With the recent Dead by Daylight chapter 30 reveal being Chucky, I was chomping at the bit to talk to Behaviour Interactive about not only including another tremendous iconic character into their incredibly expansive horror anthology game but also talking to them about the changes that needed to come to the formula to include him. Thankfully, I got to sit down with Mathieu Côté, Head of Partnerships for Behavior Interactive, and Jason Guzzo, Killer Designer, for Dead by Daylight.
Dread Central: How did the decision to bring Chucky into Dead by Daylight come up?
Mathieu Côté: Chucky has been on our list since day one. If you talk about the legends of horror, the top 10 can change a little bit, but Chucky is in there. So, for us, it was always a question of whether he was too funny. Because he’s kind of funny, but he is very scary. So there was a hesitation there, but not much. Because we know that horror has many, many different flavors and we kind of wanted to be in every single one of them.
The biggest issue was how do we make sure that we do justice to that little guy because our killers are in the first person. All of them stand at least six to seven feet tall, and most of them are even taller than that. They’re gigantic. And the gameplay mechanics that they need to respect all sort of take for granted that they’ll be very big and walk at a certain speed and carry people over their shoulders.
All of these things were challenges that we thought we weren’t ready to face until much later. In the last eight years, we’ve grown quite a lot. Our expertise has grown, and our team has learned how to do certain things differently and better, I think. And we had one little trial run at some point. With Victor, right? The baby can run around and on his own a little bit. So that was sort of the first test of that, like, what would it feel like to run around the maps being that height? So the big question for us was always, when are we going to be ready to take on that challenge? And the answer was seven years later.
DC: Bringing Chucky into Dead by Daylight drastically changes the gameplay formula from the killer’s perspective. Not only is he able to go under palettes, but he has a third-person view as well. What led you guys not to have that POV view for Chucky?
Jason Guzzo: So the third-person camera was on the table from the get-go. We were given the okay to say, “Try it if you want. If you can figure out a first-person way to do it, great, explore.” It really kind of opened up a really interesting design space for us. And we tried a couple of things. We actually tried first-person only. We’ve also tried transitioning from first person to third person. Honestly, due to technical challenges and also just in terms of fun factor, going exclusively third person really felt the best.
DC: So, with this kind of significant change, does it mean that you guys are more open to these more extensive, drastic changes in terms of gameplay?
JG: I mean, I certainly am. But it’s going to be killer to killer and trying to figure out the best way to go. I’m a very experience-oriented designer. So, I approach it right from the get-go as what are the experience pillars if I am playing as Chucky. How do I want to feel if I’m playing against Chucky? Or even if I’m playing as Chucky, how do I want the survivors to feel? You’re going into a game of Dead by Daylight knowing you’re going to be a survivor and you’re going to be chased. So what’s the experience that I’m expecting?
I started from there, and then we expanded out. And I really think any other future killers that come licensed or otherwise that’s really what I’d like to explore. If we want to do out there third-person killers, or whatever it is, it really kind of has to play well with the desired experience.
MC: I think the idea is always it’s fun first, right? It’s always been our credo, at least on the design team. And it has to be fun to play against, which is always a huge deal. It’s difficult on both sides. And as for your question, when we started Dead by Daylight, we said every time we’re going to create a killer, we’re going to make a couple of variations of that power set, and then we’ll do another one, and then a few variations of that. We’ve never done that.
In the end, some of them are closed, and some of them reuse a few things. But we’ve never just done variations on a killer; we don’t do that. But we do build on technologies and learnings and tricks that we’ve developed over the years. As I mentioned, Viktor helped us figure out that it was even possible. But everything we’ve done since then, we can build on that for the next one. And it’s funny because you ask your question in a very pleasant way, but our fans tend to say, “You’ve done this now. You can do it more.” Every time we break the mold, we do something that’s never been done before. It becomes the bare minimum for the next one.
DC: Yeah, I promise not to be that mean. So, I have to ask, what goes into figuring out the skills and builds players can use with these new killers?
JG: Prototyping. Really just throwing everything against the wall and having such a supportive team, and especially the other killer designers who all have amazing experience with the game, playing the game and designing the game, and really having really great programmer teams who are just like “Yeah, throw whatever you got at us. And let’s try to figure it out.” We went through so many iterations, so many changes, and really just kind of found the fun and what mechanics really accomplish our goal of those experience pillars.
DC: So do you feel like because when Chucky is carrying a survivor, it’s like Charles Lee Ray. Do you feel like that needs any explanation to the players?
MC: It is weird. I’ll answer that. It is a little strange that because he’s not the ghost of right, he is possessed by that spirit. So technically, it’s himself carrying himself.
DC: I am 100% in the case of I think it’s fantastic. When I saw that, I was like, “Oh, that’s amazing!”
MC: The reason why I jump in is because this was actually one of the very first conversations we had with the team at NBC Universal. We sat down, and we talked about the fact that, you know, there are a few things that Chucky is going to need help with in this game because he’s so short, right? Vaulting through things, carrying people. I don’t remember who in that meeting raised that idea just saying, “Hey, maybe we can do this.” And everybody was like, “It’s so crazy, it just might work.” And it did, and it was great.
DC: I mean, I personally loved it. So I’ve heard that Brad Dorif and Jennifer Tilly are recording lines. Are they recording fresh lines for the game specifically?
MC: Yes. That’s the short version. And again, it’s funny because this has now become the bare minimum. People expect characters to be voiced by the original actors, if it’s possible, as much as possible. We used to not have voices in Dead By Daylight, just screeches and groans and things. Until, I think, two years ago, we started to sprinkle a couple of words here and there, and now people expect full-on voice acting for everything. So we delivered.
DC: Is there any chance we get Alex Vincent back for more Andy or Fiona Dorf in for, like, Nica or a past Charles?
MC: That’s a great example of a question where, if the answer was possible to be told publicly, we would have already heard about it.
DC: That’s fair. Speaking to Chucky and all the other licensed characters that you guys have in Dead by Daylight, are you allowed to speak about the process of what it takes to get in talks with these licensees?
MC: We can talk a little bit about the process. Usually, the great thing is Behaviour Interactive is a company that’s been making games for 30 years. We have a long history of working with a lot of the licensers out there and people who own properties, intellectual properties. And a lot of those have to do with movies or their crossovers, which means that we do know people who work here and there. So most of those things are never farther than one or two phone calls away for the most part.
Now, that’s sort of the easy bit, right? It’s getting on the phone with the right person and saying, “Hey, we’d like to do this.” Eight years down the line. It’s much easier to say, “Oh, by the way, you know about Dead by Daylight?” and they go yes. And then we move on. Rather than seven years ago when you had to explain, it’s very difficult. And in the case of Chucky, specifically, you talk to people who work in a department of licensing. They know about video games, they know about our reality, and they know what we’re trying to do. It’s much easier than other licenses without naming any.
But some of the licenses are handled by someone who manages a catalog of licenses of old licenses from the 70s and 80s. They’re much more like old-school Hollywood people, and they might not be familiar with games and things. So, in this instance, it was kind of an easygoing process, but there are always challenges. But this one was kind of an easy one. From the moment we started talking, both sides went, “Yeah, that sounds like a very good idea. Let’s just find common terms to figure out what we want out of this.” And then we did it, and everybody was excited, and everybody had a good time. And the reception shows that it was a labor of love.
DC: So, is there a different process to getting the survivors instead of the killers?
MC: Maybe on our side. We have different parameters of what we look for in a survivor. Because that’s tougher to find. There are a lot of examples out there of very iconic, very dangerous entities that were created that could make it into Dead by Daylight. Now, survivors are not just “I was in a horror movie and got killed.” That’s not enough. You need to have someone that is iconic, someone that shows that they have the resources. You want to be them; you can empathize with them, but they can’t just be a pure hero, either. Because they’re not hero or survivors, right? They’re not even necessarily good people. Most of them they’re just people. They survive, and they all have a couple of attributes that make them unique.
Also, the other thing, and that’s maybe more global, but, there are some cliches and archetypes and tropes of the 70s and 80s. There are a couple of tropes of those movies that today’s society does not need us to continue to perpetuate. But for the most part, we just want characters that are interesting, that you could believe could get really beat up. But you could also believe that they could make it out. So there’s a fine balance there.
DC: Is there a dream list of characters that everybody has that you put into a hat? And then everybody picks one out and then goes from there? I assume that everybody on the team has a dream character that they would like to make.
JG: I mean, I definitely think everybody on the team has characters and iconic killers that they’d love to see in the game. We regularly talk about it. “Oh, man, I just watched this movie. I can think of a million ways we’ve kind of implemented or stuff.” But I mean, I don’t really know what the process is. I don’t think we’re just pulling names out of a hat. But that would probably be a better question for Matheiu.
MC: The reality is a little less cinematic than that. We have an Excel sheet. So then, essentially, like everybody, at least in this group, there’s maybe a dozen of us that are actively meeting regularly talking about all these things and all of these properties, and some of them are really wild shots. You’d be surprised to see that on the list.
And then you put that in there, and then these people need to put their rating, those people need to put their rating. Sometimes, it’s this one that should be just like a collection about that, and this is legendary for sure. Or is this a killer only? This is a full chapter like we need to do all these survivors. All of these things get discussed all the time. And then obviously the legends of the last 40 years, or most of them, are included in this, but then sometimes stuff comes up that’s brand new, and that’s you want to be part of the new hotness. So it’s a bit of everything, and you can see it in what we do. Some of them are really wild, like Nic Cage, right? So we do have a couple more surprises.
DC: I promise not to poke and prod too much about that tease. Are you kind of given a little bit of wiggle room with cosmetics? When it comes to licensed characters?
MC: It really depends on the licensor, and sometimes it’s not even their decision, like some of the people that we talk to have access to this, and that’s what they have access to. Sometimes, we talk directly with the creators, and they own everything, and they’re like, “You know what, we think it’s interesting. Okay, propose stuff.” And then we can be very open and try new things. That’s why you can see sort of a gradient of flexibility throughout the different licenses that we have in the game. Some have been extremely strict to only things that have been seen in that instance of the representation.
In some cases, we just sort of make stuff up. And it’s cool. The blighted collection is a good example. Blighted collections have been done for a couple of licenses, and they never existed in the canon of any of these. Obviously, it’s more fun for us when we’re allowed to sort of stretch a little bit what those characters are, but it’s also very challenging. It is always at the forefront of our thoughts that we need to represent and pay respect. It’s an homage to what these creations are. And it’s not even just about respecting what the creators think their property is. But it’s also about the fans, right? You don’t want to do something where the fans will go, “Chucky, you would never do that!” And it all goes together. So it’s a tall order, but we got a good team.
DC: Dead by Daylight is entering its eighth year, which is crazy. And it’s still going incredibly strong. How does the team feel about that?
JG: We’re all very excited. I’m a little bit newer to the team. But there’s this real air of just being really excited about the project. And I know that sounds a little cliche, but it’s absolutely true. You talk to people and people are excited about it. We get and send messages after hours on Teams, going “Oh, I just watched this movie, you should all watch this because we need to discuss this and maybe bring it up, bring it up with Côté” kind of thing.
MC: The crazy thing is, you said eight years, and it sounds like we just say that. But it means that we have people on the team who were in school when the game came out. They are now working on Dead By Daylight. And they’re not juniors anymore. That is insane.
DC: It is! Huge hats off to you guys. Because, I mean, you guys are still going incredibly strong. It’s massive.
MC: We do our best. I mean, it’s gonna keep going. But yeah, I think the team is overall excited. I’ve been working in the industry for 20-some years. You don’t get two Dead by Daylights in your career. I don’t care who you are. Yeah, like that’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. And it’s exciting to be working on that every day.
DC: Do you guys have something big planned for your eighth-anniversary stream this year?
MC: Actually, I think we’re just gonna chill.
DC: I got it, like a splash screen on Twitter.
MC: Yeah, we’re gonna have a little party in the office or something. Nothing big.
DC: So, I really only have one question left for you guys. And that is, if you could leave any parting wisdom, what would it be?
JG: I think the parting wisdom would be that the team loves Dead By Daylight, and we play it, and we talk about it, and we’re passionate about it. We are always doing our best not only for the game but for the community. There’s an entire team of people whose entire job is to see what the community is talking about, and we talk about these things. We discuss changes, and we do updates, and we just, we really all do love this game. I don’t want to speak for all X number of a hundred people on it. But from the people that I interact with, I can honestly say that as much as it is a commercial success, which obviously everybody wants, it’s also a passion project.
Everybody on the team, we talk about horror movies, we talk about interesting characters, we talk about, oh, could we try these mechanics? And I can tell you again, as somebody who’s moderately new on the team, anytime I went, “Hey, can we try this for Chucky?” The response was, “Go for it, try it.”
As a professional game designer, you don’t get that very often. Most teams go, “No, this is what you’re doing, and just get it done.” Whereas we’re really given this open design space of, “Hey, we’re gonna do Chucky, go nuts.” It’s absolutely incredible as a horror movie fan. But having that opportunity, first of all, just to work on Chucky is obviously so cool. But to see the passion across all fields of this team, really putting in the work to try to get that experience through is really, I don’t know if that’s words of wisdom, or if it’s me just talking and talking to the team.
MC: Actually, I’ll build on top of that a little bit to say that it is not just a work of passion. But I think that the great thing is that we’ve learned a lot in the last eight years. At least I have. I know I have. But also, as a team, we know we think we’ve missed the mark a couple of times, but we tried to swing for the fences. And we can’t ever say that we will do things perfectly, but we can absolutely say with certainty we will keep doing better. That’s in all aspects of what we do, whether it’s pure gameplay mechanics, making the game tighter and better, fixing bugs, and blah, blah.
But there’s been great big efforts in representation in the game and being inclusive and all of these things. This is not an easy thing to do in any way. And there are ways we try, then we fumble, and then we do it better the next time. It’s never perfect, but it’s getting better and better every time, and we learn and listen to people. To me, that has been a very enriching experience on a purely personal level.
I feel that as creators of content in today’s world, we’re creating culture. No matter how you cut it, we are creating popular culture and content. And we have a responsibility to use that to try to make the world a little bit better. It’s not going to change the world necessarily. But the question is always, which side of the equation do you want to be on? You might be a small percentage. Do you want to be on the good side or the bad side? At least, that’s how I see it. And as words of wisdom, I’d say call your mom. Some people can’t call their moms. So yeah, take the time to call your mom.
I want to thank Mathieu and Jason for sitting down with me and really getting into the ins and outs of how Dead by Daylight works with its licensees. They are both not only incredibly passionate about what they do but also fountains of knowledge that are genuinely some of the nicest people I have talked to. That must have been some of the most insightful, amazing parting words someone left me with. Now, excuse me while I call my mom.
Dead by Daylight Chapter 30: Chuck is out now, so check it out! Make sure to unlock that Tiffany cosmetic, and remember he’s more than a toy—he’s your best friend.