Two decades to the year after Edward Carnby first got in over his head in the original 3D survival horror, the game's designer, Frederick Raynal took the stage at GDC 2012 to discuss how he and the team at Infogrames created the PC classic that inspired Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and quite by accident, the Uwe Boll movie with Christian Slater.
"If you see a dog burst through a window [in another game], remember that we had this eight polygon bird coming through the first polygon window," Raynal joked about an early scare from Alone In The Dark, referencing one of the first Resident Evil's biggest shocks several years later. Raynal detailed the evolution of the first game in the first 3D survival horror game, keeping pace with changes in PC hardware and realizing the first adventure of series protagonist Edward Carnby.
It was by December '91 that an early version of Edward was in the game, animating at four frames, with his running animation based on an exaggerated version of Raynal's own movement. The very first room as proof of concept featured Carnby and what Raynal described as a "chicken monster." it was several months, though, before Edward had a head (early versions of the game's box art used a brunette mockup for Edward).
Raynal says that they wanted to avoid being either an action or RPG title, and as an attempt to establish exactly how it would play, he and the team played a paper version of Alone in the Dark, from the story's start to finish alongside the recently-employed writer for the in-game text, Hugo Chardot. Afterwards, Chardot, for whom this was a first game writing assignment, told Raynal that those three days basically taught him how to do his job.
In staging fear in the game, the team dropped books in for the player to read not only to establish back story, but to create fear in the mind of the player. They were also intent on making combat avoidable with limited ammo, forcing the player to find more solutions beyond brute force. Some clues to the combat could be found in the books.
By October, 1992, they had the final version of the game after two years of development. Raynal showed the first screen you would see as a player, pointing to a lamp on the table asthe first in-game object which would be part of the last action in the game when you set fire to the sorcerer bedeviling Carnby throughout the story. Raynal says that although heels differently now, by October '92, he was so fed up with Alone in the Dark that he hated the game. Now his feeling is a bit warmer toward it, saying he'd love an HD remake if whoever holds the rights would be willing to create one (if memory serves, Atari had the rights last). While he wasn't happy with the action-oriented sequels, he points to Alan Wake and Silent Hill as the game's spiritual successors.
You can find out more about Reynal at his site, ludioid.com.