Amnesia: The Dark Descent would look very different during its development. But that all changed with an offer from Penumbra, his previous game.

I remember those afternoons. You came home from class and would you eat watching the videos uploaded to youtube by early content creators. In spanish they sent the gameplays of call to action, with overwhelming MOABs and killstreaks. But soon the fashion imported from English youtubers to play horror titles appeared.

And if we had to stick with someone who starred in those early years of the last decade, it would certainly be Amnesia: The Dark Descent. The first-person horror game was responsible for great videos of youtuber with most subs in the world any elrubiusalready in Spanish, opening the ban for gameplays based on games of jumpscares or phenomena like Slenderman or Five Nights at Freddy’s.

What perhaps not everyone knows is that its development was tremendously bumpy, that public money was needed to avoid canceling the project in the beginning and that one of his great inspirations was Super Mario 64. Yes, despite dealing with deformed monsters, falling into madness in the dark and a terrifying story, it was Nintendo’s mascot that served as the initial inspiration for Amnesia: The Dark Descent.

Let’s start by situating ourselves temporarily. In late 2007, when the team that was part of Frictional Games was putting the finishing touches on Penumbra: Black Plague. The study needed an idea to keep running and be able to survive, but it didn’t come up in time. Fortunately, Paradox approached Frictional and offered to do an expansion for Penumbra; something that bought them some time.


Looking for ideas and inspirations for Amnesia

Penumbra Image: Black Death

Some decisions began to be taken, such as that they would continue working in the horror genre they were already used to. They also wanted to change some things, like using the levels as one big puzzle that you forget about when you solve it and move on to the next area. And there they saw movies like hostel It is mountain rangebut also in a video game like Super Mario 64.

thomas gripCreative Director of Amnesia, said in a piece on The Escapist: “From a mechanical point of view, we started to focus on creating the horror game equivalent of Super Mario: short levels, simple gameplay, repeatable mechanics, easy to understand targets and a tailor-made experience to be enjoyed in small portions.”

Little by little, they were moving away from their previous video game: “The game design had a similar micro mechanic to Penumbra (the physical interaction, basically), but a very different macro design. For example, the game was divided into several core zones that connected all the game’s levels. missions, new levels could be accessed that took the player to a new hub zone. Each level still kept stats like missions completed, items found, and best time. The whole system was very similar to Mario 64.”

The Steam Offer That Changed Everything

Things are going so well for them that they continue to make games on Frictional. Image from Amnesia: The Bunker.

However, if you’ve played Amnesia, or even seen the gameplay, you’ll know that this doesn’t have much to do with the final product released in 2010. How did that change midway through development? Well, we know the exact date of this: June 2009. Just when the team was running low on money, Steam launched a Penumbra trilogy sale with 75% discount. It was Frictional’s last chance to raise funds for Amnesia.

The result was impressive. During that weekend, and despite the juicy discount, more copies were sold than in the entire lifecycle of the three titles combined. This is even more incredible when you consider that Paradox owned the rights to Black Plague and Requiem, and only the opening revenue went into Frictional’s coffers.

That second youth from Penumbra changed things. Suddenly, audiences fell in love with these games, pushing Frictional to create a deep story, puzzles, and more mechanics reminiscent of its previous title. “Encouraged by these sales and the renewed popularity of our previous games, we focused on creating a game that was much more like Penumbra. We threw out the entire Mario 64 design and focused on a more linear experience,” explains Grip.

Although they took advantage of most of the work done, the philosophical shift became apparent even at the marketing level, as Amnesia was sold “like Penumbra, but better”. And the rest is history: Amnesia was one of the internet’s biggest phenomena, Frictional Games didn’t have to close after three very difficult years, and Super Mario 64 didn’t inspire this horror game.

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