Red Barrels: An Interview with David Chateauneuf and Philippe Morin
It has been a long time since we have seen an interesting survival horror game - until OUTLAST was released by Red Barrels. With OUTLAST they set an example for the current, and next generation of horror games.
FogKnight talks with the co-founders for Red Barrels, David Chateauneuf and Philippe Morin about the foundation of Red Barrels, the making of OUTLAST and OUTLAST: Whistleblower, and their success for both of those great horror products.
FOGKNIGHT: How was Red Barrels born as a gaming studio?
PHIL: The company started 3 years ago when a project that we were working on at EA Montreal got canceled. At this time, Philippe, Hugo and I decided to go all in for a new adventure. So we quit our jobs to work on a demo and look for money. After 6 months of hard work, we finally finished our fake gameplay footage, but it took another before we got money from the Canada Media Fund to complete our budget. That is how everything started.
FOGKNIGHT: What are Red Barrels' goals as an independent game studio?
DAVID: Be innovative. Stay small and focus. Deliver AAA quality game at low cost. Have fun. It’s a passion you know! We want to push boundaries and go where nobody went before us.
FOGKNIGHT: Did Red Barrels initially want to have a horror game as the team's first game? (Why/Why not)
DAVID: Yes! When Philippe and I worked at Ubisoft, we already talked about creating a horror game at the time. It’s only when we started to look for a project that we saw, on many forums, that players wanted to play some original scary game like they used to make them a few years ago. It’s was a good opportunity for us to jump into the action of create a freaking scary experience.
FOGKNIGHT: What were Red Barrels' hopes with Outlast?
PHIL: Our goal is to create emotional roller coaster ride, so we hope Outlast will become known for being that kind of experience.
FOGKNIGHT: What game/movie/book/etc influenced Outlast during the creation of the game?
-Amnesia: The Dark Descent for the gameplay aspect
-The Shinning for the music
-Rubber Johnny for the artistic direction
Then we got inspiration from my library of horror movies for some events and details in the game. Movies like: Session 9, The Ward, Case 39, Cloverfield, Creep, Dark Floors, Grave Encounters, House of Haunted Hill, Hostel, Madhouse, etc…
FOGKNIGHT: Why an asylum was the setting of Outlast? There could have been more options so I am curious about that one.
DAVID: Well, for many reasons. At first, we wanted unpredictable enemies. By looking at some horror movies, we realized that the asylum is the perfect place for that. Criminally insane patients are unpredictable. They might hurt you and some might ignore you. Watch Asylum Blackout. J
FOGKNIGHT: How did you all manage to make inmates seem genuinely insane? Did the team research around; was it all in the writers' creativity?
DAVID: We worked with a group of scientific consultants: Thwacke! You can look at their website: http://thwacke.com/. They provided profiles and real life cases. The rest was just us following our instincts.
FOGKNIGHT: How different was the final game to the one from the initial trailer in terms of both the story-line and game-play? Chris Walker's appearance as an example
PHIL: The look of Chris Walker did evolve quite a bit. When we did the trailer, we didn’t have a well-defined storyline. So, of course, things changed. But game-play wise, we the final game is pretty close to our initial vision.
FOGKNIGHT: If I may ask since I could be hinting a spoiler question, did the writers, initially, want to add any form of super-natural element in the game?
PHIL: We always wanted to add a twist in the game. To have the players progressively discover the nature of the experiments. And we wanted something that could look/feel supernatural, but actually be grounded in reality or at least be plausible.
FOGKNIGHT: What ideas for Outlast and the story had to be scrapped and didn't appear in-game? And why?
DAVID: We had a girl in the story that was your contact inside, but we decided to cut her for production reasons and scope. Also because we wanted to make the player feel really alone with no hope of finding someone who could help him and no backup.
FOGKNIGHT: Did Red Barrels expect the success of Outlast? What was the team's reaction? What parts of the game resonated with gamers in unexpected ways?
PHIL: We were confident we could make a good game, but can you never know for sure how people are going to react to it. It wasn’t before PAX East that we felt confident the game was working. Seeing players jump and scream was a very good feeling.
FOGKNIGHT: Did the team plan Whistleblower from the start or not?
PHIL: Making a DLC was always part of the plan. We had a few ideas and planted seeds here and there so we could have as much options as possible. But it wasn’t until the game was shipped and we had the players’ feedback that we decided exactly what the DLC would be.
FOGKNIGHT: There are people who would say that Whistleblower was actually better than the main game as I agree with them. Do you feel like it was stronger? Why/Why not?
DAVID: Whistleblower is stronger narratively. I agree. We put a lot of effort in the presentation of every narrative moment. That is the major change that we did. For the rest, many improvements can be explained by the fact that we learned from the main game. Outlast was a creative challenge while Whistleblower was a production challenge.
FOGKNIGHT: What do you think made it even more appealing to players in Whistleblower?
PHIL: I think the presentation and the narrative aspects made more accessible. And players got to see another side of the Asylum and get some answers to the questions we raised in the main game.
FOGKNIGHT: Why didn't one of the two tough inmates from Whistleblower appear in Outlast? (Frank Manera the Cannibal)
DAVID: We wanted new inmates specifically for the DLC. Something new, something fresh that the player will not know how to deal with.
FOGKNIGHT: If there is one thing the team wished to change, what would they change?
PHIL: We crunched so hard on Outlast, we had a rough time getting things into gear for the DLC. So, we lost several weeks of production time because of this and we ended up shipping the DLC later than expected.
FOGKNIGHT: What are you working on now? If so, when can we expect to see more from you?
DAVID & PHIL: Can’t tell!
Day 11 | Red Barrels