Resident Evil 7 Developers Discuss the New Evolution of Horror

Jun 24, 2016 // Tim

The announcement of Resident Evil 7 at E3 2016 generated a lot of excitement from fans hungry for a new entry in the series. With the surprising reveal came a wave of questions about the new direction for the franchise. We spoke with RE7 producer Masachika Kawata and director KÅshi Nakanishi at E3 about some of the big lingering questions after the initial reveal.

How are you feeling after the big announcement?

Kawata-san: It was a lot of work to get to this point, obviously. First of all, we’re super relieved that we’re able to talk about the game and show it to everyone. Now we’re just interested in knowing what everybody thinks and what the reaction is to the announcement we made yesterday. I’m looking forward to seeing that.

What is your development history with the RE series?

Kawata-san: I’m the producer on the game. I’ve worked on previous titles like Resident Evil 5 and [Resident Evil] Revelations. I’m going to try to use my history with the series to bring out the horror feeling out in this title. I want to bring a new kind of horror to players.

Nakanishi-san: I’ve been on the series for quite a long time. It’s been a long history of taking on new challenges. Every time we have new hardware coming out we’re putting a new Resident Evil on it and doing something different with the series. Like Kawata-san said, we’re looking forward to doing something really new for everyone on the current generation of consoles.

The full name of the game in the West is “Resident Evil 7 biohazard” and in Japan it’s “BIOHAZARD 7 resident evil”. Can you please explain this interesting new international naming convention?

Kawata-san: Obviously you can tell we wanted to merge the two titles we’ve had. As fans may know, the game has been called Biohazard ever since the beginning in Japan, and it’s been called Resident Evil in the West. We really want to have the big, impactful feeling of the series being in one place right now, and having one future it’s heading towards. To do that, we brought the two titles together into one with Resident Evil 7 biohazard. It’s the opposite in Japan, it’s BIOHAZARD 7 resident evil.

In your own words, what are the core differences between Resident Evil 7 and previous games in the series?

Nakanishi-san: The demo, just to be clear, isn’t a slice of the game. We really want to focus on what concepts we want players to understand about the game with the demo, and that’s horror. This is a tonal preview of what to expect in the game, rather than a little bit of game content you’re getting in advance. In the 20 year history of Resident Evil, you know that the key pillars of the game are fear and horror, exploration of the environment, puzzle-solving elements, resource management, and combat against enemies. Those are all in this game, but we wanted to start off with the first two – horror and exploration – and get you experiencing those two pillars up front. If you’re thinking that because those other elements aren’t in the demo, that they won’t be in the game, that’s not the case. We’re focusing up front about the message of horror coming home in this demo.

Looking back at the history of the series and thinking “How do we get people playing today to experience the same fear that they felt in 1996 with the first game? How do we bring that up to date and bring that emotion back?” That question and the answer is what led us to make the gameplay system as you see in the demo.

Why did the team decide to shift RE7 into a first-person perspective?

Kawata-san: Both myself and the director, Mr. Nakanishi, felt if we want people to experience horror and experience it in the most direct, visceral way possible, then literally putting yourself in the position of seeing what the character sees is the best way to do that and so it was our motivation for the first-person camera change.

Nakanishi-san: Of course it’s a big change, so first we got a prototype working and we put first-person in place and we wanted to see if we could make Resident Evil work in first person. As soon as we had it up and running we were really confident that this was the way to move forward. We were really happy with the way that Resident Evil feels in first person.

Resident Evil 7 is built from the ground up in Capcom’s new proprietary RE Engine. Can you share a little more about this?

Nakanishi-san: Our artists, programmers, and the whole team are just all really fussy people. We all want to get exactly what we want out of game development. If you’re using a third-party engine or one created by another company, it feels like there are places that you have to reach to scratch an itch compared to when we design an engine ourselves. We want to know exactly how to find our way around an engine. We decided the only way to make the game with the highest quality possible was to make our own engine for it that was dedicated to making this amazing experience. It’s really a sign of the team’s dedication as artists to not only make a new game but a new engine as well.

Pictred above: Masachika Kawata, producer of RE7

What character(s) do players control in this game?

Kawata-san: Just to confirm – it isn’t an existing character whose eyes you’re seeing through. I think one of the places we got in the series up until now is you’re kind of playing these superhero characters. They’re fully equipped, powerful people who go into these survival horror situations but they’re ready for them. They can take it on. To bring the horror experience right to the player, we thought now that you’re in first person you’ll feel like you’re there. You can’t be looking through the perspective of a macho, hero character because that’s not you at home. Or maybe you are macho, I don’t know [laughs]. It’s sort of a powerless, ordinary person you’re playing as. We’re not really talking in too much detail about who they are right now, but they’re an ordinary person stuck in an extraordinary situation. I think that really brings the horror right to the fore. You wonder if this person you’re playing as – or you – will be able to cope with this situation. That’s a real feeling of helplessness that helps the horror stand out. If you try the demo that’s out on [PlayStation 4] for [PlayStation Plus subscribers], you’ll see.

Is RE7 a reboot?

Nakanishi-san: It’s not a reboot and we’re not throwing away the series’ canonical storyline. It’s the new numbered title in the series and it’s a sequel to the existing mainline series titles. After I say that and you try the demo, you may say “Really?”, because it looks nothing like any of that, but trust me. We need to have a bit of mystery in survival horror, so we’re trying to make you wonder when you play it how could this possibly be connected? That’s part of the appeal.

Can you tell us more about the VHS aesthetic and found footage taps featured in the Resident Evil 7 Beginning Hour Teaser?

Kawata-san: Things have gotten so digital in the modern era that we wanted to bring an analogue, grungy feel to this horror. If you’ve already played the demo then you’ve seen this VHS found footage motif going on. You play them on a big, old, cathode-ray TV. There are also going to be audio cassettes appearing in the game as well. That sort of thing has a certain atmosphere. Almost like it could be set anytime, could be the ‘80s, it could be now.

RE7 is fully playable in PlayStation VR Mode. Tell us about the impact this has on the game.

Kawata-san: I think VR is a really good match for horror. When we first got it implemented we were all so excited to try it out, put on the headset, and get into the horror experience. You have to try it out for yourself to figure out how immersive it is and how you feel like you’re right there in the room.
Is the game content the same between PSVR and a regular playthrough?
Nakanishi-san: Yes, the content is the same, but of course for VR we need to optimize the experience to make it comfortable and as immersive as possible. But the game itself is the same, whether you play in PSVR Mode or play it regularly.

Is there ever a concern that the development team could make Resident Evil 7 too scary?

Nakanishi-san: [Laughs] You take responsibility if you choose to play in PSVR Mode. Whether you think you’re ready for it or not is up to you to decide. We certainly did have feelings at some points where we thought it was possible to push it too far in VR with horror.

Why did the development team decide to focus the setting of RE7 to a derelict plantation mansion?

Kawata-san: Resident Evil 6 and recent entries in the series have had this massive, global scale to the horror and the threat, and we figured if we brought it down to a more intimate, personal scale of horror that would make it easier for players to experience the fear that we want them to experience. I hope that fans will enjoy this “bringing it back to basics” feeling we have where it’s just one person in one location with a lot of fear. By not having a huge, broad scale of environments it also lets us focus on the details. [The mansion] is this one place you are [exploring], so I think Capcom has some expertise in our DNA over the years of bringing one area to life, like in the original Resident Evil. By focusing on that I think we’re able to bring our expertise to bear on this really great, singular experience. That’s not to say that this house you can see in the Beginning Hour Teaser… the game isn’t set in a series of corridors in and around this opening area. Again, I can’t go into too much detail, but there’s a little bit more to it than that.

Would you like to deliver a special message to the fans following the reveal of RE7?

Nakanishi-san: I want to give a reassuring message. I’ve seen from initial reactions of what we’ve put out that people are getting the impression that we’ve taken Resident Evil and turned it into some sort of supernatural, occult, ghost story. I think you can look at the trailer or the demo and get that impression, but don’t worry, we haven’t just thrown out Resident Evil as it exists and turned it into a ghost story. It will all make sense in the end. I know it’s frustrating holding back on what we can show fans, but this is really the best way to let you enjoy the game to the fullest when it finally comes out. We just have a trailer and a demo at this moment, but watch this space in the coming months and we hope you look forward to the game. We’re going to do our best to make the best game we can.

Kawata-san: I’ve been talking with the Capcom R&D group back in Japan, including my boss Mr. [Jun] Takeuchi – fans might know who that is [RE, RE 2, RE 5] – and we really want to be able to bring everything we can and all kinds of experiences to the Resident Evil series going forward. We hope you look forward to and enjoy what we’ve got in store for you with Resident Evil in the future.

Also I just want to say one last message: There will be no Quick Time Events in Resident Evil 7 [laughs]. I know there are a lot of people who will be relieved to hear that.

Resident Evil 7 is coming to PlayStation 4 (featuring PSVR Mode), Xbox One, and PC on January 24, 2017. Head over to our announcement post for pre-order details and incentives, which include immediate access to the most brutal difficulty mode and a helpful Survival Pack.