tom Curtis

October 13, 2011 | By Brandon Sheffield, Tom Curtis
More: Console/PC, Indie, Exclusive, Design, Production

After releasing Red Johnson's Chronicles right alongside the now-infamous PSN outage, French developer Lexis Numerique and subsidiary Vector Cell are gearing up to release Amy, a new survival-horror title for downloadable platforms.

Developed in part by renowned Flashback developer Paul Cuisset, Amy draws inspiration from Ico, and primarily has players escorting and protecting a mysterious girl from in a mysterious, often dangerous world. In addition, players struggle with the protagonist's own zombie-like infection, which has major repercussions on Amy's gameplay.

The game has since slipped out of its summer launch window and currently has no firm launch date -- the game is planned for release on PSN, XBLA, and PC.

Here, Lexis Numerique marketing director Djamil Kemal speaks to Gamasutra about the studio's previous title, the technical challenges the team had to overcome with Amy, and how the game relates to other survival horror classics.

Let's talk about the PSN outage, because you launched Red Johnson's Chronicles right as it happened. How did that affect you guys in terms of sales and everything?

For the sales, it's very simple, because we actually sold the game for two hours. So we had good sales for two hours, but we haven't sold since the restoration, so for us it was really hard. Honestly, Sony did a great job pushing us, and they did a lot of banners to launch the game, and we're currently re-launching it. What we're really pleased with is the great reviews; the few people who bought the game really loved it.

I hope it works out, because there are quite a few developers who released their stuff right around there and they got pretty screwed.

Twelve titles at the same time.

Amy looks quite nice for a downloadable title. I noticed that it seems to focus more on character detail than environment detail.

You'll see that the environment detail is really huge and the character detail is really great and you'll see that the quality of the environment is the same. It was really hard for us, because we almost had to go from scratch because we didn't have the money, time, and will to buy Unreal, so we had to go from Phyre, which is Sony's engine, and rebuild it entirely.

The other technology that was really hard to do was that the game is based on the cooperation between two characters and Lena holds Amy's hand to heal for example and also to feel her heart beat, so when you hold her hand you feel the heart beat in the controller going "Thump-thump, thump-thump" and when she gets frightened it beats faster, but the hard thing is that holding the hand of a character while running in real time is, technically speaking, really hard. We were wondering why nobody had done it and it's because it was so hard. If we had known it before we wouldn't have done it. But now, of course, we have.

Was it mostly a path-finding issue?

It was path-finding, plus AI, among other things. We loved Ico for instance, but we wanted Amy, the little girl, to look like a child because if you don't care about her, the game has nothing to give you. So we needed her to have an emotional reaction: fear, hesitation, when she sees a corpse she'll go slowly, she'll go back, and having that issue, having the path-finding and having anything at any time, running in any direction and not having the arm going in any direction it was really hard.

If you accomplished it, then congratulations!

You'll see that it really works well.

What is Amy's vision of survival horror? It means a lot of different things to different people.

If you really want to talk about the genre there are two things: action horror, like Resident Evil, Dead Space, and there's inner horror like Silent Hill and Amnesia. We're closer to Silent Hill, for instance, because you don't have much action and so on but we didn't want to have a label. It's really hard when you go to see a publisher and he wants to put a label on your game, but here it's really a mix of many things: it's closer to Silent Hill because you don't have the guns, but you have more fights, and most of all we didn't want to impose a solution onto the player, to make them to do something in a specific order.

At the beginning, yes [there is a specific solution], because it's a tutorial and the first level is very in order, but the more you go, the more free you are to do whatever you want, to go from point A to point B, if you want to fight or to use stealth and hide in a cabinet under a table, you can. If you want to use a ruse, like use Amy as bait for instance.

You've also got two factions; you've got zombies on the one hand and you've got soldiers on the other, and if you want you can try to have them fighting with each other while you figure out a way, or you can use stealth because a big part of the game is based on the fact that Lana is infected so if you don't heal her, she dies. She doesn't die, but she loses control, she becomes a zombie. When you're a zombie you're on the other side, you don't attack other zombies, so you can be like among them, walking slowly while hiding. But you're always frightened to lose control. That's what we're trying to do here.

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