To help publishers understand what type of game you want to make (and have them fund), a 1-page summary is the customary introduction. Compare the original pitch for The Suffering to what was eventually released. For the longest time, The Suffering was in fact called Unspeakable. Midway’s marketing suggested the name change.
A stylized horror shooter. The frenetic gameplay of Devil May Cry meets the horror setting of Resident Evil and the immersive game-world of Half-Life.
Fast paced shooting dominates the gameplay of Unspeakable as the player must fight off an overwhelming number of fiendish enemies in frenetic and stylized combat sequences. Though the player is well stocked with weapons and ammo, the strength and quantity of the enemies he must face imbues a feeling of nearly insurmountable odds. In the dark world of Unspeakable, creatures jump out of shadows, fall out of trees, and erupt out of the ground, attacking the player in the most frightening ways possible. Periods of “too quiet” silence are alternated with fast action and violence. Unspeakable features a continuous game universe, where the gameplay is unbroken by cut-scenes or other distractions, causing the player to feel constantly threatened and unsafe. Storytelling is kept to a minimum and is conveyed through in-game events and voice-over dialog that the player “hears” through various devices (a voice crackling out of a disconnected speaker, voices echoing out of a quarry, the twisted speech of the creatures themselves). The continuous game-world will be key to making Unspeakable a thoroughly terrifying experience to play.
The player controls the prisoner Torque, a hardened “lifer” in his 30s, convicted of a murder he may or may not have actually committed. Torque is around 6′ 4″ with black scruffy hair and a darkish skin tone, though he is of unspecified ethnic origin. He has the hardened, muscular physical frame of a long-time prisoner, a vicious scar across his left eye, and he wears a dirty, torn prison outfit. Torque has kept himself safe in prison by exuding a “don’t mess with me” tough attitude, something he communicates with everything from the way he looks at people, to the way he walks, to his general body language. Underneath this tough exterior hides a man who is not quite psychologically balanced, who fears far more than he would ever admit to.
The setting is an unspecified, dark and foggy island off the coast of the United States. Though the date is not stated, it seems to be around present day. The island is home to a decrepit, decaying federal prison, with architecture that makes it appear to have been built in the 1960s; it is a compound that is long since past its prime. This is where the government transfers the anti-social prisoners that it considers to be beyond rehabilitation, such as Torque. Scattered around the island are numerous other abandoned structures, locations that have been around far longer than the prison, including a limestone quarry, a copper mine, a crashed freighter, a lighthouse, and the small cluster of houses where the prison workers lived. At the time when the game starts, Torque finds himself to be one of the only surviving humans on the island, with the other human residents transformed into hideous creatures, mockeries of the human form. Still other creatures show no semblance to humanity at all, Unspeakable terrors whose very movement is traumatic to watch. These creatures are tough, numerous, and relentless in their desire to kill Torque, providing a nearly endless quantity of creatures for the player to battle.
At its core, Unspeakable is the story of Torque’s quest to confront his own demons and the events that happened to land him jail. In the grand horror tradition, the details of the world of Unspeakable are kept vague and largely unexplained, allowing the player’s imagination to fill in the gaps, forming mental images far more frightening than what can be portrayed on a TV screen. The story of Unspeakable starts with Torque being transferred to the island prison. From his cell, the player overhears the prison being over-run by bizarre creatures, the screams of the guards and other prisoners echoing through the halls. Freed from his cell in the ensuing chaos, Torque precariously makes his way through the island, fighting off hordes of creatures as he goes. Torque does meet a few other humans on the island who have not been killed by the creatures, and they each have their own, incorrect theories as to why the island has been overrun. Each such hypothesis represents a clichéd horror back-story: “They were conducting experiments on the prisoners, and it went horribly wrong!” says one, “A boat full of nuclear waste crashed on the island!” says another, and “This whole place was built on top of an Indian burial ground!” says a third. Torque, and the player, is left not knowing what to believe. As a side effect of his mental instability, Torque has flashbacks to events from his past, images that depict what happened leading up to the crime for which he was imprisoned. As he progresses through the game, Torque must face creatures that take the form of his own fears, including fiends that represent his absent father, his abusive mother, and his brother who was killed at a young age. At the end of the game, the image of Torque’s crime is finally revealed, except the nature of the crime changes depending on the way the player played the game. If the player kills the non-hostile humans he encounters in the game world, it turns out that Torque really did savagely kill his family. If the player helped these friendly humans, it turns out that Torque was framed for a murder he didn’t commit. Thus the player’s actions in the game determine Torque’s past, giving the game’s story both added meaning and replay value.
Points of Differentiation
Unspeakable is a title that is clearly distinct from anything else available on the market, combining a setting and genre with a style of gameplay in a way that has not been done in any other game.
Setting: Though there are other games in horror settings, Unspeakable is unique in its use of outdoor locations and the nature of the prison island the player is trapped on.
Combat: No fast-paced action game has been done in a truly terrifying horror setting. By combining the gameplay of Devil May Cry with such a setting, Unspeakable will attract lovers of both forms. Unspeakable will avoid the “hunt the key” and arbitrary logic puzzles which tend to bog down other horror games, in favor of a more action-oriented experience.
Continuous Game-World: The continuous game-world, without stops for cut-scenes of any sort, worked brilliantly in Half-Life and seems ideally suited to the horror genre. By never breaking the action, in Unspeakable the player will constantly be on edge and afraid of what may be around the next corner. The game’s simple story will be told real-time, communicated to the player through phantom voices the player hears, messages scrawled in blood on walls, strange signals broadcast over TV screens, and the few other humans Torque encounters.
Story: Unspeakable is unique among games in the type of story it tells, one of a man confronting the horrors of his own past. The multiple endings which are determined by how the player treats the situations he encounters will further set the game apart from its competitors.