Dead by Daylight devs on bringing Alien, Disney & Jonesy the Cat into The Fog

Dead by Daylight devs on bringing Alien, Disney & Jonesy the Cat into The Fog
Images via Behaviour Interactive

Written by 

Jack Roberts


29th Aug 2023 17:00

Dead by Daylight is known for being the ultimate horror homage by bringing some of the most legendary characters in film and gaming into The Realm of the Entity alongside plenty of Original creations.

In its 29th Chapter, players will be able to experience the sheer terror of the horror franchise Alien as The Xenomorph, Ellen Ripley, and the crashed ship Nostromo join the roster.

Dead by Daylight has already seen its fair share of licenses being brought into the game, and it looks like that's not slowing down with this latest DLC, from the early days of Halloween, with Michael Myers and Laurie Strode to Hellraiser’s Pinhead, and most recently with the iconic Nicolas Cage making his way into The Entity's realm.

As Alien finally enters The Fog, we had the opportunity to talk to Game Designer Janick Neveu and Senior Creative Director Dave Richard from Behaviour Interactive about all things Alien, including building the Xenomorph’s power, working with Disney and bringing Jonesy the cat into Dead by Daylight.

In The Fog, everyone can hear you scream

We started by discussing how Dave Richard and Janick Neveu were feeling in the run-up to the release and finally being able to bring Alien into the Dead by Daylight universe.

We're both fans of the franchise,” Dave said. “It's a legendary franchise and they’re characters we love. So I feel extremely good that we are finally able to integrate these characters and they deserve their spot.

Janick said: "There was an immense amount of weight because we have a lot of Killers now and there's an expectation on the player's side, about what this Killer can do.

"We knew that technically we would face a lot of challenges to meet that expectation, but also, what could this Chapter bring? To make things feel fresh for the player without going back to previous mechanics that we already explored. There was a lot of anxiety about: Can we pull this off? Will the players really enjoy what we’re going to be doing? And I think I think we managed.

As we continued, we asked about how long the Alien Chapter had been in development from the moment the team at Behaviour got the call giving them the go-ahead.

We go through various phases. It's a bit blurry,” Dave said. "But mostly, all Chapters stretch in different amounts of intensity over a six to nine-month period.

"From very early ideas, talking with the license owner or, when it's original, talking between ourselves, building pre-production, prototyping ideas, trying to find that sweet spot of fun and balance and delivering a great fantasy. And then obviously, true production."

Creating the perfect organism

The Xenomorph opens its mouth, revealing a second set of jaws close to Ripley in Dead by Daylight
Click to enlarge

When it comes to Killers, the Xenomorph is synonymous with Alien and in Dead by Daylight, it has a vast array of abilities. But how did they go about creating the Killer’s Powers, which include an intricate tunnel system that allows it to traverse the map?

Janick told us that one of the elements they wanted to include was a special form of locomotion for the Killer: “We pitched the idea of ‘what if this Killer could crawl on walls?’ It's something that we've seen in the movies and we know what this creature can do. But we quickly found out that it couldn't have worked, not just in the amount of time that we had to develop a Killer, but simply because our maps are not built that way.

"Also on the balance side, it would give this Killer a huge edge on interior maps, while probably being very difficult to play in a very high open map. So, it's something that we scrapped very early on.

Then we came up with the idea of the tunnel thing. This was tricky because we wanted to make sure that it worked. So, we started a bit early on just to put these aspects, like different sorts of control, how we can make this build, and will the system work. The programming team did an amazing job. They proved that we can make that work."

The process behind The Xenomorph being able to fit, structurally, into the already existing maps in Dead by Daylight was also something the team needed to consider. 

Janick continued: “If you can think about how our maps are built, we have the Basement which is underneath the level. So then one of the tricky parts was just making sure that the corridor could manage around this shaped room.

"Early on we had an issue about the corridors passing through the Basement and blocking Survivors, Killers and a lot of weird things. But, in the end, they managed to find some system, and then it was about how the artists could make these things look like a tunnel.

The way that the system works is basically a LEGO block that they all connected together. They're always the same shape. It's just the way everything connected together to make it one big piece, but it's not, it's made up of multiple pieces.

Dave added that while bringing the Chapter to life was a lot of work, it ultimately was worth it: "When we look at a license that we want to integrate into our universe, we want to create the fantasy of that character. We want players to feel like they are that character for real, and that they do what they should be doing. The guys on the team did great, really hard work to make this work.

Get away from her you...

Ripley stares at the wreck of the Nostromo in Dead by Daylight
Click to enlarge

Along with the Giger-esque dripping tunnels, The Xenomorph also features flame-throwing turrets that can allow the Survivors some counter-play to repel the Killer. This is a concept we also saw with The Singularity, with EMPs that allow the Survivors to fight back.

We're a big fan of the license,” Janick said. “Internally, there are a lot of people who know it quite well, so we knew that this creature was different from most Killers. It's not a guy who's running at you with an axe, right? It's a creature that's after you, it's gonna kill you, and it's extremely strong by default.

"It was important for us to make the Killer player feel very strong and powerful against the Survivor. But at the same time, how could we balance this aspect? And we thought about, what if the player had something to counter the Killer?

A lot of us had in mind the Motion Tracker, the guns or the tools that the characters have in the movie to fight back. We thought about how we can integrate all these aspects that players will know from the license into this design."

Janick continued: “The idea of the turret came along with having some sort of object that the Survivor can use against the Killer. But again, it's something that we learned, especially with the EMPs, where there's a balance that you have to take into consideration when you allow Survivors to have some control over the Killer power.

It's a very tricky balance to play around and I think this time around, we managed it quite well. It’s there to kind of annoy the Killer, but not completely take off everything, like all the tools he has.

Dave added: “It was a great opportunity with the Xenomorph to have the Survivor fight back. Because one of our rules is that you can never really injure or fight back against the Killer. And the Xenomorph is impervious to all of these things. It's so strong that it was our chance now to have a flamethrower do practically no damage.

  • If you're looking for some handy Bloodpoints to upgrade your characters, be sure to check out our Dead by Daylight codes guide

Perking up

Key art for The Xenomorph in Dead by Daylight's Alien Chapter
Click to enlarge

With every new Chapter, there is an assortment of Perks that get added with the Killer and Survivor. One of The Xenomorph’s Perks is Rapid Brutality, which can alter the way the Bloodlust mechanic works in the game. 

When speaking about how these Perks came to be, Dave said: “Usually, we have about eight to twelve different Perks per character in a Chapter that we want to try out. Then through a rigorous process of going through all of the designer's feedback, testing them, and prototyping them, we end up with the strongest three that we want to use."

Janick adds: “Specifically with the Bloodlust aspect, it's something that we talked about internally in recent years about where Bloodlust is in the standing in the meta of our game. Like how important it is in the whole loop, and it's something that we wanted to explore with a Perk.

Sometimes you start developing Perks on the Killer and then we have a list. Then that list becomes smaller and smaller until you find the three that fit the best. And sometimes there's one Perk that’s so good and interesting, but doesn't fit the kit or doesn't fit the lore or the thematic of the Killer that you just put it on the side. It's waiting for the moment that it can connect with a Killer.

And I think that's one of those elements that happened in this case where we had this idea, it was not exactly what we wanted, but we knew that it was something. And then throughout the discussion, it became that thing that fit very well with this Killer. It was time.

In Ripley we trust

Ellen Ripley as she appears in Dead by Daylight
Click to enlarge

Of course, for every new Killer, there is oftentimes a new Survivor. In this case, it's Ellen Ripley, one of the most recognisable 'final girls' in horror. But, was there ever a chance it could have been someone else from the Alien franchise?”

Um, maybe for half a second,” Dave said. “But it was obvious that it was going to be Ripley. What’s brilliant about the original movie is that you don't know until the end that she's the hero of the story, and it's so cool, and so strong for the time. It had to be her.

Similarly, the iconic Nostromo has become intertwined with the Entity’s Realm, and according to Dave, the developers have created their version to form a wholly unique map: “We wanted to highlight something very important about our lore universe with this map, that The Entity uses memories to build these areas, and they're always an interpretation. They’re nightmarish versions.

So this Nostromo is obviously non-canon to the movies because it's supposed to be completely destroyed. It’s just the recreation of the Nostromo in that nightmare world. The rooms are not exactly the right place, it's not exactly the right size, and it's in an area where it shouldn't exist. So that’s the canvas with which we started creating this map.

If you love playing Survivor, be sure to check out some of the best builds to run on Gabriel Soma in Dead by Daylight

The Disney factor

Ellen Ripley as she appears in Dead by Daylight
Click to enlarge

With one sci-fi-themed Chapter already within the realm of The Entity, we asked whether End Transmission had helped build the Alien world in DbD, and while it certainly seemed to be the case, the most help the developers received was from the licensors themselves: Disney.

Dave said: "The best [help] we got though is definitely from Disney. We worked with amazing people who really know their stuff, are really knowledgeable and passionate about the franchise they are working on. So that was tremendous. It helped us make this map on point.

It was a great process with them. We met regularly and talked about all aspects of the game and they’re very knowledgeable about all the content that exists within the Alien universe on their side. So they could really help us make it as best as possible for the fans, from characters to map.

I think every single rock on the map has been reviewed and has received some help from them.” 

Janick added: “I personally really liked the trust they gave us about the design decisions we were making. I’ve worked with multiple licensors in my career and sometimes they're not in agreement with the direction that you want to take based on your knowledge as a gameplay designer.

"It's something that is important for us, to make the core loop and things function properly. I really liked the way that Disney trusted us and said, ‘Oh yeah, that sounds like a good idea’. They said ‘Show us how it will look and how you're going to make this happen’ and it worked very well.

Like the turrets, for example, they could have said, ‘We didn't think about turrets. We don't want turrets in our vision of the Killer’, and this could have scrapped our plan and needed to do something else. But in this case, they were open to those ideas, so it was super fun working with them.

The cat’s out of the locker

Jonesy the cat makes an appearance in the Alien teaser for Dead by Daylight
Click to enlarge

In addition to The Xenomorph and Ellen Ripley, another Alien icon has entered Dead by Daylight: Jonesy the cat. But just how important was it for this Chapter of Dead by Daylight to include him?

Dave starts us off: “Pretty important, yeah. I mean, it's the first time in 10 years of working on this product that we have the chance to integrate something cute and fuzzy. So everybody was super happy. We had people dedicated to Jonesy specifically - they were working on this feature.

But there were also gameplay considerations with Jonesy’s inclusion, as Janick explains from the design perspective: “It sounds funny and interesting, but at the same time when we talked about it, it was important for us on the design side to make sure that it's not affecting gameplay. So, there was a lot of iteration and backwards and forwards just about this little snippet of a feature.

"It sounds so cool, it's cute, but on our side, it was super important that it wasn’t affecting the player. You can just imagine opening a locker, the Survivor getting scared, losing one second and then getting grabbed by the Killer.

A future in The Fog

The release date for the Dead by Daylight Alien Chapter
Click to enlarge

With Alien being the latest in a long line of Chapter releases and collaborations, with Ringu and Resident Evil collaborations all under Dead by Daylight's belt, many will likely be curious as to what this means for DbD in the future and where it can go from here.

Dave said: “We’ve done a lot of Chapters through the years, so our process is very solid. We know exactly what to do and how to do it. But at the same time, what's interesting is that every Chapter is unique in its challenges because one of our rules is that there are no rules. We want to 'break' the game every time we release new characters to make it more interesting to our players and a refreshed experience.

So every time, even though our process is very strong, we go in with some particular challenge which makes it interesting and or difficult. Especially with a license, obviously. There’s also a complexity added in each Chapter because of the volume of stuff that is already available in the game.

Because the nature of our game is to allow a player to mix and match pretty much anything, every new character and every single new Perk gets increasingly more difficult through the years. So it's definitely interesting and definitely challenging."

The Perks themselves aren't the only consideration when looking at a new release coming into Dead by Daylight's already vast lineup, though. Dave adds: “Another interesting thing that we can add about The Xenomorph is that it's our first character that actually moves on all fours. That's something that's been developed for this character that we're very proud of. It's something that we’ve thought about for a long time, but it was always a little too out of reach.

"As we go through the years and we develop more Chapters, our team becomes more experienced. We learn new tricks and so we can develop new things and things that we thought were too challenging a couple of years back. It’s the first character that actually has all of this locomotion on four legs, which is pretty interesting.

Dave elaborates that in developing this Chapter, the team can create features that will help them with the development of Chapters yet to come: “Every time we develop these new tools, we put them in our bags and we can reuse them in the future or iterate on them."

From a design perspective, Janick said that building on what has previously been done with characters in the past is not uncommon: "When we did the Demogorgon originally, we had this teleport thing and we did explore the idea of putting the Killer into another world and making it move. But at the time, the system was not ready for that sort of effect and we couldn't make it work.

"So that was the idea with the teleports. And the same for the tail attack. It's the kind of technology we had with The Nemesis with its whip attack.

We kind of reshape it into something that is working differently, but there's the similarities to it. So each time we add a Killer into the game, we can take those components that actually work and reshape them and make them work together.

The Alien Chapter for Dead by Daylight releases on August 29, 2023.

Jack is a Guides Writer at GGRecon. With a BA (Hons) & MA in English and Creative Writing, he was also the Gaming Editor for The Indiependent. When not pondering which game has the best cup of coffee (and drinking far too much of it himself), he can often be found playing Dead by Daylight, Street Fighter or making yet another build in Bloodborne.