Exclusive Interview: Outlast Will be the Scariest Game You Play this Summer Nick Calandra July 5, 2013 Horror games have been making a comeback as of late, with games like Amnesia and Slender being the talk of many. However, a new contender in the mix may be the scariest of all if all the previews from websites like IGN are to be believed. We recently had a chance to speak with the developers of Outlast, an upcoming survival horror game coming to the PC this summer and PS4 in early 2014. Three members of the development team, Philippe Morin, David Chateauneuf and Hugo Dallaire took the time to answer our questions. We hope you enjoy the interview and learn some more about what could be the scariest game you’ll play this summer. ONLYSP: For background information, granted that this is your studio’s first title, what brought Red Barrels together in the first place? Red Barrels: We (Hugo, Philippe and David) were working on a new IP at EA Montreal. When it got cancelled, we figured it was life’s way of kicking our butt, so we left our jobs in January 2011 and started working on Outlast. ONLYSP: Were there any motivators that brought you to the independent market as opposed to full-fledged development studios that you formerly worked at? Red Barrels: We started at Ubisoft around 1997-98. When you become a senior employee, it often means you start spending more time in meetings and less time working on the game. We’re all hands-on guys so it made sense to us to start a small studio and get back to game making – instead of game talking. ONLYSP: As an independent developer, what was the most noticeable difference in working on a game independently, as compared to big-name studio work? Red Barrels: The decision process is a lot faster. We get up, talk about an idea and make the call on the spot. ONLYSP: To surmise for the uninformed reader, what is Outlast, and what can a gamer expect from it? Red Barrels: It’s a survival horror game in which you play a reporter who ends up trapped in a asylum for the criminally insane. You must find your way out, while discovering the nature of the experiments they’ve been performing on the patients. ONLYSP: Outlast is a dramatic departure from previous titles that you have worked on in other studios; what brought you to delve into survival horror as a genre? Red Barrels: We’ve been dreaming of making a horror game for a long time. We tried to convince Ubisoft to let us make one, but it didn’t happen. So, now we’re independent… obviously nobody can tell us no! ONLYSP: Were there any particular inspirations in any media (gaming or otherwise) that you drew on to create Outlast? Red Barrels: The night vision concept came from a video clip sent to us by Hugo (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRvfxWRi6qQ) and the non-combat approach came from Amnesia. Those were the starting point. From then on, we drew inspiration from a lot of sources. Movies like Shutter Island, Session 9, The Shining, The Thing, Rec, Cloverfield. Games like Call of Cthulhu, Half Life, Mirror’s Edge, Condemned, Silent hill and Resident Evil. ONLYSP: What does Outlast have that differentiates it from its contemporaries in the field of survival horror (particularly in the inevitable comparisons to Amnesia: The Dark Descent)? Red Barrels: Amnesia is a great game. What we’re trying to achieve is to put our own spin on the genre. Our background is single player action-adventure games like Splinter Cell, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Assassin’s Creed and Uncharted. We’re basically letting our own experience shape up what the game will become. It’s like when you’re jamming with other musicians: you may start off with the same chords from another song, but it doesn’t mean the end result will sound the same. ONLYSP: There’s been a strong emphasis placed on the kinds of enemies that players are expected to encounter, with a “human” aspect being paramount. How do you intend to incorporate this into the game? Red Barrels: If you would meet Hannibal Lecter on the street, you wouldn’t know he’s a criminally insane person. That’s what we’re going for. You’re surrounded by patients. Some will ignore you, some will talk to you and some will try to kill you. ONLYSP: As far as story progression is concerned, projects you’ve had in the past vary widely between open-world character-based emphases, to more linear narrative progressions. How will the game play reflect the story of Outlast? Red Barrels: The story will unfold as you play, just like in Half Life. Your goal is to get out alive, but we’re letting the players decide how much investigation they want to do. ONLYSP: The vast majority of horror games feature silent protagonists. Is Miles Upshur to be a fully-developed character, or is the focus more on ingraining the player’s self in the game world? Red Barrels: More the latter. ONLYSP: How much time is a gamer expected to spend completing Outlast? Red Barrels: Our most recent playtests show that the fastest players can get through the game in about 5 hours, but the time varies a lot based on how stealthy you are trying to be, how long you have to hide if an enemy is looking for you, other things like that. ONLYSP: What was the inspiration for the setting (location and time period) in Outlast? Red Barrels: We were looking for something contemporary and believable. We felt like we could deliver a good experience if we could make the player feel like they are trapped in a asylum. ONLYSP: Are there any particular aspects of the game or points of developer pride that you feel gamers need to be aware of? Red Barrels: We’re very proud of being able to creating this game with a team of only 10 people. ONLYSP: What do you think of the upcoming next-gen consoles, and the future potential for an Outlast port, or other future developments from Red Barrels for those platforms? Red Barrels: Outlast will come to PS4 in early 2014. Sony has been really good to us and we’re excited about bringing Outlast to both PlayStation and PC fans. ONLYSP: What can we expect from Red Barrels in the near future, after Outlast hits the market? Red Barrels: It will all depend on how Outlast is received… ONLYSP: As a website that covers primarily single player focused games, how do you think the single player experience will evolve as the next-generation of consoles near? There’s a lot of talk about blurring the lines between single player and multiplayer. Red Barrels: Big studios will always be looking for ways to expand their market. We love playing single-player games and we love making single-player games. As long as there’s an audience for such games, we’ll keep making them. ONLYSP: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us about Outlast, we look forward to playing and reviewing the game when it releases. Is there anything else you’d like to let potential players know about the game before we let you go plan our demise? Red Barrels: Get ready to sweat and suffer! Just how scary is Outlast you ask? Well, checkout this video from IGN to find your answer. http://orion21.blogspot.com/ Orion I don’t think having a reaction video is the best way to showcase a scary game. Unless one plays a game, they don’t get the full impact. To me, this looked like a bunch of people overreacting. It looked too forced, because I was not in their shoes. I think a little simple gameplay video with the person demoing it not running through, like a lot of them do in demo videos, would have been a better idea. Still, deranged humans are scary, but ghosts would have made this game absolutely terrifying. It looks nice, but I’ve seen better. Nick Calandra That was the only video readily available to showcase pure game footage. But we did have our own E3 rep go and try it, Michael Urban, and he said it was almost too intense to play. There’s going to be a lot of tension build up in the game I can tell you that much. http://orion21.blogspot.com/ Orion It does look scary and there seems to be potential in terms of subtle horror too, true. I just feel IGN picked the wrong way to show how scary it is and focused on showing jump scares, because the reactions are funnier when extreme. It’s just not how I would promote a scary game, since a funny video of people losing it does not exactly put me in the mood for horror.