Oh, how the mighty have fallen. There was a period of time in which Alone In The Dark would have been considered one of the greatest horror franchises. It’s certainly responsible for the rise of games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill, but as of right now, its only legacy appears to be as an easy answer to that joke prompt of “describe your sex life as a game or movie title”.
With a legacy spanning nearly 30 years, you’d think that Alone In The Dark would have more significance than it does, but with just six mainline releases (and two really terrible movies), Alone In The Dark has, ironically enough, not really shined as much as it maybe should have. Today, as part of our spooky Cawrror Month, we’re asking the question: will we ever see a new Alone In The Dark game?
The History of Alone In The Dark
Alone In The Dark stretches back to before I was born, which is clearly ridiculous as I’m the center of the universe.
The original Alone In The Dark was the product of Infogrames developer Frédérick Raynal, who conceived of the idea when asked to port Alpha Waves to the PC in 1989. It was here where Raynal became versed in the idea of using 3D technology to develop games, and his imagination began to run wild. In an interview with Edge in 2010, Raynal would describe how his dad’s fondness of horror movies inspired him to inevitably create a horror game:
“In the ’80s, my dad had a video club and I would watch many movies. I loved horror movies, especially Dawn Of The Dead by George Romero, where the heroes are trapped in a supermarket attacked by zombies. Since then, I knew I would create a zombie game: some day, when technology would allow it.”
That opportunity to create a horror game came from Infogrames’ CEO Bruno Bonnell, who proposed the idea of a game where a player used matches to interpret a dark, 3D environment. Raynal, who would serve as Alone In The Dark’s director and coder, took the idea and ran with it, working with Ya’l Barroz as set director and Didier Chanfray as modeller and character animator as the game’s core team.
While the initial premise from Bonnell was simplistic, Raynal’s vision was a lot grander, with the game set in a 1920’s manor, following Edward Carnby and Emily Hartwood as they explore a really spooky manor. Raynal notes in his Edge interview: “I wanted a big enough house, where you would start in the attic so that you could completely explore it before finding the way out. The turn of the century allowed for weapons while avoiding the modern commodities that were too difficult to properly handle: electricity, for instance, would have caused atmosphere and consistency problems.”
By Christmas of 1991, the team were given the full go-ahead from Infogrames to develop Alone In The Dark, and the team grew to six people. Development ran smoothly, and early playtests with executives and journalists suggested a lot of enthusiasm for the project, but the relationship between most of the core team and Infogrames really began to sour during the bug-fixing phase. Raynal and Barroz had become an item, with Barroz becoming pregnant and almost ready to give birth during the final stages of development. According to Raynal, by August 1992, most phone calls at that time were “either a bug, or the hospital.”
The bug-fixing process was especially exhausting, as Raynal began to believe that players would hate Alone In The Dark due to the game’s glitches, which shattered his confidence. Raynal even admits as much in an interview with Gamasutra at GDC 2012: “In October 1992, I hated this game.” An unnamed Infogrames manager also requested the credits be changed from “a game created by Frédérick Raynal” to “created by Infogrames”, which Raynal agreed to because of his lack of self-belief during this trying stage of development.
The final few nails in the coffin came around launch. Infogrames tasked the team with developing a sequel, but stated the team should use the same engine and come up with a new story. Meanwhile, Raynal wanted to make a host of improvements to the engine before committing to a sequel, like proper 3D sets and lighting. Alone In The Dark launched in November 1992 on PC, and would be a huge success, but Raynal and the team felt robbed of their credit, so they left Infogrames almost immediately.
Raynal would later describe the end stages of development for Alone In The Dark as “the trauma of my life,” following it up with: “This game sold two-and-a-half million copies. It made Infogrames tens of millions of pounds and they couldn’t show us some recognition for it? Only the support of the press and the gamers allowed me to get over it.”
Despite the team leaving after the launch of Alone In The Dark, Infogrames went on to use the same game engine for two follow-up games, the appropriately titled AITD 2 and AITD 3. Alone In The Dark 2 tells a story about undead pirates and spirits, which launched on PC in 1993, while Alone In The Dark 3 in 1994 revolved around zombie cowboy outlaws. Both games featured an increase in action, but arguably didn’t have the same cultural impact as the first game in the series.
After the original trilogy, Alone In The Dark went on hiatus for a couple of years before returning with Alone In The Dark: The New Nightmare in 2001 for PC, PS1 and Dreamcast, with a PS2 port launched in Europe in 2002. This game moved the timeline to the new millennium, with Carnby partnering with Aline Cedrac to explore a manor on Shadow Island, just off the coast of Massachusetts. Crucially, this game was considered non-canon with the rest of the series, explaining the time jump.
This new iteration of the classic series was developed by Darkworks, a French studio who were working on their debut game. It was the first Alone In The Dark game to be developed with consoles in mind, as the series was exclusively available on PC before then. Darkworks would create a new lighting system for the game that would allow shadows to be better cast from light sources, which is appropriate considering that the series was called Alone In The Dark.
Alone In The Dark: A New Nightmare was decently well received by critics, earning a Metacritic score in the mid 70s for both Dreamcast and PlayStation. However, the PC version wasn’t quite as well received, as it’s been noted that the PC version was ported from the Dreamcast version, and suffered horrible audio issues as a result. Unfortunately, this would be the last high point for the series, as it’s been downhill since.
What Happened To Alone In The Dark?
Since A New Nightmare, Alone In The Dark has been rebooted twice, and one was more disastrous than the other. We’ll start with 2008’s Alone In The Dark, which was developed by Eden Games for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 and published by Atari, which Infogrames had slowly bought/morphed into over the years. Making A New Nightmare non-canon by its existence, Alone In The Dark sees Barnby from the 1920s waking up in the late 2000s, right bang in the middle of Hell opening up in New York City.
In fairness to Alone In The Dark, it had a lot going for it. The game played out like a DVD selection of a horror TV show, with chapters replaced by “Episodes,” and a chapter select system that would allow players to skip certain sections of the game if they were stuck. There was even a previously on Alone In The Dark cutscene that would play. It’s similar to a system that Alan Wake would use a few years later, only not as good.
Two other big features that often played together hand in hand were how Alone In The Dark utilised fire, and the fact that players could pick up most objects to use melee weapons against the demonic forces, swinging them around using the right analogue stick. Usually, you’d have to use the combination of the two to solve puzzles, flailing burning weapons at doors and demonic pustules to make progress.
Despite these changes, there were a lot of technical issues regarding the game, while its combat and overall story were just a bit naff, and the game didn’t review too well on PC and Xbox 360 as a result. A PS3 version was released months later, which fixed a lot of the issues that players faced during the original game, along with an entire new section in Episode 6. That version of the game fared a lot better with reviews, earning a 69 on Metacritic. Sales-wise, it was noted that Alone In The Dark managed to sell 1.2 million copies.
Then came 2014, and the series was ultimately buried with Alone In The Dark: Illumination, Atari’s last attempt at publishing the once iconic horror franchise. A far cry from the horror series of old, Illumination was a four-player online co-op game that saw players controlling unique characters with their own weapons loadouts and abilities. The new game was developed by Pure FPS, who are known for developing a survival game called Nether for two years, and nothing else.
Gameplay-wise, Alone In The Dark: Illumination was a third person shooter that featured four player co-op with players fighting against hordes of demons. It’s almost ironic that Pure FPS would invest their resources into a third-person shooter, but that’s another story. Players would venture through randomly generated levels, making their way towards a safe room that would be located at the end. Basically, yeah, it was Left 4 Dead with a bit more spooky.
Illumination was announced in 2014, with closed alpha and beta tests being conducted from August 2014 to the game’s release in June 2015. However, Illumination proved to be one of the worst reviewed games of all time, earning a measly 19 on Metacritic. Even the kindest reviews mentioned that the game had some decent ideas, however the final execution left too much to be desired. Pure FPS would release a huge patch in 2016 in an attempt to reverse the game’s fortunes, but the damage was already done.
Will Alone In The Dark Ever Return?
Truth be told, the prospects of a new Alone In The Dark game are more likely than most. Raynal himself said back in 2012 that, if nothing else, he loved the idea of a HD remake of the original game released for modern platforms, but unfortunately, no attempts had been made to execute on this idea because he didn’t hold the rights to the franchise. As far as Raynal was concerned, his hands were tied. Raynal would move on to create 2Dark, a grim horror game that tackled a story surrounding child abduction, but reviews weren’t kind.
As of right now, THQ Nordic possess the rights to the Alone In The Dark franchise, along with pretty much most other retro franchises you have nostalgia for. Seriously, they’re like Thanos collecting beloved franchises like Infinity Stones, releasing new content and reviving legacy games for new audiences, along with plenty of new and original takes to boot. They’re basically a retro monopoly.
Right now, they haven’t announced plans regarding Alone In The Dark, but the publishing house, and its umbrella company Embracer Group, tends to have dozens of games in the works throughout its various subsidiaries, so it’s entirely possible that somewhere in there, a dedicated team is working to bring back Alone In The Dark. Again, nothing’s been confirmed, but in between new releases for TimeSplitters, Painkiller and Gungrave, AITD might be nestled in amongst them.
Looking at how THQ Nordic has revived past franchises, they’re typically faithful remakes of the older games in the series, before moving on to create a whole new game in the series. In the case of Destroy All Humans!, we’re still in the remake phase, but the additions to both the first game and the upcoming sequel help them feel more like modern games than shiny old games that play like ass. As for SpongeBob, Battle For Bikini Bay was remade, and now we’re getting a brand new game.
This can’t be stressed enough, but with no confirmed Alone In The Dark plans from THQ Nordic, we can’t say one way or the other whether or not there will be a new game in the series, but the pattern is there. THQ Nordic doesn’t make acquisitions without some kind of plan to do something with the property, and it’s reasonable to assume that the same would be true for Alone In The Dark.
Hopefully, we won’t be left, well, Alone In The Dark about the future of Alone In The Dark for too long.
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