What sets the Callisto protocol apart from dead space — and why surprises are the name of the game

In just a few short months, we’ll finally get our hands on The Callisto Protocol, a spiritual successor to Dead Space from that game’s original creator, Glen Schofield, and his team at Striking Distance. GameSpot had the chance to chat with Schofield about not only what makes Callisto Protocol a distinct and unique beast from Dead Space games, but also how Schofield’s approach to game direction has evolved and how Dead Space and the Callisto Protocol mirror Schofield himself.

One of the biggest points Schofield made in the interview, which you can read in full below, is that unpredictability is key to any horror game’s success. Even in the bloodiest horror games, like The Callisto Protocol, instilling terror and fear in the player cannot be accomplished through constant “scary” images or events.

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“As soon as something is predictable, it stops being scary,” Schofield told us.

We’ve seen plenty of other games fall into this trap, even in established franchises that have been successful in the past.

Instead, there has to be some disruption to that rhythm, whether after a period of silence with a whole bunch of noisy monsters or while intentionally waiting. hours between meetings in order to continue to build this tension until the point where it overflows. Lean too far in one direction or the other, and the player will begin to anticipate the next scare, greatly reducing its impact. Sometimes the biggest scare factor can even be full bait, with increasing tension leading to something that isn’t scary at all to make it even harder to read the game’s blueprints.

Inspiration can come from anywhere for a video game, but for Schofield, other horror games haven’t been his main source lately. Instead, he turned to foreign horror films, including films made in South Korea and France. Schofield specifically calls out Les Martyrs, a wildly disturbing 2008 French horror film that all but the least sensitive will struggle to watch. Considering the famous gory death animations of the Dead Space games (and the Callisto Protocol), this isn’t a huge surprise. Nonetheless, we seriously suggest you approach this film with caution if it sounds interesting to you.

Read the full interview below, which has been lightly edited for clarity. In addition to the aforementioned topics, Schofield also explains how accessibility options were added, how the game tackles a “power curve” to keep things tricky, and how it uniquely uses the DualSense controller on PS5 to create a even more disturbing environment. live.

GameSpot: People have compared it and will continue to compare it to Dead Space for obvious reasons, so what does the dev team consider different from the Callisto Protocol, and what do they think , distinguishes it as a stand-alone experience?

Schofield: While both games share a certain creative DNA, at the end of the day, they’re both just my style. I make the kind of games that I make. That said, The Callisto Protocol is a brand new game, set in a new universe, with new characters, a new story, and new gameplay mechanics.

It’s been almost 15 years since Dead Space came out and I’ve changed a lot as a director, and the technology has changed even more. We’re able to do things in The Callisto Protocol that we only dreamed of in Dead Space.

We’re really proud of The Callisto Protocol’s combat system, which goes far beyond anything seen in a horror game. We mix shooting, melee and a gravity weapon in addition to a deep gore, dismemberment system and our new Mutations feature which allows monsters to transform in real time.

What lessons have you learned from other modern horror games about what to do and what not to do to create tension and atmosphere?

The only rule about making a great horror game is that there are no rules. The great horror comes from the gut. As soon as something is predictable, it stops being scary.

Our game design is built around an idea we call Horror Engineering. This basically means that big scares have to be crafted by hand. We mix atmosphere, tension and brutality with feelings of helplessness and humanity to keep players on their toes.

Sometimes we make players wait 10 or 15 minutes for a big scare. Sometimes we hit them with two or three in a row. Sometimes we build up a ton of tension and set players up for a jump scare and then don’t deliver it. It’s kind of like a game of cat and mouse. As soon as you become predictable, it’s over.

What games has the team played and drawn inspiration from?

I’m definitely a bit old school in the sense that I still love Resident Evil and Silent Hill games. They will always be inspirations.

To be honest, I’ve been drawing more inspiration from horror movies lately. And lately I’ve been watching a lot of foreign horror. The Koreans and the French have been releasing some amazing stuff lately that has had a huge impact on my work. If anyone really wants to be disturbed, watch the French film Martyrs. But don’t say I didn’t warn you…it haunted me for weeks.

What do they think is the scariest game right now?

I absolutely loved Resident Evil 7. This series is unparalleled in its ability to create a truly oppressive atmosphere. As soon as you enter the world in an RE game, things feel hopeless, heavy, and gruesome.

What sort of accessibility options are being added to help players navigate low-light environments and know the direction of noises? And are there accessibility options?

We have a High Contrast mode where you can set a custom color for your player character, enemies, and interactive objects, including microphones. This allows visually impaired and color blind gamers to go out there and choose the colors that suit them best. We did this instead of having a catch-all preset of color blindness types, which doesn’t always work for everyone. We also had to iterate on the look. I wanted to make sure, even in this High Contrast mode, that our game still looks high quality for players who prefer to play that way.

We are also working on a variety of haptic feedback for all players to enjoy, but also keeping hearing impaired players in mind. So for things like noise direction, the player may hear a slight rumble in their controller when an enemy is nearby.

We are still working on the game, but trying to have as many accessibility options as possible.

How linear are the game environments? Can players roll back?

Callisto Protocol is a story-driven game, so there’s definitely an alpha path for players to discover. That said, we’ve also created plenty of beta paths with additional encounters, content, and collectibles to reward players who want to hunt through all the shadows in the game. We try to avoid pushing players back and move the action forward.

How lonely will the protagonist be? Do they meet a lot of people/have the chance to work with them or are they pretty much alone from start to finish?

The feeling of isolation is central to the game, but there are a number of characters Jacob will interact with that we haven’t revealed yet. The story is a big part of the experience and we’re excited to reveal more about it a little closer to launch.

Why was Jacob Lee jailed before the game started? Does his crime factor into the weapons he uses/how the gameplay works?

Jacob is just an ordinary guy in a terrible situation. He has no special training and the only weapons he has he has to find around the Black Iron prison. We were very conscious of ensuring that all weapons and equipment had meaning and purpose in a prison, whether it was high-tech equipment for guards or improvised weapons like a knife. .

How does the game take advantage of the PS5 DualSense to increase the fear factor?

We spent a lot of time trying out different things to do with haptics – it’s a powerful tool for conveying urgency to the player and helping us turn up the tension in cool ways. One of the things that gets me every time is feeling a creature’s bones crackle on the controller when you land a crushing blow with the stun staff. It really immerses you in the experience. And anything we can do to make players more immersed helps us deliver a spooky experience.

Will the game stop when you open your card?

No, there is no card in the game!

How many different types of monsters will the player have to face? How can combat change from encounter to encounter?

We’re still finishing the game, so I can’t give you a final count, but there are a lot of different enemy types, and several variations of certain enemies, like grunts. When you mix up the different mutations, players will see quite a bit of variety in the creatures they’re up against.

Different types of enemies also have different fighting styles. Some are fast, some are tanks, some use ranged projectiles, and some have camouflage.

How does the Callisto protocol approach its power curve? Will players feel much more powerful at the end of the game or will this challenge keep pace to ensure players stay weak?

It’s a delicate balance. We are first and foremost a survival horror game. We want players to count every ball and be nervous every game. Helplessness is one of the tenets of our approach to horror engineering, so we never want players to feel overwhelmed.

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