Your boy was in LA for Summer Geoff Fest 2022 and had the chance to sit down with Dead Space co-creator Glen Schofield, who is now director of Striking Distance Studios and their upcoming sci-fi horror fest The Callisto Protocol. We talked about the game’s “beta paths”, the gore system, upgrades and batteries. There was a lot of talk about batteries. Forgot to ask if they were AA or AAA.
We recently saw the first small snippet of gameplay from The Callisto Protocol, which looked kinda Dead Space-y, didn’t we? A rough boy, the shooting of monstrous limbs, the dark tunnels full of monsters that see your eyeballs as a delicacy. All very dead space – space but dead. It might not be surprising, given Glen Schofield’s past, but he’s quick to separate the two – although he admits that, yes, if you’re a Dead Space fan, you’ll probably like The Callisto Protocol.
“I just see them as two different projects. And I just want to tell a different story: different characters, different story, different way of storytelling, different mechanics. You know, there are some similarities here and there, can’t help it, it’s space and it’s horror. So there’s some, but I think if you liked Dead Space, you should like this too.”
And let’s not forget Schofield’s post Dead Space moves. He co-founded Sledgehammer Games, one of three teams contributing to the Call Of Duty production line. Those are FPS games focused on big set pieces and explosions, not horror. When I ask what motivated him to get back on the horror wagon, it’s clear he missed the genre.
“You know, I’ve always loved it. I’ve always loved sci-fi. And then came horror. And, you know, I like movies like Alien, The Thing and Pandorum. And then Horizon and Alien Versus Predator There aren’t many, but I liked them all, right? And then of course you have Prometheus. They just caught my imagination in a way, I thought, “I’m scared of space. I like that.” ‘ ‘” Schofield was working on the Nazi zombies for 2017’s Call Of Duty: World War II and felt it scratching that itch again. “I knew this would be my last Call Of Duty game. So I’m just going to go back to what I really love.”
“There’s more to the prison than meets the eye… you’ll find a lot of history there.”
Do we somehow owe COD zombies to the Callisto Protocol? Yes, a little bit. But judging by the snippet of gameplay we’ve seen, these particular space zombies – or biophage, as they’re properly called – look more deadly than COD’s shuffling horde. Bulky guys fall through grates and others take wild swings when they get close. In the extended reveal trailer, there’s a large arm that grabs you by the throat. When I ask if we can expect anything other than the zombie-like biophage, Schofield keeps his mouth shut, but does say that we’ve seen “mainly the first ’round’ in the game” and that they’re getting “worse and worse”.
The extended trailer also shows a type of gravity gun that the player uses to hold and then throw an enemy against a wall that Schofield says is called the Grip. “I’m just looking forward to seeing what players do with it,” he says. “You’ve got stuff all over the world that you can use; we’ve got nails on the walls, we’ve got dangerous stuff everywhere. So, you know, you kind of have it. That could be, that one sandbox-y thing we have But also, sandbox-y is like, do I decide to use my melee? Do I decide to use the Grip? Or do I decide to shoot?”
Whatever you choose, it’s likely to get messy. Livers hitting walls. Heads pop like melons. In real life I scream at the sight of a papercut, but in a game like this I’m all for a satisfying crunch, and we definitely saw some of that in the trailer too. It’s something that Schofield says they put a tremendous amount of work into. I mean they have a entire team dedicated to it.
“Oh, yes, yes, we have this thing called The Gore System, which has lasted a few years from just engineers and renderers and lighters and artists,” he says. “You can tear enemies apart in so many different ways. It’s not just the arms and legs that fall off. It’s half of the head, part of the head. Yeah, it’s a little crazy. We went crazy. “
There are a number of “beta trails” or optional trails (although Schofield can’t reveal much, he does tell me that “prison is only part of it” and “there’s more to prison than meets the eye. .. you” I will find a lot of history there.”) but it is “really the enemies” that should inspire creativity. If you have your back against the wall and you have four main chompers sliding towards you, you are encouraged to use the Grip and your surroundings to mulch enemies. This is especially true when ammunition is a valuable resource, where finding 20 rounds can feel like “you hit the jackpot, but… you probably didn’t”.
And you don’t just have to worry about ammunition, it’s also your flashlight. Batteries are scattered around the facility and it’s up to you to keep the flashlight charged or else you’ll be mauled by enemies who will absolutely take advantage of the darkness. It sounds like they’re crucial to survival, so it’s all the more surprising that they’re just a recent addition, born by giving the player a tool to better navigate the game’s various lighting systems. “It’s dark, lights flashing and you have all kinds of different lighting patterns. And a flashlight helps. And then we’re like, ‘You know what? Let’s give it a battery,'” explains Schofield. “And so I think that’s one of those little things that’s going to really make the game nastier. Because we’ve been doing that recently, and we’re just now starting to test it.”
As for other Callisto collectibles, there’s plenty on offer. “There is a currency system. There is a collection system. There are things to collect for the score”. And these can help make your weapons stronger, as Schofield says they have “a very — for a third person [game] – very complicated weapon upgrade system” and that you “add all kinds of things to it”. This can be controversial, but I love a skill tree so that’s a welcome development. I ask Schofield if he can expand the upgrades system, to which he responds: “Nothing more than just – we have skill trees.”
So while a lot is still being kept a secret, I’m really excited to see more of The Callisto Protocol and hopefully get my hands on it in December. I’m not entirely convinced it’s really that different from Dead Space, but it certainly seems to have its priorities right. The prison seems like a character unto itself, with environmental hazards and mysteries. The enemies are not only for terror, but also inspiration stations for you, your Grip and the many upgrades you will use. My main take away? Make sure the batteries do not run out.