Who Ruined Silent Hill? – The Tragedy of Tomm Hulett: Part 1

HBOMBERGUY: Hey Tomm: FUCK YOU!! you ruined
silent hill, fucking up shit in silent hill 3 with the new voice, im offended that you
did this, why did you RUINED IT?!?! SUPERGREATFRIEND: Fuck you, Tomm. You think you “have all the answers” about
Silent Hill when you don't know a fucking shit. Fuck off already and die. GEN_IRONICUS: I hate that knee cap face called
Tomm Hullet TIETUESDAYLP: tomm hulett, please take you
SH HD Collection and shove it down you throut so you can die a slow and painful death you
SON OF A BITCH!!!!!!! TOMATOGRANDPA: Dear Tomm Hulett: You, sir,
are an idiot who thinks himself a wise man. XHIGHTOWER_: Dear mr tomm Hulett I'm sure
I'm not the only one messageing you about this… [MANY PEOPLE TALKING AT ONCE] TWO BEST FRIENDS PLAY: Tomm Hulett- TWINPERFECT: Tomm Hulett- ANETERNALENIGMA: Tomm Hulett- TEXTHEGAMER94: Tomm Hulett- ANETERNALENIGMA: We are in the home of Tomm
Hulett right now…

AEE: You want the mic? MAN: Yes. MAN: I am done with it. No hyperbole. AEE: God, I've been wantin' to do that to
him for a long time now. And I think we can all agree: Silent Hill
is gonna be better off without this shitbag fucking it up for every one of us. BOBVIDS: Tomm Hulett. If you’re a diehard fan of the Silent Hill
games, chances are you know the name. And if you do, chances are it conjures visceral
negative emotions in you. After all, this is the man who single-handedly
destroyed Silent Hill. His hubris, influence and wrong-headedness
poisoned one of the greatest horror series of all time. VOIDBURGER: But what if all that was wrong? What if one of the most vilified people in
gaming, who still gets death threats to this day despite having left Konami over 5 years
ago, was a victim of rampant misinformation, incorrect assumptions, and overzealous fans? What if the worst thing you could say about
Tomm Hulett – the biggest crime he’s guilty of – was that he cared about his job? [MUSIC: Afterimages – Valleys] BV: Before we start, let’s be clear with
our intentions here.

This video isn’t about defending Tomm Hulett’s
creative decisions for the Silent Hill titles he worked on – those are matters of opinion. VB: To be honest, I pretty much really fervently
hate Shattered Memories. A lot. VB: Right now this is the same feeling – the
same frustration – that I felt in LPing Shattered Memories because I was baffled and angry that
anyone could like this drivel. VB: So let’s get the accusations of sycophantry
out of the way. This video is about providing context for
why creative decisions around later Silent Hill titles were made, as well as dispelling
the vast amount of misinformation surrounding Tomm’s days at Konami. BV: No one will be blindly defending anyone
in this video – rather, we’ll be making the important distinction between creators
and their creations, addressing misconceptions about the creative process, and examining
the one-sided, distorted relationship creators have with their audience.

VB: First, a quick rundown. For the uninitiated, Silent Hill is a videogame
series developed by Konami in 1999. It was widely praised and often called Konami’s
response to Capcom’s Resident Evil series, which came out 3 years prior. But it differed in a few major ways. Both games were survival horror, but where
Resident Evil focused more on action, Silent Hill focused on story and psychological scares. The first four Silent Hill games were developed
internally at Konami by a group dubbed ‘Team Silent’ in Tokyo.

After the release of Silent Hill 4 in 2004,
Konami decided to stop using this team to develop Silent Hill titles in favor of external
developers. BV: Not that it was a consistent team, by
the way. Members dropped out starting from the first
game. VB: But, in the same way that we still call
bands the same name despite changing members over time, we all call this group Team Silent. BV: It’s important to note that up until
this point, the Silent Hill series had very Japanese horror sensibilities. The first 4 Silent Hill games are defined
by their focus on psychological scares, esoteric puzzles, and disturbing subject matter. While other genres of horror are capable of
containing all these traits, J-horror is generally perceived as having a better track record
with them compared to American horror.

This will come into play later. [MUSIC: DJ Quads – Www Is A Thing] VB: Coming from a job at Atlus leading game
projects like ‘Steambot Chronicles’ and ‘Trauma Center’, as well as localizing
games in the Shin Megami Tensei series, Tomm Hulett was hired by Konami’s American branch
as an associate producer in late 2006. Not long after his arrival, he was thrust
into providing feedback for two new Silent Hill titles that were being worked on by outside
developers – Silent Hill: Origins and Silent Hill: Homecoming. While Tomm’s role on origins was merely
providing feedback for what developer Climax had already been working on before his arrival,
his role on Homecoming was considerably more… “dynamic”. BV: To understand why this was the case, you
first need to know that Tomm is a Silent Hill fan. Before being hired by Konami, he had bought
every single Silent Hill game on release day and beat them within a week. He’s particularly fond of Silent Hill 2
and considers it in his top 3 games of all time.

Here’s Tomm talking about that on the podcast
‘Cane and Rinse’ in May of 2017: INTERVIEWER: You're a big fan of Silent Hill
2 presumably, coming into this situation? TOMM HULETT: Oh yes. So, yeah… I played all of them on release. And two obviously was very important, and
changed my ideas of what a game narrative could do and be. BV: So when Tomm came to Konami and learned
that the series that spawned Silent Hill 2, a game that many consider to be a horror masterpiece,
was having a trilogy made that mangled series canon, brought back characters from the first
and second games for no reason other than fan service, ended with a super saiyan fight
between two kids over control of the town, and would disparage the clout the series had
garnered, Tomm did what any Silent Hill fan would do: he flipped out. TH: I was very… upset. [LAUGHS] My very first job, I read through
some design stuff and I thought "Pyramid head should not be here. This is terrible. Let’s get pyramid head out at any cost".

And then I got shot down. The dev said "This is our Silent Hill" and
my producer said "It’s their Silent Hill" so I was very sad. I was locked out of the project by the producer. And he stopped communicating with other people. And so then he was made to leave and Homecoming
was about ready to come out and it was dumped in my lap, and I had to finish it. [MUSIC: Jazzafari – Mensagem] VB: Tomm’s position at Konami was initially
“Associate Producer”, and later changed to “Sr.

Associate Producer” which seems
to be the same job… but senior. A producer on a project is generally the person
in charge of organizing everything – like making schedules and dealing with finances. Depending on the project and company, a producer’s
influence can be shifted to something comparable to a director, AKA the person in charge of
a project’s direction and the final word on creative input, or shifted to simply making
sure everyone’s getting paid. In Tomm’s case, Konami gave its producers
a lot of creative freedom. BV: We actually asked Tomm about his role
when he was still working at Konami years ago: TH: So my responsibilities on a project are
normally a little bit of everything. I have to have a hand in all the various parts
of development/production, and this… this ranges from the scheduling/planning/budgeting
type stuff, where I’m doing the boring paperwork. And at Konami, being a producer also involves
a lot of creative input, so I might, depending on the project, I might be doing initial designs,
concepts, and then obviously working with the developer, overseeing development.

BV: Because of this, one may be tempted to
think Tomm had a considerable amount of power on a project – but this isn’t entirely true. Tomm was technically an Associate Producer,
meaning there was another producer who was above him. See, Tomm worked for a large company with
many people, and he was simply nowhere near the top of the food chain. TH: There’s plenty of people above me: producers,
directors, VP’s, the president, and that goes for every department and every region
of Konami around the world. BV: So Tomm could be vetoed on creative decisions
or pushed to work on games with specific requirements to their staff, gameplay and budget, among
other things. He was getting to make games, just with a
bunch of caveats. But Tomm would learn to deal with it, and
eventually he’d get the go-ahead to work on one of his passion projects.

[MUSIC: Ikson – City] VB: When Tomm first arrived at Konami, he
had the opportunity to pitch upper management some games he’d like to produce. One of those games was a Silent Hill title
for the Wii, utilizing the console’s motion controls, but Konami passed on it. However, the lead producer of Silent Hill
at the time, the guy behind the Homecoming trilogy, learned of Tomm’s idea and adopted
it. Homecoming Trilogy Guy shopped the idea around
to several developers, one of which created a demo for it. nSpace’s “Winter” was that demo, and
the Silent Hill influence is pretty obvious, as you can see in the footage they leaked
after Konami eventually passed on it.

BV: Simultaneously, Climax, the company in
charge of Silent Hill: Origins, was working with Homecoming Trilogy Guy to create a port
of Silent Hill 1 for the Wii. At some point Homecoming Trilogy Guy showed
nSpace’s “Winter” concept to Climax, which they used as an influence for their
project. See, Climax didn’t really want to do a port
– they considered them boring. When Konami reached out to them to figure
out what had become of the SH1 port project, Climax responded with Silent Hill: Cold Heart.

VB: Cold Heart, as seen in these leaked design
documents, was an original story about a woman named Jessica Chambers who gets caught in
a snowstorm on her way to visit her parents, forcing her to find refuge in Silent Hill. It’s got some neat ideas – you should read
the pitch doc if you find the time. Climax took Tomm’s idea of a Wii Silent
Hill game and ran with it, coming up with concepts for Wiimote-based puzzles and combat
with a focus on survival. Konami management saw this and liked it, but
stuck to their guns on wanting a port of Silent Hill 1. The compromise ended up taking most of the
concepts of Cold Heart – the Wiimote-based puzzles, the emphasis on snow and the cold,
and psychologically profiling players and tailoring the game to them – and merging them
with the characters and setting of Silent Hill 1, essentially ‘retelling’ the game.

The project was greenlit and Silent Hill:
Shattered Memories was born, and shortly after Homecoming Trilogy Guy stopped responding
to Konami management and was made to leave the company. BV: Shattered Memories would become one of
the better-received American Silent Hill titles, though still not as embraced as the original
three. This is for various reasons – one of which
was that some fans took umbrage with the idea that Shattered Memories was a “reimagining”
of the first Silent Hill. To them, this was an incursion – proof positive
of the ‘Americanization’ of Silent Hill and its shedding of the series’ Japanese
roots, by forgoing a port or remaster of the first Silent Hill in favor of dramatically
changing it into something they barely recognized.

To these fans, Shattered Memories was a metaphor
for where the entire series was heading – and they didn’t like it. ROSSETER: Climax. You changed the story, you changed the characters,
you changed the town, you changed the gameplay, you changed the controls, you changed the
monsters, you changed the nightmare, you changed the reason for the nightmare, and you changed
the overall message. So you tell me: in what way is this a Silent
Hill game? BV: Some of these fans were a YouTube channel
called “Twin Perfect”, who had a video series called “The Real Silent Hill Experience”
in which they reviewed Silent Hill games and their lore. This channel would become a major player in
scapegoating Tomm Hulett. [MUSIC: Hustlers – Trip Hop] BV: At this point, Tomm had taken on the role
of public relations for the Silent Hill series – talking about Shattered Memories with game
journalists and fielding questions about the franchise. He explained that decision in the same interview
he did with us years back.

TH: The reason that I try to be involved in
interviews and in PR and stuff is because somebody has to do that. Somebody has to talk about the game. And as a gamer growing up, I always didn’t
like when, you know, you’d read like “Oh, it’s a cool new interview about this game”
and then, you know, you’d open the magazine or click on the link to see it and it’s
basically a PR person reading off bullet points from a spreadsheet they have, like “Oh,
this is why people wanna play the game, its got RPG battle system… and it’s multiplayer! And… I guess that’s it!” You know, it’s not their job to know, like,
the intricacies of development and how this all came about, but I think that’s more
interesting to hear about.

And then, as I said before, I work a little
bit on every Silent Hill, so I’m kind of the guy they’re gonna have random questions
about lore. So it’s kind of better I’m involved than
not involved. I’ve been playing it since 1999, so I saw
that lore as a gamer and figured out all the lore behind the town, and did all that research
for years and years and years and years, so I’m gonna know it off the top of my head. VB: It’s because of this public-facing role
as one of the few people at Konami talking about Silent Hill, that people like Twin Perfect
began to connect the perceived ruination of the series with Tomm. Twin Perfect would then come out with a video
about Shattered Memories, and Tomm found himself portrayed as just another Konami suit who
didn’t ‘get’ Silent Hill. ROSSETER: This is how Tomm Hulett, the game's
producer, and Sam Barlow explain what a reimagining entails.

Nolan's Dark Knight and Burton's Batman. Both feature the caped crusader we all know
fighting his greatest nemesis, the Joker. Both have a love interest. Both have Harvey Dent and Commissioner Gordon. But how similar are the two movies? ROSSETER: The example Hulett gives is a good
one, but how SH:SM is a reimagining of Silent Hill, we don't know. ROSSETER DOING A TOMM IMPRESSION: They looked
to the previous games to decide what Silent Hill was about – and concrete things were
brought over. Silent Hill must be about rust, fog, Pyramid
Head, nurses, and creepy little kids. But Silent Hill isn’t about any of those
things. That’s why Shattered Memories is important. ROSSETER: Well, Silent Hill isn't about frickin'
amnesia, either… Tomm. BV: After this, Tomm reached out to Twin Perfect
and participated in some debate about Silent Hill lore – likely to form a bridge of communication
with fellow fans as well as show that he was really just one of them. This ended up backfiring, as fans would take
his innocent participation in the debate as proof that he had no idea what he was talking
about, when Twin Perfect presented his friendly conversation as a stubborn and defensive retort.

FUNGO: You may ask, "If Silent Hill takes
place in one dimension, why don't the monsters go around attacking people? If Alessa triggered the darkness of Silent
Hill in the singular 'real world dimension' creating monsters, how did James and Mary
have a pleasant vacation stay there years later, without being attacked?" ROSSETER: Maybe you didn't ask that question,
but Tomm Hulett did! You're in charge of Silent Hill and that's
the question you ask!? VB: Remember: Tomm Hulett was not completely
“in charge” of Silent Hill – he just seemed like it because fans saw him a lot talking
about the games – which is a mistake being made by some Silent Hill fans to this day,
in no small part due to Twin Perfect’s videos.

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