“Early on, we had decided that if [Amnesia] did not sell 24,000 units during the first two months we would close down Frictional Games. Anything less and we would not have enough funds to properly sustain the company.“
At the beginning of 2010, Frictional Games was five guys who had made a mildly successful game, working off quickly dwindling resources.
At the end of the decade, Frictional Games had grown to be 25 people across two projects, supported by steady income from a cult hit and an indie darling.
There was no way to predict the combination of hard work, luck, and meta trends surrounding Amnesia that would help us sell, well, way more than 24,000 units, and put Frictional on the map of reputable game developers. Aside from being a financial success, Amnesia has reportedly been influential on the gaming industry at large, from affecting the horror genre to helping kickstart the Let’s Play scene (with no small thanks to the modding community and their numerous contributions of custom story content).
The success of Amnesia: The Dark Descent let us further develop our craft in SOMA. Though not as financially successful, it has found its niche among the gaming community.
We are mostly from Northern Europe, so it’s not our style to toot our own horn. But finding our games on lists wrapping up the decade with “best” or “most influential” in the title has been exciting, considering the thousands of games released over the past 10 years. It’s the best kind of inspiration to push us to do better.
So we will toot our horn a little bit, with a small list of lists covering the past decade that one of our games made it on. We would like to thank every publication that has found our games worthy of being featured, regardless of ranking. And sorry for non-English publications for not finding you – if there are articles out there in other languages, do link them in the comments!
As a fun coincidence, if not ranked, Amnesia: The Dark Descent opens a lot of these lists. There’s upsides to releasing in the first year of the decade and starting your game’s name with the first letter of the alphabet!
At the top of our list of lists is GND-Tech, who graced us with three wins and three nominations – a whooping six mentions total! There’s SOMA for best sound effects with Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs as a nominee. There’s Best Story, Writing Quality for SOMA. Again SOMA as the Best Horror game, with Amnesia: The Dark Descent as a nominee, as well as SOMA as a nominee for Dark Horse. Soma-one at GND-Tech sure loved SOMA!
Sadly we didn’t get awards for Best Racing Game or Best Multiplayer Shooter, but we’ll count our losses.
Of course the Big Business Journal acknowledging us would make top news, are you kidding me?
Games of the Decade Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Amnesia was featured in the print version of Edge as one of the 12 games of the decade, earning it a place as one of the collectors’ covers. You can read about the covers on their sister site GamesRadar+.
Almost exactly two years ago I screamed as an email titled “Frictional Games: Job Offer” dropped in my inbox. I continued screaming as I called my mother to tell her the news. Half an hour later she sent me a follow-up text.
“I looked at the website you sent me. Are you sure it’s a real company? I’m worried.”
Since that day, my life has never known peace.
Once I infiltrated the company, one of the first big questions I dared shoot at Thomas and Fredrik (after “Hey, is Catherine Chun a lesbian?” (the response: she is if you want her to be)) was “Hey, can we please do something about the website?” They said yes. In my foolishness I posted the first blog in 3 years, stating we were still alive – expecting to hype people up for an imminent release of a new website.
The release wasn’t imminent. Instead we were met with… well, let’s call it a Series of Time-Consuming False Starts.
As 2020 grew closer, some passive superstition started gnawing at me. This time the screaming was internal, and kept me awake at night at the thought of entering the new decade with an old website (a perfectly normal reaction, right?). Our fans making fun of the site didn’t help either, dealing further damage to a project I now considered the measure of my pride.
Fuck it. I’ll make it myself.
And I did. You’re looking at it! The monument to my mediocre design skills, superior patience, love for colour orange, and some help from the rest of the team (as well as our IT partner Vessinge).
So, what’s new?
The main new thing is that I’m nuking the concept of posting content on separate platforms. All future news and blog posts (previously on our Blogspot) will be posted here and here only. I have gone through all (376) past blogs and news articles, as well as posts on our forum and mysterious third-party platforms, and hunted down the images and videos, fixed or removed all broken links.
Other new things, in no particular order, include:
Winter is coming for us in the Northern Hemisphere. Get a hot drink, curl up under a blanket, and start up the HPL level editor – it’s time for Frictional’s Winter Modding Jam!
Join us for a month-long event focused on HPL modding! You’re welcome to participate alone or in a small team (up to 5 people). For peer support, head on over to our Discord server.
Are you an artist, writer, or other kind of creator? You can still participate by teaming up with one of the modders. Head on over to #winter_modding_jam on our Discord and find your team! We will also be holding specialised events for you in the future.
The Jam will start on the 11th of December 2019 and last until the 19th of January 2020.
You can submit your work on the night of Sunday the 19th, as the submissions will be checked on Monday morning.
Winter and/or Hibernation.
One or both themes should be present in the Fan Jam entry. You are welcome to interpret them however you wish. The mods don’t have to have a connection to Frictional Games titles.
This Frictional Fan Jam is specifically for HPL modding. You are free to use HPL2 and HPL3, or even HPL1 if you’re brave enough.
Aside from the game assets, you are also welcome to utilise other assets you can legally use, or have permission to use from the creators.
The jury of Frictional Games employees will pick the winners of the jam. Discord moderator team will not be voting on entries, and are therefore allowed to fully participate in the event.
The winners will receive A5-sized posters of a game of their choosing sent to their home address (team members will be sent theirs separately). The Frictional team from the Malmö office can sign them if you wish. Once our next project is out, the winners will also receive a download key for the game on an available platform of their choosing.
Depending on the amount of entries, the Malmö office Frictional team will stream all of the entries, or only the winners.
The Fan Jam is organised by Frictional Games’ community manager Kira, with support from the Frictional Games Discord moderators. The easiest way to contact either is through the Frictional Games Discord server’s #winter_modding_jam channel. The channel can also be used to share ideas with other community members, get feedback, and look for team members.
If you don’t have a Discord account, you are welcome to contact Frictional Games through Twitter or our Contact Form, and we will help you as soon as we can.
For general questions: Contact Kira, for example by pinging them on the Discord channel.
For technical questions: Join our Discord server which has an active modding community.
Have fun, we’re looking forward to your wintery creations!
It has now been over 9 years since we released Amnesia: The Dark Descent. That is a bloody long time, and feels like we should celebrate that by talking about the craft of horror games.
Horror games are quite a different beast when it comes to the game industry at large. Most other genres revolve around what the player does. In a turn-based strategy you take turns doing strategy:
In a first-person shooter you shoot things from a first-person perspective:
In a Match 3 game you match three thingies:
In a horror game, the activity is not at all as important. What is important is that the experience is a spooky one. This makes designing horror games different from designing within other genres. Many times the standard industry tricks just won’t work, which makes one think about game design in a different light.
In the past 9 years we have learned a great deal about horror games, and to celebrate the occasion, I wanted to share 9 lessons we have learned over the years.
That being said, I don’t see these lessons as only useful for horror games. There’s quite a bit of overlap with other genres, especially any games that aim for a narrative-heavy experience.
And finally – this is by no means an exhaustive list. Still, the lessons here are at the core of the craft of making scary video games.
Lesson 1: Horror is not enjoyable
The basic emotion of horror is not a pleasant one – yet people play horror games wanting to experience horror. This is the paradox of horror as entertainment. This paradox requires game developers to be careful in how they deliver the experience to the player.
You could draw an analogy between horror games and rollercoasters. The basic purpose of a rollercoaster is to simulate the sensation of falling. Under controlled circumstances the experience of falling is thrilling and fun (at least for a good portion of people). But if you put someone in a barrel and push them down a cliff, chances are they will not find the experience fun at all. Even if they survive unscathed, the whole ordeal would be a horrible experience.
The same is true for horror games. If you have a game that only relies on jumpscares – figuratively throwing people off a cliff in a barrel – few people will consider that fun. This became apparent in certain maps in Penumbra. We thought it would be good enough for a scary gameplay section to have a maze and some monsters. Instead of becoming mazes of fear, they instead became mostly… annoying. Amnesia: The Dark Descent had similar issues towards the end, where the monster encounters were just that, not supported by any other aspects. At that point the game no longer felt as entertaining.
Lesson 2: Players are working against you
For a horror game developer, the worst enemy is… the players. Seriously, if we could sit around and make games without having to worry about what the players will do and think when playing the game, life would be so much simpler!
As mentioned before, being scared is not a pleasant feeling. Therefore the players will try to optimize the feeling away, often unconsciously. In the end, the players will ruin the intended experience for themselves.
Take the demon dogs from our first game, Penumbra: Overture. The game takes a bunch of time to build them up as creepy monsters that stalk the dark mines. However their AI has some weaknesses that some people are very quick to catch. Hence the dogs become easy to defeat, and are no longer scary.
And the crazy thing is that the players complain when this happens! They probe the system for flaws and choose to exploit them, yet want the dogs to remain scary. So their behaviour ends up going against their will.
Some games solve issues of player exploitation simply by making the enemies extremely hard (think Dark Souls): they make sure the monsters are just as hard to beat as they look scary. Another approach is to instead skip much of the gameplay (think Dear Esther): if there are no mechanics, there’s nothing for the player to exploit – problem solved, right?
I don’t think either of these solutions is optimal. Instead I think one should aim for a third route: making the players think about actions in a more narrative fashion. More about that later!
Lesson 3: Scares alone won’t make a horror game
Horror is like a spice that defines a dish. You cannot do without it, but you can’t cook a dish solely out of spices either. That would be just gross.
As an example, let’s take three horror movies I consider to be at the top of their genre: Alien, The Exorcist and Ringu. All three movies deal with very different subjects, have different styles, and are overall different from one another. But there is one thing they have in common: they all have very few scares in them!
Instead each movie is mostly about the characters, the discussions, the anticipation of the horror – building up the atmosphere and the dread of things to come. Very little time is spent actually facing the horror.
Let’s get back to our roller coaster analogy. When you think about it, the actual roller coaster ride lasts a very short time. Most of the time is spent doing things like buying a ticket, standing in line, and hearing other people scream. All these actions are not superfluous extras – they build up for the actual ride, and are crucial to the overall experience.
When we first made the study section of Amnesia: The Dark Descent, we implemented a ton of jumpscares. Books fell down from shelves, doors banged, pianos started playing and so forth. But as the map became more complete, it felt like something was off. So we reduces the scares to just a couple, and instead focused on letting the player learn the castle’s mysteries. At first we were afraid this would make the level too boring – but as it turns out, spacing the scares apart made players much more scared than previously.
Lesson 4: Fun gameplay is just too… fun
In a horror game more than any other, the players go in expecting to have a bad time. And as designers we want them to feel anxiety, despair, and a whole array of negative emotions. But gameplay – because it’s so damn engaging – tends to counteract all these juicy emotions.
Let’s use Dead Space as an example. When I started playing it, I was really scared, walking around slowly and peeking around every corner. Then, about an hour in, I learned how to kill the monsters, and what tricks I needed to survive.
Not only did I get good at killing the monsters, I thought it was great fun! The things that used to terrify me now became a source of amusement. Instead of dreading the monster sounds they now made me excited – oh great, another necromorph to dismember!
So where did the fear go? It was simply overshadowed by the rewarding gameplay.
Us humans tend to have this thing called attention, and we only have a limited amount of it. If the game is constantly engaging the player with thinking about their aim, checking ammo, and looking for loot, there’s no room left for much else. In other words, the players’ brain will lack resources to frighten themselves.
The early designs of Amnesia: The Dark Descent included genre-typical weapons, and even guns. We also experimented with very elaborate puzzle set-ups, everything from swinging chandeliers to redirecting rays of light. All these caused the same issues as Dead Space. They were too fun, and took attention away from what mattered: getting scared.
Eventually we decided to reduce the “fun” elements the gameplay had – and it paid off.
We saw this very clearly when watching Let’s Plays of the Amnesia games. Since players didn’t have things like combat to pay attention to, they reacted to things they might not have even noticed in other games. A vague sound, almost like a footstep, was suddenly a reason to look for the nearest cupboard to hide in. Had the players minds been filled with thoughts of loot boxes, they would have never reacted like this.
Lesson 5: Narrative is a core element in good horror
So if engaging gameplay can be counteractive to the horror, and you need to be careful with the scares, what do you fill a horror game with?
While no silver bullet, narrative is a big part of the equation.
By building up a narrative, us game designers can make game worlds bigger and more intricate than they actually are in-game. We can prime the player into doing a lot of the scaring for themselves.
In order to explain this, let’s take a random image let’s take a random image of a quaint town:
This feels like a great place for an evening stroll, right?
Now let’s give this image some backstory. Put on some spooky music, like the Amnesia soundtrack, and read the following:
It has been two weeks since a huge storm cut the town from the rest of the world. All means of communication are down.
Today, our emergency services received a call – it just started out as static, a joke that kids would play, but then the screaming started. The screaming of people, then an otherworldly roar, nothing a man nor beast on Earth could make. I had to find out what happened to these people up the serpentine road from us.
I am now here, yet no one else seems to be. It’s like everyone vanished. But as the cold sun sets down over the mountain, I get a sense of unease…
…And now look at the picture again.
Not so cozy anymore, right?
A new context leads to re-interpreting the environment based on this information, and get into a different mindset based on it. While you previously admired the view, you are now scanning it for signs of danger.
A big part of horror takes place inside a player’s head. And by fueling their imagination, we can turn a cozy village into a place of terror and despair.
Looking back on which areas worked in Penumbra, this component became apparent. The most loved environments were those where players could use lore and environmental clues to fantasize what happened… and what could happen. The expansion, Penumbra: Requiem, lacked a lot of this background information. So despite us designing some of our best puzzles and implementing interesting visuals, Requiem was received quite badly. Without a strong narrative component, the players didn’t get the experience they wanted.
Lesson 6: The world must feel real
In order for a horror narrative to have proper impact, the world it takes place in must be taken seriously by the players. But what does “serious” mean? Grey and brown tones with no cartoonish elements? Not quite.
Let’s draw a parallel between real and imagined worlds. If you suffer from nightmares, there’s a trick to that: make a habit out of knocking on walls, tables, or whatever is closest to you. Eventually you will start doing the same when you’re asleep. However, when you knock on walls or a table in a dream, your hand is likely to go through the surface – that’s how you’ll know you are in a dream, and no longer need to be afraid of the world around you.
Making horror games is basically a business of creating nightmares. But it’s hard to be successful when you have a bunch of players (those damn players again!) constantly doing the equivalent of “knocking on surfaces”, simply by playing the game. As soon as they discover some sort of glitch the immersion of a terrifying world breaks, and it takes a long time to build it back up again.
Let’s look at an example from Penumbra again. In Penumbra we want the players to imagine that the demon dogs are “real”, implying all the traits (demon) dogs possess. So, we want players to be worried about encountering a dog, and hiding from it. However, some players “knocked on surfaces” by messing around with the environments, and figured out that the dogs can’t reach you if you camp on top of a box. So, whereas a real dog could jump up on the box and chomp the player up, the AI dog cannot. Therefore the fantasy of dogs as “real” is lost, and the game loses a bunch of its scariness.
Because of this effect, game developers have to be careful about how they construct environments, and what tools they give to the player. There should be enough things to do to make the place feel real. But not so many as to aid players in breaking the illusion.
Lesson 7: Keep it vague
You know creepypasta and scary photos you can find on the internet? Almost always the thing that makes them scary is that they leave a lot to the imagination. Seeing a silhouette and glowing eyes out in the corner of a photo feels threatening. A close-up glamour photo of the same monster does not.
As mentioned before, much of the horror comes from simply not being sure what the hell you’re looking at. It’s when there is a gap in our knowledge, a certain amount of uncertainty, that horror can really shine. This is especially true when you combine it with some sort of danger element.
It is quite common in games to make sure the player understands the systems in place as clearly as possible. This often results in some really daunting tutorials. Of course for some games, like fighting games, it’s important to have in-depth knowledge about the systems to be able to optimise the game. In horror games we actually want the opposite!
A vague and uncertain game system is like a creepy photo. You can make out enough to get an idea of what’s going on, but there’s still room for the imagination to go wild. Let’s use the health meter in Resident Evil as an example. Internally it is an analog property, a decimal number from 0 to some value, but the player will only ever know that it has “three” states. This strikes a great balance between giving information and being vague, and helps crank up the tension.
The sanity system in Amnesia: The Dark Descent is similarly vague. You know scary things – whatever those are – lower your sanity, and bad things – whatever those are – will happen if it drops too low, so you don’t want to risk it.
This was not always the case. We started out with a pretty straightforward gameplay system, hoping players would play along with it. However, people either game it or got frustrated by it. When we tweaked it so it was much less clear how it worked, it sparked player’s imaginations and it was much more enjoyable.
Lesson 8: Players need a role
All stories are driven by the characters that are contained within it, and how a plot plays out is determined by the characteristics of these characters. Just imagine how different Jurassic Park would be if the annoying lawyer guy was replaced by Judge Dredd! So, in order to get the most of any narrative, it is crucial to establish roles.
Games are no different. The role that a player inhabits will determine what actions they have at their disposal, what their goals ore, and so forth. Knowing the character is a vital component in order for the player to be an active part of the story.
Yet this is one of those components that many horror games forget. You are often thrust into a story as some generic character. Often the thought behind this is that the player would “play as themselves”, but this is not how any narrative really works. In order to properly parse a story situation, you need to understand what kind of person is dealing with it.
Say that you come across a corpse. You are playing as Sherlock Holmes, a corpse means a case! You will want to search for clues and try to solve the mystery of how this person died.
Now imagine you’re playing as a flesh-eating ghoul. Now the same corpse is suddenly dinner – yum!
In most areas, horror games are well beyond your average game in terms of narrative. But for some reason, a large portion of horror games just fail to set the player role properly. It’s strange, relying on a narrative backbone, yet losing so much of the atmosphere by not defining the player role.
Another big reason for defining roles is that it can help with some of the issues addressed earlier. For instance, it can limit the number of actions the player feels is rational to take. For example Penumbra’s protagonist Philip is a physics teacher, so while he could perhaps fight some demon dogs, it would be more logical to run and hide from aggressive humanoids.
This lesson we clearly learned in SOMA. At first we thought about having a non-speaking Simon with very little character. However, this made player distance themselves from the events. Things got a lot more personal when they played as a character who was reacting to what was happening. While players previously wouldn’t ponder the strange events in-depth, Simon pushing them in the right direction it worked much better.
Lesson 9: Agency is crucial
When I talk about agency, I’m not talking about the CIA. What I mean is agency of the free will kind. A game that has a lot of agency lets the players make decisions and feel like an active part of the narrative.
This is closely tied to the previous lesson. Not only do we want to give players a role, we also want them to own that role. They need to feel like they really inhabit the character they are supposed to play. A game can achieve a lot by combining agency with keeping things vague – and letting players decide to take uncertain decisions.
Say that you are faced with a dark tunnel – dark tunnels are pretty scary!
Now imagine that the game explicitly tells you that your goal lies beyond the tunnel. There’s no choice, you gotta go in. And if the game forces you do something, it will also make sure you do actually have the means to complete this quest – in this case get to the other side of the tunnel.
But what if entering this dark tunnel was voluntary, or at least presented as such? The game vaguely tells you that there might be something important there – but you don’t know, and might also be a certain death. All of a sudden the tunnel feels a lot less safe. By adding agency and making entering the tunnel an uncertain choice, all sorts of doubts pop up in the player’s mind.
There’s also a number of other ways to add agency. Say the player needs to do something unnerving, like Amnesia’s Daniel drilling into a corpse to get blood out. In the game it is clear that there is no other option. Overall reactions to this was not very strong.
Compare this to similar moments in SOMA, where intended course of action is much less clear. Here players are forced to actually think through what they need to do, and get emotionally involved in the process of it.
While SOMA did do this part better, it also had its shortcomings. In Amnesia: The Dark Descent, the game was divided into hub maps, so there was no one path or right order to do things. These choices increased anxiety. Whereas maps in SOMA were way more streamlined, and we noticed a considerable drop in scariness due to this.
And them’s the rules! As said before, these are not the only ones, but I believe these come out on top when listing the most important ones. You could also go into them with a lot more depth, but I wanted to keep this blog concise. A lot of my previous blogs in the design tag dive deeper into related subjects.
Finally, I want to close by saying that, because of all these special requirements for horror games, I don’t think you can approach them like other games. Instead of “finding the fun” and iteratively building upon that, horror game design needs to start with some strong principles.
When designing a horror game, you want to hone into what you’ve chosen as your core principles, be it atmosphere, theme, or something else. Then, as you progress in development, you don’t want to evaluate the game on how “fun” or “nice” it is to play – but in how well it fulfills its set core principles. And a cornerstone for being able to do that evaluation is to keep the above lessons in mind.
This in itself is a huge topic of its own, and will need to be dealt with in some future post. Stay tuned for more!
The autumn is getting cold, but our hearts have been warmed by the participation in the Frictional Fan Jam 2019! We would like to extend an equally warm “thank you” to everyone who participated. The outpour of love and creativity has been overwhelming!
We have now gone through the entries, voted among the Frictional Games staff and the Discord Moderator team, and picked the winners – as well as a few special mentions! The entries were divided into Mods/Games, Fanart, Fanfiction, and Other, and one or more winners were picked of each category.
As promised, the winners will receive a few physical goodies, a mention in our video, as well as keys for the upcoming game. People who got special mentions will receive keys! We will be in contact with these people next week.
This is enough bureaucratic talk: please behold our winners! The winners of each category will be showcased in the video below, or you can read about the entries under the video. All entries can be seen on our the Fan Jam Showcase on our Discord server.
SOMA: The Fall of Freedom by Rubyes
The Fall of Freedom takes us on one Pathos-II employee’s journey through the now-infested station. Unlike the mods, this game is made in Unity and uses a minimalist yet efficient pixel style. It’s short and (bitter)sweet, with Frictional-type puzzles translated into a 2D environment, and great sound design.
Hollow by TiMan
Ever wondered how Alexander ended up on Earth? TiMan’s Hollow imagines Alexander’s story on his home planet, and how his banishment came to be. It has a distinct Amnesia feel despite being made on HPL3, the SOMA engine, and the custom assets make it fun to explore. The puzzles and gameplay have a classic Frictional feel, making it easy to play as a standalone installment.
Special mention: Amnesia: Decayed History by Sabatu
Sabatu’s Decayed History mod did not fit the requirements of expanding upon one of Frictional’s titles, yet we felt that it deserves a special mention. The HPL2 mod is an impressive length considering it was made in three short weeks, and the writing is great despite Sabatu only having studied English for about a year. The protagonist is given a task to find old documents in their childhood home, claiming their right to the house. But things are not quite as they seem…
Castle Brennenburg by Kripi
Kripi’s cutoff of Castle Brennenburg might as well be a professional technical drawing! The longer you look at it, the more details you see, making it an ideal doll house for tiny Daniel, Alexander, and the rest of the residents.
Some things mustn’t be forgotten… by Lou
Some things mustn’t be forgotten… and this artwork is one of them! Lou’s piece reveals more than you see at first glance – the falling leaves are petals of the Damascus Rose, akin the drops of blood, and a spider looms in the background, tying the characters together.
As the autumn leaves wither away… by cypii
Hazel, Daniel’s sister, has a melancholy story told in the notes of The Dark Descent, and Cypii has captured this mood with lonely composition and muted tones. You don’t need to see Hazel’s face to know that she is withering away, just as the leaves outside.
Special mention: SOMAuse by i3670
I (Kira, your community manager) almost drove my bike into a traffic sign because I got teary-eyed from thinking about this picture. The little mouse in the reflection still has hope in its eyes… and thankfully we don’t see the expression on the other side. Dammit, I’m crying again. And that deserves a special mention.
A Hymn for the Curie by FrenchRoast
A Hymn for the Curie takes us aboard MS Curie around the time of the comet’s destruction. FrenchRoast’s version of the events features a cast of believable characters, from the stoic Captain Palander to the empathetic Hopper, whose points of view have you live the events alongside them – have hope, despair, and ultimately perish.
Cadiz also tells the survivor story of another team, landing ashore Cadiz – a realistic description of a landscape ravaged by desperate humans before the comet has the chance to strike. The characters have have very human musings about the imminent destruction. The story starts a bit slowly, but the end had us in tears.
Unfortunately this piece of writing didn’t have a link, but you can find it on our Discord server.
Untitled Song by Tosha
Themes can be hard to portray through music alone, but we truly felt the cold winds of autumn in the Untitled Song by Tosha. It plays on the themes of Amnesia: The Dark Descent’s soundtrack, but delivers an original composition.
Thank you once again for participating and cheering others on! We hope to see you back for another Fan Jam in the future.
PS. We played the mod entries and read some fanfiction during a stream. You can find the video on our Youtube:
This is one of my earliest memories. Eons ago, when I was about 5, my dad took me with him to his work, a department store. He then proceeded to dump me in the electronics department.
Nowadays you can find game test booths everywhere, but back in the day this was definitely not the case. Instead every single item was locked inside a glass cupboard. Usually these cupboards remained locked unless you bought something… but that day was different. Tony, my dad’s co-worker, let me try out a game.
As I trembled with the excitement of a 5-year-old boy, he jangled his keys, and took out the showcase version of a grey box called the Nintendo Entertainment System.
Ice Climber for the NES was my first video game experience, and from that moment I was hooked.
Since that watershed moment, Nintendo games have always had a special place in my heart. Super Mario, Zelda, Mega Man, Battle Toads, Blaster Master and many others were all a part of my childhood magic. The plastic feel of the controller, the chunky cartridges, and instant-booting games still evoke fuzzy feelings in me.
Because of these magical childhood memories, and how video games were perceived back in the day, Nintendo has always had a certain mysterious feel to it – like an enchanted factory in a far-away country, creating games through some sort of wizardry.
When I started making games myself, some 20 years back, I never thought the hobby would evolve into anything bigger. It felt highly unlikely that people would want to buy anything I produced. But, eventually, what started as a hobby turned into a job. That felt so surreal. There I was, with my stupid hobby, except it was suddenly a source of income to me. Game development still felt like that enchanted factory, full of people who knew a lot more than me with tech I couldn’t possibly afford to have. But it was real, as I came to realize over time.
Yet consoles, and especially Nintendo, retained a very illusory feel. While I released my games on Steam and similar stores, the birthplace of my childhood magic felt far off.
That’s why it’s so special to announce the following:
AMNESIA: COLLECTION IS NOW OUT ON THE NINTENDO SWITCH
Finally – Frictional Games has made it to a Nintendo console! What had, for most of my life, felt like a distant and far-fetched dream, has now become reality. Sure, it’s not shipped on one of those fantastic grey cartridges, nor will it have a Nintendo “seal of quality” slapped on top, but I’ll take what I can.
If the 5-year-old me heard about this, he would never believe me.
But this is by no means the end of a journey for me – quite the opposite! It’s thrilling to think just how far the company has come, and it makes me super excited for what the future will hold.
A huge thank you to our friends at BlitWorks for making the port possible, and Evolve PR (with special thanks to Ryan!) for the great trailer!
September is a meaningful month for Frictional Games, as it marks several of our anniversaries. This year on the 8th of September Amnesia: The Dark Descent will be turning 9, on 10th Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs will be 6 years old, and on 22nd SOMA will have been released for 4 years.
Therefore we would like to make this month special by celebrating your community creations. Please join us for Frictional’s Fan Jam of 2019!
We have recently launched an official Discord server, so you are welcome to ask questions, share ideas, and chat with other participants in the #fan_jam channel.
The goal is to create a new fan work related to one of Frictional’s games: SOMA, Amnesia games and the Penumbra series, or older titles such as Unbirth. You are free to create any transformative work: a mod, fanart and fanfiction, cosplay, or something different like a video or a plushie. The project should be at least loosely related to the given theme.
Since some projects (for example mods) can require more effort than others, you are also welcome to participate in teams.
Please see submission guidelines below!
The event kicks off on Friday the 6th of September. The deadline for submissions is 23:59 UTC on Sunday the 22nd of September. The jury will be going through submissions starting Monday the 23rd.
The jury of Frictional Games employees and Frictional Games Discord moderation team will pick the winners of the jam. Jury members can participate in the event, but are disqualified from winning.
The winners will receive a poster of a game of their choosing, signed by the Frictional team members, sent to their home address (teams can decide on one address, max 4 prizes per team). The Frictional Team will also be featuring the works on a video with comments from Thomas and other employees. And finally – upon release of the next game, the winners will receive download codes for the game on an available platform of their choosing.
The jam is organised by Frictional Game’s community manager Kira together with the moderation team of the official Discord server, proposed and drafted by Draugemalf. The easiest way to contact the organisers is on the Frictional Games Discord server’s #fan_jam channel. The channel can also be used to share ideas with other community members, get feedback and look for team members.
If you don’t have a Discord account, you are also welcome to contact Frictional Games through Twitter or our Contact Form, and we will help you as soon as we can.
The works must be related to one or more of Frictional’s games (SOMA, Amnesia: TDD, Amnesia: AMFP, Penumbra, and Unbirth, Fiend, Energetic)
The works must be at least loosely related to the the thematic of Autumn/Decay
The creation must be submitted on 22nd of September the latest
The work must be your or your team’s original creation
For mods you are free to use assets you can legally use, or have the permission to use from the creators
Submitting your work
You can submit your works through several channels, either by posting an image (for fanart, cosplay and similar) and/or a link (mods, fanfiction and similar).
On Discord, you can share the project on the #fan_jam channel. Please make it clear that it’s your final version.
On Twitter and Tumblr, you should mention @frictionalgames and tag the submission with #FrictionalFanJam.
If you don’t have a social media account, please send your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org with the title “Frictional Fan Jam”.
Due to Instagram and Facebook’s limited searching and tagging tools, we will not be accepting submissions through those platforms.
All submissions will be posted by the jury on Discord’s #fan_jam_showcase channel for easier judging.
And that’s it! Go get creative! We’re looking forward to all your great projects!
Title: 3D Art Lead Focus: Pipeline development, 3D modeling Type: Full-time, permanent Last day to apply: 8th of September 2019 Location: Sweden, applicants residing in European countries welcome
A door swings open, a dim light beckons you to come step further, pick up the dusty items, give them a long look before venturing forward, the architecture leading you ever deeper. Frictional’s games are filled with intrigue and emotion, the art subtly guiding the players. To keep up the illusion of a living world, the execution has to be consistent across the board.
This is where you come in.
What will you work on?
We are looking for an experienced 3D Art Lead to join Secret Project #2. This is a senior position, meaning you will have responsibility over foundational elements of the project. You will work closely with other team leads, such as the creative lead and art lead.
Right now Secret Project #2 is in pre-production, which means that you would find yourself working on establishing pipelines and practices for a good workflow. On the creative side you will be working within the established style of the game – creating art, researching and documenting. The 3D art you would work on include architecture and complicated props, as well as putting everything together into functional and beautiful environments..
Once the project shifts into production, your role will involve more lead work. You will find yourself communicating with other employees and outsourcers, making sure tasks get assigned and done, and giving feedback. Alongside you will still be able to participate in creating art.
As a small team, everyone in the company has a wide variety of responsibilities as well as rights, but we consider that our strength – no day in development will look the same!
What are we looking for?
You have to be a European (EU/EEA) resident to apply. We cannot consider other applicants.
The person we’re looking for is creative, self-motivated, and comfortable in a lead position. We need you to fulfill the essential requirements, but are flexible with how you have acquired your experience.
We welcome applicants regardless of background, situation, sexual orientation, religion, and similar, so don’t let anything like that hold you back from applying!
Here are the essential requirements:
Knowledge in 3D asset creation pipelines in digital games
Being up to date with the latest trends in 3D art tools and techniques
Not being afraid to give feedback to coworkers and outsourcers
Substance Designer skills in creating procedural textures
Ability to adjust artwork based on an established art style
Major role in at least one released title (not as a student/intern/trainee)
And here are some more technical skills:
Experience with face weighted normals
Experience with trim sheets and tiling textures
Experience in Medium Poly Modeling
Knowledge in Modo, or willingness to learn it as a main 3D modeling tool
Some technical art knowledge (you will not have to create anything from scratch, but you should be able to communicate your needs to the programmers, or have suggestions such as saving performance on assets)
If you want to impress us:
Experience with character art and/or organic art
Knowledge in blendshapes
Knowledge in motion capture
Experience with scripting tools in Modo
Experience with Marvelous Designer
Experience in setting up lighting and doing basic level set dressing
Love for hard sci-fi
Penchant for bold design
What do we offer?
We at Frictional make games, because making games is what we love. But we know that’s not all there is – there’s also playing games, doing sports, or spending time with loved ones. We believe that a healthy balance between work and life creates positive ripples throughout, which is why we discourage crunch.
We also offer:
Variety in tasks
Opportunities to influence your workflow and workload
Flexible working hours
Participation in internal Show & Tell sessions for both projects, meaning giving feedback to and receiving feedback from all members of the projects
An inclusive and respectful work environment
We welcome remote applicants from European (EU/EEA, UK) countries. However, you are welcome to join us in our office in Malmö if you live in the area, or would be willing to relocate after the trial period.
If all of the above piqued your interest, we would love to hear from you! Send us your application 8th of September 2019 the latest – but the sooner, the better! Please attach your:
Why should we hire YOU?
Portfolio (link and/or PDF)
Answers to preliminary questions (see below)
Send your application to email@example.com!
Please note that we require all the attachments to consider you.
Please provide a document answering the following questions:
When is the earliest you could start working?
Tell us about the daily work you did on your last finished game project.
Name two games you think have high quality 3D art. Explain why.
Imagine you are in charge of the 3D art pipeline for a new sci-fi game. Name the top 3 things you think need to be included.
If you are not living in Sweden, please also answer the following:
Frictional Games is a distant and cryptic game developer, quietly tinkering with unspeakable horrors in the darkest depths of Europe. Yet over the past while we have been chipping away at that image, exposing a softer core. And now we’re ready for the final nail in the coffin of mystery: an official Frictional Games Discord server, where you can talk directly to us, or to other fans!
We hope that having a fluid, shared space like this will help casual and hardcore fans alike connect over topics that interest them, from lore conversations to sharing the cutest K8 plushie sewing patterns, from best uses of AddUseItemCallback to fanfiction tips. And, of course, anything and everything Frictional Games.
Aside from community-centered involvement, we hope to bring us developers closer to you with events like Ask Me Anything threads, and an occasional casual chat. Who knows what else the future will bring?
Upon launch the server includes channels for:
– Frictional’s news, sales and patch notes, – Discussions about SOMA, Amnesia games, Penumbra games and Frictional Games in general, – Showcasing your mods and other fan creations like art, cosplay and videos, – Connecting with peers and discussing modding, creating fanart, or how to avoid overheating when wearing a Grunt suit, – Social media feeds, – Buying our games directly from Discord.
To celebrate the launch, all our games are heavily discounted at the Discord store pages.
Title: Audio Lead / Sound Designer Focus: Creating and implementing sounds, managing audio content Type: Full-time, permanent Last day to apply: Monday 15th of April 2019 /CLOSED Location: Malmö, Sweden (Doing remote work from EU/EEA countries welcome)
You remember it: a faint rustle in your periphery, dragging footsteps around the corner, a raspy breath. You still break in cold sweat when you hear that high-pitched screech that means a monster is near. All the iconic soundscapes that make Frictional games what they are.
We are now looking for an experienced audio designer to work in-house and continue this tradition of keeping a new generation of gamers on their toes with lovingly designed, eerie and memorable soundscapes.
What will you work on?
We are quite a small team, but we consider that our selling point. As a sound designer you will get to work on everything from small effects to the overall mood of the project. This means your contribution will greatly influence how the final game sounds, feels and evokes emotions.
Here are some of the things you will be working on:
Collaborating with designers to create soundscapes, taking both artistic and gameplay aspects into account.
Being a part of designing the overall mood of the game.
Creating some of sounds used for our monsters, machines and other otherworldly noises using libraries, or from scratch if possible.
Creating sound effects timed with specific events and animations.
Refining events by working with both our map editor and scripting tools.
Researching various technical features needed to achieve certain effects.
Handling the music, either by creating it or working with a musician.
All in all, helping the game world come to life.
We also encourage working outside of your area of expertise, and always learning new things. The more areas of development you are willing and able to take part in, the better! For example you are encouraged to participate in our fortnightly testing and leave feedback on other aspects of the game.
What are we looking for?
You have to be a European (EU/EEA) resident to apply.
The person we’re looking for is creative, driven and self-sufficient. With a remote team such as ours, the ability to organise your own work is a fundamental skill.
We have recently set up a central hub in Malmö, Sweden, and will help you move to our seaside city if it suits your situation.
Here are some essentials we require:
Hardware and equipment to work with.
We don’t expect you to have a fully equipped home studio, but enough to work on most of the sounds. Additional equipment can be provided if needed, but it is important that you have the hardware needed to start working.
At least one year of experience in audio production for games.
Good understanding of sound and music, and how they affect the player experience.
Ability to challenge yourself, make bold creative decisions, and try non-conventional things.
A critical approach to your work, with the ability to take a step back and reflect.
A strive for structure, efficiency, and clarity.
Strong self-drive and ability to organise your own work.
Interest in and ability to do research for interesting sound and music solutions.
Love for working on a variety of tasks.
Fluency in English.
And here are some more techie skills:
Familiarity with FMod or Wwise.
Basic knowledge in programming.
Basic knowledge of creating maps in a level editor.
If you want to impress us:
Love for horror, sci-fi, and narrative games.
A major role in completing at least one game.
Experience in level design.
Strong game design skills.
What do we offer?
We make games, because that’s what we love. But we know there are other things we love, like playing games, taking part in sports, or spending time with our families. We believe a healthy balance between work and life reflects positively on your work, which is why we don’t encourage crunch.
We also offer:
Flexible working hours.
Opportunities to influence your workflow.
Variety in your work tasks, and ability to influence your workload.
Participation in our internal game Show & Tell sessions, so you’ll have input into all aspects of the game.
Social security and holidays that are up to the Swedish standards.
An inclusive and respectful work environment.
An office in central Malmö you can use as much as you please.
Fun workmates, game and movie nights, and other outings!
If all of the above piqued your interest, we would love to hear from you! Send us your application 15th of April the latest – but the sooner, the better!
Please attach your:
Why should we hire YOU?
Link to your portfolio site
Link to a video reel demonstrating sound design abilities
A document describing a game soundscape you have worked on. Please write about the following:
What you worked on.
What you were going for with the design.
What went well in the project and what you would prefer to change in retrospect.
Please note that we require all the attachments to consider you.