Slender: Source Takes Slender Man to Multiplayer (INTERVIEW)
“I didn’t know the whole Slender Man mythos was actually this big and popular,” he said. “So I was just like, whatever, because I didn’t expect it to explode and there to be this much support behind it. Our first update, we released — I’m gonna be quite honest — crap. We had nothing really solid, nothing really good-looking, because I was doing all the mapping and all the programming, and I know somewhat of the C++, which is the language we’re using. …So out of nowhere, I was bored one day and I went over to Twitter and typed ‘Slender: Source’ into the search, and I was seeing articles from PC Gamer and IGN, and I was like, ‘What?!’ I was so confused, and I have no idea what did it, because the concepts we were showing were really bare-bones and really crap.”
The horror elements of the game might be the thing that’s attracting so many people to the project, Ross and Small said. A lot of titles in the triple-A realm tend to skew more toward action than real horror, said Small, where Ethereal’s project intends to be much more about the scares. Players will likely have minimal means of protecting themselves and will need to stick together to survive.
Ethereal seems very adamant about the kind of experience it wants to create, and is exercising a lot of control to make it happen. Ross and Small mentioned a number of films and games from which they’ve taken inspiration — and several with elements they’re trying to avoid.
“I’ve loved horror for a long, long time,” said Ross. “…And then I found zombie movies and zombie movies are pretty much my favorite thing, even though recently they’ve become s–t. I wasn’t too big on Zombieland, I wasn’t too big on the Land of the Dead or the Dawn of the Dead movies, or the remake of Dawn of the Dead. I like classic horror more than I like modern horror. The original Alien films were really good except for Resurrection. I liked Prometheus, I actually really liked Prometheus. The Alien vs. Predator movies don’t exist….
“I think it’s because I’ve been with horror ever since I was a little kid, it’s just something I’m really really passionate about and I’ve wanted to make a horror game as long as I can remember.”
“Yeah, I don’t think there’s too much good horror (in gaming),” Small added. “FEAR 3 recently came out — well not recently, a while ago — and every time I think of that game, I think of how it had the audacity to name itself ‘FEAR.’ …It’s a fun shooter. A lot of these big-name horror games focus a lot more on — they don’t actually focus on making you feel, or putting you in any sort of position where you’d be scared. In FEAR, I remember you could shoot people, like, in half.”
Slender: Source won’t include guns, Ross and Small said. Weapons are something the team has discussed, but the goal of the experience they want to create is much more like Slender: The Eight Pages. Players will have to rely on each other for help, but they’ll be mostly defenseless. According to the developers, players will start separated, with only a single flashlight between the four of them. They’ll be forced to find each other, as the Slender Man will be more likely to attack players who are alone than those who are in a group.
The goal will be for players to collect 15 dolls from around each of the game’s three maps, then bring them back to a specific location. But grabbing the dolls is going to be problematic — picking one up will cause the Slender Man to appear in the area, and will also enrage him. A player’s only defense? “The sprint key,” Small said.
Players will have to try to work together to keep each other alive, because the Slender Man can kill in a single hit. Mostly, it’ll be about covering more ground, moving with more speed and having more eyes in any given situation. Players can’t actually stop the Slender Man, but they can warn each other about his whereabouts and actions. The game’s chat functions also will be tied to proximity, so players will only be able to communicate with each other if they’re close enough together. Small and Ross envision players scrambling to bring back as many dolls as fast as possible, all while hoping to help one another avoid getting killed. They’ll also have to make strategic choices, such as abandoning their single flashlight in order to carry an extra doll back to the goal, thereby moving more quickly.
But one thing players won’t be able to do is fight back against the Slender Man when the game is released, probably around March 2013, Ross said. The team is standing firm on that issue, even though people in the community keep asking for weapons.
“I feel bad saying bad things, but there are some suggestions there that really bug me that we cover all the time, and say we’re not doing it, and yet they still ask about it,” Ross said. “‘We want guns, we want to kill Slender Man, guns would be awesome.’ And I know there’s a joke among the devs about giving them guns — once they use the guns they (the characters) commit suicide. Like as a joke. Like they’ll pick up a gun and go to shoot it and accidentally kill themselves.”
While work on the game is going well — surprisingly fast, Ross and Small said — it isn’t without its issues. One was the debate about the name Slender: Source, which was a point of contention with Mark J. Hadley, the creator of Slender: The Eight Pages.
Ross said Hadley had been asking the Ethereal team to change their name to differentiate it more from his project, something the developers hadn’t wanted to do. For a while, it was a big source of frustration for the Ethereal team, mostly because of promotional material that had been created with the name Slender: Source and because of what the team wanted to convey with the name.