Red Barrels Co-Founders Discuss Expanding Upon the Original, Dynamic AI and Surprising the Player in Outlast 2

Developed and published by Montreal based studio Red Barrels, Outlast proved to be not only a truly terrifying experience but also an utterly engrossing and gripping one at that. Launched in 2013 for PC with later releases for Xbox One and PlayStation 4, Outlast was a perfect example of survival horror in its purest form with its brilliant combination of well timed jump-scares, unbelievably insane characters with tight controls and intense gameplay.

In October, 2015, Red Barrels announced a follow up to the terrific 2013 title with Outlast 2. Outlast 2 is set to launch this fall and will take players away from the horrors and madness of Mount Massive Asylum to the desolate wilderness and canyons of Arizona. During the recent PAX East 2016, fans and media alike had the opportunity to experience a short 15 minute demo for Outlast 2, which showcased a terrifying escape through a dark cornfield as well as a farmhouse filled with horrors. Outlast 2 is shaping up to be every bit as successful as Outlast and is sure to be a hit when it officially launches later this year on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.

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We had the opportunity this past week to speak with Red Barrels Co-Founders, Philippe Morin and David Chateaneuf to find out more about Outlast 2’s story, the recent trip to PAX 2016 and much more.

PressA2Join: Outlast 2 will present players with a whole new setting and characters while continuing to remain in the same universe as the previous game, how important was it for you to take the story or create an entirely new one away from Mount Massive Asylum?

Philippe/David: It was crucial. In order for the fear to work, the player must not know what to expect. Giving again a huge building with criminally insane patients would have resulted into something players would know how to deal with. You need that wtf! feeling and the asylum had become too familiar after Whistleblower.

What can you tell us about the story for Outlast 2?

You are Blake Langermann, a cameraman working with your wife, Lynn. The two of you are investigative journalists willing to take risks and dig deep to uncover the stories no one else will dare touch. You’re following a trail of clues that started with the seemingly impossible murder of a pregnant woman known only as Jane Doe. The investigation has lead you miles into the Arizona desert, to a darkness so deep that no one could shed light upon it, and a corruption so profound that going mad may be the only sane thing to do.

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You received a lot of positive feedback following on from the release of 2013’s Outlast, how has that feedback affected your development for Outlast 2?

We’ve read almost everything that has been written about Outlast. It helped get a clearer idea of what needed to be done with Outlast #2. It’s always tricky to make a sequel because you don’t want to mess with what made the first game a success, but at the same time you have to figure out a way to bring something new to the table.

The Murkoff Corporation were responsible for so much of the horror that went on inside Mount Massive, will the catalysts for Outlast be making a return and if so, in what capacity?

The ways of Murkoff are inscrutable. Nobody knows what they’re up to *smiles*

Outlast 2 takes place in Arizona, one state over from Outlasts previous setting Colorado.Can you talk us through the game’s new surroundings and how it differs from the confines of the Asylum?

We wanted a new challenge with Outlast 2. As developers, I think it’s important to come out of your comfort zone and put yourself in danger. It fuels the creative process. So, we decided to have more outdoors and more open spaces. We really wanted to have a wider varieties of environments, so the player could feel they’re on journey, instead of simply being trapped in one place.

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In a recent interview, you referred to the ‘Jonestown massacre’ as direct inspiration for Outlast 2. Can you explain how the real-life incident that took place in 1978 played into your thoughts when creating the story. Did you take inspiration from any other real-life events prior to writing the script for Outlast 2?

Jonestown was a starting point, but we took those events several steps further. I think what we mostly took from this incident is the dynamic of a village following the orders of a leader. We also read about other types of similar incidents like the Waco siege, the Order of the Solar Temple and the Heaven’s gate. We’re also inspired by Allister Crowley and the Jesus of Siberia.

One of the more haunting aspects from the first game were the truly frightening characters Miles Upshur had the unfortunate pleasure of encountering throughout the story, most notably Richard Trager and the larger than life Chris Walker, can we expect to meet similar big name characters in Outlast 2?

We definitely approached Outlast 2 with that in mind. We now have 2 character modellers, instead of 1. They’re working on some pretty wicked stuff.

You’ve created the enemy A.I’s from scratch, can you explain the process of how you rebuilt the games new enemies and how the A.I might act differently from the previous game?

It’s a combination of 2 things… First, you want to be able to tell the A.I. to do specific things when needed. So, you need to be able to analyse conditions, recognize when the right conditions are met and then tell the AI to react. But you also want the AI to be able to make decisions on its own for the more organic or systemic sections. It’s like having a musician who can read a music sheet, but can also improvise a solo. So, that’s what we worked on. And on top of it, we gave ourselves tools to make sure some randomness could take place when it made sense. It all comes down to making sure the game remains scary.

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After its initial release in 2013, Outlast was praised for its fantastic horror elements and intense gameplay, how have you taken the next step to ensure that Outlast 2 delivers an even better experience?

We aimed for more variety in term of sequences and enemies. The player will never know what to expect from the different type of enemies. We have multiple locations and the experience should feel fresh from start to finish. The protagonist is more complex and has more depth. He also now talks and has a new set of moves.

I have to ask. First Miles Upshur and now poor Blake Langermann and Lynn, do you guys enjoy putting investigative journalists through the ringer? *laughs*

It looks that way, but we simply went for characters that would have a reason to have a camcorder and would want to record events, even if it meant putting their life at risk.

What else can you tell us about Outlast 2’s protagonist/s, will players be able to take on the role of both throughout the course of the story?

Outlast 2 will be solely experienced from the point of view of Blake. It will be his journey, his hell ride.

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The core game mechanics that made Outlast such a excellent, unerring experience appear to have returned for Outlast 2, have you introduced any new aspects to keep the game feeling fresh and if so what?

The core remains the same, but we have a few surprises up our sleeves.

The recent PAX East Event gave you as a studio the chance to let players and fans experience a short 15 minute demo for Outlast 2, were you satisfied with the overall feedback you received?

Definitely. Our fans have been following us since the release of Outlast on PC. We listen to them as much as we can. PAX East was very good for us 3 years ago and it was awesome this year. We love to hear players scream and see the satisfied smile on their faces when they come out of the booth.

The playable demo at PAX East ran at 60fps with a resolution of 1080p. Will you be aiming for 1080p/60fps across all platforms PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4?

That’s the goal.

Samuel Laflamme did such an excellent job of composing a truly eerie score for Outlast, has he returned for Outlast 2 or have you decided to go a different route?

Yes, he’s also writing the score for Outlast 2. We have a good relationship with him and he’s also from Montreal, which makes it easy for him to come by, check out the game and discuss what we need in terms of music.

Currently the studio has no plans to implement VR support for Outlast 2 however, in the past you’ve stated that virtual reality is something the studio is interested in. Would you be interested in creating a VR game of your own at some point in the future, Outlast or an entirely new I.P?

We’re a small studio, currently 18 people, which makes us very flexible. We’ve been paying attention to the world of VR for a while and it’s just a matter of timing.

Huge thank you to both Philippe Morin and David Chateaneuf of Red Barrels for taking the time to chat with us.

Outlast 2 will be available this fall on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.

About Daniel Pitt

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Dan has been gaming for nearly 30 years and has survived everything from Nuclear Fallouts to Zombie Outbreaks but his main love is Survival Horror and don't we all know it. Favourite games include Resident Evil and Grand Theft Auto, he can be regularly found cruising the streets of Vice City listening to the classics.

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