Dead by Daylight
10.28.2016

Living Through Dead by Daylight

By Brian Rowe

At some point, every horror fan rolls their eyes at the protagonists bumbling and stumbling toward certain death. Or, maybe you're that person who scoffs at the villain for letting yet another easy victim escape. Surely, you could do better.

An asymmetrical, five-player horror game, Dead by Daylight gives you the opportunity to put that claim to the test.

One player takes on the role of the deadly killer while the other four play as the survivors, working together or even venturing alone to outwit their pursuer and get out alive. The combination was an immediate hit, and Dead by Daylight has since grown with multiple content expansions, including a new chapter based on the HALLOWEEN® movie franchise.

Technical Director Fadi Beyrouti and Creative Director Dave Richard of Behaviour Interactive talked to us about the inspiration behind Dead by Daylight and why they chose Unreal Engine 4.

Q: How did Dead by Daylight come to be your first original project?

Behaviour Interactive: We toyed with the concept of an asymmetrical horror game for quite some time. It has been a recurring theme at the studio because we love horror and the human dynamic around horror. The access to technology, the amount of risks and other factors made these concepts impossible to realize in the past. The project was put aside and transformed until, finally, the stars aligned and we could dive deep into its development without much compromise.

Q: The original prototype ran in another engine. Why did you choose Unreal Engine 4 to continue development?

Behaviour Interactive: We chose Unreal engine for many reasons:

  • Networking and multiplayer support in Unreal Engine has always been one of its strengths. In our case we needed to have a solution that worked well out of the box.
  • Animation. We felt that UE4 gave us a very solid animation system.
  • The engine source code is available and hence modifiable if needed.
  • Updates and improvements to UE4 are frequent and significant.

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Q: Were there any particular features or capabilities of Unreal Engine 4 that you found to be particularly useful, or even surprising, and how did they impact development?

Behaviour Interactive: As far as useful, Blueprint turned out to be very practical because it accelerates our development times significantly. The real strength here is that any game production can choose exactly how much C++ and how much Blueprint code suits it the best. In our case, we used C++ to define a controlled framework where Blueprint can extend the game features. 

One surprising thing about UE4 is that the game looked nice out of the box even before we started improving the visuals. On that note, the shader development pipeline is very nice. Artists can attach nodes together rather than write scripts.  It is also easy to add and develop new and custom nodes.

In general I would say that the tool chain is very good. There are many tools that allow all the teams to work pretty efficiently.

Q: Atmosphere always plays a vital role in the horror genre. What were your goals in creating the atmosphere of Dead by Daylight, and what sort of techniques did you use to achieve them?

Behaviour Interactive: Lighting, and the lack of lights, is obviously a huge part of horror. Finding the balance between gameplay and atmosphere was a challenge, especially in a procedurally generated game where light cannot be baked or cheated. Vegetation, mist and other effects used for atmosphere are also directly used in gameplay as a hiding or a confusion-creating mechanic.

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Q: Creating a balanced experience with procedural generation can be tricky, especially when multiplayer is involved. How did you go about ensuring this sense of balance for players? 

Behaviour Interactive: A basic set of rules, strong metrics, a lot of testing and analytic tools to monitor our community. As the player base evolves and find new tricks which will tip the balance, the game needs to quickly evolve at the same time.

Q: Since no two games are the same, players always have to be on their toes, and you have undoubtedly seen an endless variety of situations. Is there one that sticks out as your favorite?

Behaviour Interactive: I love when a player succeeds even when every hope seems lost. We’ve seen some incredible saves and end-games that go against all odds. The game plays best when players focus more on their role than on the winning condition and we reward them accordingly for that too.

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Q: You've released a steady flow of new content since launch, including The Last Breath chapter for free. How much does player feedback factor into new content?

Behaviour Interactive: Even though we have our own agenda on what will be coming, we do monitor and listen to our community and interact with them to get their feedback on what should come next. More often than not, these comments take some shape or form in additional content.

Q: Were you surprised to see Dead by Daylight become such a hit on YouTube and Twitch?

Behaviour Interactive: Yes, pleasantly surprised. We planned and made a game suitable for Twitch and YouTube and it was in our strategy to aim to these media to get the game known. Nevertheless, it was a surprise to all of us how great the reaction was.

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Q: Killer or survivor, and who's your favorite?

Dave: Both. We certainly have both roles being played in house. Everybody has their favorite, but everyone also plays both roles.

Fadi: I play survivor a lot more than killer. I am a very bad killer and a mediocre survivor.

Q: Where can people go to learn more about Dead by Daylight?

Behaviour Interactive: Our website always has the latest updates and news. Of course, you can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and you can join us for our weekly broadcast on Twitch.

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