I’ve known for awhile now that Outlast developer Red Barrels had begun working on a mystery horror game, seemingly immediately after wrapping up Outlast: Whistleblower. I didn’t know what it was until today, but that didn’t make the wait to share this exciting bit of news with all of you any less excruciating.
Outlast is one of my new favorite horror games, and at some point in the future it will get a sequel. We won’t know much about it until development is a little further along, so until then we’ll have to make due with the few precious details Red Barrels co-founder Philippe Morin was able to share with me for this exclusive reveal.
BD: Between the release of Outlast and its Whistleblower expansion, it’s been an exciting year for Red Barrels. You’ve left an indelible mark on the horror genre and made an impressive debut for such a new studio. What did it feel like being able to wrap up the story of Mount Massive Asylum?
We always intended to do a DLC for Outlast. It made sense production-wise to do it, because the programmers would be busy working on the PS4 and XB1 ports, so we couldn’t jump on a new project right away. Right from the start, we had a few ideas of what the DLC could be, but it was only a few weeks after shipping the game on PC that we decided exactly what we were going to do.
We took some time to gather all the feedback we could find and decided that the DLC needed to start before the events of Outlast, but end after them. For Outlast, we always wanted a dramatic ending, but we wanted something different for Whistleblower. Although both games have a different protagonists, we approached it as if it was one journey, because after all, it’s more about the player.
Some of us spent 3 years inside that Asylum. We started working on our trailer to help us find the money back in February 2011 and we shipped the game on XB1 back in June 2014, so the ending of Whistleblower meant a lot to us and we wanted players to share those emotions.
BD: Did anyone on the team need therapy (or at the very least, a well-deserved vacation) after it released?
Making the game was our therapy! We had fun coming up with ideas and situations we knew could be disgusting, scary or provocative. We’re in the business to deliver emotions and we like the idea of going places where others don’t go. That’s part of the advantages of being a small independent studio, we don’t have to worry about diluting the experience to please a wider audience.
BD: Outlast spread like wildfire online. Its gorgeous visuals, jump scares and streamlined mechanics made it the perfect kind of game to play through on video sites like YouTube. Was designing a horror game that’s as fun to play as it is to watch others play it a goal early on, or was it a happy accident?
I have to be honest and say it was a happy accident.
When we started production, we were not really familiar with the whole YouTubers phenomenon. But we quickly realized the opportunity it represented and we decided to take full advantage of it. Our budget was tight and we didn’t have a lot of money for marketing. So, YouTubers were a great help and we thank them. So far, Outlast has been downloaded by more than 3 million people across all platforms and YouTubers have played a big part in its success.
And, it was also a way for us to get useful feedback because we could see when and how people reacted to the events in the game.
BD: I’m sure the Murkoff Corporation has plenty evil left in them to warrant a sequel; are you interested in returning to the series down the road, or is its fate undecided?
We based Murkoff on some of the big corporations founded in the late 19th century or early 20th century. A lot of these companies made their money drilling for oil and then eventually became so powerful they could expend their activities to a lot of other areas, including scientific or medical research. These corporations have become so powerful, that it’s unthinkable to get rid of them these days. Governments come and go, but these entities are like immortals.
BD: I could happily chat about Outlast all day, but the world wants to know: what’s next for Red Barrels? What can you tell us about your next game?
It’s important for us to be passionate about whatever we’re working on, because we believe it’s the only way to achieve quality.
After shipping the XB1 version of Outlast, we took some time to analyze our situation and we quickly realized we had at least another horror game in us.
So, yes, we are working on Outlast 2.
The game will be a survival horror experience and it will take place in the same universe as Outlast, but it will have different characters and a different setting. We might go back to Mount Massive Asylum one day, but for now we have new ideas and themes we’d like to explore and we think we’re cooking up something special.
We’re still a small indie studio (12 people), so we’ll need a little bit of time to ship our next game, but hopefully it will be worth it.
BD: Outlast set the bar pretty high for the future of the series; how are you planning on surpassing it?
We really want to keep on improving our craft, but ultimately we’ll approach things the same way we did with the first game, which was to make a game we’re scared to play ourselves and trust our instinct.
BD: Will Outlast 2 tie into the events at Mount Massive in any way, or is this story going to be totally different?
Part of the fun of playing a horror game is the sense of discovery and progressively understanding “wtf” is going on. So, I’d rather not say too much at this point.
BD: Fair point! One of the things that really stood out to me about Outlast was its simple design. It didn’t waste time burdening players with complex mechanics or controls. Will Outlast 2 play like its predecessor, or are you taking a different approach with the sequel?
Our goal is still to give players first and foremost an emotional ride, so every design decision will be based on how it affects the experience and if it serves it.
BD: Is there a chance we’ll be able to defend ourselves from the monster(s) that hunt us this time, or will the emphasis again be on flight over fight?
Too soon to say. Part of the beauty of game development is its iterative process!
That’s all the details Red Barrels is prepared to divulge to us for now, but it’s enough to get me sufficiently excited for the future of one of the scariest video game series I’ve played in a long time. When they’re ready to give us a release window and/or an idea of which platforms Outlast 2 will come to, you can be sure I’ll share that here.
Huge thanks to Philippe Morin for taking the time to chat with us!
If you missed our review of Outlast: Whistleblower, you can check that out below.