Last month was Dead By Daylight’s [official site] first anniversary, and Behaviour Digital are celebrating the occasion by releasing the asymmetrical multiplayer game’s fifth DLC chapter, which will be free. “We’ve sold the game to a few people so far,” says Mathieu Cote, modestly, as we start chatting about the new chapter. “And we said at the very beginning of the project that we’d be as generous as we can when we’re able.”
A Lullaby for the Dark contains a new killer, The Huntress, a new map and a new survivor, though Cote is mostly keeping shtum about all but the latter, attempting to hold back some surprises for the DLC’s launch later this week. The survivor’s a scrappy Mancunian fella called David King, the spoiled single child of wealthy parents, and his favourite activities include getting into bar brawls and debt collecting. “He’s a bit of a dick.”
King is a departure from the typical survivor in that he’s clearly not a hero. Rather than being someone you’d root for, he’s probably the sort of character you’d be happy to see get stuck on a meat hook in a slasher flick. But despite his backstory and attitude, some of his perks are based around being altruistic. Sure, he’s an arsehole, but he’s also a rugby player, and that means he’s a surprisingly good team player.
“On one side, we look at the characters we’re trying to create and we try to find perks that will highlight their character traits,” Cote tells me. “But also we look at how people are playing the game right now and try to make perks that add something or tweak the way that people play and the strategies that they’ve developed.”
With that in mind, King can get all up in the killer’s face, stopping it from murdering one of his fellow survivors. It’s something the team saw players trying to do, protecting each other, but now there’s a perk that actively encourages and rewards this tactic. It’s called 'I Got You, Son' and nets the survivor a 50 percent bonus to blood points, Dead By Daylight’s in-game currency, every time they rescue a fellow survivor or body-block a killer, taking a hit.
Just before the launch of the last DLC chapter, Spark of Madness, Cote mentioned that killers were having a hard time. Survivors were taunting them, using their better mobility to run circles around them or drag them on long chases. The Bloodlust mechanic introduced in update 1.5 partially solved this by making killers faster the longer a chase goes on for, but the new perk tackles the issue as well. Not only is there now that aforementioned mechanical foundation to taunting killers, encouraging survivors to distract the killer, it’s also a huge risk, giving the killer a chance to take down its bold prey.
“These are fun moments in the game, and what we always try to do is create conditions that will foster these kinds of extremely intense moments,” says Cote. “If we make it even more enticing for you take risks and be a little cocky, but always make it more dangerous to do, we’re going to get those really exciting surprises.”
Line Break is King’s second perk, a brief but powerful ability that gives the survivor a jolt of adrenaline that can be activated when injured. The result is a burst of speed and, even more importantly, immunity to damage and traps. Essentially it’s temporary invulnerability, which will no doubt infuriate killers.
Though Behaviour Digital designs each perk with an eye to how it will work with any other, since they can all be mixed and matched, Line Break seems like a particularly good accompaniment to I Got You, Son. You can run in, take a blow and give an ally a chance to flee, and then escape with your life, leaving behind a very stroppy psychopath. Cote reckons it’s going to be pretty popular – a perk that is likely to become an important part of the meta.
The final perk is Just A Scratch, and it’s a weird one. “This one is very special and for a very special breed of people,” warns Cote. While most perks are straightforward positive bonuses or abilities, Just A Scratch is a trade-off. Slot this into a survivor’s loadout and you’ll start out injured and won’t be able to get healed back to full health. To make up for this massive handicap, the perk also makes it possible to recover from the dying state, reduces the noise made by grunts of pain and stops pools of blood from appearing.
“It’s a perk that’s almost like an alternate game mode,” Cote explains. A more challenging, sneakier game mode. And he doesn’t see why more unusual, game-changing perks couldn’t be designed, for both killers and survivors. “There’s no limit. We could, I’m just saying random crazy things, have a killer playing in a top-down view, playing it like an RTS. I’m telling you right now we’re not going to do that, but there is literally no limit to what crazy things we could do.”
One of those things is more licensed DLC. Last year, the Halloween chapter introduced Michael Myers, Laurie Strode and the Haddonfield map to the game, and it’s unlikely to be the last chapter featuring iconic villains and their unfortunate quarry.
“There will be others that will be joining us, for sure,” Cote tells me. “But it needs to be a good fit for the license. We need to respect what they are, and not change the characters for our game. It needs to fit in with our fiction, too, so something wouldn’t work well with being stuck in the world with the Entity. And they need to work within the gameplay that we have.”
As talk turns to the holy trinity of slasher villains, Michael, Freddy and Jason, Friday the 13th: The Game inevitably comes up. It’s another asymmetrical romp with survivors and a killer, the infamous Jason Voorhees, and on the surface seems very similar to Dead By Daylight. I wonder if the launch of Friday the 13th inspired Behaviour Digital to make a concerted effort to differentiate their game from the competition, but Cote says that it wasn’t a concern.
“Our concern is certainly not to differentiate ourselves from them. There are already many differences. There’s core design decisions that we made at the beginning that makes it so that they’re not the same game at all. Just the fact that you cannot decide if you’re going to be the killer or the survivor – for us it was critical that you could always choose because we have players that never play survivor or never play killer.”
One of the advantages of Behaviour Digital being able to pick licenses rather than being tied to one is that they can look further afield for inspiration, beyond the limits of a movie or franchise. Though Dead By Daylight often pays homage to the slasher flicks of the ‘80s, the maps, villains and survivors are increasingly international, or at least broader. Spark of Madness was inspired by Chinese horror, for instance, while the latest chapter’s map is meant to call to mind an Eastern European forest.
“Everybody around the world has their nightmares,” says Cote. “Every culture has their boogey man. To us, these kind of nightmares, they speak to something that’s very visceral, very deep. What scares me as a Québécois born in the north is not necessarily the same sort of stuff that scares someone in Thailand or someone in Russia. We share a lot of things, but there’s still some traditional things that we think are extremely rich and want to dig through.”
There’s a mountain of weird beasties, ghouls and spirits from Scotland that I’ve always wished could be squeezed inside a game, but Cote isn’t sure if something from the studio’s neck of the woods, Quebec, would be a good fit.
“We do have some good legends here. My dad was an archivist, so I grew up with lots of history books from around here, but a lot of it has to do with extremely religious things though, especially in Quebec. This is a subject we’ve always tried to sidestep in Dead By Daylight. There’s no politics and there’s no religion and that’s something we’ll stick to for sure.”
The developer’s goal, as Cote describes it, is to simply not offend through appropriation of culture or folklore, which is probably quite sensible in a game that needs to maintain a healthy playerbase. This is also why you won’t see a lot of the more problematic tropes prevalent in classic slasher movies. Though this does mean that a lot of great monsters and myths are out of the running, including an especially strange one from Quebec.
“We have a beautiful legend called la Chasse-galerie, where lumberjacks would get into a canoe for Christmas and they would make a deal with the Devil. They could fly their canoe for the night so they could see their families, but if they ever touched the top of a church while they’re flying, they’d crash to the ground.”
I don’t have the faintest idea how Satan the flying canoe salesman would really fit into Dead By Daylight, but it’s a tragedy that we’ll never find out. But, as Cote points out, there’s no dearth of creatures and fictional serial killers to choose from for the next DLC chapter.
For now, here's a teaser for A Lullaby for the Dark's new killer, The Huntress, and her map Mother's Dwelling.
A Lullaby for the Dark is due out on July 27.