Cursed Mountain

System: Wii Release date: 04/09/2009

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Prepare to enter a terrifying world of ancient curses, evil secrets and desperate survival in the harshest environment on the planet. Prepare to enter Cursed Mountain for Wii.

Set in the rich and atmospheric world of mystical Tibet, you step into the shoes of a mountaineer searching for his brother, who’s gone missing during a risky expedition in the Himalayas. What begins as a search and rescue mission soon becomes a matter of life and death as you’re drawn into a world saturated with ancient ritual and hidden evil.

Cursed Mountain is a terrifying survival horror game for Wii that combines frenetic action with fearsome enemies, set in the icy glaciers and swirling mists of the Tibetan landscape. Use the intuitive Wii controls to unleash a huge arsenal of weapons and moves, with ranged attacks and finishing moves that require immersion in the ritualistic secrets of the Tibetan monks.

Unlock the mysteries of ancient cultures and get ready to encounter creatures that are not of this world in a desperate bid to save your brother. You’ll need to be fast on your feet and sharp in your thinking to overcome the demons, ghosts and spirits who confront you during your ascent through the chilling Shadow World.

No-one has yet lived to tell the tale of Cursed Mountain – will you be the first?

  • A survival horror game, set in the rich 3D atmosphere of the Himalayas
  • Enter the world of the Buddhist monks and uncover its secrets
  • Wield the Wii Remote to fight enemies with a multitude of weapons and mystical moves

Cursed Mountain is a game that intends to scare you from the pit of your stomach to the tips of your toes. But it’s a different kind of horror survival game – there aren’t any aliens dropping from the ceiling and you don’t go around blasting zombies with five different types of bazooka. As Martin Fillip, Developer and PR Manager at Deep Silver says at our E3 preview, the idea is to immerse you completely in the experience without the need for claustrophobic rooms and over-the-top violence seen in more traditional survival horror games. This game prefers to scare you slowly, invoking gnawing unease which progresses to abject fear.

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That’s not to say you won’t be meeting members of the cold corpse collective though. Playing as mountaineer Eric Simmons, you’re on the trail of your brother Frank who’s gone mysteriously missing in the Himalayas. Unbeknownst to Eric, the area has fallen victim to an evil curse, trapping souls in an undead limbo known as the Shadow World. Guess who you’re going to be meeting a lot of?

There’s an evocative prologue sequence showing Frank’s disappearance on a blizzard-ridden climb that immediately sets the tone as bitterly cold and threatening. Then it’s into the game proper as you arrive at Lhando, the eerily abandoned base camp town. Thanks to the moody graphics and chilling soundtrack, the atmosphere is laden with suspense and you’re rapidly sent off on your first task – to locate the house of a certain Dr. Bennett.

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The controls are easy to get to grips with - use the Nunchuk’s Control Stick to move Eric, the A Button to perform context-sensitive actions such as climbing and jumping, and the Z Button to sprint. Exploration and puzzle-solving are fundamental parts of the game and considerable effort has been made to take different players’ preferences into account. Climbing up a stepladder using the A Button is a good example. You can scale the ladder more quickly if you desire, but to do so you need to swing the Wii Remote and Nunchuk in both hands to simulate the action – the choice of button press or motion control is entirely yours.

The hunt takes you through the winding streets of Lhando and your first find is an ice axe left by your brother, which you can use to break barrels and smash through barriers with a flick of the Wii Remote. Fleeting glimpses of ghostly figures catch your attention and it’s not long before you meet your first trapped soul. The scariest thing about these creatures is that they’re recognisably human, so it’s a comforting thought that apart from dispatching of your enemies by physical means you can also choose to heal them with Buddhist prayers. These work like special moves and become increasingly important as the game progresses. Enacting the prayer available during the preview session involved some very precise Wii Remote drawing, Okami-style. In addition, using the C Button will also allow you to use special prayers as effective finishing moves during an attack sequence.

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Cursed Mountain builds up the tension in subtle ways – a step into the Shadow World effects a more monochromatic visual palate and black whirling particles alert you to the otherworldly. If you’re the sort of person who loves watching a good psychological horror movie with the lights out, keep an eye on this one – it’s got all the signs of a real hair-raiser.

Interview

MARTIN FILIPP: DEVELOPER & PR MANAGER, DEEP SILVER

Martin Filipp is a developer and Public Relations manager for Deep Silver – the developers of new survival horror game Cursed Mountain. We met up with Mr. Filipp at the E3 Expo in Los Angeles to talk all things horror and find out some in-depth details on the game…

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Could you tell our readers the basic storyline of Cursed Mountain?

Cursed Mountain is about two brothers; the younger brother Frank has gone missing during an expedition in the Himalayas and his older brother Eric is called by Edward Bennett, the guy who organised the first expedition, to help find him. So, the older brother arrives in the region, dominated by a specific mountain called Chomolonzo, and he tries to find out what’s happened to his younger brother…and that’s where the story starts.

What was the purpose of Frank’s initial expedition?

The younger brother was sent on the expedition to find an ancient artifact that also exists in the real world - it’s called a “terma”. It’s simply a time capsule, which was created in that region around 1,500 years ago by the founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama. And this is all real. The time capsules contain information about prayers, daily routines and also certain wisdom, which comes to light when the wisdom is needed. And even now, every 100-150 years these time capsules are actually found. And with modern science they’ve found out that this is all real, there are writings inside that are over 1,000 years old, even though no-one can explain why this happens. And Buddhism explains that the information was buried by Buddhist scholars and that when the wisdom is needed people have visions and must then try to find the capsules.

What has happened in the game is that a non-holy, non-intended person has found a capsule and used it in the wrong way. And since our game is called Cursed Mountain something bad obviously happens, and a curse is spread. At the very beginning the player has very little information and bit by bit the story evolves and at the very end, when you’re at the summit of the mountain, you’ll know what happened and hopefully you’ll find your brother alive.

 

This sounds like a very involved story and theme for a horror game. How do you describe the game yourself?

We do call it a survival horror game. A big differentiator from other horror games is that so much of the game world is outside. We have levels to play inside as well but normally horror games are very tight, in small rooms and so on, but we really have openness. Even though we’re a level-based game, the entire game world is in the engine and the memory the whole time. So we try to convey the openness and the wonderful panoramic view of the Himalayas throughout the game. We think it’s something very special on Wii that the scenery is there all the time, so that you always see the mountain in front of you from the beginning. You always have the goal, the motivation in front of you. But at the same time it’s a threat. Being from Austria I can tell you that the mountain thing, the alpine thing is dangerous, it’s a threat.

Every step could be your last one when you’re on a mountain. You really have to be careful and we’re playing with that - there are avalanches, there are storms that just push you aside. When you’re close to the summit, the wind is so strong and it’s so icy that you have to find protection and just go hide behind a rock until the icy wind has passed. You can get snow-blind at some stages where you don’t see anything any more, but you still have to fight your way up. This means that as well as the enemies and spirits the player encounters, climbing itself is a danger and we try to convey that in the game.

 

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So we shouldn’t expect to see zombies in the traditional sense of survival horror games?

No and there’s a perfect example why we couldn’t feature traditional zombies. The Himalayas are at such an altitude that they have perma-frost all year round so they can’t dig graves there. If you have no graves there can’t be any bodies or zombies that are raised from the graves. This is a normal, simple explanation that’s based on real world facts.

The other thing is the “Bardo”. The game is called Cursed Mountain, so there’s a curse involved, inflicted by a goddess. The curse has affected all the dead souls, meaning they’re all held in an in-between state, known as the Bardo. This Bardo, also called the “Shadow World”, contains bad souls. You have to perform certain tests and these tests determine whether the soul has reached enlightenment and is allowed to move on to nirvana or if it has to do further life cycles on earth.

We use the Shadow World as a gameplay mechanism where we reveal certain things that are hidden to the players, which brings us to a very important point, which is that the main player can look into the Bardo, the Shadow World. In the first level, a monk teaches the player how to use the “Third Eye” where you can look into the Shadow World, not enter it, but take a look. The player receives audio-visual feedback because the screen changes, there are dark clouds and particles that represent the Bardo and audibly you hear the main character breathe heavily, since it’s a strange state for him. In this special state you can find hidden items you can’t normally see, hidden doors, for example.

 

So Eric, the main character, starts off totally unaware of the Tibetan culture and gradually becomes aware of this other world – The Bardo?

Yes, we play with these two worlds. The idea is to have a Western guy who’s uncomfortable with all the Eastern culture. He’s not superstitious, he’s very grounded and he’s facing all that stuff - like spirits, ghosts - and he’s not sure if this is all real or based on hallucinations coming from a lack of oxygen or high-altitude sickness. And we’re playing with that – leaving the player in the dark for a long time – is this part of the real story or is this happening just because he’s hallucinating? And we do this with the monologue, so the character’s talking a lot to himself, giving information to the player, letting him know what he’s found out about his brother.

 

In the game there’s both exploration and combat. Could you describe to us what the player will encounter as he plays through the levels?

There’s a balance between exploring - finding out stuff, you know, solving puzzles and collecting items to move through levels and then the combat. The combat is divided into melee combat and ranged combat, but we’re careful when we talk about attacks because we’re actually proud that we don’t have a traditional weapon in the game. We’re not another zombie slayer where you just hack and slay through blood and gore. In our case one of the main attack moves is based on prayers, or ‘mandalas’, which are performed with gestures with your hands. That’s actually the reason we got hooked on the Wii platform, because when we started working on this game more than two years ago, Nintendo had just introduced this new controller to the industry and we had this game idea in mind and as we did the research about Buddhism we thought this would be a perfect match to have a new game without a chainsaw or a shotgun. So you’re performing gestures with both arms using the Wii controls, which is quite special.

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Playing a horror game with a normal controller, you’re just sitting in front of the telly, hopefully scared, but with the controller in your hand, static. In Cursed Mountain, you have to perform the gestures with both arms, so you have to face the fear in a more involved way and we think and we hope that by doing so, you’re pulled even deeper into the game itself and the game experience. This was one of the first ideas that got our producer hooked on the title.

The levels themselves can be very big. For example, you start in a city in the valley from where the trail goes up to the mountain. If you haven’t played the game before it takes about an hour or two to play through this level - even if you know the game and you run all the way through it, it takes 40 minutes. So we have these big levels and in the city, for example, you might have to find a certain object to open a door which is protected with a magical seal…You have to find out where it is, pick it up and bring it back to the door.

 

What other special uses do the controllers, the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, have? Can you give some examples?

One use is the flashlight. So when you perform the Third Eye move, you search the screen as if with a flashlight and can see what’s going on, so one thing is exploring and finding stuff, and on the other hand, you also use the controller in that mode to aim at enemies. When you reduce the health of the enemies to a certain point, you can then perform a so-called finishing move, even though we don’t like that expression, where you can perform a gesture, perform a prayer, and this lets the spirit go and you’ve actually done something good. You’ve released them from the state where they are stuck in the Bardo and so actually they’re now allowed to move on and this is a good thing - you’re a good guy, you’re not killing anyone.

There’s also a stage where you find a walkie-talkie, which is broken because it just works in one direction. The level takes place in a huge ice crevasse which is a labyrinth, and you’re thrown in there by a level boss. You wake up there and you have to find your way out. Then you find a dead climber and he has a working radio on him, so you pick it up and there is a guy talking to you, guiding you through the Wii Remote speaker. He’s giving you directions: go left, go right and you don’t know who he is and this is also part of the mystery. So yes, we support the Wii Remote speaker. As this game is Wii exclusive we’re really trying to make the best of what Wii offers us – balancing games, running, climbing with ice picks...

Another very cool thing is the meditation game, where you have to get very, very calm to get into the state to enter the Bardo and so we have this rhythm game with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk where you hear drums and a bell and you have to play these rhythms with the controllers. And that’s very cool.

 

We’re used to a lot of heroes in games being American, but we notice that you’ve picked Scottish protagonists for Cursed Mountain. Is there any particular reason for that?

Well, as a studio we totally believe in new settings and themes; we don’t want to re-invent the wheel but we want to introduce new themes and subjects to the players. The Himalayas, mountaineering, Buddhism and the ancient religious theme was one thing, and also we wanted to have new voices for the characters. That’s one of the reasons we chose the Scottish actor as, especially here in the States, there are about two to three hundred voice actors working in the industry and they’re used in many games and we just didn’t want to do that at all. Everything was done in London, in the studio, and they were all English or Scottish actors working on that game, so it’s kind of a different approach: new and fresh settings, unique stuff, not being too generic.

 

Do you meet many other characters or is it all a very solitary experience?

Well, there are some human characters you meet who are key. Western guys and some local guys, like monks or the abbot from the monastery and these characters reveal the story, but you also meet ghosts and spirits.

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Another important point is that it takes place in the 80s. In modern-day climbing, getting lost on a mountain above 20,000 feet is still scary, but in the 80s when you only had a radio, it was much more rugged, more scary and even if you had a lot of money, it wasn’t something you could just do. And going back to the Scottish individuals, in the 80s the Scots, among other people, were some of the best climbers. And I believe it brings more to the game, because there’s no safety net, no satellite phones, no GPS. People just wanted to experience the nature, the environment, the climbing… These days you can just book it. If you have enough money they’ll carry you up Mount Everest.

 

You’ve obviously done a huge amount of research to make sure the player comes away with an authentic experience. What were your inspirations when you were coming up with the idea?

With the ancient and the religious background, a lot of Japanese games were inspirations and to find a way to attract Western audiences to such a subject can be challenging. There are obviously some big Japanese-game fans, but the idea was to broaden the appeal to the Western market. There are lots of films about Buddhists and the Dalai Lama. The German director Wim Wenders did a couple of good documentaries about the subject. And the film about mountaineers called Touching the Void was also a big inspiration. Also, Reinhold Messner, the Italian mountaineer who was the first on Mount Everest without oxygen, he lost his brother 15 years ago on an expedition, so, you know, this brother theme was also an important thing for us.

As I said, all the Buddhism background is based on real-world fact, so if someone wants to dig deeper they can – that’s what we did. It’s really the philosophy of our studio that real life offers so many experiences for gameplay ideas we don’t have to make it up. And it makes the gameplay more believable when you know it’s based in the real world and not totally fictitious.

Thanks very much for your time!


 

Interview 2

MARTIN FILIPP: DEVELOPER & PR MANAGER, DEEP SILVER

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Available in shops now, Cursed Mountain is a Wii game that casts players in the role of an intrepid mountaineer battling against much more than just the elements. In the second of a series of interviews with game developer Martin Filipp, we talk about the final form of the atmospheric survival horror and the intriguing journey involved in taking Cursed Mountain all the way from the drawing board to shop shelves.


You last spoke with us at this year’s E3. What kind of feedback were you getting to the game at that time?

Well, first of all, we’ve been really surprised – even though that’s a stupid thing to say as a developer – at how well the game has been received throughout the whole development process since we started communicating with the public. This was really interesting, and still now people have been very kind to the game – which totally freaks me out actually, because everything is so positive I’m just waiting for the big bang! But I’m a negative person!

It was very well received at E3, and it was also very positive for us that we were allowed to show the game at the Nintendo booth. That was kind of an honour for us that we were alongside just a few other third party developers showing our game there. That was a cool thing for us. And it’s also always a big motivation for the team to get recognition from the hardware vendor as you look for the strength to make that last push over the final couple of months.

And all the feedback that was online and in print after E3 was very positive. For me it was too positive, because you’re always waiting for something terrible around the next corner! So far that hasn’t been the case, and the game has been very well received in the first reviews. The key concepts of the game always seem to be well received.

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With regards to those key concepts; the game contains elements of exploration, combat, puzzle-solving and a rich storyline. What is the final balance between those elements in the game? Are there equal parts of each of those things?

“Equal parts” is a good way of putting it, I think. I’m not a man of figures, because I really hate giving percentages or whatever, but “equal parts” is a very good summary. The levels are very big, really big for this kind of a game. It offers huge gameplay value and long gameplay hours. You can really loose yourself on each level, especially the bigger ones. We really believe in focus tests and usability tests with people out with the development team; we’ve been doing that for many years now. And when we had the tutorial in place and the first possibility to hand over the game to someone who wasn’t involved in the development process we saw that on the first level people would spend an hour and a half just searching around and looking for stuff. This is kind of nice.

This is also where our strategy paid off, because we really tried to offer an easy entry level to appeal to the Wii audience as a whole, and not to just start with epic action that would be too much for some players and make them put away the controller. So it was important for us to rely on the intense story, atmosphere and setting - which we really believe in - and to create an atmosphere that pulls you into the game slowly and then step by step, as the game progresses, increase the speed and pacing. So yeah, I think it’s a good balance between exploring, puzzle-solving and fighting.

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Looking back at the development process, what were some of the biggest challenges you faced in bringing Cursed Mountain to light?

Convincing our guys not to make the levels so big! They were actually a little bigger at first and we had to scale it down a bit because we just realised it was too much.

Another difficult thing along that theme was that each level is very unique. We’re talking about a journey uphill. You start at 5000 meters and end up at more than 8000 meters – so there’s this constant travel uphill. This makes every level a bit unique based on the real environment in the Himalayas. Coming from an alpine country in Austria, we had the feeling that everything above 2000 meters is just white; just snow and ice.

But actually, we realised as we did research that depending on the season in the Himalayas, they’re doing agricultural work and herding yak. That was amazing to us - that at this height these things still go on. This is reflected in the levels, in the colour scheme for example within the environments you see. You see in the city how colourful it is, then you go out in open fields with the farmers and agriculture, where you have a little bit of green and some rocks, then you continue to go up and you’re really in the mountain and there are just rocks. And then the last levels you’re surrounded by ice and snow. So the difficulty here was that we were not able to reuse assets. You know, you had to create props for each level – which is kind of time consuming and also money consuming! Normally, you try to create props in a way that you can somehow reuse them at least a little bit, without making things look too repetitive or boring. This wasn’t possible with Cursed Mountain, so we had to really remodel all the props based on the specific levels. This kind of helps the game, I think, because it offers uniqueness for each level. Each level is a kind of experience depending on the height you are at and it reflects the journey to the summit of the mountain.

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When you’ve been so involved in and attached to a project, is it possible at the end of the development process to try and sit down and play the game with a clear mind – as if you were a gamer playing through for the first time?

That is very, very difficult to do. What we do is, internally, with the team in Vienna, we try to make sure they don’t play the game. So we keep them away for six or seven months. For example, there are people within the Quality Assurance (QA) department that we don’t allow to play certain games for a certain time. And then, when the game comes to a level of completeness where you can hand it over to someone else, we just let these people play the game and get first-hand feedback. But, to a certain extent, there’s a point within the studio where that’s not possible anymore.

When you’re 4-12 weeks from submission, you just hand over the game to external partner companies and get consumer feedback from people who play the game for the first time with fresh eyes and can see stuff that we don’t see anymore. This is very important at the end of a project because you realise at that point that you might have stood in front of a problem during development and didn’t see it all!

So it’s very important to get fresh feedback at every stage of the development process, to always have fresh eyes looking at the project. It raises the final quality a lot.

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Once the game is released, all you can do is wait and see how people respond to it. For your part though, are you satisfied that you and the rest of the team have fulfilled the ambitions you had for Cursed Mountain at the outset?

That’s a very tricky question, because you can really fall on your face depending on your answer to it! Obviously you’re never 100% satisfied with the end product. No creative person ever is, no matter which industry you’re in. A painter is never happy with the final painting on the wall, because he sees so much work still to do. It’s similar with game development, you know? You start with an ambitious goal, three years pass and you work for a long time on one product, and it becomes your baby. Along the way you have to make compromises – game development always involves compromises - hopefully making the right choices and taking the right turns throughout the long development process.

But, in the end, you always have to stand up for your game and say “Ok, this is what we achieved. This is what we’ve done and we’re proud of what we have achieved as a team.” This is very important for us based on our business model, because as an internal studio we are always convinced that we succeed as a team and we fail together as a team. It’s always a team effort. And with this kind of very special business model that we have, where so many partner companies are involved, it’s even more of a team effort to bring everyone together onto the same page, keep up the vision for such a long time, distribute it on a worldwide basis and ensure everyone remains as convinced about the product as you are over the development period.

But, to be very honest, when you talk about software development, games have a big advantage, in that they result in a final product in the end. This is a major motivation for everyone involved in the industry. When you’re done, you go to a shop, go to the shelf, take a copy and show it to someone and say, “This is what I’ve done for the last three years, and this is my work.” This keeps people motivated for a long time, because it’s a really, really big relief. Personally, I only believe in a game when I have a box in my hand. That’s when it’s real, and this is something that drives you through development. And this is one of the very fortunate moments in development when you, as a team, have achieved that together and have that box sitting on a table in a meeting room and can say, “Well done boys.” It sounds very cheesy and stupid, but it’s really true. In our industry, everyone is creating an individual part, but in the end you have a final product. And that’s a very satisfying moment.

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You mentioned there’s a moment after development where you have to say, “I’m proud of what we have achieved”. What aspects of Cursed Mountain are you particularly proud of?

Actually, it’s a bit stupid to say, but I’m proud that we proved successful with our business model. Because it was a big concern at the beginning when we started the company and were searching for financing and all that. Everyone said “Yeah, cool, nice idea, we trust in your track record – but where are the people?” There were those who would come into our office and we were just a few guys, so they wanted to know where the team was. In fact, the “people” were all over the world, and some said that wouldn’t work.

On the business side, it’s interesting that Cursed Mountain was the first game that completely relied on outsourcing. So having this business model and this production thing similar to the movie industry and proving the concept was possible within the games industry was very, very cool. It was a big thing for us, and it’s a big relief to now have the first product created within that model about to be out on the shelves. This is one thing we’re proud of.

Also, during development, the first prototype that worked with gesture-based controls using the Wii Remote and was fun to play was a big thing. This is one of the concerns you have. Things always look fine on paper, but you have to prove it in the build of a game. So that was a big thing too.

I think the package as a whole, when you put it all together is something that we’re really proud of, looking back.

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Do you now simply breathe a sigh of relief that the development process is over, or does that creative side of you start thinking about ideas for the next thing?

Well, we’re part of the Koch Media Group, and our job within that group is to bring up new ideas and build up brands, and as Cursed Mountain has been very well received so far, and hopefully will continue to be, we are already making up our mind for whatever might come regarding a sequel. But it’s just punching around ideas at the moment, so nothing is set in stone. But we have three games in production running in parallel, so we’re not sitting around being bored in the office!
But yeah, it has been really cool, and as I said it was a bit surprising at the beginning that Cursed Mountain was received so well. This makes us comfortable and confident that there might be something else coming. 

By the time the interview goes to press, the game will be on shop shelves. What would you say to Wii owners who haven’t played it yet?

I think that it might not be your “regular” game, it’s out of the box, but it offers a cool storyline and it’s very cinematic. So if you’re interested in movies and a story being told you can really immerse yourself in that and project your feelings and emotions onto the main character as you join him on his journey up to the summit of the mountain and have a new and cool experience on Wii. You should think about giving it a try!

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Categories

Adventure, Action

Players

1

Publisher

Deep Silver

Developer

Deep Silver

More information

Age rating

  • 16

Wii

System

Wii

Release date

04/09/2009

Age rating

16

Controllers

  • Wii Remote & Wii Remote Plus