Considering the popularity of zombies and gore in video games right now, it is amazing to consider that no one has sat down and designed an Evil Dead Video game yet. The Evil Dead trilogy is deeply ingrained in anyone who grew up in the eighties, it's slapstick approach to horror spawned a whole new genre of entertainment.
Up until very recently, no one had a licence for the Evil Dead franchise but recently THQ signed with Renaissance Studios in a five-year deal to create hot games based on the Evil Dead trilogy. THQ even created a dedicated team, Heavy Iron, to develop the franchise, cribbing many of the original developers of Parasite Eve to form the new team.
IGN recently conducted an interview with Scott Krager, Producer of the upcoming game where he revealed a few details about the resident evil styled game.
IGNPC: First of all can you summarize the plot of the game for us, as much as you can?
Scott Krager: The game takes place eight years after the events of the last movie. Essentially, Ash goes back to the cabin in the woods, and again encounters the evil left behind from the Necronomicon. From there he sort of has a new adventure, where he basically has to save his girlfriend, and that's about all we're kind of giving away at this point.
IGNPC: OK. So how much input are you taking from the films? Is it entirely new or are you cribbing bits from the original stories?
SK: It's a whole new story we have. Because Ash goes back to the woods, we'll have the cabin and we'll have some of the elements from Evil Dead 1 & 2. But there really isn't much from Army of Darkness, with it taking place in a different time, and all that. We'll have a lot of the popular icons and elements from the first two movies in this, but it is a completely new story, it's a continuation of the whole Ash saga, as it relates to the book of the dead.
IGNPC: So is Sam Raimi involved at all?
SK: Yeah, he's involved. He's involved mainly from more of an approval standpoint, I would say. When we licensed the property from his company, and we submitted the design and the story and all that to his company, Sam, and Rob Tapper who is the producer of the movies, and Bruce Campbell, all provided feedback. Bruce has been the one who has been most involved up to date, mainly because he's also the star, and so because we needed to interact with him to get photos and to make models,and becayse he's going to be doing the voice over – he'll end up being the most involved in the end. Sam's a very busy guy, so as much as we'd like to have him involved, he's got a lot going on right now.
IGNPC: How extensive is Bruce's involvement in the actual game? Will he feature in movies or is he just providing voice?
SK: There aren't going to be any live action movies so he'll be doing all the voice over for Ash. He's in New Zealand right now doing his new TV show which I think debuts in a week or so, so he's been kind out of out of commission for a while, but when he gets back, we'll send him the stuff. Actually, before he left to New Zealand, he came down here and stopped by the developer offices and we showed him a bunch of the stuff that we'd been working on, brought him up to speed on some of this stuff. It's funny because when he first heard we were doing a game, his first comment was, "About damn time!" So, thinking that Evil Dead would make a great video game, so he's excited to see that it's finally happening.
IGNPC: Why do you think it has taken so long for Evil Dead? And why now?
SK: It's actually something that I've tried to get going for a long time. I've been trying for about four years. At the previous company I was at, I tried to get it going there. In fact I almost did, but there were still a few sceptical people at the time that weren't sure if it would make sense, so I left that company a little bit later, not necessarily because of that, but I came here to THQ and they wanted to branch into new areas, and new genres, and one of them was a horror. So you know the first two words out of my mouth were, "Evil Dead." To answer the second part of your question, it's a great license for a game because you have this cult character that's beloved by many. Both he and the setting really lend themselves to videogames, and on top of that, I think that of all the horror movies, Evil Dead has developed this cult following. It's moved beyond what you'd call a dated license. If you hear Friday 13th, Nightmare, Freddie and all those other things, they were good in their time, but you kind of look at them as if they're dated, they're so 80's. Evil Dead has moved beyond that and has this huge cult following. The great thing is that there's so many fans of the movies that play the games -- there's this huge cross over between both areas there.
IGNPC: Do you think that this cult following which Evil Dead enjoys is going to put it above other horror games that are out there? Because it's becoming a big genre…
SK: Yeah, definitely. I think that until now there haven't been any huge licenses in the genre. I can't think of any survival horror games that have been based on an existing property. I mean Resident Evil came out and created the genre, and became extremely popular. That's sort of become a license of it's own. Then there's Dino Crisis… but they've all been based on original titles. I think the only thing with Evil Dead is that we can capitalize on having an existing fan base, and at the same, it's going to be a game that doesn't feel like the license was slapped on to try to help sell units. We're being very true to the character and the universe, and you know in the end, I am surprised that someone hasn't tried to do it already. The rights to the movies are split up between a bunch of different people, that kind of slowed people down in the past, but I am surprised it's taken that long.
IGNPC: Quite often the problem with 3D adventures is their linear nature. Are you going to overcome that?
SK: Well, you know, I guess it's sort of a toss up, because certainly a lot of the survival horror games have this linear feel to them. You sort of combat that by offering multiple paths. You try to make it as spontaneous as you can in certain places, but keep having key points in the story where you will always end up. Then maybe have multiple paths to another key story, and so on. With Evil Dead it's a little different because we've crafted this really great story, and even though you can go to a lot of areas in any order, in time there is this overall story arc that you follow. I think that it's going to be what fans want because everyone's clamoring for an Evil Dead 4, and I think you know Sam Raimi has probably said that is never going to happen. He's a big time director now doing some big stuff, and I'm not sure that even if he wanted to do it, his agents would let him. So, you know it's a situation where you've got this great story and it serves as the author of the game, so there's going to be a level of linearity to the game, at the same time as I said we do allow the player to go to certain areas in any order to give the player a feeling that he can explore, and not feel like he's forced to stay on one particular path.
IGNPC: And will things have a slightly different outcome, like in the last movie there was multiple endings?
SK: Yeah, there was like an alternate ending to Army of Darkness, but we're throwing around ideas for how to deal with the surprise ending.
IGNPC: What stage of the development are you at, at the moment then?
SK: Pretty early. You know we're scheduled for completion close to the end of the year and right now we're getting the key parts of the engine up and running. We're building all the environments in the game right now, and designers are taking this pretty cool level that we've built, they're laying out all the levels, using placeholder art, and then our team is going in kind of doing more of the final art, and then we're getting the AI in there right now, and we're doing multiple platforms, so we're cramming the PlayStation right now. But we're also concentrating on getting our DC and PC versions running. Right now there's still a lot of stuff that's under the hood and laying out the environments.
IGNPC: Is the technology proprietary, or are you licensing any?
SK: We're building the engine. The developer we're using is Heavy Iron Studios, the team is comprised of the key members of the Parasite Eve team. There were some things that they wanted to do when they were at Square, but didn't get the chance to do. They had all these ideas for this Resident Evil style game that they never got a chance to do there. When it kind of spun off, they'd actually started working on the basis of a Resident Evil style engine that produced certain things that we had been wanting to do for a while. When we went to them and said that we were interested in doing an Evil Dead game, it was like a perfect match -- we'd envisioned doing this Resident evil game, and these guys had the basis of an engine already up and running. So when it looked like everything was falling into place, we took it a step further and acquired the team, so they're now actually part of THQ. So yeah, it's all ours, we own the technology, and we hope to be able to use the engine outside of Evil Dead, in other games as well.
IGNPC: What do you think of the issue of violence in computer games?
SK: That's something we've definitely talked about.
IGNPC: It's a new direction for THQ, isn't it?
SK: Yeah, I guess there are actually two things. One is related to THQ specifically and one is obviously that violence in video games is a big topic in general. THQ is well known for doing kid's games and mass-market games, like wrestling, and fishing. Certainly horror is a new area for the company, but I guess, when we've talked about the game we're not really worried. We're basing the game on an existing license for one, so something is established. We look at it as a property where we, and everyone else, are going in knowing it's a horror game. The other point is that it's not based on reality, and another thing is, we're not really killing humans, we're killing zombies and creatures of evil. We sort of look at it as, unlike games where you just go round and beat the crap out of humans, you're actually a hero, it's good versus evil, and you play the good guy.
IGNPC: So you can take the moral high ground.
SK: We're not trying to send a message, but you know I guess we are sensitive to the fact that we deliberately don't have humans as the enemy. And also the game, like a movie, also comes across as something that's not based on reality.
IGNPC: And will you be retaining the humor of it all?
SK: Yeah, that's a great part. We're making a horror game, and we want to stay more along the lines of the tone and feel of Evil Dead 2, which is primarily horror, but with some humor. Army of Darkness was more of a comedy that has some horror in it. With the Resident Evil type game, obviously horror is the key -- you want to scare people. Our overall goal is to make a scary game and have the humor come out of the fact that the character of Ash, and Bruce Campbell you know, either say or do stupid things sometimes. That's going to be a lot of fun because Bruce is great, he's naturally funny, and the character of Ash is funny as well. You kind of put those two things together and you're going to be in scary situations, you're going to have this horror film story and environments, but there's going to be humor. You're going to have the phoney one-liners – the Ashisms in the game that will offset some of the horror.
IGNPC: Would you be prepared to offer scalability of the gore element, a parental lock if you like?
SK: Actually what we're considering doing is not having a parental lock or scalability, but we are going to most likely do a scaled down version of the game. If there are retailers, territories, or just other parties who are more interested of carrying a toned down version, we've actually identified a specific list of items that we would change or disable for them. A kiddie version, or a non-gore version and if somebody, maybe a mass market retailer who typically doesn't carry mature rated games or horror games, they'll have this version available to them. And consumers if they're worried, or you're worried about your kids playing this game, there is this version available.
IGNPC: Besides carving up zombies, what other elements are there going to be in the game? Are you going to get people thinking a bit, with a few puzzles in there?
SK: I guess the best way to imagine it is picture a Resident Evil game, in the Evil Dead universe. I mean there's going to be puzzle solving, but there's probably going to be more action. There's going to be a bit more focus on action than in Resident Evil. So there's a blend of puzzle solving, exploration and basic ass kicking. Basically the aim is to go round killing deadites, if you use Resident Evil as a comparison which this has a lot of inspiration for us, we'll have more action just because it's more in line and in tune with what Evil Dead's about. Ash goes around kicking ass and killing deadites, but at the same time to help the story unfold in the game, you encounter different characters. There's definitely game movies which will help tell the story where there's going to be character interaction, there's going to be puzzle solving and it's going to be this nice blend of all those different elements.
IGNPC: THQ has got a five-year license for the franchise, where can when can we expect Evil Dead to go?
SK: It seems to be in a never-ending saga with the undead, and the Necronomicon and all that. We've actually already got a rough outline for a continuing story beyond this game. What we hope to happen is have this game come out and it be the first thing people are going to see in terms of a continuing storyline since Army of Darkness. We're hoping people are excited about that, we think they will be. As we have developed the story we actually took part of the story we originally planned on using in this game and realised that it would actually make a great story for a sequel in and of itself. So we sort of have this rough story in line to do a sequel, and we definitely intend on continuing the adventures of Ash. He's just such a fun and great character you know, a playable character in a video game.
IGNPC: If you were going to do it, do you think you'd be considering further platforms?
SK: Absolutely, we'd love to see something on PS2, and all the next generation systems. Given the power that everyone will have in the industry on those particular platforms, having that level of detail with the environments, and the characters, it's going to be something that's going to be pretty cool to develop. I don't think that we'd do a port of this game for PS2, we'd probably just end up doing a sequel. But, as I say, nothing's set in stone right now. I think the goal right now is to do PC, Dreamcast and PlayStation for this, and then take the sequels on to next-generation platforms.
IGNPC: Thanks for your time. We're gassing up the chainsaws in anticipation of the game's release.