Until Dawn Q&A: Teen Horror Goes SuperMassive

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Until Dawn Q&A: Teen Horror Goes SuperMassive

Last month’s debut of PlayStation Move-based horror game Until Dawn generated enough intrigue to propel the game onto at least one news site’s best of gamescom list. And after watching a 30-minute gameplay demonstration of this cheeky horror game at gamescom, it wasn’t hard to see why. The game oozes confidence and style: its immersive use of the PlayStation Move motion controller (from flipping levers to tugging zippers), rapid-fire banter, and unabashed reliance on genre tropes all point to a game that’s determined to push horror gaming into uncharted territory.

It’s important to note that Until Dawn is firmly a teen horror game, trading in the healing herbs and bullet counting of the survival-horror genre for quips, jump scares, and salacious scenarios that wouldn’t seem out of place in Friday the 13th or I Know What You Did Last Summer.

After Until Dawn’s gamescom debut, I had a chance to speak with SuperMassive’s executive creative director Will Byles, who discussed the game’s genesis, HUD-free presentation, and adaptive storyline.

PlayStation.Blog: Until Dawn got a great response at gamescom. What do you mean when you say it’s “unashamedly a teen horror”?
Will Byles, Executive Creative Director: Teen horror is where we started. It’s where you have a group of teenagers disappear off to some remote location. The power is usually out; the phone is always out. And then, one by one, they get killed off. And they’re always trying to get it on with each other, often at inappropriate times.

PSB: Until Dawn has no HUD at all – no onscreen button icons, no text. Why is that important?
WB: We think it’s massively important for two reasons. We wanted to make sure this game was fun to play, but also watchable — we wanted a couple or group of friends to sit down and those that weren’t playing would be really happy to watch the whole thing. It just seemed like a much better way of doing it.

Every time we put something on screen, it breaks your suspension of disbelief just a little bit. So we try to keep it to a minimum. We wanted to try and keep all the shocks and scares first-person, so they’re happening to the player, with as few abstract elements as possible.

PSB: Until Dawn’s use of PlayStation Move is fascinating and helps make it a very tactile game. When did you settle on Move, and why?
WB: The game was designed from the ground up for PS Move. We started off making a first-person teen horror game that was flashlight-based — everything you needed to do or navigate used the flashlight. And PS Move is perfect for that; it looks like a flashlight, it feels like a flashlight. The T button underneath it handles your walking speed. Then, when you’re interacting without the flashlight, we map the PS Move controller to what your hand would do.

Until Dawn for PS3Until Dawn for PS3

PSB: Until Dawn’s story adapts to your play decisions, so this isn’t a linear game in the traditional sense. How many variations are possible?
WB: I don’t want to give too much away about the story, but we’ve got two things going on. The story adapts to what’s happening. A massive part of teen horror movies is people getting killed one by one; with our game, we want the fate of the character you’re playing is in your hands. Another thing: If you die in this game, you die. The story will change, adapt. There’s no reset or respawning — that’s it. You’re onto the next character.

During development, we did a lot of testing to make sure that there was a pacing to the fear. We did galvanic skin response (GSR) tests, which sounds quite technical, but it measures the conductivity of people’s skin — like a lie detector. Then the person would play the game, we would film them and see what’s onscreen, and we’d get this graph showing how frightened or relaxed they were. It’s quite interesting: The scene when Michael and Jessica are in the lodge and it starts to get amorous, we saw some interesting skin galavanic responses when some of the younger men were playing it. [laughter]

PSB: Heavy Rain is the last time we’ve seen this kind of branching story. Was Heavy Rain an influence for you at all?
WB: I think Heavy Rain is a great innovator in interactive narrative, [the team] is phenomenally good. David Cage is a great leader in that, so yeah, we definitely took some inspiration there.

PSB: The game seems to have a good sense of humor, such as that scene where you use PlayStation Move to begin disrobing your girlfriend.
WB: We keep coming back to the game being unashamedly a teen horror. If we didn’t do that stuff, I think that people would feel cheated. We’ve got to go there, we’ve got to do it. People see teen horror movies as date movies, and we’re trying to do the same thing here….To us, the three words of teen horror are scary-sexy-funny. Things like I Know What You Did Last Summer, Scream…on TV, Buffy or Supernatural. All of those have the same sort of feel — they’re teen horror.

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13 Author Replies

  • Any chance you are going to allow us to play with the dual shock controller? I care nothing for motion control gaming. I like to just sit back with the controller in hand. Please add controller support.

    • The game was designed around Move from day one, but we’ll keep you updated should there be any announcements around DualShock support. There’s no plans right now.

  • I can’t wait for this game!

  • Any chance of a move controller/game bundle? I’m interested in the game but never really cared for motion controls.

  • will theer be teh option to use teh dualshock for those of us w/o Move or will this game be MOVE only?

  • sounds fun. Too bad such an interesting concept is being wasted on the crappy PS Move (which most people don’t even have).

  • hey looks very good to play!
    any word on price and a release date?
    need to know ok thanks!
    any discounts for us ps+members?

  • Love the trailer! This game looks like it could be one of the first really GOOD Move titles!! I certainly hope so, I need something to dust off those Move controllers…

  • I’d hate to say this, knowing how much time and effort is put into making games, but this game SOUNDS cheesy. Looks o.k. , i’ll have to wait a bit longer to see how this turns out.

    • It’s FUNNY. They played 30 minutes of the game and the room was roaring with laughter. Seriously – I can’t wait until people get to see the gameplay for themselves

  • I would love better graphics for this one :D Like every other Sony exclusive XD

  • I hate to sound so unpleasant about this, I honestly want to be positive, however what would have been a day one buy isn’t due to the script and voice acting… Typically they are cheesy and bad, but in a game its just too distracting, especially when its a slower game. :/

    • I was worried about that too, but based on the 30 minute demo we watched at gamescom, there’s a ton of promise here. The game is *very* funny – something the trailer doesn’t have time to get into.

  • That game sounds so much fun to play with people watching! Is it coming out in 2012?

  • Nvm i just read you reply its out next year

  • Sid for Gods sakes when its Sony/SE gonna show More of FFVS13!!!!???? FOR GOD SAKES ITS BEEN ALMOST 6 YEARS AND A HALF!!!!!!! I know that the comment its out of the topic but Sony NEEDS to promote its Exclusive games! dont let them fade in the gamers memory.

  • @Will Byles: What will it take for you to make baby horror?

  • Alright!

  • Definitely intrigued for this one, and am loving the knowing winks to well-trodden horror tropes. Can’t wait to get my hands on it!

  • Said it before but may as well repeat..i would have bought this day one if it had dual shock support. Nothing wrong with move….but the core support has been a C- at best since its release. I had it for some time yet traded it in once i realized it had sat for over 6 mths without use.

    To buy another camera,move, navigation etc over again for 1 decent looking game is out of the question.

  • So how about that twitter post on PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale? Any more than 20 characters?

  • No, Sub-Zero, it is you who is out of the question.

  • Will be buying this.

  • one of my favorite local co-op games on Xbox1 was also a teen horror game, called ObsCure. What that an influence? (I’d love to see ObsCure and its sequel come to PSN in 1080p with tropheis!)

    you mention an amorous situation in the copy; are there gay characters? is that a choice I can make, like in Bully?

    local co-op? platinum trophy? are cutscenes 1080p? is the music HD quality?

    very excited for this title! :)

  • Looks cheese, I love it! :D

  • Loving the look of it and I’m excited to dust off my Move stuff to play it.. but being a fan of kewl and strong female characters… I am not impressed. Why is the girl such a… throw away nothing? Everything she says just made me cringe, can I feed her to the monster/thing that’s after you?

  • I love this, I’ve wanted a game like this for a long time. It’s one of my favourite movie genres, so glad it’s finally getting the game treatment. Do you have a tentative targeted release date as of yet?

  • Will this game be on the vita?

  • looks amazing i cannot wait sony keeps amazing the croud much love to the developers for making thisgame! reminds me of cabin in the woods!

    • I definitely sensed that the developers of Until Dawn and the creators of The Cabin in the Woods (great film, btw) are on the same page.

  • Teen horror is always cheesy, that is the entire point.

  • My only worry about this title is the emphasis on the word “Teen,” because it makes me wonder if they’re going for a T rating instead of an M. I do tend to prefer my “Cabin in the Woods” stories with a little bit of gore, so I’d be less inclined to pick this up if it were more “I Know What You Did Last Summer” and less “Friday the 13th.”

  • @17 – that is why it’s silly to sell something like that or, for that matter, to buy it until you’ve found enough games for it you’re interested in. I’ve only used my Move for light gun shooters up until now, but depending on the rating of this, I may be interested.

  • like #21, I also want to know if there’s any info out there on gay characters in the game. I’m guessing there won’t be though….

  • This game looks amazing and I’m glad it seems like a proper move game. I will be buying it first day. Thank you Sony

  • I’m looking forward to this game! Despite the naysayers, I think it will be better because of the Move.
    Also, there’s a cool interview with the developer for this on Game-Modo.

  • Sid, speaking of Move games, will NA ever see a release of Move Fitness? Disc or PSN would be fine. Any word?

  • Yet another company I could see myself working for one day, I have so many unbelievably un-used ideas, and I like the character certain teams bring to the industry.

    not to give all of my ideas away for beans, but i’m heavily suprised no-one has used the camera prior to this point (in a horror interactive art/game) to incorporate a players actual environment into an AR scenario within the game… ie. a security cam screen in a security guard’s post, that the player comes across, and clicking various screen switching buttons they find one that is their living room, with a ghostly figure sitting or moving/creeping behind them…

    I’m sure i could think of ways to make people jump, even on top of that idea…

    Anyway it looks great, i’ll be sure to check it out, keep up the good/hard work.

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