October is the best month to start thinking about games that will send shivers up your spine. It's the time to think about games that you can play with the lights out and the window open a crack. It's the time to find games that will leave you a quivering mass under your bed.
One game that has proudly waved the horror banner in 2013 has been Outlast, from the team at Red Barrels. Outlast sees journalist Miles Upshur investigating a strange asylum, only to find terror unlike any he's ever seen. The game has received praise from both critics and members of our own Shacknews Chatty community. So now seemed like the best time to reach out to Red Barrels co-founder Philippe Morin and ask some questions.
Shacknews: The team is made up of industry veterans, who've worked on a number of AAA titles. What made you want to jump into the indie gaming scene?
Philippe Morin: We were working together on a new IP at EA Montreal and our project got cancelled. We realized we all wanted the same thing: more independence. We also were tired of spending, and wasting, so much time in meetings. We're all developers who like to be very hands-on, so we decided that starting a new company with a small team was the right path for us.
How did you come up with the concept for Outlast? What made you want to create what's (by all accounts) a different kind of horror game?
We quickly decided we wanted to do an horror game. David and I tried to convince Ubisoft's management to let us make one, to no avail. Hugo, one of Red Barrels' co-founders, sent us a video from Chris Cunningham called Rubber Johnny. It gave us the idea for using night vision and the general direction we wanted to take with the game
What, in particular, helped inspire the game's characters and settings? What real-life criminal cases and asylums did you research when crafting the story?
We did a lot of research on Operation Paperclip, the MkUltra program, and how often in history patients and prisoners have been used for immoral experiments. For the patients, we worked with scientific consultants (Thwacke) who gave us reports and bios of real life serial killers and criminally insane persons. Some of our patients are heavily inspired by those real persons.
What do you feel that Outlast does differently from other horror games? What, to you, makes it a true survival horror experience?
We tried to create an experience that would bring people back to how they felt when they were still a child facing the unknown, afraid of the dark and powerless. We figured that if we could achieve that, then players would experience a true survival horror game.
How did you go about creating the character of Miles? What characteristics did you want to make sure he had?
Because we didn't want any combat in the game and we needed a justification for the use of night vision, we figured a reporter would fit very well, since you don't expect him to be trained for combat and he has a reason for carrying a camcorder.
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Various members of the esteemed Shacknews Chatty community also weighed in with some of their own questions.
ajvitaly: Are there any particular games that Outlast drew inspiration from?
We drew inspiration from games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Call of Cthulhu, Half Life, Mirror's Edge, Condemned.
Unleashed: How long was Outlast in development and how big was your team? Did any of the game's development need to be outsourced?
Production lasted one year. We were 10 full-time employees, with contractors for sound, music and script.
shred.: Are there any plans to take the game's engine and apply it to a horror game in a different setting?
The game was made with Unreal Engine 3. We see Outlast as a franchise, but we feel like the settings and characters can change as long as we retain the game's heart and backbone.
Milleh: Have you considered implementing Oculus Rift support in the future?
Yes, it's something we will be looking further into once we're done with the PS4 version of Outlast.
ajvitaly, CrustaR: What are your future plans? Are there plans for a sequel to Outlast?
We're currently focusing on the PS4 version, but we are exploring ideas for an expansion pack and a sequel.
Outlast is available now on PC. The PS4 version is coming soon.