“You can always come up with new ways to scare people”: “Intuitive” horror of the Callisto Protocol

Aliens. Space. Terrible graphic body horror. Finally seasoned video game designer Glen Schofield is back on what he loves the most.

After working for about a decade on the Call of Duty franchise as one of the co-founders of Sledgehammer Games, Schofield founded Striking Distance Studios with the intention of returning to the sci-fi horror genre. It’s a space that Schofield, one of the main architects of the Dead Space franchise, knows well. This holiday season, Dec. 2, Striking Distance plans to release its first Callisto Protocol game through PUBG publisher Studios Krafton.

An extended game trailer was shown earlier this month as part of Summer Game Fest, a multi-day, mostly online celebration of video game teasers and trailers. “Dead Space”, known for its tense moments that contrast with the horror caused by the screamer, clearly influenced him, although a brief overview of the Callisto Protocol, named after Jupiter’s moon, shows doubling the active aspects of the game. Set in a lunar prison colony 300 years in the future, where prisoners mutate into brutally hideous human-monster hybrids, you should also expect plenty of cringe-inducing player death scenes.

The Callisto Protocol will be released on PC, Xbox and PlayStation. Schofield took a moment at Summer Game Fest to talk to the media about the development of the game. While much remains under wraps, Schofield spoke about his love for the genre and talked about his creative process.

Since you have already worked in this field, what attracts you to the sci-fi horror genre? What specifically attracts you to this type of game?

I am an artist first and foremost. This is what I have been trained to do. I love science fiction. I’ve always liked the imagination of science fiction. I can draw whatever I want, and I did, and everything is fine. I tried to always be realistic in my paintings. So I love the fantasy of science fiction and I love the emotion of horror. It just makes me feel weird – I’m scared, I’m tense, I’m this and that. It’s very emotional. So the combination of these two things is very cool.

Describe the terrible tone of this game.

It’s physical. I feel that the psychological, the cerebral has its moments, but I do not see the possibility of making a game based on it. I can’t imagine how I do it. We have a little. We touch it. We touch a bunch of different horrors, but we don’t get into ghosts, we don’t get into demons. We have some cool monsters. It’s just physical. This is physical horror.

Expect a mixture of tense atmosphere and screamers everywhere. "Callisto protocol."

Expect a mix of tense atmosphere and jump scare in Callisto Protocol.

(Studios of striking distance)

You seem to be very addicted to physical horror.

Well, it’s a screamer, right? This is tension. It’s very intuitive. You can feel it. It makes people walk instead of run. What’s around the door? And when I die, it must be pretty awful. I feel it is very western. Perhaps even more American than European. There’s a lot of that kind of horror in our films, so I kind of got used to it. And I think body horror is one aspect of it, but it’s scary because you don’t want that to happen to you. So most of it is physical.

You almost completely made this game during the pandemic. How it was?

We came and hired 50-60 people. We are doing our concept art. We had our own architects and our designers. We were ahead of what I was with Kuvalda. We move into our own space, and nine days later, the pandemic begins. We set up a whole motion capture studio. How the hell am I going to do this? I’ve been making video games for 30 years, but now everything has been turned upside down. I had to relearn and quickly. This sucks a lot. There are things I learn about running a studio. My last studio had a partner. on business things. I was a creative guy and could do my own thing and focus on the game. With this I have a really good C command but everything pops up. There’s been a lot of work and I’m trying to be a game director.

You must delegate. But there are many decisions you must make. Some are big, some are small, some are just controversial, so I have to do it. I have an MBA, so I know business, but I’m better at creativity. I like starting studios. I like to go out and sell ideas. All this. But there are many cases where it’s like, “Okay, leave it to the financiers.”

Dead Space was the defining game for the genre.

Looking back, I think we got off at a good time. We came up with Zero-G. This has never happened before in the game. We came up with no HUD [heads-up display]. It wasn’t really a game. There is a bit of luck in timing. Ideas are unlucky, but we came at a time when there weren’t many ideas in this space. We’re doing this and we need to dig so deep for new ideas. There are more nuances.

It’s more difficult. It’s more of a challenge. There are times when I like, “I don’t like this challenge.” It was harder to find something, no doubt. But I just really wanted to scare people. You can always come up with new ways to scare people. You have to think about it, but for me it’s fun and you can always tell a new story. I wanted to tell a different story. I spent 10 years on Call of Duty and we always tried to tell a great story whether we did it or not. We spent a lot of time on history. I wanted it for this game. More acting. Another nuance. You have to polish history. The history is quite confusing.

What would you say are some of the defining themes for The Callisto Protocol?

People change. I want to leave it as is. It’s kind of a thing. People do bad things to other people. Some people can be quite cruel.

How long has this idea been spinning in your head?

Four years. The idea came to me in 2018. In 2019, I started going to major publishers and saying, “I want to open a studio.” I met these guys [PUBG Studios] pretty fast. I went, maybe in the second month of walking. One of my friends called me and said: “Someone called and said they were looking for a guy from Call of Duty?” I thought, “Is that me?” So I spoke to them several times and I really liked what they had to say. They liked the idea of ​​the story.

They told me later which was a nice compliment, they said they met a lot of people at the time but I came and all I did was talk about the game. “All the others came and said, ‘This is how much money we will make. You wanted to make a game.” I thought it was cool. It’s me. We should talk about the game and figure out the rest later.

The horror of the body figures heavily in "Callisto protocol."

Body horror features prominently in The Callisto Protocol.

(Studios of striking distance)

How do you like being called a Call of Duty guy?

Then it was ok. These days, with Dead Space and this game, a lot more people refer me to Dead Space, which I’m very proud of. Look, I’m proud of Call of Duty and I had a good time. “Dead Space” is just more intense. It was a little game, man. We had no idea it would become like this.

Have you reviewed it?

Only in some places. I went back and played a couple of things here and there. Sometimes you look at it and think, “This looks like crap.” Sometimes you say, “That was a damn good idea.” It doesn’t mean it’s my idea. I find it great fun when someone else comes up with an idea. “Great idea! Let’s get it in the game.” It’s a talent in itself.

When you think about it today, what stands out the most is why this game resonated?

I think it was an innovation. Then we had a couple of rules, and I don’t remember them all. One was, the main character is not going to speak. There were times in development when we thought, “He needs to talk.” Nope. He doesn’t talk. We stuck to our rules. We were scared, but it turned out that it was right. And everywhere there was such an innovation.

And there is a lot of atmosphere, especially in terms of story and background.

I’m very proud of how we came up with religion. I’m proud of it. It played a very important role in the game.

How to come up with a religion? I’m reading an article in National Geographic about Chicxulub, a giant crater in the Gulf of Mexico that [is believed to have] killed dinosaurs. They talked about getting the meteor out of there. So I thought, “What if it wasn’t a meteor? What if someone did it on purpose?

A meteorite came and killed the dinosaurs, brought the Ice Age, gave rise to mammals, and then came man. This meteor launched a man. That’s when I had it. There was an alien race that gave birth to man. Then all of a sudden there were people in the world of Dead Space who believed it was on purpose and looked at the obelisk they had found. Other people said, “You are crazy. It’s just a marker.” But these people had a faith, and it became a religion. It just hit me and I said, “That’s a good idea!” Some don’t come like that.

As for Callisto, would you say it’s a game that had a story first, or a world and environment?

I had the idea of ​​a prison. I had the thought that something bad was about to happen. Then I thought, “Why would this happen in prison?” So I had to dig deeper. Then I had to find a moon that could have a trigger – Callisto, which could have water. It is said that someday man may colonize it. It wasn’t like, “Oh, great story!” We create an environment and then go further and deeper. We kind of knew the beginning and the end, but there were a lot of additions. We are still filling it out. Little pieces. Making a new soundtrack. Little pieces.

What drew you to the prison setting?

What could be worse than prison? It’s fucking scary. People don’t know much about it. Lots of closed doors. These are closed places. It’s just scary to start. Then you place it on the moon like Callisto. You can’t escape from the scariest place in the world. The universe is scary.