Frictional Games is a Swedish independent game development studio founded and headed by Jens Nilson and Thomas Grip. It got its official start in 2006 and its headquarters are in the south Swedish city of Helsingborg. (You can read more about the company's history here.)
The studio specializes in Survival Horror games that have a unique level of immersiveness. This is particularly thanks to the studio's in-house developed game engine, in which all of the characters' interaction with their surrounding environment is purely physics-based (e.g. manipulating objects and furniture is done in real time by clicking and dragging, without any quick time events or similar animations).
The official site can be seen here, the dev blog is here and the Frictional Wiki can be seen here. They also have their own game store. An archive of an early version of the official forums (with some of their old game projects and a different logo) can be found here.
Games developed by the studio:
- Fiend (2003): Their first survival horror outing, inspired by The Shadow Over Innsmouth by H. P. Lovecraft. A 2D game with some surprisingly advanced shaders for the time, this horror mystery is set in the fictional New England town of Lauder.
- Energetic (2004): An edutainment platformer game for kids.
- Penumbra (2006): The original tech demo that started their rise to fame and became the basis for the commercially released Penumbra trilogy. It is freeware and has been translated into several languages, so you can find it here. Though it became a Sleeper Hit once it was first released for free download on the internet, it notably didn't score at all at a Swedish game developer competition it was originally made for.
- Penumbra: Overture (2007): A remake/continuity reboot of the original Penumbra game, the studio's first commercial title and the first episode in the planned Penumbra series. The protagonist of the original, Philip, sets off on a lone quest to find an abandoned secret installation in northern Greenland, hoping he'll find answers to the fate of his long-absent father.
- Penumbra: Black Plague (2008): Due to a falling out with the previous publisher, Frictional were forced to cancel their original idea of Penumbra as a three-part episodic series. They combined the planned content and narrative for the cancelled second and third installment into this final episode instead. The story was still wrapped up without much problems or unanswered questions.
- Penumbra: Requiem (2008): An expansion for Black Plague, meant as a kind of minor replacement for the original, cancelled third installment. Notably criticized for dumping most of the overt horror elements and focusing too much on puzzles and Portal-like gameplay. While it did add a little more lore and Mind Screw moments to the remaining narrative, many felt that it's more of a Dolled-Up Installment.
- Amnesia: The Dark Descent (2010): Spiritual Successor to Penumbra, set in the late 1830s in a Haunted Castle in Prussia, following the dark descent of former British diplomat Daniel into the mysteries of the castle and his own past. This game is the one that fully brought the studio into mainstream recognition. Even though they nearly tanked during the unintentionally prolonged development, they released the game in September 2010 (at first, as a digital purchase only). To their surprise, the game eventually took off really well and received an immense amount of praise from critics and gamers alike.
- Justine (2011): A free DLC for Amnesia: The Dark Descent with a new, standalone story.
- Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs (2013): A same-universe sequel to The Dark Descent, A Machine For Pigs employs similar themes, and is set in industrial England. Opening at the end of 1899, Oswald Mandus awakens from fevered nightmares of a monstrous machine, only to find it is both real and located beneath his manor. The first Amnesia game developed by The Chinese Room, Frictional Games oversaw its creation and took credit as its publisher. It was met with mixed reviews by comparison.
- SOMA (2015): Released in September 2015, this is the studio's latest first-person horror project. The game utilizes the third version of Frictional's HPL Engine. A return to sci-fi horror, SOMA was written with deeper themes in mind, in order to create a much more disturbing experience - a reaction to Thomas feeling that Amnesia was more of a "shallow fright-fest".
Tropes about the studio:
- Cosmic Horror Story: Their usual genre. Even SOMA, in which the threat is manmade, uses several tropes associated with the genre to frame it.
- Game Mod: The Penumbra series wasn't built with modding in mind, yet it didn't stop one of the fans from trying to create a mod (he was eventually unsuccessful). Frictional remedied this with Amnesia: The Dark Descent, which was developed from the get-go as a modder-friendly game.
- Genre-Busting: What they attempt (and generally succeed with) in their adventure game/survival horror hybrids.
- Shout-Out: They frequently include lots of overt and subtle references to various horror works into their games. Beyond that, they often reference classic game titles in one way or another.
- The name of their in-house game engine, HPL, is a nod to H. P. Lovecraft, one of their favourite horror authors.
- Spiritual Successor: Amnesia: The Dark Descent to the Penumbra series. As lampshaded in an episode of Zero Punctuation, both games share a lot of the same basic gameplay and narrative concepts.
- Survival Horror: Their specialty. Deemed by many critics to be one of the most important present day innovators of the whole genre. Particularly given their strong indie company culture and an almost amusingly small, but very competent development team...
- Underdogs Never Lose: Their slow climb to fame and praise was wracked with numerous problems and obstacles. Thanks to stubborn determination to stay alive and keep making high quality auteur games, they've managed to survive and gradually achieve a surprising level of success.
- What Could Have Been: Both Penumbra and Amnesia had lots of ideas tossed in during development, then tossed out, then put in back again or altered. A lot of the cancelled or altered ideas from Amnesia can be seen in the development diaries on the official website, the dev blog, as well as an unlockable file folder available after a 100% Completion of the game.