In an age of horror games with carefully crafted scares and achingly detailed environments, Zombie Studios is trying something new with its upcoming horror game, Daylight. Players awake inside an abandoned hospital, with only the light of their cellphone to guide them through the thick black. But unlike other horror games, Daylight changes every time you play.
To better understand Daylight, and the scares within, we asked Zombie Studios Creative Director Andre Maguire to explain how the game came together and why procedurally generated scares give the horror genre a shot in the arm. Maguire also tells us about developing on PS4, and what inspirations fueled the team members in their creative process.
Daylight is tentatively scheduled to launch in early 2014.
PlayStation.Blog: What inspired the team at Zombie Studios to develop a hardcore horror title like Daylight, especially following successful first-person shooters such as Blacklight?
Andre Maguire: We love the horror genre, and we wanted to try and create a game that would be scary every time you played it. We knew that we had something special with Unreal Engine 4, and the ability to procedurally generate environments and scary content, so it just made sense. What scares people is the unknown, and with this game, you really never know what’s lurking around the next corner.
PSB: What’s it like developing for PS4? What opportunities does PS4 provide that you can’t get elsewhere?
Maguire: Developing for PS4 is amazing — combined with UE4, it’s the perfect match. The controller is incredibly high quality, which is great for a first-person game experience. We’re finding that players just feel that much more connected to the game world with it, which is great for horror.
The Share feature is fun, too. Players can capture their best scares in Daylight and share them out to their friends with a touch of a button. We’re excited by how it’s all coming together.
PSB: What’s your take on the current state of horror games, and how do you see Daylight adding to the genre?
Maguire: The procedural creation of content in Daylight is where we’re trying something new for the genre. This approach allows for a massive amount of replayability, without feeling like you’re experiencing the same scary moments over and over. This is another reason why it’s so cool to develop for PS4. The additional horsepower has opened up quite a few opportunities for us!
PSB: Is it challenging to create procedurally generated worlds, especially in a genre where controlled scares are so critical? How does the team maintain control of the tension?
Maguire: The procedural environment actually helps us quite a bit in terms of tension. A core part of the gameplay will be to learn the layouts of the environments, which will be different every time. Combine that with the story and characters we’re developing, and the tension is going to shoot through the roof.
PSB: What did the team learn from past projects that applies to the development of Daylight?
Maguire: Zombie Studios has been developing games for nearly 20 years now. There’s a ton of experience to draw from and really, every project has been invaluable in terms of developing our process and making better and better games. Daylight is the culmination of all that experience.
PSB: How does the main character’s cell phone fit in during play? How does it influence the rest of Daylight’s design?
Maguire: Daylight is a modern-day game, so we thought the cell phone made sense. Initially, the cell phone functions like you’d expect, but, later, it becomes much more significant in terms of gameplay. It’ll be used as a light source, a way to map out the environments, and as a communications device. It’s going to fit nicely with the procedural environments in Daylight.
PSB: What were the team’s experiences working alongside writer Jessica Chobot? How did Zombie Studios come into that collaboration?
Maguire: Jessica is awesome! The partnership started kind of by accident. We needed a writer, and she was interested in doing a next-gen horror. After a few discussions about tone and how we were going to go about the gameplay, it seemed like a great fit. We put together a prototype and she put together a story treatment, and it just worked.
PSB: Does the team have a “favorite” horror game that they look to for the best scares? How are they trying to match/overcome it?
Maguire: Certainly the Silent Hill games were awesome; the System Shock and BioShock games were amazing as well. Horror games that have great “world stories” in addition to the character stories are always a plus. It may be fair to say we skew a bit more toward the psychological horror side of things in terms of our preferences. We love so many horror games, though, it’s difficult to choose just one.