The Biophages, the monstrous antagonists of the Callisto Protocol, are as mysterious as they are deadly. To understand the design process behind the Biophage and the game’s copious amounts of blood, we spoke to Striking Distance’s character director, Glauco Longhi, to learn how the studio created nightmares it hopes will terrify players.
Longhi tells us that the Biophage arose out of the studio’s philosophical desire to create enemies grounded in reality while simultaneously using their own creativity. He even cites realism as one of his personal pillars of what makes the most effective horror monster.
“It has to feel grounded, it has to feel real,” explains Longhi. “It doesn’t have to be real, but it has to feel real, right? That can mean many different things. But in my opinion it has to be interesting and compelling and captivating and maybe gross… but ultimately you have to believe it’s real or could be real. So [we’re] really try to improve the credibility of what we do.”
This focus on providing hyperrealism led the artists to seek out all sorts of terrifying reference materials, such as human deformities and infections. Taking these realistic elements and applying their own personal twists, the Striking Distances design team describes the enemies, which Longhi describes as “very gritty and interesting and dynamic”.
A particular inspiration for the biophage came from the animal kingdom. Longhi explained that the proboscis, an insect notorious for vomiting up its own guts (here’s a sample clip Longhi shared with us if you’re looking to ruin your day), set a barometer for the level of disgust , which the studio wanted to achieve with its monsters.
By capturing that realism and brutality, Striking Distance wants players to feel uncomfortable just looking at the biophage, let alone being killed by them. The game’s extremely violent death animations are designed to evoke a strong fear of death. One such sequence was created courtesy of a terrifying creature affectionately dubbed “Big Mouth” by the team. A humanoid creature with two gaping maws filled with jagged teeth. We watched her mouth put to good use in a demo, where she clung to Jacob’s head, then shook him around like a dog playing with his favorite chew toy before ripping off most of his skull. All that remained was a bloody, gaping cavity with his tongue still intact for a disturbing touch. Rather than players thinking, “well, I guess I’ll just reload,” the studio hopes people will actively want to avoid reliving something this horrible a second time.
It may be natural for Dead Space fans to draw comparisons between the necromorphs and the biophages. When we asked how the team went about avoiding the retread on old terrain, Longhi said that from his point of view it was never a problem from the start.
“I think we just went with our own vision for this game and tried to design everything that makes sense for this game that we’re making,” says Longhi. “So it’s more of a Callisto protocol approach to creature design than trying, ‘oh, let’s not do this’ or ‘let’s do that,’ or, you know, it’s more like, you know to get full move on with what we think will work for this game.
According to Longhi, designing a creature like this takes more than just adding a ton of teeth, claws, and tentacles to make it spooky. It’s also important to ensure the creatures make sense of the world and are entertaining to explode from a gameplay standpoint.
Glauco describes the creation of biophages as an organic process that embodies first and foremost Glen Schofield’s vision and then the needs of the artists who originally designed a monster, the animators who have their own ideas, and the combat team who might a specific type of monster needed to fit a proposed gameplay mechanic. Something like Big Mouth started out as a creature with two mouths and then evolved as the parties came up with new ideas for implementation in the game. Glauco says the team has never abandoned a monster idea because it was too scary only when it no longer made sense in the game.
“It’s almost like an evolution of an animal,” explains Longhi. “It starts there and then he grows the limb and then it goes there and it starts growing and growing and growing. And then all of a sudden we’re like, ‘Wow, that’s so cool. Let’s just leave it as it is.’ And then we’ll stop because we could go on.’
As for the narrative origins of the biophage, Striking Distance keeps those details close to the slate. Players will have to stare at these ferocious foes themselves if they want to learn the details of what they are and where they came from. That opportunity comes on December 2nd when The Callisto Protocol launches on PlayStation and Xbox consoles and PC. Be sure to visit our Cover Stories hub for more exclusive features and videos.
https://www.gameinformer.com/exclusive-feature/2022/06/23/designing-the-creatures-and-gore-of-the-callisto-protocol Designing The Creatures And Gore Of The Callisto Protocol