Hi, I’m Philippe Morin from Red Barrels! Together with co-founders David Chateauneuf and Hugo Dallaire, we started an indie studio for one reason: to use our experience working on games like Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune and Assassin’s Creed to make the horror game we’ve been talking about with each other for years.
We’re all big horror fans, especially David, and the game we wanted to make – a realistic survival horror game – wasn’t the type of thing any big companies were willing to take a risk on. So we’re taking the risk ourselves with Outlast, a stealth-based survival horror game set in an abandoned asylum, coming to PS4 next year!
The best games make you feel something – some type of emotion that sticks with you after you’re done playing. And fear is one of the most powerful emotions we can have as human beings. So for us, to make the best game possible, we know that we have to scare the s*** out of you.
We’re trying to do that in a number of different ways, but where we start is with the design. In Outlast you play as a journalist with no weapons or fighting ability. You’re powerless and vulnerable. There’s actually a good reason to be afraid, because you can be hurt (or eviscerated).
So, like in real life, your best option to survive is to run or hide. Using our past experience, we’re making those mechanics fun (but hopefully nerve-racking!), giving your character some parkour-style moves and tweaking the AI so that enemies are smart about looking for you.
Design elements were the first step we took in order to terrify you, but we’re going farther. We partnered with a scientific consulting firm called Thwacke to get real-world data on mental illness and treatment techniques and make an authentic environment.
Since Outlast is set in an asylum and your enemies are escaped mental patients, we felt it was important to portray our characters and setting in a realistic way, beyond just characters chasing you on a map. From the layout of the asylum to how enemies act, most of the game is based on real world asylums. While we have some unexpected surprises waiting in the shadows, giving players as realistic a setting as possible makes the fear more tangible.
I mentioned before that we’re huge horror fans at Red Barrels. We spend hours watching classic and new movies and playing games like Amnesia – for fun and for inspiration. Immersing ourselves in horror has made it a little harder to sleep each night, but has also given us a lot of ideas.
For instance, one of the things that makes a character like Jason or Michael Myers so frightening is because of their unstoppable drive – no matter what you do, they always keep coming to kill you. Outlast has a similar character, with some twists.
More generally, what we’ve learned from countless hours trying to scare ourselves is that fear is all about setting expectations. When you start to walk up to a dark, Victorian building, you prepare yourself to be afraid; all that needs to happen after that is something to activate that fear, like a sudden movement or a creepy visual. Getting you into this state of expectation is something we care a lot about – as you can see from our PAX East booth design!
Fear is a weird thing. At PAX East, we had people coming out of our booth with many different reactions: some were giggling nervously, others were white and trembling, and others even came out joyfully discussing impaled corpses. We loved it; the different ways people express fear is really interesting to see because each different reaction means that a person is having a personal, emotional experience with Outlast. Every designer wants their game to have an impact on how you feel, and we’re committed to making you feel as terrified as possible!
Look out for more information about Outlast before our PS4 launch late next year. In the meantime, tell us what your favorite horror genre is. Slasher, exorcism, clowns… tell me what scares you the most!