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Soma Brings Chilling Sci-fi to PS4 Today

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Soma Brings Chilling Sci-fi to PS4 Today

Finally, after years of hard work, our sci-fi horror game Soma is out today! Completing a game is a really amazing thing. Five years ago Soma was just a vague figment of the imagination, and today it’s an actual, playable thing. And that process is what I will talk about in this blog post.

Soma Brings Chilling Sci-fi to PS4 Today

Around the time of Amnesia’s launch, two ideas had started to form in my head:

  1. It should be possible to make a game that lets the player take part in philosophical thought experiments. I was particularly interested in those that dealt with consciousness, and it felt like a playable first-person perspective would make these much more powerful than simply reading about them.
  2. As videos of people playing Amnesia started circulating, it amazed me how much people seemed to read into various situations. For instance, upon hearing a distant roar one YouTuber ran into a closet and had a very excited monologue about the horrors that might lurk out there. All this from just setting up a scene and playing a sound effect.

At the same time, Jens (the other co-found of Frictional) and I had started to casually discuss where to set our next game. Jens mentioned that deep underwater would be cool, I agreed, and then we had a location.

The final piece came a few weeks later when we settled on the basic premise of the game. This is an event that takes place early on in the game, and it sets up the rest of it. It is the one thing that the rest of the game constantly refers back to, and is a vital part of making the intended experience work. It is also something that we have kept a secret and that we want to come as a surprise, so I won’t spoil it here. Once you play the game, it should be evident what it is.

SomaSoma

And those were the four seeds of what was to become Soma. Note that all of this is very fuzzy. For instance, we didn’t even know what the basic gameplay would be! We just had these vague ideas to start from, and the goal was to try and construct something that would turn into an actual game.

From there we started to figure out how to build this game. We went through many failed attempts, designs that had to be scrapped, levels that had to be remade, gameplay mechanics that had to be rethought and so forth. This was a very frustrating period of development. Whenever we thought we had a good overall design, we’d find out that it wasn’t quite working and have to start over.

While a lot of things went wrong, a lot went right, too, and slowly the game started to take shape. We got the hang of how people would experience the game, what sort of mechanics worked and just in general how to approach it. Along this journey, we hit upon several breakthroughs that were critical in shaping the final game. Three of these come to mind:

SOMA

  1. The decision that we should make it a proper horror game. While it might sound strange now, it wasn’t evident from the get-go. What made us decide this was that we noticed that people tended to pay more attention to detail and take things more seriously whenever the game got scary. This made us put a lot of effort into making sure Soma ended up as a terrifying game.
  2. To let each area of the game revolve around a specific sort of dangerous creature or condition. This idea came from reading various stories at the SCP Wiki (a great site for lovers of all things creepy), and it helped structure the overall flow of the game. By putting the focus on a deadly threat, any connected story moments feel a lot more vital to the player and a more interesting narrative is formed.
  3. Incorporate some sort of difficult choice into our major puzzles. This is something that we toyed with in the free Amnesia DLC called “Justine” and it worked to great effect there, making the puzzles feel more sinister and story-like. This allowed us to more easily weave our themes into the game, and made puzzles feel more exciting.

As you get further along in development, you lose a bit of control over the design; the game itself starts to be the one that makes more and more decisions. This might sound a bit weird, but it’s a very common thing when creating games, and in fact just about any art. As the game gets increasingly feature complete, your decisions become less about “How do we keep the initial vision intact?” and more “How do we make what we have better?” In Soma this led to the redesign of several areas, and even to have implications on the larger story parts. I think this is a crucial part of game development, as it makes sure that the game feels coherent and consistent. It’s a very time-consuming process though, and is one of the major reasons why Soma has taken more than five years to complete.

Another crucial development point is when you decide that “this is our game.” This is a lot harder to nail down than you might think. There are always things to improve, and you can never be satisfied with everything.

SOMA

In all our previous projects this has been mostly based on what resources and time we have had left. But when developing Soma we’ve been a lot better off financially, and have mostly been driven by asking ourselves the question: “Is this the game we want?” Deciding this for Soma was very hard, and in the end we had to leave some beloved things out. Never have we made a game where we have so ferociously questioned whether things were really good enough.

Finally, there comes a stage in the development when you just have to lock the game down. This is when you have to refrain from even small changes and start to solely focus on making sure the game is stable and runs as it should. For us this happened about a month back, and again it’s a very hard decision to make. There’s always that one bit left you would have really liked to polish.

It’s very important to do this early enough, though, as any additions can easily introduce new bugs. At this point, game development is all about playing through the same things over and over again and fixing every issue that pops up.

And now we’re here. Launch day. That seed of an idea has grown into something real. The development cycle is over and it’s time to release our creation into the wild. It’s a moment of both joy and sadness. Joyous because we have finally managed to bring this project to completion. Sad because a large part of our lives is over and it is time to move on to other things.

I hope that gives you a small insight into what the development process has been like. And I really, really hope that you enjoy playing Soma!

Comments are closed.

27 Comments

  • Where can I buy the game? Can’t find it in the ps store.

    • Mercenary09

      It will be out on the US store when it updates later today.

    • i cant find it either so it will be available tongiht for purchase?

    • Yeah, I was hoping to preorder it but it wasn’t listed for a preorder PSN (although Steam did have a preorder and 10% off preorder bonus). I’m dying to this on my PS4. So you’re probably in the same boat as me, and you’ll just have to obsessively check the store all day to see when it updates. I hope the filesize isn’t massive because I want to dig into this ASAP, and the PSN speed has been pretty bad for me recently. (1.5 hours for an 800MB Destiny update is crazy.)

      As a side note to Frictional, I LOVE all of your work. Thank you for continuing to make some of the most interesting and legitimately unsettling experiences that are available. I’m a horror fan (no matter what medium) and the stories you tell, and the way you tell them, are always top notch! I hope SOMA becomes as viral as Amnesia did and fills your coffers back up so you can continue to create these enthralling experiences! Given the size of your studio I don’t know if this is possible, but I’d love to see some HD remasters of the Penumbra series/episodes hit the PSN/Steam. Either way, I love you guys; thank you for enriching my life with your art!

    • As of 2:00PM Eastern, it’s live! 4.53GB with a 110MB update. WOOOOOOO! I hope everyone puts on their headphones and has an absolutely amazing existential crisis! =)

  • Mercenary09

    Very excited to play this! Thank you to everyone at Frictional Games for making it.

  • Reminds me somewhat of Bioshock, which is a good thing!

  • HellBringer1975

    How much will it be in canada and how big is the download.

    • Mercenary09

      Don’t know about Canada but the game is $30 in the US and it is around 11GB

  • Ju-Man-Jack

    When does the PS Store update??? I want to start downloading it so it’ll be ready when I get home from work.

  • TheFlyingPuffin

    I really wish you guys would upload overnight so this stuff would be available come morning on the release days.

    • Yeah, if Valve can do worldwide timed unlocks of content, there’s no reason at all that Sony can’t. So that means to don’t want to for some reason. I know this is heresy on an official Playstation blog, but Microsoft is much better with this type of thing. I love all of my Sony gaming consoles (even my Vita!), but Sony has been playing catch-up with Microsoft for years when it comes to online features and overall polish. Japanese led companies seem to not prioritize the online experience as highly as NA/EU companies, which is the opposite of what I would expect.

  • From the earliest live-action teasers I was fascinated by this game, especially the psychological questions it raises. Now from the early reviews it seems you’ve got another hit on your hands. Looking forward to playing it for myself, experiencing how your vision has come to fruition, and drawing my own conclusions as well :-)

  • Is it coming out to retail stores also?

    • I am pretty sure there is no disc release of this game. I went looking at the brick and mortar for it??

  • SaviorMachine

    Amnesia was free on Steam the other day, and I’m on my first playthrough right now. Heady stuff! I’m very curious what you folks will have done with more up-to-date technology.

  • DragonIrons

    Looks good…. gonna have to wait on getting it though.

  • The last time I checked the soma website it was $29.99 USD for those interested.

  • @Thomas Grip

    Hey Thomas, thank you and the rest of the team at Frictional Games for making great mind bending horror games!

    I really appreciate it, and many others do too… Can’t wait to see more from the team in the future.

  • Its incredible how incompetent a major corporation like Sony can be. If you advertise a games digital release date as 9/22 it should be available at 12am on that day. Not sometime during the day when we get around to it. I read this article, was interested, booted up the PS4, went to the PS Store, typed in Soma and…….nothing. 11:40am EST. Lost sale.

    • Naaah, they didn’t lose a sale to you. If you’re so impatient and easily distracted that you couldn’t wait 5 and a half hours to purchase the game, then I’m going to go ahead and call it that you never intended to buy the game in the first place. Store updates around 5:00pm EST on Tuesdays, has since the beginning. This is not new.

  • Sony announces the launch of a game and then makes everyone wait 12 hours while they prepare the update for the store. I ran to the store and asked about a disc copy of this because I was tired of waiting…I understand that this is what they do and how they do it all the time(PSPlus, Updates, Et Cetera) but it seems to be a nuisance at the most inopportune times!

    • Mr Beens. Thanks for making my point. Your entirely correct. I didnt even know this game existed until I read this blog this am. I then went to PS store to purchase and its not even listed as though it didnt exist. I had to google it to find any info. Those who planned on buying it from the start will do so regardless. Its the other, impulse, buyers who see an ad or article on the game who go to buy it and cannot. Thats the lost sales. And because they have been updating at 5 since the beginning is irrelevent. It was ignorant then as it is now.

  • It looks great game.

  • The comments died off. I can only hope that everyone went off to buy the game and played it! I put several hours into it last night, and it’s AMAZING! I think Frictional has knocked it out of the park with SOMA. I won’t spoil anything for anyone, but this game improves on the polished terror from Amnesia, and adds universal existential concepts to the story, which when combined put you in a very vulnerable emotional position. I can’t say much more without spoiling parts of the experience, but I will say that this is a very unique experience which deserves your attention. I can’t wait to finish the game and see where the story takes me. And there’s 10% off if you’re a PS Plus member right now, so grab it ASAP!

    Cheers to the team at Frictional!

  • Damn it looks tense indeed.
    It was nice reading about the development process…at first I was like “nah won’t read this,its too big” but then I started reading and couldn’t stop ha,good job.
    Eager to play the game.

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