Callisto Protocol director on his return to horror: “I don’t know what’s too scary”

Callisto Protocol director on his return to horror: "I don't know what's too scary"
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When Glen Schofield is gone Call of Duty developer Sledgehammer Games in 2018, he needed a break. The game designer, best known as the creator of the seminal sci-fi horror series dead space, decided to head to the Arizona desert for some relaxation, which for him meant coming up with lots of new game concepts. “I would go there and draw,” he says. “And while I was drawing, I was coming up with ideas.” He returned with a 40-page book that would eventually turn into his return to the survival-horror genre: a game called The Callisto Protocol.

The game – which is being developed by Striking Distance Studios, a new team under the PUBG Krafton Company – was first announced in 2020, and last week a gruesome new trailer was unveiled at Summer game party. (It was affectionately called the “Schofield Cut.”) Schofield says he’s been looking to get back into horror for a while, and the urge grew stronger working on the zombies mode for Call of Duty.

“I just wanted to tell a different story,” he says. “I think about it a bit like Ridley Scott; He did Extraterrestrial then came back Prometheus. It’s something you love to do. I don’t see a lot of sci-fi horror movies because they’re so expensive to make. And it’s probably my favorite genre. So I thought, ‘Let’s see if we can bring him back.’ »

The Callisto Protocol takes place in the year 2320 in a penal colony located on one of Jupiter’s moons, where players must escape just as the other inmates transform into strange alien monsters. (The frame was originally meant to be a remote part of the PUBG universe, even if this is no longer the case. “The story was going in a different direction,” Schofield says of the change.) That premise, along with a number of other features — like gameplay that involves dismembering enemies and a diegetic interface that includes a bar healthcare disguised as a prison barcode tattoo — drew immediate comparisons to dead space. And that’s something Schofield agreed to during the game’s creation.

“At first I was like, ‘Oh no, it’s dead space,'” he explains. “But after a while I’m like, I don’t want a HUD, so does copy dead space? I want him to have a stomp – does that copy dead space? Maybe. But it’s also my DNA. I didn’t want to cut everything. So I became a bit more open to the idea as we progressed through development.

The big difference this time around, he says, is the technology, although it hasn’t changed everything. “We’re already in 3D, so it’s not like it’s going to change the gameplay all of a sudden,” says Schofield. Instead, the current state of consoles and PC means his team can create a more believable world, which is especially important for horror. This includes more believable alien monsters, a more immersive sound design, and the ability to project many more visual effects on screen. But one of the most important things is how much detail they can put into the world.

“Realism helps the sci-fi side, which people often don’t believe in,” says Schofield. “But these days you can get rust on it or have water dripping from things, and the player is like, ‘I have no idea what that thing is, but man, it has looks real. It’s the foundation of science fiction.

The Callisto Protocol.
Image: Striking Distance Studios

One of the challenges, however, is making sure the game is scary enough. As an avowed horror fan, Schofield is far more desensitized than the average person. (The same goes for many other members of the Callisto Protocol team.) “There are times when we don’t know if it’s scary or not,” he says. It doesn’t help that Schofield sees the game’s storylines through multiple phases, from white box prototypes to fully fleshed out interactive gameplay. This can take some of their punch away. Achieving the right level of dread therefore involves a lot of testing and tweaking based on player feedback.

Inspiration, meanwhile, comes from many places, including film. “I watch a lot of horror,” Schofield says. “And a lot of that doesn’t affect me. But, there are a few that really made me…and I’m like, ‘Whoa, man.’ If they affect me, you know they will affect the players. (At one point during our conversation, Schofield mentions having lunch with horror director Eli Roth, where the two discussed the sound effects involved in cutting an eyeball’s optic nerve with scissors in the first Hotel movie.) But aside from ripping movies, Schofield notes, “a lot of it comes from the imagination of our creative director, Chris Stone. I’ll sometimes say to him, ‘I need two more [deaths]’, or I’ll say, ‘I want my head cut off.’ »

However, one thing they don’t test is whether a kill or scare goes too far the other way. “The scarier, the better,” he explains. “I don’t know what’s too scary.”

The Callisto Protocol is due to launch on December 2, and it comes at a time when there seems to be a resurgence in sci-fi horror games. There are Fort Solis, the return of Routine, a new aliens expansionand even a remaster of the original dead space. Schofield understands there will be plenty of comparisons, but he also seems confident that his latest horror adventure will stand on its own. “You can come in like ‘Hey, it’s Dead space 4‘, he says, but I think when you come out, you’ll say ‘No, it’s Callisto Protocol.'”

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