Redfall production designer: 'Making a large, open world game, that was breaking the mold for us'

Arkane's co-op vampire looter-staker Redfall recently got another trailer, this time an "official extended gameplay and world exploration trailer" showing off both the ordinary side of its open world Massachusetts city, with a hospital, park ranger station, lobster farm, and amusement park, as well as a few of the stranger locations.

There's a floating island beneath the blacked-out sun reminiscent of the Void from Dishonored, a half-dissolved house, rooms where the gravity's gone wonky, an underground church, and a house that opens up like an oversized version of the creepy doll house seen earlier in the trailer. We're probably going to get trapped inside that thing. It looks haunted as heck.

Production designer Ben Horne spoke to IGN, re-emphasizing what Arkane's been saying for a while now: Redfall is not like Left 4 Dead. "Left 4 Dead is an awesome game," Horne said, "but we wanted to make something different. We wanted to make something that we feel like has the Arkane DNA that we've made in games from the past, games like Dishonored, Dishonored 2, Prey, most recently Deathloop. You can think of all of those games almost like a Venn diagram, where they overlap in really key areas or critical areas—that we like to tell stories in games and we like to make games that have a rich, coherent story, systems that players can exploit and use to their advantage, maybe in some surprising ways. For Dishonored we went a little bit stealth, and for Prey we really focused on physics. For Redfall we wanted to focus on world-building, we wanted to focus on that narrative story."

Horne explained that Redfall was always going to be an open world game, that there was no point in development where it was ever anything else. "In fact that was one of the exciting parts of starting a game like this," he said. "It was something new. I think it's natural to make games and maybe you've made a few that are in a certain mold and to say, 'We want to take what we love here and we want to break the mold.' Making a large, open world game, that was breaking the mold for us."

Redfall has been criticized recently for the revelation it requires a "persistent online connection" even in singleplayer, which is both a hassle for those without the most reliable internet connections in the world and a suggestion that it's not going to be something you can play like it's Dishonored with vampires just by going solo.

Horne went on to say that, in spite of the move to a bigger setting, "we wanted to maintain the things about Arkane's DNA that we love, things about our games in the past that we really appreciate: environmental storytelling, strong kind of narrative through-put in the world so the world feels lived-in, feels worth saving. And so, as we took on this challenge to make such a huge open world, we wanted to make sure that every home that players walked into, or convenience store, had readables." Apparently there are "thousands and thousands of lines" of readable documents explaining what happened to Redfall before the vampocalypse, which certainly suggests we'll be allowed to chill out and read a book while sneaking through one of those haunted houses.

"When you play singleplayer in Redfall, you are playing by yourself," Horne said. "There's no AI squadmates. And then you can add friends up to a four-player squad, and what we found is that as you add more and more friends, the game takes on almost this party mode when you're playing. There's a lot of fun, lot of action, a lot of ways that your skills and abilities can play with your squadmates."

If you do bring in friends you won't be forced to spend all your time together, though you will certainly be pushed in that direction. There's a trust mechanic, which sounds a little like Darktide's coherency, providing a buff when players stick together. "It's a really, really cool system that allows players to be expressive with how you wanna play with your friends," Horne said. "You don't have to be all locked together if you don't want, but there is a benefit. We kind of encourage people to come together."

Redfall is due to release on May 2, and will be available on Steam, the Epic Games Store, and Game Pass at launch.

Jody Macgregor
Weekend/AU Editor

Jody's first computer was a Commodore 64, so he remembers having to use a code wheel to play Pool of Radiance. A former music journalist who interviewed everyone from Giorgio Moroder to Trent Reznor, Jody also co-hosted Australia's first radio show about videogames, Zed Games. He's written for Rock Paper Shotgun, The Big Issue, GamesRadar, Zam, Glixel, Five Out of Ten Magazine, and, whose cheques with the bunny logo made for fun conversations at the bank. Jody's first article for PC Gamer was about the audio of Alien Isolation, published in 2015, and since then he's written about why Silent Hill belongs on PC, why Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is the best fantasy shopkeeper tycoon game, and how weird Lost Ark can get. Jody edited PC Gamer Indie from 2017 to 2018, and he eventually lived up to his promise to play every Warhammer videogame.