Dead by Daylight devs on seven years of hooks, a horror pantheon & a community in The Fog
In the seven years since it hit the scene, Dead by Daylight has gone from strength to strength in building its pantheon of horror icons. Where else could you find a game that can pit Ellen Ripley, Leon Kennedy, Nicolas Cage and Cheryl Mason against the likes of The Xenomorph or Michael Myers? It sounds impossible, but Behaviour Interactive has pulled it off.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Mathieu Cote, Game Director and Head of Partnerships, and Dave Richard, Creative Director, to talk about all things Dead by Daylight, from the early days of development to the community it has created.
Hooked on a feeling
Since I started playing in 2018, Dead by Daylight has undergone several significant changes and introduced characters that were never thought possible. At the time of writing, the Chucky Chapter has just been released, which introduces the titular devilish doll into the game as a solo Killer. With his inclusion, that makes thirteen licensed characters that have stumbled into the Realm of The Entity.
While Behaviour had hoped it would continue for a long time, it certainly wasn't planned, as Dave tells me, it's "not something you can plan for, but it's something you can hope for. We built a game we knew that we were going to keep alive as long as we could, for sure. And we knew we had something special."
Longevity for a game like this is one of a kind for the horror genre. As more original and licensed Chapters are added, more players are introduced, and the cycle continues.
License to kill
While Behaviour had "always dreamed of adding licenses if it was possible", Dead by Daylight originally launched with three Killers and four Survivors who were all original creations. This was done before adding third-party characters were added to "build Dead by Daylight and our own lore and our own core experience and characters so that we could integrate other licenses without changing our game, and without the game becoming just a repository for licenses" as Mathieu puts it.
The first licence that was added was Halloween, which introduced Michael Myers and Laurie Strode into The Fog. While original characters start with a concept of power and gameplay, licensed characters may have a power already tied to them from their respective franchise. So the question then, after acquiring the license, was how to bring Michael Myers to life in DbD.
"There's one of my favourite stories there," Mathieu says, "which is just about how I think Dave is a genius." As the team grappled with the question of what power to give Michael Myers, Dave Richard presented the idea of just having him watch the Survivors.
While Mathieu was initially unsure of the idea, he eventually found that this would create one of the most recognisably frightening moments for DbD.
He continues: "I try it and I sit there and I'm the Survivor and I'm working on a Gen and I turn around and I look at the Killer and he's just staring at me. And I know that it's growing his power as he's doing that."
"I was sort of taken aback going, 'oh my God. So I run? What do I do?' I was freaked out and I'm like, okay, no, I'm sorry. You're a genius. You've done it again.
"I think for me it's one of those beautiful stories that talks about how we've managed to integrate. That moment for me has been recreated time and time again throughout the integration of many different licenses. How to use our gameplay mechanics, and paint a new version of these interesting characters."
Several moments have come to define Dead by Daylight's growth as a game, including the general release, the console release, the introduction of dedicated servers and the first license. But none of these moments would have been possible if it wasn't for the passion of the team for the genre they've found themselves entrenched in.
"We’re passionate about horror," Dave says. "So a lot of the first characters were inspired by characters that we knew and loved and wanted to recreate these fantasies and what we saw in movies.
"But there was also some exploring of different subgenres because we wanted to show that Dead by Daylight was more than just slashers. Slashers are important, but it’s not only about that."
Dead by Daylight has a myriad of malevolent Killers that have made their way into The Entity's realm. While some, like The Trapper, have clear origins in the slasher genre, others like The Dredge emphasise the influence of body horror, while The Singularity takes players far into the future with the promise of horror on other worlds.
Silent and deadly
One of the franchises featured in Dead by Daylight is Silent Hill, a legendary horror title (and one of my favourite series) which became the first fully realised chapter originating from a video game (don't worry, we haven't forgotten Bill from Left 4 Dead).
Silent Hill also became indicative of the relationships Behaviour had forged over the years when discussing with Konami what they could do to bring Silent Hill into DbD, particularly when it brought characters and places together that had never interacted in their respective games.
"Silent Hill was a big milestone," Mathieu says, "because it was the first video game, and therefore it sort of legitimized us. We were looking at those legends in our industry, the people who inspired us, the people who created the giants we stand on the shoulders of right now, and they were telling us what you [BHVR] did is great."
While Dead by Daylight has been going for seven years, Behaviour Interactive has been around for much longer, and its experience beforehand helped shape the game it is today, particularly when it came to handling the licenses to other properties.
By creating video game tie-ins for movies, Mat says it helped them learn "how to take someone else’s property and translate it into the medium of video games in a way that is respectful and awesome."
A light in The Fog
But behind the horrors and the fear DbD hopes to instil, there is always a sense of community so that players can find a safe space to play and scream together in the Realm of the Entity.
This is particularly, I’m proud to say, prevalent within the LGBTQ+ community, where a love of horror goes hand in hand.
“It's awesome,” Dave says. “It's great. It’s something I learned through building this project. I didn't know that horror and the LGBT community were so linked as communities.
"I think it's awesome. One of our core pillars is inclusivity. Being able to represent people, making sure that players find a part of themselves in the game. So, we're super glad that this is happening.”
It's also a game that is used in unexpected ways, with Mathieu explaining that it has previously been used by a veterans charity to help former soldiers with symptoms of PTSD.
But in forging these communities for players to congregate, Mat says "We try to do our best to encourage inclusivity and representation, especially on the side of Survivors because that’s where you want to identify yourself.
"We haven’t always done things perfectly, but we learn from it. We also consult with a lot of experts in their field who have exposure to those realities that we might not face daily so that we can do better, and that’s been incredibly rewarding."
As Dead by Daylight continues to grow, only time will tell what horrors will make their way into The Fog next, but one thing can be certain, it will be utterly terrifying, but made with love - and I couldn't help but end my interview by telling Mathieu and Dave that they had done a pretty good job so far.