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Taking a look at the iconic horror game 32 years later, and just before its HD re-imagining.

Holly Green, Community Editorial Coordinator

March 20, 2024

Over ten years ago, Alone in the Dark creator Frédérick Raynal told a sitting audience that he hoped his groundbreaking game, oft cited as the first 3D horror title in history, would one day receive an HD remake. On March 20, 2024, that hope will become reality, as the Pieces Interactive-helmed remaster of Alone in the Dark will launch 32 years after the original’s debut on PC. 

The term “auteur” may bear some negative weight in modern-day games discourse, but in the early ‘90s, when studios were still very small, it was sometimes justified to attribute a large portion of a game’s success to the work of a primary visionary. It was inarguably Raynal’s vision, which fueled work on the 3D engine that would see the game’s groundbreaking visuals fully realized, that brought Alone in the Dark to life. 

The tale of how it all came together was told in 2012 with Raynal’s GDC talk, Classic Game Postmortem: Alone in the Dark, where Raynal reminisced on the role that watching horror films while repairing computers in his father’s VHS shop would play in his career, and how early work on porting the Atari ST games Continuum (Alpha Wave, cited as the first 3D platform game, which was designed by Christophe de Dinechin) and The Cube to PC would inspire the 3D-style visuals that Raynal would later apply to a title of his own.

Putting together what would eventually become Alone in the Dark was a challenge; what Raynal sought to achieve had not yet been done, and he would not only need to write an engine (which he did with the help of 3D artist and programmer Didier Chanfray) and win over the Infogrames producers of the project's merit, he would also need to innovate around the many new issues that arose by introducing such an untested perspective.

But with his team, which also included 2D graphic artist Yaël Barroz, screenwriter Hubert Chardot, programmer Franck De Girolami, artist Jean-Marc Torroella, and writer Franck Manzetti, the game's balance of text-based horror, puzzle-solving and combat came together, creating an instant hit that would be praised for how the 3D perspective added dynamism to its narrative.

Alone in the Dark burnout

Infogrames would deal a major blow following the game’s release; almost immediately, Raynal and the team were told to produce a sequel using the same engine and assets, effectively ending aspirations for an improved follow-up that would seen the game receive "3D sets and lights and a raft of other improvements," according to Edge in 2010. Raynal, in his quest for innovation and perfection, was also burned out on the game by that point and could only see it for its flaws, saying in 2012, "In October 1992, I hated this game." It did not help that Infogrames had removed key in-game credits listing Raynal as its creator, swapping it with the name of the publisher. As he told Edge, "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."

But though he was disillusioned at the time, Raynal would move on to better things, later directing and designing the Little Big Adventure series, which is set for revival in 2024. He continues to work with some of the original collaborators brought together by Alone in the Dark, including his wife Yaël Barroz, with whom he had a child during the development of the original game, and Chanfray, whose iconic early chiaroscuro concept art of Alone in the Dark is also considered key in developing its identity.

Alone in the Dark and its visual style would go on to inspire others, most notably Shinji Mikami of the Resident Evil series, who was mesmerized by the fixed perspective's potential for storytelling, telling LeMonde in 2014, “Without [Raynal], Resident Evil would probably have become a first-person shooter.”

While the early days of Game Developer do not have an interview or postmortem with Raynal, the references to the game that do exist routinely mention its unique camera style, speaking to its influence on other developers at the time. 

Ironically, the visual style that made Alone in the Dark so iconic will not be seen in the 2024 remake; Pieces Interactive will be using an “over the shoulder” third-person perspective rather than the fixed camera that made the original famous. It will also reportedly feature a new story. Still, as Raynal expressed his support for an eventual HD remake, one can only guess this new iteration has his blessing.

As this remaster brings the classic to a new generation, let’s take a look back at the story behind the original and how the 3D innovations that would inspire the survival horror genre came to be, as told by Raynal at GDC 2012. 

About the Author(s)

Holly Green

Community Editorial Coordinator, GameDeveloper.com

Holly Green has been in games media for fifteen years, having previously worked as a reporter and critic at a variety of outlets. As community editorial coordinator, she handles written materials submitted by our audience of game developers and is responsible for overseeing the growth of iconic columns and features that have been educating industry professionals under the Game Developer brand for decades. When she isn't playing about or writing video games, she can be found cooking, gardening and brewing beer with her husband in Seattle, WA.

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