Outlast

Outlast: An Interview With Red Barrels

There is a new horror game on the scene in 2013. With other games in the genre dropping the ball in the horror department (Dead Space, I am looking at you), Red Barrels, a company made up of former EA and Ubisoft developers, have created a game that looks truly terrifying called Outlast. The game puts you in the shoes of journalist Miles Upshur who breaks into an abandoned home for the mentally ill. As you can expect, things will get scary, grisly and all manner of other words that could describe the horrors to come.

I asked Philippe Morin, the Co-founder of Red Barrels, questions about the inspirations behind the game, the unique mechanics and the powerful debut trailer. Read the full interview below.

 

First of all, Outlast is looking like a great survival horror game. What interested me, when looking through the team at Red Barrels among all of the industry experience at companies such as EA and Ubisoft, was a seeming lack of previous work in the survival horror genre. What was the reason behind making Outlast as the very first game?

David [Chateauneuf] and I have always dreamed of making a horror game. Back in 2008, we tried to convince Ubisoft Montreal to let us make one, but it didn’t work out.

While we haven’t made a horror game before, we’ve worked on action/adventure and stealth games, and, at its core, Outlast is a stealth game with a horror setting. So, there are similarities. Also, David has a huge collection of horror movies and played almost every horror game around – so it’s easy for us to find references to draw from.

That being said, it is a challenge and that’s what drives us. Trying new things, learning from mistakes and iterating is what makes game development so exciting.

The trailer for Outlast was incredibly creepy and made me jump without even playing! The lighting, the music and the noises from the protagonist, Miles Upshur, all contributed to a very unnerving experience. The attention to detail is astounding. From the beginning of development, was your intention to make the little things build up rather than use all out scares from the outset?

The trailer was made to showcase the elements of the game in less than 5 minutes. So, finding the right pacing was a very important thing.
Jump scares are one way to scare players, but to keep the players invested in the whole game, there has to be a variety of emotions and gameplay. Otherwise, the game becomes predictable and boring. That’s why we’ll have a mix of exploration, light platforming, tension, anticipation, gore, jump scares and frenetic chases.
We did several iterations of the trailer to make sure we could showcase all these emotions and gameplay elements.

Something that stood out was the ability to hide from enemies which is something you cannot do in games such as Slender: The Arrival. Hiding under the bed gave the character an air of vulnerability. Why was this feature included in the game?

Hide and seek is one the first games we learn as kids. We liked the idea of going back to this childhood feeling of being defenseless, hiding under the bed. At the same time, it is really important to give players options and choices. We don’t want to make players always hide, or they’ll get used to it and the game won’t be as effective. So having players run, hide and explore in different ways creates different emotions and keeps the experience fresh.

Following on from hiding mechanic, the character would rather run and hide than stand and fight, suggesting that there is no weapons or objects that he can use. I know that some people in horror games like to have the ability to defend themselves while others, myself included, think that it ruins the helplessness that contributes to atmosphere in the horror genre. What was the thinking behind being unable to fight the horrors that the character faces?

After working on so many games with guns and swords, we liked the idea of doing something completely different. After playing Amnesia: The Dark Descent, we felt like taking the “no combat” approach would allow us to focus the game on the emotions we wanted to create. It’s all psychological. If you give a weapon/tool to players, they will automatically think they can use it against the enemy and therefore they will become proactive.  So instead of running away, they will try to “attack”.  We didn’t want players to be able to rely on that instinct.

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In many games, the gameplay and graphics comes before the story. The trailer showed off a little of all of these aspects. Will there be a compelling story that plays a major part in the game or will this take a back seat for a focus on survival horror gameplay?

Half Life is our inspiration – it provides a rich universe without feeling like the story is imposed. So, in Outlast, although the focus is on escaping the Asylum, players will be able to unfold a lot of narrative elements.

Some have compared the look and feel of your game to that of Amnesia: The Dark Descent. What would be considered the biggest inspiration for the game and its tone? On another related note, would you say your game is in direct competition with any game on the market at the moment or one that is coming up soon?

Like I mentioned, Amnesia was a big influence for their “no combat” approach, and we are being influenced by a lot of movies like REC, The Shining, Shutter Island, Session 9, and others. We’ve been fans of horror games for a long time and now are finally making one ourselves. We’re eager to see what we can bring to the genre we love.

We believe there’s plenty of room for more horror games and hopefully Outlast will offer something something fresh.

If the game was to warrant a sequel or spin-off, would the team as a whole be interested in continuing with the concept or would there be a hunger for creating another new intellectual property in a different genre?

We have a lot of ideas for prequels, sequels and spinoffs. It’s just a matter of shipping the first game and seeing how players react.

 

Outlast is set for release later this year for the PC. Stay tuned to Leviathyn for more.

Is this looking like a great horror game to you? Let us know in the comments.

 



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