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Dead by Daylight's graphical overhaul is halfway done, here's what's coming next

Dead by Daylight art.
(Image credit: Behaviour Interactive Inc.)

Dead By Daylight is officially getting old. It first shambled out to PCs on June 14, 2016, and in the years since, Behaviour Interactive has embellished its bloodsoaked 4-versus-1 slasher simulator with new killers, new maps, new perks, and a shockingly comprehensive interlocking metagame. Five years later, Dead By Daylight is one of the best multiplayer experiences in the world, despite the flat textures, spartan environments, and technical fumbles that have sometimes made it hard to love.

We shipped this game with 30 people ... Today, there's about 300 people working on Dead By Daylight.

Mathieu Côté

Enter The Realm Beyond, Behaviour Interactive's ongoing remastering project. The goal is to airbrush over all of the muddiness that makes Dead By Daylight look outdated on modern hardware. Already, the team has revamped 21 maps and a number of visual effects, and says that it has now hit the halfway mark on the project, but won't stop until all of the grisly murders in the void look as beautiful as possible.

The side-by-side comparisons are a sight to behold. Take a look at Autohaven Wreckers (video below), a generic killbox set in a rusty junkyard, that was forever the blandest environment in Dead By Daylight's oeuvre. With just a few changes—some stained metal textures, a few harsh fluorescent tubes—the map is now fit for even the most sadistic of serial killers. The goal, says Game Director Mathieu Côté, is to make everything in the game consistent with the flair of Dead By Daylight's more recent content updates, now that Behaviour has the resources of a big-budget studio.

"We shipped this game with 30 people. That was the extent of the team. Nobody else was working on it. Today, there's about 300 people working on Dead By Daylight, and 50 others working on it in some respect," says game director Mathieu Côté. "All of that didn't exist before."

Creative director Dave Richards says that the change he's most proud of is one that's already live on the servers. There's a new, gloomy lighting apparatus haunting over all of the in-game torture arenas—a far-cry from the pallid, artificial accents that defined the game at launch. I was messing around with The Clown last night, and the way the full moon reflected off his ghostly makeup filled me with an indelible menace. That's the funny thing about Dead By Daylight: for a game that so clearly apes classic horror cinema, it is rarely scary. And the new textures lend the game some added anxiety; a chance to lose yourself in the roleplay. 

"It was important for us to create more contrast with the lighting, while preserving the same gameplay we had before," says Richards. "Our game is weird. The darker it is, the safer it is for survivors. But the spookiness level has increased, that's for sure."

As for new stuff on the horizon, both developers are excited about their animation revamp. They'll be implementing an array of new facial expressions, so that no survivor will ever look entirely nonplussed after getting stuck with Pyramidhead's broadsword ever again. Côté notes that the team is overhauling the healing visuals. "Right now, [when you heal] your character just does this generic massage over the body," he says. "But now we're putting a lot more detail in there."

Outside of that, the team is focused on a lot of important, but not quite headline-grabbing quality of life stuff. A chat filter is in the works, and they continue to work on technical hangups with the hope to purge some of the weird anomalies that still linger in the netcode. Hopefully you will no longer reach for the Alt-F4 after losing a survivor with a weird freeze. 

One of the most important upcoming changes in The Realm Beyond has nothing to do with the ambiance or the jank factor. Dead By Daylight is a game that's long relied on color-coded visual cues. Survivors can occasionally see the auras of their adversaries out in the distance, and killers rely on the dark-red scratch marks left behind by a fleeing party. Consistently, that's created a barrier of entry for colorblind folks, which was a problem only exacerbated by the game's new UI. Addressing those issues has become a top priority. 

"We've been working on a colorblind feature for a while now, and we're going to release it soon. We want to make the game more inclusive," says Richards. "There's a wide variety of different types of colorblindness, so we're looking forward to releasing it to the public, because it's difficult to get that feedback internally."

And so, Dead By Daylight is on the verge of its very own second edition, proof that this weird little game—part Halloween romp, part cat-and-mouse dungeon game—is here to stay. After five years of solid work, maybe you'd expect Behaviour to take a deep breath. But no, that's not the nature of this job. In the service-game grind, there's always another content update on the horizon. You edge a little bit closer to the promised land every day, without ever actually arriving there. 

"The last time we were satisfied with the game was right before launch," says Côté. "We were like, 'You know what? This is as good as we were able to make it. Let's launch it, let's see what people think, because we did our best.' From that day on, we were like, 'Oh shit, we have to make sure that this thing keeps getting better,' and that feeling hasn't stopped since."