I recently had the chance to play The Callisto Protocol, the upcoming sci-fi/horror game from the creator of Dead Space, Glen Schofield. Aside from the obvious similarities to Dead Space and its impressive presentation, what struck me most was the surprising level of difficulty. In almost every situation, death was one wrong move away. But an unexpected benefit of my usual mistakes was being able to witness the huge variety of gory death animations that developer Striking Distance Studios has created.
From being violently sucked into industrial fans to having half my head blown off in one bite, I was shocked (but also entertained) the unbelievable level of brutality. As in recent Mortal Kombat games, the violence always has just the right amount of graphic humor and is extremely tongue-in-cheek. The violence is extreme, but never in a way that encourages you to look away. I was captivated by the grisly fate that might come next, to the point where I started letting my character die over and over again, just to see what awaited me next time.
After my gaming session, I sat down with director Glen Schofield and, perhaps to his surprise, he had only one thing on his mind: I wanted to know the process of creating those horrifying scenes.
“[La filosofía de diseño] was: can we make death a feature?” Schofield explained. “When you see the same death a thousand times in games, it’s not a feature, it’s just the conclusion of that. We wanted to try to do something entertaining.” Glen’s opinion on death in video games has reached me. I often find myself tired of seeing the same animations in the game, especially when a section can be quite challenging. Sometimes it can even have a negative effect on the scene, which may seem spectacular at first but quickly spirals into repetition and takes you out of the moment. Take for example the notoriously poorly designed slide sections in 2019’s Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. What starts out as an exciting set piece quickly spirals into a repeat spiral as you unceremoniously fall to your death in the exact same way by seventh time.
But from what I’ve seen so far, The Callisto Protocol doesn’t have that problem.. Whether you’re literally being sliced in half or your head exploding after a point-blank execution, these animations never fail to captivate you with their unprecedented levels of brutality.
“As for the ‘we’re going to do the most devastating, horrible thing.’ It wasn’t,” Scholfield said. “It was just about doing something different, but it wasn’t about getting anything other than people saying, ‘Oh, that was great!'”
Even though the test lasted just over an hour, I saw at least nine different death animations, each one more twisted than the last. “I love it,” Schofield enthused when I asked him how many death animations there were in total. “I dont know [cuántas] actually, because we still have a couple more to [los desarrolladores] they want to add. They wrote to me yesterday and said: ‘We have three more, can we add them?’ And I said, ‘Oh, I don’t think so. But we will study it. So there are quite a few, but I don’t have the number handy.”
It is clear that the developers of Striking Distance Studios they are passionate about creating these monstrosities. Despite calling the shots, Schofield shared that coming up with these animations was certainly a team effort.
“Actually, we opened it up to quite a few people,” he said, “The animators love to come up with them because in many ways they know what they can do with the character. I’ll pitch some ideas, but I have to give my boss the go-ahead.” creative [Christopher Stone]which has been with me since before Dead Space.”
Combining no-holds-barred violence with disgustingly effective sound design had to have its limits, however, especially without jumping into parody of Mortal Kombat fatalities. I asked Schofield if his encouragement of animators to express brutality had gone too far.
“No,” Scholfield said, a cheeky grin on his face. He claimed that the only limitations have been technical. “Some of them are too complex. But we have learned for next time.”
Where does inspiration come from? How do you manifest these funny and unpleasant death animation ideas? “Some of them came naturally,” says Schofield. “We have a big mouth, we are going to bite your head off. But the best thing is that we only took half of your head off.” Schofield went on to share how movies, and not games, have become more of an inspiration recently. “In recent years there have been many influences and changes in the movies, which have become more brutal and more direct, more personal. I told myself that I wanted to make a game like what is being done in the movies.”
“[Por ejemplo] rip the jaw off, i saw them do it against the dinosaurs in king kong. It’s like, “Okay, let’s put that in here.”
You are likely to die a reasonable number of times in The Callisto Protocol. But Glen Schofield and the creative team at Striking Distance Studios are hopeful that each unpleasant ending you encounter has as much impact as the last. And, if what I’ve seen so far is any indication of gore to come, then that’s a very good sign.