While recent horror games mostly fit into the first-person, hide-n’-seek mold, some gamers yearn for the good ol’ days of third-person survival horror. Invader Studios aims to cater to that crowd with its upcoming title, Daymare: 1998. I sought more info about this promising game, and Michele Giannone of Invader Studios was kind enough to grant an exclusive interview. Take a look!
To start things off, how would you describe Invader Studios and your current project to those who may not be aware?
Invader Studios S.r.l., formerly Invader Games, is an Italian independent software house. Located in the Roman countryside, the company was officially founded on July 2016, even though it has been active in the industry for more than a year as a group of professionals.
The Invader Studios core team is made of more than 10 professional figures (programmers, 2D and 3D artists, sound artists, animators, social/community managers etc.), engaged everyday in making their passion a job.
Our current main project is Daymare: 1998, a third person survival horror game developed in Unreal Engine 4 and planned to be released in 2018 for PC, Xbox ONE and PS4. We also have a R&D division working on several VR devices projects.
Aside from Daymare: 1998, gamers may know Invader Studios from its work on the unofficial Resident Evil 2 remake on PC. What inspired that project?
Invader Studios was born from a group of friends and professionals bound by creativity and common ideas, as well as being united by the passion of the survival horror genre (in particular, Resident Evil games). We chose the Resident Evil 2 unofficial remake because of our immense passion for Capcom’s brand, and also because the original game was a true landmark of the 90s. That project was important training for the future, or better, for the present. After the Capcom meeting, here at Invader Studios we decided to create a new, nostalgic and frightening IP dedicated to all the new and old third person survival horror lovers. The passion and the love are the main reasons that are moving us through the years, from the Resi2 unofficial remake to Daymare: 1998; we want to celebrate the 90s and survival horror in our own way.
Capcom rather famously requested progress on Resident Evil 2: Reborn to halt, but allowed the Invader Studios team to go and visit its offices. What was that like?
It has been both exciting and emotional. First as professionals, but also as Capcom and Resident Evil fans. When you receive an official invite from one of the most important companies of the industry for the work you have done on their IP, it’s something incredible. We didn’t expect that, and it was a fantastic surprise.
The meeting was particularly remarkable. In addition to the incredible visibility, it allowed us to meet the absolute legends of the genre, professional figures, and highly important names like Jun Takeuchi (Capcom R&D division manager) and Yoshiaki Hirabayashi (Resident Evil Producer), besides the entire teams behind Resident Evil 7 and RE2 Remake. These famous names from the Industry asked for our opinions and thoughts on both the Resident Evil 2 official remake and Resident Evil 7, shown to the team almost a year in advance of the first public showing.
During the meeting they were really kind and professional, and showed us other incredible things that we cannot reveal. They are also supporting us in this period, with official posts on their social media and helping us to connect with important companies. We are really grateful to them, first to have originated the most important brand of our life (Resident Evil), but mostly for what they did and what they are doing for us from a professional point of view. Daymare: 1998 is, in part, the result of that meeting, where they showed us the pros and cons of our ideas and directed us in the better way to make a true survival horror.
Directing things back to Daymare: 1998 – what would you say is the primary design philosophy of this project?
This is our celebration of the mood and atmosphere of the 90s, and to the true, old survival horror genre. Daymare: 1998 is a hybrid product that encloses the mood of the 90s’ iconic cinematographic brands in a classical, gloomy survival horror game, focusing on a complex narrative structure that is based on a multi-character point of view. Daymare: 1998 was born from the idea to bring back the classic survival horror game that longtime players love. The project has a strong nostalgic component linked to the 90s, and seeks to bring back those feelings of excitement and anxiety that titles such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill had, with new and eye-catching graphics.
Horror games have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in recent years. What would you say is the key component of Daymare: 1998 that will make it stand out from the crowd?
Nevertheless, after our experience with the Resident Evil 2 project we have a reason to believe that there’s an interest from consumers in this third person variant of the genre. Furthermore, we count on the balanced mix of present and past for the mood, atmosphere, and gameplay in order to have a true, innovative and original game for old and new generations of gamers.
The survival horror genre changed when Resident Evil 4 introduced a heavier focus on action over scares, and that trend continues in mainstream horror games today. With Daymare: 1998 promising a return to old-school survival horror, has it been difficult to balance action with horror elements?
That is possibly the most difficult point, but we are working hard to balance both aspects. Daymare: 1998 is an over-the-shoulder, story-driven survival horror where the action will focus on killing the creatures with logic and not with tons of bullets. The gameplay follows classic styles of the genre, while also contaminated by several great titles, more or less recent. Daymare: 1998 is hard — it’s meant to make the player think about their next move, of which resource to keep, and which one to use or leave behind, because the enemies are tough and dangerous. You can’t just shoot to get rid of them. A bit of tactical approach is required to overcome the various situations in which the player will be found, and the use of the environment will be essential in order to survive.
When I think of the glory days of survival horror, a few things come to mind — save points, limited ammunition, tough puzzles, and scarce health items. Will Daymare: 1998 embrace any of those great, old-school design principles?
Sure, every one of these. D98 has physical save points, few weapons and ammo, environmental puzzles, mystery, limited health items, and also some backtracking sessions during the adventure. The player will have to look over his shoulder constantly.
Another aspect of classic survival horror games was the inclusion of several playable characters. Daymare: 1998 features three – Liev, Raven, and Samuel. How will they differ from each other?
We are working on a plot which unfolds through the eyes of different characters, putting the player in the shoes of different personalities that will guide him through doubts and theories. The retrospective narrative of the title is the pillar that governs the narration of the in-game events, everything is connected and is slowly shown to the player, in a crescendo of situations that leads him to understand what’s going on until the final epilogue, where a much more personal situation will put the player in a difficult position.
As a die hard Resident Evil fan, I can’t help but notice that Liev wears a uniform vaguely reminiscent of Resident Evil 2‘s HUNK. Is that intentional?
You have a good eye. In one of the first versions of the game Liev was really close to Hunk for reasons that we can’t share. We left him in the Daymare: 1998 demo as a placeholder. It is still a work in progress. In the next months the true Liev will be shown to the public.
While older survival horror games allow the players to find hidden weapons for themselves, more recent titles rely on some sort of in-game merchant or shop to simply sell them. How will weapons and other items be earned in Daymare: 1998?
With Daymare: 1998 we want to offer a horror experience as close to reality as possible. For this reason, we thought to put in the game only the weapons you can find for real in a small western American town. No upgrades, no customization, no merchants; only real weapons with few bullets to look for and find in the houses, police department, or on the corpses.
Several Capcom legends have contributed to Daymare: 1998, perhaps most notably Satoshi Nakai, an enemy designer from the Resident Evil series. What was that collaborative process like? Did he present Invader with concepts, or did the team go to him with ideas and let him flesh things out with his own artistic vision?
This is really an amazing story. After the meeting with Capcom, and thanks to some international friends, we had the chance to talk with Satoshi Nakai and Kazuhiro Aoyama (Resident Evil 3: Nemesis Director). They joined the project from the beginning and decided to support us. After a long negotiation (not easy to talk between Italy > Canada > Japan) we found the right agreement. The people that worked on our favourite saga were now working with us on our game inspired by the passion they transfer to us through their games. An incredible paradox, don’t you think?
About the production process, we first presented them all the info about the game, and after that we received (and still receive now) their ideas, opinions, suggestions, etc. We are really grateful to them for their passion and professionalism.
I couldn’t help but smile after seeing the ‘I want to believe’ poster from The X-Files in Daymare: 1998‘s first gameplay trailer. Will there be a lot of other Easter eggs in the game for players to discover?
A ton. We are putting new easter eggs (or rather, 90s pop culture references) in the game every day. There are a lot of movies, games, and other series that inspired us for Daymare: 1998, and we want celebrate them the right way. X-files is one of these, but in the gameplay trailers you can find references to Die Hard, The Thing, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, Rambo, Predator, Alien, Phantoms and more. Finding them all will be another challenge for the players 😀
What should gamers expect from the game’s plot?
We are working on two kinds of approaches for the plot. The classic one with horror cliché and a regressive narration really close to the 90s games, movies, and series. On the other side, there will be something unique, original, and frightening. This is the reason for why we chose three different characters.
Some horror games take place inside a single iconic location (such as Fatal Frame‘s Himuro Mansion), putting an emphasis on exploration. Others move through numerous, slightly more linear areas with a greater degree of variety. What type of environments will Daymare: 1998 feature?
We like to compare the Daymare: 1998 locations (in terms of structure and progression) to that of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. There will be several different locations, but the exploration will be linear (with the presence of backtracking phases). We made this choice because we want detailed, immersive, and claustrophobic environments for the players to remember, and not just a sequence of arenas to pass one after one.
Should gamers expect a simultaneous launch across PC, Xbox One, and PS4, or will each version release at a different time?
Things change fast. I can’t reply to this question at the moment, but our goal is to have a simultaneous release on PC and console. We will see what happens in the next few months.
Lastly, what can those of us who are eagerly anticipating Daymare: 1998 do to support Invader Studios?
Just follow us, share the game with your friends, and keep giving us your support and affection.
Thank you so much for your time, and I can’t wait to see more of this game in the future.
Thank you so much guys, see you soon! 😉