Dead by Daylight has, by this time of writing, been around for over four years. Four years of running, hiding, chasing, hooking, slaying, sacrifice, and survival. It’s amassed a sizable roster of survivors and killers, both original and recognizable from across the horror genre. With quite a few years behind it, Behaviour Interactive recognized that certain early elements of the game were starting to show their age. With that, the studio launched into a refresh of many of its maps, characters, and graphical features with The Realm Beyond on both previous and next-gen gaming platforms.
With Dead by Daylight: The Realm Beyond, Behaviour Interactive has heavily refreshed the visuals of various elements of the game, not just for PS5, Xbox Series X and S, and PC, but also previous generation consoles PS4 and Xbox One as well. With so much reliance on sight and sound, and a large amount of those very elements taking such major reworks, some of The Realm Beyond’s visual elements is bound to affect the feeling of the game. With that in mind, we spoke to Game Director Mathieu Côté and Creative Director Dave Richard about a multitude of matters on Dead by Daylight: The Realm Beyond, including the path of development, how upgrades influenced mechanics, and more.
Shacknews: Dead by Daylight: The Realm Beyond is essentially Behaviour Interactive’s way of remastering the game, little by little as the next-gen comes along. And it's not just next-gen. Even on the PS4 and Xbox One versions of this game, people have access to the reworks of stages and reworks of character animations. What was the mentality behind the approach to the remaster? Where are we at in The Realm Beyond roadmap?
Mathieu Côté: You're correct. This is absolutely not just for the next-gen. This is essentially an effort to take our game, which is almost five years old, and make sure that people who launch it today for the very first time have an experience that is as shiny and polished and amazing as it can be. We want to make sure that anybody can benefit from this whatever platform they're playing on. So you'll see the results of these improvements on every single platform that's out there. And yes, it is a progress thing in that we've already started doing a lot of work and we continue to do so. For us, It was just a better flow to do it gradually instead of just holding up all of this and releasing it all at once, which was the other option we could have done.
Dave Richard: The format of Dead by Daylight is to release a chapter every three months. So while doing these new maps and new characters in time, we've updated our look moving through all of these alongside chapters and trying to bring everything as up-to-date as possible. Of course, the oldest characters and the oldest maps now show their age, so that's what we wanted to prioritize most. And because we're talking about a hide and seek game with a specific mood and lighting, it's more complicated than just saying, "Let’s update the look and put some new lights in." We need to be careful to make sure we keep the game’s mood intact or as close as possible while still adding these components in. Most of the maps and other changes have already been through the process, though they're not all released yet.
We’ve put a lot of effort into the maps and the environments, and we’ve reviewed some of the characters and some of the older killers. We just released the Nurse’s renewed character model, but there were other older killer cosmetics that have been reviewed as well, and will be coming soon. The same process has been applied to older characters to bring them more in line with the style of our newer survivors. Beyond that, we’re also reviewing a lot of our core objects and the animations that come with them. There’s the generator, the chest, the totems, and they've all been updated. We also want to look into core animation of the game and actions that are currently using generic animation, such as healing. So that might be something that we update in the future with a specific animation. And I think that covers the whole package so far.
Côté: It's also worth noting that so many small little details can impact gameplay in Dead by Daylight. Whether we talk about anything that's all of a sudden slightly more shiny, the lighting changes on a corner of one map, the way we use a different way of lighting, or just an animation that plays differently… all of these things have an impact on how people feel. So we're extremely careful to gather feedback and to make sure that we keep the mood and feel as close to the original as possible while making it look better.
Shacknews: It’s interesting, I play regularly and I jumped in as the update to the Gideon Meat Packing Plant map hit. It blew my mind, because to me the Gideon Plant was always really oppressively dark to the point where I needed to mess with my brightness settings a little bit to play that map better. But the way it looks now with the lighting rearrangements and the way that it's been re-textured… I wouldn’t say you took away that sort of oppressiveness from it, but it has a new life to it. It's still difficult. I still have to look around every corner and make sure that I'm being cautious, but there's almost a new life on that map with all the changes in the textures and lighting.
Côté: I also get the sense from our players that sometimes change can be difficult, and it's true. I mean, even if it looks gorgeous and amazing if it's not exactly the thing that you're used to seeing for so long, it's not as familiar sometimes, and players need to readjust to it, but what I hope is players come to love this one in a different way, just as much as they love the other one,
Richard: To add to what you were saying, when we were rebuilding these maps and adding dynamic lighting inside them, it of course changes the basic feel. However, what we're trying to create is more contrast instead of having the flat look that standard lighting provides everywhere. At the same time, we need to keep even the darkest areas playable. You need to be able to see something. On the opposite side, strong lighted area gameplay needs to feel the same. What becomes important is using the contrasts between these new lighting and shadow effects to keep that oppressive mood and sense going, but in a positive way that players want out of this game.
Shacknews: Right, not to say that it was notably off-putting, but more like I explored the map and felt, “Wow, this whole map feels more alive than it did before.”
Richard: It makes sense. And at the same time, it's not just the lighting, right? There's also a level of detail that's been added, including lots of different little props here and there, more details on the props themselves, the higher-res textures… So you get a little bit more sense of the story and spirit that the map is supposed to have, especially on licensed maps like Gideon Meat Plant. And with that, players can more readily recognize the location that they’ve seen in the movie with more precision.
Côté: That's also of the things worth noting is that it's not just a matter of technology or what can be done with it. It's also the fact that we've changed the way we look at creating maps. The very first maps we did, maps like the Foundry and the Macmillan Estate, and the way we were going about creating these environments were sort of like the shadow or memory of an environment. And there’s a progression we’ve made where maps like The Red Forest were where we started putting a lot more backstory into the little corners of the environment about the killer that lived there or what happened there. We’ve moved on to putting a lot more storytelling in the environment, which was something we weren’t actively doing early on. And so it’s not just about higher resolutions but also pouring our more modern level of map design and details into maps where we didn’t necessarily do that before.
Shacknews: I think it’s worth talking a bit about balances and how changes coming to the game might adjust that, whether it’s in how well players can see various opportunities through the map, how they respond to it, and how to keep it fun for both the groups and the individual. As you update these maps and update the animations, has there been anything in particular in approaching The Realm Beyond updates that has changed the balance in a way that you might not have expected?
Richard: We were expecting that the balance would be skewed a little bit. It’s something we’re taking into account with testing. So as we're changing the lighting, some areas on the map will feel different and will change the balance. That's why even though we're going through this ongoing process with The Realm Beyond, it's never really finished. As soon as a map becomes available and players play it, then did we get feedback. And it’s from that that we can go back into it and review some aspects of it.
Côté: I think that the concept of balancing the game has also evolved quite a lot in the last five years. Just the fact that there's so much more content now, there's so many more killers, so many individual perks and combinations… I think you put your finger on it in asking the question. It's not even so much about the game being balanced, because I don't think that as a concept it's possible by its nature, but the idea of it being fun to play always, and being fun and fair and being fun for groups and for individuals. That's our concern — that's what we think about when we look at that.
Shacknews: Have there been any artistic changes to the maps and animations that you found unexpectedly affected mechanics in the game?
Richard: Absolutely. And most of it is tested in the PTB, where we’ll usually catch and change them after player feedback. A small example would be the new animations on the generator. As many players know, there was one generator animation where the survivor is using the wires, and the electrical wires on the generator cast a spark that created lighting around the character. And so that was tweaked so as not to shift the balance that might come from exposing the survivor interacting with the generator a little too precisely. So that’s the kind of things we consider, take feedback on, and are careful about.
Shacknews: As you continue to work on The Realm Beyond, you’re still also creating new content altogether for Dead by Daylight. The team’s work has already been pretty stellar, ranging from original survivors and killers to content from legendary horror franchises up to and including the Silent Hill content last year. With a continually growing collection of characters and perks to go along with them, how do you go about topping yourselves and approach new characters, killers, and partnerships while also not overshadowing the massive amount of content Dead by Daylight features already?
Côté: There’s a daily conversation we have about what else could make its way into Dead by Daylight and how we make sure that our original content continues to surprise and impress people. On the matter of collaborations, I'd say that the biggest thing that changed now is when we have conversations with potential licensors - and to be fair, the list of legends we’ve yet to bring into Dead by Daylight is growing shorter every day - it's now a very different kind of negotiation. For the most part, Dead by Daylight is now more or less a hall of fame of horror. This far in, it's a matter of talking to people and going, “Is that significant enough to be part of the layout that features all these amazing legends of horror?” Even then, we can still have quite a lot of fun and go get some things that will surprise people. I think that when we released the Silent Hill content, we probably caught a few people by surprise, even the ones that really wished for it. Still, we have a few more surprises left and I’ll tell you that I feel you will also be taken aback by some of our upcoming original content.
Shacknews: Further on the matter of updates, there was the conversation that came up recently about accessibility features. And now we have confirmation now that a Colorblind Mode is being developed for inclusion throughout upcoming Dead by Daylight updates. On that matter, has the approach to the Colorblind Mode brought up more of a conversation about accessibility and other possible features with the game?
Richard: Yeah, actually, we are working on a few accessibility features. I can’t talk about dates or make promises yet, but we take these matters to heart. It's important that the game is accessible and can be played by anyone who wants to play. We've been working on some of these features for quite some time because we want to get it right when we put it in the game, but Colorblind Mode will be the first one and I’m glad to we’re finally at this point where it’s happening.
Côté: And that's obviously the first version of the Colorblind Mode. It's also going to be an ongoing project because it's something that needs to be very carefully tweaked, not just to respond to the specific needs of all the different types of colorblindness, but also as a feature that could have a deep impact. What we do not want is for the Colorblind Mode to become sort of an easier option for any side so that people use it instead of the regular mode to get an edge. It shouldn't be like that, but it can't be harder either. So it's a very, very delicate ongoing balancing act.
With Dead by Daylight: The Realm Beyond continuing to roll out with each new update, be sure to check out the most recent released content for Dead by Daylight including the DIVERGENCE Tome and new visual reworks to characters like the Nurse and maps like the Gideon Meat Plant. Also, stay tuned for the latest updates on Dead by Daylight and its newest content as it is revealed in the coming months.