Dead By Daylight, the asymmetrical horror game where survivors try to escape one dangerous killer, is releasing its 10th DLC chapter. Like previous patches, this chapter contains a killer, a survivor and a map. This DLC brings original characters to the game, and the developers are also promising an answer to one of fans’ greatest requests in dedicated servers.
Polygon spoke to Mathieu Cote, game director on Dead by Daylight, to learn more about the game’s design direction and the Legion, the terrifying new killer who will be stalking players.
Meet the new faces of Dead by Daylight
The Legion is made up of four characters merged into one, with the idea that, at a quick glance, a player could easily confuse them for a fellow survivor. The idea is to invoke a more modern form of killer after the team created several callbacks to ’80s horror.
“The Legion could be anyone in the crowd — your neighbor, a nice man who helped you cross the street. That’s the point. It’s the darkness among us,” says Cote. “A lot of killers came from the past, from classic ’70s, ’80s or ’90s movies. More modern takes on horror have to do with dehumanizing mass killers who were the guy next door.”
Visually, that’s demonstrated through the Legion’s unassuming nature and masks; gameplay-wise, that means that the Legion is built to stop survivors en masse. The Legion frenzies when he sees survivors grouping up and working together, and he can spot multiple survivors working together to repair a generator. Survivors have to shake up their gameplay and abandon their friends for the best odds against the Legion.
The game’s new survivor Jeff, on the other hand, is meant to be a refutation of the Legion’s theme, explains Cote: “He’s a great contrast to the killer, because he’s the big guy you see on the bus that you’re sort of scared of, but he’s an artist with a heart of gold. He’s a really nice guy. His powers have to do with collaboration and making deep bonds with people.”
Shaking up horror conventions
When it comes to Dead by Daylight, the entire team taps into other horror media. The challenge can come from importing killers or survivors from other IPs, like Left 4 Dead’s Bill or Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street. When it comes to original characters, the team tries to add new twists to classic tropes.
“We try to rewrite the archetypes and cliches that might have gone on too long with popular culture,” says Cote. “It’s easy, if you create a game based off horror tropes, to go to the classic age of the slut, the virgin, the stoner, the jock, and all of those things. We thought that was limiting creatively, but it promotes old cultural cliches that were past their due date.”
The team wants everyone to feel included and involved, a goal that might seem at odds with a horror game based around terror and dissent. “For us, it was important to be inclusive and have representation. Without being too dramatic about it, as soon as people are paying attention to what you say, you have a moral responsibility to make the world a better place.”
That being said, the game’s inclusion of regular, relatable people amp up the horror. The idea is to create characters who you can see yourself in — students, travelers, survivors. “They don’t all need to be likable, and they’re not heroes in any sense of the word,” says Cote. “Some of them are outright unpleasant, but all of them need to be real — if you were in a coffee shop, and Jeff was behind you in line, you wouldn’t blink.” Because there are so many characters from varying backgrounds, there’s a chance you’ll see yourself in someone ... and when you’re running from an axe-wielding murderer, that gets tense very quickly.
The community’s anything but dead
Part of the reason that the team takes so much pride in their wide array of both characters and killers is the game has a thriving community, including in places you might not expect. The game was included in Tumblr’s 2018 year in review as one of their most tagged games. Cote and the team know that in many ways, they’re fighting a tough battle to keep and retain fans.
“Asymmetrical games are, by their very nature, impossible to balance correctly — or at least balance perfectly — but the idea for us is, is it fun to play? Is it fun to play against? That’s always the argument that wins there.”
Part of the reason Dead by Daylight succeeds as an asymmetrical multiplayer game is that while winning feels good, it’s not the only way to advance with characters or have fun with the game. Part of the fun of horror is getting to enjoy some spooky jump scares, after all, or inflicting them yourself as a killer. The developers try to maintain several viable ways to play the game. “Maybe, as a killer, you got one or two people and you created a really cool experience for someone else,” says Cote. “Maybe you got that cool item you wanted. Maybe you saved a lot of people and got a lot of points, even thought the killer got you in the end.” There’s enough ways to shake up the formula that the game is fun to play, and Cote notes that there’s a stream community dedicated to the game because of it.
That means that for characters like the Legion, the team focuses on creating characters and scenarios that lead to great stories, or great streamed moments. The Legion can ignore palettes, a tool that is typically used to block off killers and create safe paths. “One of the most satisfying things for me is when we release a new killer, and then I watch some of the streamers who have two or three thousand hours in the game,” says Cote. “They still get intense jump scares because of a new mechanics, or something they didn’t expect. The expectations they had about the game that made them feel comfortable got turned on their heads, and now they have to relearn the game to a certain extent. For us, that’s the thumbs up we need to know we did a good job.”
Finally, the developers have another announcement that is an answer to one of the most requested features from fans. In Summer of 2019, Dead by Daylight will transition from a peer-to-peer game to having dedicated servers with the goal of increasing stability.