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Media Consumption: Frictional Games' Thomas Grip (Penumbra: Overture)

For this week’s Media Consumption, Frictional Games programmer and project lead Thomas Grip (Penumbra: Overture) breaks down the slightly sinister constituent elements of his media diet - from Tool, through H.P. Lovecraft, all the way to Reside
For this week’s Media Consumption, a column that looks at the media and art diets of our favourite industry personalities, we spoke to Thomas Grip, programmer and project lead for Frictional Games’ first person horror adventure title Penumbra: Overture Episode One. The game was initially developed as a tech demo designed to showcase the four man Swedish company’s ideas for immersive physics-based adventure game design, but showed enough promise and was popular enough that the team soon began work on growing the idea into a trilogy of titles. The first of these was released via download on the 30th of March, and was simultaneously released to retail in the U.K., with a boxed version set to appear on shelves in the U.S. at the beginning of next month. There have also been rumors that Penumbra: Overture may also be released via Valve’s Steam service, though Grip notes that the Frictional Games is “still waiting for a definite answer” on this subject. The game is receiving average reviews at this time, most of which suggest that the atmosphere of the game overrides the majority of its flaws. “I am very pleased with the initial reactions,” says Grip. “Since we did not have a lot of resources I thought that players would not be able to get over the lack of high quality animations and high detailed characters and although these things have lowered our score in many reviews it is something which is a lot easier to repair than broken gameplay.” There are currently no dates set for the other two episodes in the series, though Grip notes that the company feel “quite confident” about keeping to a “quite accurate schedule”. “The largest unknown factors now are the sales for the first episode and depending on this we will know how much extra we can add to the next episode,” he comments. “We are already setup to make the following episodes, but the better the sales are the better we can make them.” We spoke to Grip recently, and asked about the köttbullar in his media smörgåsbord of late. Sounds: "Once upon a time, in a distant past, when I was playing in a band I was pretty much up to date with recent music. Nowadays, I am pretty much unaware of any new releases - I mainly listen to old records and at some rare occasion I find out about some new band through pandora.com. It is not that I am uninterested in new music, I just have too many other things to do. As for favourite music it is everything from Norah Jones to Slipknot. It all depends on mood and if I haven't already listened it to death. I am one of those people that once I find a good album I listen to it until I can't stand it – most recently 10,000 Days by Tool. The moment I had listened to it once I had to listen to it again, and so on, until I had heard it 10,000 times." Moving Pictures: "My all time favorite movie is probably Requiem for a Dream, mainly because everything is so good about it; music, writing, acting, camera. It all just adds up to one hell of an experience. I also enjoy B-action/horror movies like Deep Rising, They Live and From Dusk til Dawn. If it has gore and monsters, I will probably enjoy it. They’re "cheap" and simple entertainment and I also like when they have cool twists on the stories like in From Dusk til Dawn and They Live. I also must add that I do not like all B-movies, I only like those with some extra "spice" and class, like the once I mentioned. Last good flick I saw was probably Hard Candy, mainly because of the disturbing subject and the power it has to make you cringe even though there is minimal gore. It was quite a different experience to watch to say the least - different in terms of the emotions that I felt while watching. It is hard to explain why without spoiling the entire movie. It is simply something that one needs to experience." Words: "I usually read 50/50 mixture of factual and fictional books. Last book I read was A Short History of Nearly Everything which was really great. It opened my eyes to fields of science I have never really found interesting, for example, geology. It also contained all sorts of crazy and hilarious anecdotes about various scientists. When it comes to fictional books I am big Lovecraft fan, but I really read all kinds of books. My enjoyment of Lovecraft comes mostly from the vague but still very colorful description of environments and creatures. That combined with the whole '20s atmosphere, mysterious notes, ancient evils and characters going insane is just a perfect mix for me. It is kind of the opposite of the enjoyment I get from B-movies where you have a more in your face approach." Games: "I just finished Resident Evil 4 for PC, which turned out be a great game even though the conversion was horrible. As it is an atmosphere based game, I think a good deal of the immersion is lost when you lose all lightning, etc. I would have probably have enjoyed any of the console versions more. That said, the gameplay was so good and the base artwork of such quality that it still was great experience. I rarely have much time to play games, though, so usually I just download the demo for a game and try it out for 10 or 20 minutes. I am also quite picky when it comes to games; rarely there is a release that I feel like playing. Since I do not have lot of free time these days, what I dislike most about many games is that they drag out on areas just to get a longer game. I really want to finish the games I play, but when you have the same thing over and over again, I lose my patience and stop playing. I want to have a game that I can finish in a few hours and then have the developers try and make that experience as good and varied as possible. I see no point in repeating events simply to have a longer game. I’ve never owned any hand-held console but I am quite interested in what is coming out for the DS. There are all kinds of unusual and cool looking games on that system."

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