For No More Room in Hell, Scary is ‘When Things Go Wrong’
Game Front 1-on-1 is a continuing series featuring interviews with and personality profiles on a variety of people in the vast and diverse community of gaming, including creative fans, passionate players, amateur developers and everyone in between.
Check out Half-Life 2 mod No More Room in Hell in action on this week’s episode of Mod Men.
Even when you play scary video games, you expect to win. This is a problem.
Knowing that you’ll eventually win, more often than not, takes away a lot of what makes horror scary. And that’s the opposite of what the developers of No More Room in Hell, a zombie-based Source mod, were hoping to achieve.
“The problem is, in a video game, in a lot of games, it’s all about, ‘Oh, it’s gonna be tense but the players will win,’” said Matt Kazan, No More Room in Hell’s project lead. “You play Left 4 Dead and you rarely lose. You run through, get hurt, it’s tough, but you almost always win. But in a zombie movie, you start with, let’s say 20 characters — one or two of them make it out alive. Not everyone makes it out alive and the idea is we wanted to make a game where you have a split-second to make a decision that’s life or death. If you choose to go through that door instead of that door, you’re f–ked. And the idea was to try and capture that.
The name “No More Room in Hell” is a reference to a line from George A. Romero’s 1978 zombie film, Dawn of the Dead. Kazan said he and the development team draw a lot of inspiration from Romero’s movies when they decide what they want their game to be like, pulling inspiration from both Dawn and Romero’s Day of the Dead, released in 1985.
Game Front caught up with Kazan, as well as three other members of the NMRiH team, at QuakeCon 2012.
“There’s a scene in Day of the Dead that really resonated for me that kind of sold this,” Kazan said. “At the very end where the zombies storm the missile silo, and they go down the elevator and they’re storming in and killing all the soldiers and stuff, there’s a scene where one of the fat soldiers, one of the jack-ass soldiers is trapped in what looks like a washroom or a locker room. All these zombies pour in through the one door and there’s no escape, and they’re all coming towards him and he pulls out his gun, and he shoots himself because he knows he can’t get away. And that scene for me is like — that f–kin scene right there encapsulates everything that’s zombie…. We wanted every shot to count, every decision to matter, and every step you take to be possibly your last.”
Apparently it’s an approach that has resonated with players. According to Dave “Dman757″ Meade, who acts as the mod’s public relations manager, NMRiH has seen more than 400,000 lifetime downloads since its release last year on Oct. 31.
That was the culmination of an intense development cycle that started almost nine years earlier. The mod’s original creator, Coleman Sweeney, had long since departed, and the team that remains only has two members — Kazan and Lead Programmer Andrew “ssba” Orner — who were originally aboard when development started — back in 2003, before the release of Half-Life 2.
For a while, it seemed as though NMRiH would never materialize. The mod suffered a series of setbacks that led to Sweeney’s departure, the team said, and it even became something of a joke in the mod community.