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How Dead by Daylight devs got Chucky as their new Killer

The killer doll of Child’s Play presented some big, er, small hurdles

Artwork of Chucky peeking around a door and wielding a knife that is reflecting Dead by Daylight survivors huddled around a campfire Image: Behaviour Interactive
Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Chucky, the maniacal killer doll of the Child’s Play series, is the latest Killer to join Dead by Daylight. Behaviour Interactive’s asymmetrical multiplayer horror game has featured the likes of Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, and Alien’s Xenomorph as playable Killers, but none of them presented the (vertical) challenge that Chucky did. The Good Guy turned slasher presented a unique challenge for Behaviour, and he’s received an equally unique implementation.

“Chucky has been on our list since day one,” said Mathieu Cote, producer and head of partnerships at Behaviour, in a recent interview with Polygon. “But we wanted to be in a position where we could do justice to the character. That’s something that until recently-ish we didn’t feel confident that we were going to be able to create the gameplay mechanic and the experience that would really bring Chucky to life in a significant way.”

Dave Richard, senior creative director on Dead by Daylight, said that the team’s work on other Killers — specifically, “The Twins” Charlotte and Victor Deshayes — helped make Chucky possible.

“We’ve developed some Killers over the years that add some components that made it easier to imagine how Chucky would work,” Richard said. “When we did the twin characters, we had Victor who is quite small, and that opened the eyes of a lot of our players that were saying, ‘Oh, maybe it is acceptable now [to have] a small character who can actually be in the matrix of DbD.’

“Then there were also complications of very basic interactions in the game — like [that] the Killer must be able to put Survivors on the hook. But, you know, through the years, we’ve developed other killers that add special animations [and] scope. So it gave us the confidence that we could make Chucky happen.”

Chucky vaults through an open window in a screenshot from Dead by Daylight Image: Behaviour Interactive

Cote said that getting the rights to Chucky was actually the easy part, thanks to the enduring success of Dead by Daylight, which recently crossed 60 million players. “Compared to the conversations we used to have eight years ago, now we can pick up the phone and go, ‘Hey, we’d like to put your thing in Dead by Daylight,’ and people go, ‘Yeah, of course.’ They know what you’re talking about. I think both sides immediately saw what could be and the conversations veered quickly to ‘OK, so how do we make this happen?’”

But putting Chucky, all two-and-a-half feet of him, into a game with much taller Killers (and Survivors) was where things got harder. “The biggest hurdle was obviously trying to create a killer that’s really, really short,” Cote said. In Dead by Daylight, a core mechanic is having the Killer lift up and place Survivors on a meathook to disable them.

“One of the first solutions for Chucky was to cheat on the size a little bit,” Richard said. They tried making him “just a little bit taller, so that the top of his head would go over some of the important objects that we have in the game,” but ultimately, said Richard, the team decided “that was modifying the character too much, so it was a no-go. So we had to find other ways to make it happen.”

Behaviour tried other solutions, like giving Chucky tools to overcome his height difference and giving him the ability to climb up objects. Richard said that it was actually folks at Universal, the company that owns almost everything Chucky and Child’s Play-related, that helped crack the killer doll’s height issues.

“We came to Universal with one of the ideas that we thought was pretty powerful,” Richard recalled. “We thought it would be nice if Chucky was accompanied by a proxy — maybe someone out of an insane asylum like a murderer or a psychopath that Chucky uses, who is human-sized. Universal actually told us what would be great fan service is that if we could actually use Charles [Lee Ray, the man whose soul inhabits the doll] — it would be his spirit appearing and getting out of the doll for just a little while just so that you can do those actions. That was so great, because they knew exactly what their fans would want.”

Chucky chases a survivor through knee-high grass in a screenshot from Dead by Daylight Image: Behaviour Interactive

Chucky’s size presented other issues, which Behaviour solved by making him playable in third-person, instead of Dead by Daylight’s traditional first-person view for Killers.

“A lot of our maps are not [designed] for his size,” Richard said. “There’s a lot of grass, vegetation, and stuff like that that would clip with the camera [and] would make life very difficult [for players]. We also knew that we would have to switch between his view and the standing-up view with Charles for some actions — all of this movement was a problem with motion sickness.”

“We do have a very exciting prototyping phase in the early [development of new Killers],” Cote said. “Any idea is valid at that point. And that’s sort of the great freedom that we have with Dead by Daylight; the Killers all bring in something completely different. The more surprising and different they are, the more they break the meta, the better it is for everybody. And in Chucky’s case, he’s the only killer that’s in third-person. We made it work. And it actually breaks a few things. And that’s fine. The game is meant to be chaotic and surprising.”

Early feedback on Chucky from players who have tried him out in Dead by Daylight has been positive. The better news for DbD fans who have been playing for many years, across more than 30 Killers, is that Chucky is yet another rule-breaking addition that will pave the way for weirder, more chaotic, and more surprising content still to come.

Chucky menacingly wields a kitchen knife in a screenshot from Dead by Daylight Image: Behaviour Interactive

I asked Cote whether, after Chucky, there are any licensed Killers he considers “impossible” to add to Dead by Daylight. Not anymore, he said.

“If you had asked me that a few years ago, there would be a couple of names on that list,” Cote said. “Among them would most likely be the Xenomorph and Chucky. And we [did] both this year. So really, at this point, there are some that we talked about that we go, ‘Yeah, that’s gonna be a tough one.’ But I don’t think the word ‘impossible’ is thrown around much [anymore]. The biggest hurdle we face is: ‘Does this fit within our world?’ If it doesn’t fit within the world, then it’s not going to come in.”

But the answer to that question — Does it fit in Dead by Daylight? — will also change over time, Cote said.

“In the very first year of Dead by Daylight, we were staying very, very close to serious slasher movies. And the original content that we were creating was really around that and the licenses that we went for were really classic slasher horror movies. But as we expand, as we add more and more things to the world, including our own original stuff, [Dead by Daylight] becomes more ‘sturdy,’ and expands in a way that allows us to bring in, for instance, Chucky. He’s on the comical side of horror, he’s always been very funny. I don’t think he would have fit [our game] well in the first year. But today, it’s just a perfect fit [...] which is great, because it means that we have built something that’s vast enough and powerful enough to support these things.”

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