The Callisto Protocol will take a leaf out of the Alien Isolation horror book and use intelligent mutated monsters to cause unscripted scares.
Speaking to Gaming at Gamescom 2022, Technical Director Mark James said that the Callisto Protocol will introduce a “variable environment” that will change regardless of the player. He describes the game as a “simulated world” that is constantly running but will be gradually changed by the behavior of your enemies.
“If I have an enemy that walked the world ahead of me, I can show what that enemy did to the world,” says James. “I can place attacks on the world – as if they kill something here, I can show the remains of that death.”
The idea is for the game’s enemies to roam the corridors of the Black Iron prison alongside the player. In doing so, they will interact with their surroundings and leave clues to their presence for players to discover later. It should be suggestive, indicating to the player that something is lurking nearby – waiting to attack.
“[If an] an enemy is after you, he can figure out a route for you through the ventilation system,” says James. “If he goes after you, he’s entered a vent, which means he’s knocked over that vent plate. The first time I walked down that hallway there wasn’t a vent plate on the floor, but now there is, so I know something is using that hallway. It’s really scary the first time you see it. “
SSD: Honestly Scary Direction
James believes that this changing environment will sustain the atmosphere of terror of the Callisto Protocol. Just as the xenomorph in Alien Isolation kept him alert, running in response to his actions, enemies in this game are expected to make him appear dynamic as well.
“One of [the things we wanted to achieve] was to make each step feel different,” says James. “As you walk through the halls, you feel like ‘I’ve never been here before.’ Even though it’s a runner in the same habitat, in the same area. We want the place to feel alive – it’s moving and changing, even when you’re not there.”
This level of organic change may not have been possible before. James believes that the SSDs of the PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and modern gaming PCs were vital in building the changing world of gaming. Its high speeds mean objects can be loaded quickly and enemy behavior modeled in real time.
“On old consoles, [games could] it just changes things through player interaction,” says James. “So these kinds of variable aspects are really something that wasn’t possible with a hard drive, but [now] we can load these things very quickly and apply that extra detail that we couldn’t do with just a static load.
“Everyone focused on the SSD’s ability to create large environments. Well, our game isn’t about these huge open worlds, it’s about scary hallway environments. But it means I can change aisles every time I pass it.”
How this corridor will change, however, will depend on which pustular mutant is chasing you. Rushers tend to hide in the ceiling, camouflaging themselves until you’re close enough to snatch. Grunts, meanwhile, will use openings much more often, allowing you to watch them from a distance (or run away before they can find you).
“The bigger ones will be more optimistic and will attack you head on,” says James. “Another guy with a big mouth will spit on you and not try to hide. He’s the ranged gun guy. He will only try to take you down.”
James also delved into the realistic visuals of the Callisto Protocol, in which even the eyeballs are traced by rays. The game is scheduled for release on Friday, December 2, 2022. It will be coming to PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X | S, Xbox One and PC.