While this wasn’t the biggest level I worked on for The Suffering’s sequel, it was probably my favorite. Killjoy’s asylum in the first game provided lots of exploration which helped build player unease as their imagination filled in the cracks. This was the closest location to offer that opportunity. I wish the final version let you explore the theater more.
Researching theaters for this event was exciting. I cataloged a wonderful treasure trove of reference material featuring a variety of classic, big theater buildings. It was lost when I left the company, however.
Streets to Theater
What follows are some excerpts from a couple encounters that take place just before entering the theater. When playing the final version in the game, you’ll notice the Liquor Store was mirrored to the other side of the street. This helped performance by moving the store’s interior out of direct sight from the theater’s main entrance its front street marquee.
The player finds an exit from the Alleys. It’s blocked by debris and fire truck (note: red siren cycling lazy, to create dynamic shadows). The player backtracks and enters the Liquor Store backdoor. Passing the storage room, he enters the main room.
The room is trashed. Ceiling tiles scatter the floor. A dead body is gutted near the front door. The front door has a red-lock light box at the top. Wires run along the wall from the box through the Merchant Window to a switch. The Merchant Booth spans the length of the room, from back to front. It has bullet-proof glass from floor to ceiling. Besides rows of bottles, the shelves are stocked with ammo and health. At the back end is a Merchant Door to let employees in and out. A switch on the inside of the doorframe controls access into the Booth.
Two thugs with shotguns are holed up in the Booth. When the player enters, one says “Shit, watch out man! There’s one of those creatures in here!” From up above, the sound of a Slayer walking and chattering is occasionally heard, but never appears.
- If the player tries to open the Merchant Door, they bitch: “No fuckin’ way. We’re not gonna get gutted like Billy was!”
- If the player tries to open the front door, they yelp: “No way we’re letting more of those demons in!” “Get rid of that fucker and we’ll buzz you out.”
- If the player is standing next to the Merchant Window, a Slayer drops down behind him.
- If the player is in the back half of the room, it drops down in front of the storage room door.
- If the player leaves the main room (for the storage room or alley), it jumps back up into the ceiling.
SOLUTION: Kill the Slayer. The thugs will then open the Merchant Door. The player can now enter the Booth and collect supplies. If at anytime the player injures the thugs, they will turn against the player.
After dealing with the Slayers, the player has two ways he can exit through the front door:
- GOOD: Walk to the front door and the thugs will open the door for you, letting you leave the store.
- EVIL: Kill the thugs when entering the Booth and switch open the door to leave the store.
The prototype area covers areas 5.4 – 5.5 (Liquor Store & Theater). Possibly incorporate 5.3.3. (Alleyways) as well. The Theater will eventually act as a level-transition, when the player steps into the Lobby. Street areas are blocked by smoldering car debris near the Liquor store (which blocks the entering alleyway, forcing the player to use the Liquor Store backdoor), an active Hellmouth near the Theater (where Slayers will spawn from and attack), and a truck smashed beneath a collapsed building wall (south of the Theater).
In the previous Chapter, the player progresses through city sewers en route to Torque’s Apartment. Across from the Theater is a street-level sewer grate. From that vantage point, the player can view the Theater before the Cataclysm.
Mark Bullock (Art Lead on Team Suicide) added this description of the area:
The alleys leading to the street/liquor store will NOT be dull, long, narrow, straight shots with completely contrived meandering, but will vary in width and functionality. Small loading docks, backdoor entrances, platforms and utility works and the irregularity of building structures, shift the path in interesting and dynamic way without being an obvious “zigzag”.
The wreckage of a burnt-out, smoldering fire truck (ladder rig type) is jack-knifed blocking exit from the alleyway onto the street (forcing player through the Liquor Store). Water runs down the street gutters from snaked-out hoses and a broken fire hydrant. The street leading to the Theatre intersection is lined with a variety of row-town style structures with shops at the ground level. All structures exhibiting various amounts of damage. The Theater has a strong silhouette, with damage from the adjacent Hellmouth visible in the structure. The Hellmouth and the rubble of a collapsed structure and a crushed police car block egress along the other roads. The Theater is obviously abandoned, boarded -up; a shadow of its former glory. Depending upon space and performance, other vehicles and victims should litter the road.
Slayers emerge from the Hellmouth engaging the player on the street outside the liquor store. After the final Slayer is destroyed the Theater briefly comes to life, its lights sporadically coming to life. A variety of messages could be displayed on the marquee, whether humorous, an indication of moral path or simply creepy. Even the old posters of former films could change according a desired message to be conveyed to the player. Killjoy is visible in the old-style ticket booth, perhaps inviting the player to a performance. (There was some discussion as to providing an “old-time”, sepia toned view of people entering the Theatre.) At dramatic moment prior to entering the theatre, the lights would suddenly die, a “deafening silence, drowning darkness” moment.
We want the wreckage to provide a subtle lighting so as not to detract from the Theater intersection and allowing the light from the Hellmouth to catch the geometry and provide a focus. But even this must be subtle enough as to allow the sudden lighting of the Theatre a dramatic contrast.
I whiteboxed it in typical fashion to get a sense of game space and the main floor’s combat arena. There originally were a lot more theater seats in the scene so they could be smashed during combat, but were removed for performance reasons.
In the final game, the player went straight into the auditorium from the lobby. As you can see below, the player originally had to search for a way in. To leave the lobby, he had to drop down behind the bar. Once inside the main hallway, he could only peek through the locked auditorium doors to build some anticipation for the main room. Only by exploring further down the side, could he gain entry.
The grayed out “Restricted” areas were for reference and never modeled. The balcony was inaccessible to save on polys and materials.
- Start level in the foyer – enter the lobby – see dead bodies and other gruesome acts.
- Spot only open door behind the concession stand (bar) beyond fallen balcony debris.
- Circle up and around northern stairs and balcony, jump over to south balcony, and drop down to exit room.
- Avoid collapsed ceiling in hallway and walk back north.
- Pass main auditorium doors are locked, Peek through for some build up with what’s to come.
- Detour to stand in one of the box seats if you want. Jumping down is an option, too.
- Enter the main auditorium – entry door becomes locked. Movie screen flickers on.
- Killjoy appears on the screen, Copperfield and Creeper appear in the box seats.
- Slayers spawn from balcony, box seats, and rip through movie screen (revealing the original backstage).
- Rage kill creatures through out the auditorium or the backstage.
- Exit the Theater through a Rage-Only-Wall near the loading dock garage.
The following walkthroughs from the game are preset to start playing the gameplay mentioned above.
Liquor Store into the Theater
This video will continue further into the game. Once you leave the theater, you never come back to it.
View Distance 2012 Comparison
This segment also features the initial overlook to the theater. Due to performance issues, it was disabled for the final game. This is the only place to see it in its original form!
Designer Notes available for this video — enable YouTube’s Annotations to see them!