The Callisto Protocol devs: ‘We did it with Dead Space and we’ll do it again’

The Callisto Protocol seemed to please Dead Space fans with its spooky trailer during The Game Awards, despite its odd connections to PUBG. Now new developer Striking Distance has talked a little bit more about the game, explaining the its setting, the benefits of the PS5 and Xbox Series X, lack of co-op, and ability to follow up Dead Space‘s legacy. But the team didn’t just speak about the game and shoot off into space as it dropped an extended, red band trailer of the one shown during The Game Awards.

How The Callisto Protocol channels Dead Space

CEO Glen Schofield and Chief Development Officer Steve Papoutsis held a chat on Discord to talk about the new game. These two men were instrumental in the creation of the Dead Space franchise, particularly the first two entries. When asked why they returned to survival horror, Schofield responded by that it was passion that drove them, as he wanted create a game that made him excited to get out of bed every morning.

“The team is stacked with experts in the genre,” he said. “It’s a passion project taking us back to our roots, trying to make the scariest game of all time. We’re just huge fans of science fiction an horror across the board: games, books, moves, you name it. This is a chance for us to channel our big inspirations while making something meaningful in the world of horror. We did with Dead Space and we’ll do it again.”

Papoutsis chimed in with fond memories from the old Dead Space days.

“It was just so much fun working with the people that we’re making this game with,” he said. “It’s something that we are all excited about. We had such a great time with such awesome memories with our previous experience together, we were just excited to just do it again.”

The Callisto Protocol setting and story, explained

The Callisto Protocol devs: 'We did it with Dead Space and we'll do it again'

The Callisto Protocol takes place on Callisto, one of Jupiter’s 79 (known) moons, and while the duo didn’t divulge much about the story, they did give the basic premise and why they chose the setting. The player must escape from Black Iron Prison and “uncover the secrets of the United Jupiter Company,” a company with a name that just evokes some serious Weyland-Yutani vibes. Striking Distance chose Callisto because of its icy and watery structure as “maybe in the future, that’s where civilization will migrate to” if they need water. Schofield said it had to be believable so people would buy in and get scared, something Papoutsis echoed later in the Q&A when speaking about how caring about the story and characters was key in making something terrifying.

As for the prison, it is pretty simple: Prisons are scary and prisons in space are even more terrifying. They’re even more isolated and Schofield spoke about the gameplay and story opportunities that arise from such a setting.

“From a gameplay perspective, it’s filled with claustrophobic spaces, danger around every corner, and tons of cool design opportunities with lighting and audio,” he said. “From a storytelling perspective, it’s very ominous to be a prisoner [as you have] nothing but the clothes on your back.”

Why The Callisto Protocol will be a third-person game

The Callisto Protocol devs: 'We did it with Dead Space and we'll do it again'

With games like P.T., Resident Evil 7 and 8, Amnesia, Outlast, and Alien Isolation, the genre has shifted into first-person in the last decade. But like Dead Space, The Callisto Protocol will be a third-person game. Papoutsis explained why they are keeping that camera angle and what it brings to the table.

“I enjoy seeing my character,” he said simply. “I like seeing the equipment and the costumes that we put on them. I like that connection being able to see them. Also the spatial awareness component is obviously different. While first-person can be scary too, it can be pretty interesting when you can see the enemies grabbing hold of you or being in combat and seeing more of the hits and reactions. And just seeing the progression of your character is pretty neat.”

The Callisto Protocol co-op debunked, single-player focus confirmed

Dead Space 3 is often regarded as the weakest of the trilogy and some of that disdain is because of its cooperative focus. The Callisto Protocol won’t have co-op and will be a strictly single-player affair. Schofield spoke about why the team went more into Dead Space 1 and 2 territory and didn’t follow Dead Space 3.

“This is a story that we wanted to tell and the best way to tell it was being a single-player game,” he said. “Sometimes when you get into co-op, you go in different directions and you’re not following the story as well and not only that, we wanted you to be alone. That’s what makes this really scary.”

The Callisto Protocol inspirations

dead space 1 release date

The Callisto Protocol is an original game, but its inspirations are quite numerous. Schofield and Papoutsis listed off movies like Alien, A Clockwork Orange, The Descent, The Grudge, Saw, Hereditary, The Thing, An American Wolf in London, and Event Horizon as well as games like P.T. Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Condemned, Alien Isolation, Until Dawn, Outlast, and, obviously, Dead Space. Schofield mentioned that the team will even look at particular scary scenes and break down why they worked.

But that goes beyond content as Papoutsis talked about how any game can be an inspiration. For example, he gave the hypothetical example of someone playing Spider-Man, liking the lighting in that game, and using that in The Callisto Protocol.

The Callisto Protocol and the PS5 and Xbox Series X

This game is slated to come out in 2022, which means it will almost assuredly hit the PS5 and Xbox Series X. Technology can mean a whole bunch of things for any game, particularly a horror game. However, Papoutsis seemed more interested in the core concept of the game over the tech it could take advantage of, citing his career that has spanned over multiple generations.

“What’s really been at the center of everything we do is to start with a compelling concept and a really story first and foremost,” he said. “The technology is a tool that supports the creativity of the folks working on the project. So certain consoles are going to better and be able to deliver certain aspects but as game developers, it’s important that we leverage those strengths of the various platforms to support the concepts that we have. Sure, there is going to be the ability to push more on screen with the new consoles and I am pretty excited about the audio enhancements, but at the end of the day, the consoles are the tools we use to unlock the creativity of our development.”

Schofield had a slightly different view, but one that was still excited about the future.

“The lighting that we can get nowadays is pretty amazing from strobing to flickering lights, it’s all pretty amazing and realistic,” he said. “We can actually drop you into a world that feels more believable.”