Foreigner. Space. Terrible graphic body horror. Veteran video game designer Glen Schofield is finally back at what he loves most.
After working on the Call of Duty franchise as one of the co-founders of Sledgehammer Games for about a decade, Schofield founded Striking Distance Studios with the intention of returning to the sci-fi horror genre. It’s a space that Schofield, one of the main architects of the “Dead Space” franchise, knows well. This holiday season, on December 2nd, Striking Distance is set to release its first game, The Callisto Protocol, via PUBG Studios publisher Krafton.
An extended trailer for the game was shown earlier this month as part of Summer Game Fest, a multi-day, mostly online celebration of video game teasers and trailers. “Dead Space,” known for its high-tension moments contrasted with leaps and bounds of fear, is a clear influence, although a quick glance at “The Callisto Protocol,” named after a moon of Jupiter, reveals a reduplication of the game’s action-heavy aspects. Set in a moon-based prison colony 300 years in the future where inmates mutate into violent, disgusting human-monster hybrids, one should also expect many terrifying death scenes from players.
The Callisto Protocol will be released for PC, Xbox and PlayStation consoles. Schofield took a moment to speak to the media about the game’s development as part of the Summer Game Fest. While much remains under wraps, Schofield spoke about his love for the genre and offered insight into his creative process.
Having worked in this field before, what draws you to the sci-fi horror genre? What exactly appeals to you about this type of game?
I am primarily an artist. That’s what I’m trained for. I love science fiction. I’ve always loved the fantasy of sci-fi. I can paint whatever I want and I’ve done it and it’s fine. I have always tried to be realistic in my paintings. Well I love the imagination of science fiction and I love the emotion of horror. It just triggers weird feelings – I’m scared, I’m tense, I’m this and that. It’s very emotional. So it’s very cool to bring those two things together.
Describe the horror tone of this game.
It’s physical. My feeling is that the psychological, the cerebral, has its moments, but I can’t imagine making a game based on that. I can’t imagine doing one. We have a little. we touch it We touch on a few different horror films, but we don’t deal with ghosts, we don’t touch on demons. We have some badass monsters. It’s just physical. It’s body horror.
You seem very passionate about more physical horror.
Well, it’s the jumping scare, right? It’s the tension. It’s very visceral. you can feel it It makes people walk instead of running. what’s around the door And if I die, it should be pretty horrible. I find that very Western. It’s maybe even more American than European. There’s a lot of that kind of horror in our movies, so I’m used to it. And I think the body horror stuff is an aspect of that, but it’s scary because you don’t want that to happen to you. So most of it is all physical.
They developed this game almost entirely during the pandemic. How was it?
We came in and hired 50-60 people. We do our concept art. We had our architects and our designers. We were ahead of me with Sledgehammer. We move into our room and nine days later it’s the pandemic. We set up a whole motion capture studio. How the hell am I supposed to do that? I’ve been making video games for 30 years, but now everything has turned upside down. I had to relearn, and quickly. That was very annoying. There are things I learn about running a studio. My last studio had a partner. on business matters. I was the creative type and I could do my thing and focus on the game. That gives me a really good C-Team, but stuff is brewing. There was a lot of business and I’m trying to be the game director.
You have to delegate. But there are many decisions you must make. Some big, some small, some just controversial so I gotta make it. I have an MBA, so I know business, but I’m better at creative. I like creating studios. I like to go out and sell ideas. All that. But there are a lot of processes where it’s like, “Okay, leave that to the financiers.”
“Dead Space” was a formative game for this genre.
Looking back, I think we came out at a good time. We came up with Zero-G. There was no game like that before. We came up with No-HUD [heads-up display]. It wasn’t really a game. There is a bit of luck involved in timing. It’s not lucky to come up with the ideas, but we came at a time when there weren’t that many ideas in this area. We’re doing this, and we have to dig so deep for new ideas. There are more nuances.
It is more difficult. It’s more of a challenge. There are times when I’m like, ‘I don’t like this challenge.’ It was undoubtedly harder to find stuff. But I really wanted to scare people. You can always come up with new ways to scare people. You have to think about it, but I enjoy it and there’s always a new story to tell. I wanted to tell a different story. I worked on Call of Duty for 10 years and we always tried to tell a great story, whether we did it or not. We spent a lot of time on the story. That’s what I wanted for this game. More acting. More nuances. You have to polish the story. The story is quite complicated.
What would you say are some of the defining themes for The Callisto Protocol?
People change. I want to leave it at that. That’s such a thing. People do bad things to other people. Some people can be pretty cruel.
How long has this idea been floating around in your head?
four years. The idea came to me in 2018. I started going to big publishers in 2019 and saying, “I want to start a studio.” I met these guys [PUBG Studios] quite fast. I went around maybe the second month. One of my friends called me and said, “Someone called and said they were looking for the Call of Duty guy?” I was like, “Is that me?” So I spoke to them a few times and I really liked what they had to say. They liked the idea of the story.
They told me later which was a nice compliment, they said they met a lot of people back then but I walked in and just talked about the game. “Everyone else came in and said, ‘Here’s how much money we’re going to make.’ You wanted to make a game.” I thought that was cool. That’s me. We should talk about the game and figure out the other things later.
How do you like being called a Call of Duty guy?
At that time it was ok. Nowadays, with Dead Space out there and this game out there, there are a lot more people attributing me to Dead Space, which I’m very proud of. See I’m proud of Call of Duty and I had a good time. “Dead Space” is just more fulfilling. It was a little game, man. We had no idea it was going to be this thing.
did you watch it again
Only occasionally here and there. I went back and played a few things here and there. Sometimes you look at it and you say, “That looks crappy.” Sometimes you say, “That was a damn good idea.” That doesn’t mean it’s my idea. I think I’m very happy when someone else has an idea. “Great idea! Let’s bring it into play.” That’s a talent in itself.
When you think about it today, what stands out as to why this game was so well received?
I think it was the innovation. Then we had a few rules and I won’t remember all of them. One was that the main character will not speak. There were times in development where we thought, “He needs to talk.” Nope. He doesn’t speak. We stuck to our rules. We were afraid, but it turned out to be right. And everywhere there was this kind of innovation.
And there is a lot of atmosphere, especially in terms of story and setting.
I’m very proud of how we got into religion. I’m proud of that. It played a really important role in the game.
How do you get a religion? I read something in National Geographic about Chicxulub, the huge crater in the Gulf of Mexico [is believed to have] killed the dinosaurs. You talked about getting the meteor out of there. So I thought, “What if it wasn’t a meteor? What if someone did it on purpose?”
The meteor came in and killed the dinosaurs and brought the ice age and started mammals and then came man. This meteor started man. There I had it. There was an extraterrestrial race that began with humans. Then suddenly in the Dead Space world there are people who thought it was done on purpose and they looked up at the obelisk they found. Other people said, “You’re crazy. It’s just a marker.” But these people had faith and it became religion. It just hit me and I was like, ‘That’s a good idea!’ Some people just can’t get around that.
With Callisto, would you say it’s a game where you had the story first or the world and environment first?
I had the idea of a prison. I had the idea that something bad was going to happen. Then I thought, “Why would this happen in a prison?” So I had to dig deeper. Then I had to find a moon that could potentially have a trigger – Callisto that could have water on it. It was said that man might one day colonize it. It wasn’t like, “Oh, the big story!” We make environments and then we go bigger and deeper. We kind of knew the beginning and the end, but there was a lot to add. We’re still filling it out. Little pieces. We’re doing new voiceovers. Little pieces.
What drew you to the prison environment?
What’s scarier than prison? That’s bloody scary. People don’t know much about it. There are many closed doors. They are sealed places. It’s just scary at first. Then you put it on a moon like Callisto. You can’t escape the scariest place on earth. The universe is spooky.