Interview: Red Barrels Designer Philippe Morin On Crafting First-Person Horror In ‘Outlast’

Let’s talk a little about horror–particularly first-person horror.

Outlast is the first project from Red Barrels, the Montreal-based studio made up of Ubisoft vets. The trailer for the game made its debut last week via a teaser trailer, and today, they’ll be releasing a full trailer for the survival horror project set inside of a very haunted asylum. I spoke with designer Philippe Morin, who’s credits include Assassin’s Creed, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune about the genesis of Outlast and getting survival horror right in an era where most games in the genre have traded in frantic gun battles for sustained scares.

First, a little history: Red Barrels got its start back in 2011, Morin and and a handful of Ubisoft vets left that company. Casting about for their first project, Morin says they started making a list of the kinds of games they wanted to make–and a horror game was at the top of that list. “[This] was for two reasons: we always wanted to make a horror game but were never given the opportunity to make one. And the other one is that we were always looking for a new challenge.” That meant going beyond their experience making action adventure and stealth games to try something all-new.

The seed of Outlast was born of two points of inspiration–one, an acclaimed game that was an injection of new blood into the survival horror genre, the other a creepy music video that may figured into the institutional setting. Red Barrels co-founder Hugo Dallaire introduced the team to the latter: six minutes of grainy, night vision camera work, featuring a heavily deformed boy speaking into a camera while being gently interrogated by someone off camera. This was “Rubber Johnny,” a video by electronic artist Aphex Twin, directed by Chris Cunningham. Morin says he and his team were struck by the imagery of the boy in the wheelchair and felt like it would be a good point of departure for their game.

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