Shattered Memories was derived from
a pitch called "Cold Heart",
which was not supposed to be a "re-imagining".
This may be old news to some people, but earlier this month, I came across a post on Silent Hill Memories dot net that included scans of the full, 14-page pitch document for the game that became Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. Climax held a contest to give away seven copies of the document to fans, and scans of the document have since been posted online in various sources.
The document tells us that the final product ended up being radically different than the original concept. Apparently, Climax did not originally intend to do a remake / reboot / "re-imagining" of the original Silent Hill. Instead the plot would continue on with the standard Silent Hill timeline (presumabely following the events of Homecoming) with a new character. The game's working title was Silent Hill: Cold Heart. The document outlines what some of the game's intended features were supposed to be (including combat mechanics that were completely cut from the final product), describes the main character, and also provides a brief walkthrough of an early chapter of the game.
The planned protagonist: college student Jessica Chambers
The introduction page describes the playable character: Jessica Chambers. Jessica was planned to be an over-stressed and emotionally-vulnerable college student. She ends up in Silent Hill after a freak snow storm causes her car to crash on her way to visit her parents.
Page 1 and 2 describe the main character, Jessica Chambers, and how she ends up in Silent Hill.
Jessica is described as being "emotionally vulnerable" and is dependent on a therapist. She has nightmares and is "weighed down by a deep sadness". The pitch doesn't specify the nature of this sadness or her reason for being dependent on a therapist (other than perhaps the stress of college).
I would suspect that the reason for her sadness and the therapy would have been similar to Shattered Memories: that one or both of her parents are probably dead, she has repressed the memory, and experiences nightmares of Silent Hill as a subconscious attempt to confront these repressed memories.
Perhaps she grew up in Silent Hill, and so has a connection to the town, or maybe Silent Hill isn't even assumed to be a real place in context of this game.
A more developed feature set
The next two pages describe the feature set that the game was originally expected to include. In addition to describing the psych profile, icy Otherworld, and cell phone features that did make it into Shattered Memories, the pitch includes some features that didn't make it.
Combat using Wiimote gestures was originally intended to be present in the game, as well as survival mechanics.
It would have included more survival mechanics, including requiring the character to manage an inventory and protect the character from exposure to the frigid cold by eating, equipping warm clothing, or by finding shelter indoors. The frozen Otherworld would, thus, have actually been threatening and relevant to gameplay, since extended exposure to it could potentially have been fatal. This doesn't necessarily mean that it would have been scary, but it would have removed the necessity for the tedious and frustrating chase sequences. Escaping the cold into a nearby building seems like it would end up being one of the primary ways of guiding the character to important plot destinations.
The theme of cold would also have been amplified by dynamic weather systems. It's unclear if weather and exposure mechanics would have existed in the normal world, or if it would have been exclusive to the Otherworld. I wonder if these ideas were carried over into the concept for Downpour, or if that game's use of weather as a gimmick was coincidental.
Looks like Climax had ideas for more complicated puzzles than what showed up in the final game.
The original puzzle designs at least seem to have been a bit smarter than in the final product. Instead of just turning cans over and dumping out keys, the player would have to have solved some environmental puzzles such as searching the snow for a key with a metal detector.
A later page outlines an even more complicated, multi-level puzzle to activate a boiler. The puzzle required searching the environment for dry wood and throwing it into the boiler, then using flint to light a fire and activate the boiler. Once activated, the heat from the boiler would melt some ice, revealing a key that can be used to progress with the level. This puzzle would have required the player to search over a larger area than most of Shattered Memories' puzzles required, and represented a more adult challenge than simply using the Wiimote to turn over a can or unlatch a door.
Labeling your own map was apparently an element of the game's very early designs.
Unfortunately, it looks like the earliest drafts of the game's design threw away Silent Hill's traditional map system. This is unfortunate, since Silent Hill 1-3 had exceptional maps.
This particular section could have been turned into a tutorial to teach the player how to doodle, as well as reinforce good map-making habits. This design doesn't include any such tutorial, so hopefully one would have been added later.
Therapy sessions were always a part of the game's designs.
Did Jessica have a better reason for therapy than Cheryl in Shattered Memories?
Therapy sessions were always a part of the game's design. In fact, this seems to be the central design element, and the reason for Climax wanting to make the game. Unfortunately, the pitch document only outlines two therapy sessions, and its description makes some assumptions that there have already been therapy sessions and that the game is capturing adequate psych profile data. It also doesn't go into any detail about how (of if) they psych profile would affect the overall narrative or game endings, but I would assume that was the intent all along.
The following page explains a phone call event that is dependent on the psych profile. This description also assumes that the relevant psych profile information has already been obtained by the game, but it doesn't explain where that data comes from or how the game obtained it.
So it's hard to tell from this document whether the original concept for the psych profile would have worked better than in the final product.
Climax continues bad habits from Origins: using deus ex machina teleportation to move between plot points.
Other parts of the pitch document show that some of the limitations of Shattered Memories were elements that were always part of the game's design and never really addressed.
One page shows that the game will (much like Climax's Origins game) depend a lot of deus ex machina to progress the player from place to place and plot point to plot point. At one point, it explains that Jessica would pass out and wake up in a different place. It's not something that is alien to the Silent Hill games (it occurred several times in the first and fourth games), but those games have contextual explanations for those events, whereas Origins had the habit of just teleporting the character for no real reason. This annoyance is included in the Cold Heart pitch.
Another page describes some of the limitations of the psych profiling system. It describes a therapy session in which the player must draw an ideal house, and describes that the game can't do anything to evaluate the content of the drawing, so instead, it would have to use data such as how often the player erases (presumably to determine how indecisive the player is) and what colors they use. A similar therapy session is present in Shattered Memories, but was dumbed down to be practically pointless. It requires the player to color in a picture of a house in order to reskin an in-game house with that color scheme, and doesn't allow the players to freely draw or erase.
The pitch points out some limitations of the psych system - limitations which remain in the final game.
Would Cold Heart have been a better game than Shattered Memories?
It's almost impossible to judge the eventual quality of a game by its pitch document. Certainly, many elements of the game's design had yet to be ironed out, and the script was likely just an overview or outline - if a script existed at this point at all. I'd be curious to see a full game script if one ever existed, but I doubt that would ever see the light of day.
The fact that this game seems to be an attempt at a sequel rather than a "re-imagining" makes it sound like a much better idea to me than what was actually produced. But I can't help but suspect that this original plan would have included many of the silly plot elements that remained in Shattered Memories. Jessica probably is in denial about her parents' death, just as Cheryl; and Jessica is probably imagining her visit to Silent Hill as a way of coping with that denial, just as Cheryl imagines Harry being trapped in Silent Hill as a coping mechanism. After all, dead parents seems to be Climax's thing.
Cold Heart looked to be a slightly smarter game than Shattered Memories turned out to be.
There's also no indication that Cold Heart would have retained any occult elements of its Silent Hill namesake. So even though it was, technically, a sequel, it might not have felt like a sequel with any relation to the previous games other than name.
At the very least, there are some good ideas in this document. The use of a frozen Otherworld actually had relevance in the original game play. Enemies seem to have been intended to be more threatening and omnipresent, which would have made seamless exploration more tense and [hopefully] frightening. And the puzzles seemed a bit more involved and smarter.
I wish that Climax and Konami had gone with this pitch instead of the silly "re-imagining" idea, as it probably would have ended up being a better game.