We recently talked about how Resident Evil Village sometimes struggles to remain consistently scary and balance its action and horror elements, but it seems that the divide between Village‘s combat and survival horror elements was even more pronounced in the earlier days of the game’s development.
In a new video called The Making of Resident Evil Village: The Internal Struggle, QA Manager Shutaro Kobayashi reveals that his early reaction to the game was…not great.
“I remember having a really strong negative reaction,” Kobayashi says of his time with one of Village‘s later builds. “The game’s content was completely divorced from what the development team had thought they had made.”
Ouch. So what was the problem that drew such blunt criticism? According to Kobayashi, the testers felt that the game’s combat wasn’t gelling with the rest of the experience. He says that there were “too many enemies” and that they were “overly aggressive.” He also noted that the aggressive nature of the enemies and the sheer number of them was made even worse by the fact that there wasn’t enough ammo in the game at that point. While you may think that their problem was that the game was too hard, Kobayashi says that it was really about more than that.
“The combat [was] uninteresting,” Kobayashi recalls. “Combat [felt] frustrating and incredibly tiring to play.”
Indeed, some on the team suggest that early build of the game just wasn’t as scary as they hoped it would be.
“I think the core of horror is going forward when you really want to run away,” says director Morimasa Sato. “But how can we create the feeling that you need to push on?”
Their solution essentially revolved around reducing the number of enemies overall and carefully considering their placements so that “we make [the player] paranoid about if and how they’re going to be attacked. Then, when an enemy appears, it’s relentless.” The team felt that by making encounters slightly less common but more substantial, they had better tapped into the survival elements of the franchise.
It’s certainly interesting to hear the team talk about the thought process behind this decision now that we’ve actually gotten to play the game. Would a version of Resident Evil Village with more enemies who are more aggressive have worked? Perhaps, but based on the developer interviews, it sounds like part of the problem was that other aspects of the game weren’t necessarily adjusted to accommodate for that change. For instance, Kobayashi talks about how players were given relatively little ammo to use to defeat these enemies, which sounds like the kind of design decision you’d make in a game where you’re supposed to carefully consider combat and not one where combat is quite so constant.
While being swarmed by mobs of aggressive opponents while low on ammo should be inherently scary, the Village QA team seems to have argued that the whole thing was more boring than engaging and that enemy encounters ending up being more annoying than scary.
The video also says that this change to Village‘s combat happened relatively late in the development process, which you can actually kind of see in the final game. Not only is there a segment later on that sees the player fight off large waves of aggressive enemies that feels closer to how the QA team describes the original design, but this late decision could help explain why ammo feels a little more generous in the beginning of Village than it typically is in other Resident Evil games. Maybe the amount of ammo that felt low when players had more enemies to fight suddenly felt much more abundant when encounters and enemy intensity were reduced.
In any case, it’s still going to be interesting to see whether or not Resident Evil 9 tries to revive the idea of having more aggressive enemies on-screen at once, or whether it will evolve the more methodical style that we saw in Village‘s earlier sections.