The Callisto Protocol – game director Glen Schofield speaks plainly in an interview: “It’s about quality.”

The Callisto Protocol – game director Glen Schofield speaks plainly in an interview: “It’s about quality.”

It’s been a while since I spoke to Glen Schofield, who is responsible not only for Dead Space, but also for The Callisto Protocol, which will be released on Friday – as a creative mind or director, i.e. director, as is the case with video games today called. Although the time in a regular interview slot is always very limited, we touched on a whole range of topics.

For example, did you know that prior to his career as a gamemaker, Schofield drew the Galaxy Rangers, among others? We also talked about his new studio, Striking Distance, what took him to work on it and The Callisto Protocol, and why he actually prefers the classic over-the-shoulder view over the first-person view.

Above all, I asked myself what distinguishes him as a creative mind. And while he’s certainly not alone in that, it could be an eye for detail, among other things, to which he attaches great importance. After all, he and his team put a lot of work into little things that are often only visible for a few minutes in the finished game. If any! In fact, it should be in the horror adventure that there are even scary moments that you can overlook.

Can Schofield continue the success he had with Dead Space with Callisto Protocol?

There was already a creature in Dead Space that you only saw a few times, but which was very difficult to integrate for technical reasons: the tentacle that grabs Isaac by the legs and drags him through the corridors of the Ishimura. And in The Callisto Protocol, too, you should encounter creatures that do not belong to the regular opponents, but to which the developers at Striking Distance devote a lot of time.

For example, there will be an enemy that first peels off the wall before picking up the trail of local protagonist Jacob Lee. Even before that, he follows him very closely – just not with his eyes, as it seems at first, but with his ears. Because he may be blind, but he can hear damn well, which of course requires a particularly… quiet approach. In any case, this enemy type was only created for a single level.

Another detail that Striking Distance put a lot of work into is creatures that turn invisible to secretly orbit Jacob. They don’t just disappear. Rather, it is chameleons that adapt to their environment, which is not easy to do from a technical point of view. It was the developers responsible for this who asked their boss for a month more time when Schofield himself said at one point: “Just make them invisible”, before adding: “I’m glad we took the time”. .

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In the role of Jacob Lee you should not only experience exciting horror, but also an interesting story.

“Spielberg gave me this idea. There’s a scene in War of the Worlds where a burning train goes by. It has nothing to do with the plot. But when I saw her, I thought, ‘This is what hopelessness looks like.’ And I love that he spent money on a scene that lasts maybe 10 seconds but moves me.”

What you can learn in an attic

Maybe it has something to do with his past as a painter and cartoonist that he appreciates the little things that you have to pay close attention to. After all, before his career as a game maker and studio head, Schofield drew caricatures and also taught himself to paint. Even as a child he drew Ararat, Gaddafi and others, which amazed those around him: “You are eleven! How do you even know who that is?”

Take a look at his works… oh, that’s right: you’ve probably done that a long time ago. At least if you used to watch the Galaxy Rangers cartoon series, for which Schofield drew and later directed a number of characters and storyboards. I was amazed when I came across it while researching in the run-up to the interview and he actually thinks that the series was particularly successful in Europe.

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Creepy Creatures: Sometimes it’s the apparently inconspicuous details that make the opponents interesting in the first place, but which also take a lot of time to develop.

In any case, in his mid-20s, he was already learning how to set up cameras and guide 70 other artists in makeshift offices above the restaurants in Chinatown. A “huge, ugly attic,” he amusedly calls his workplace at the time, which didn’t even have toilets until makeshift walls were put in – and where, along with “some of New York’s best artists,” he learned a lot more than college did could have taught in the same amount of time.

His career path eventually led him to video games, but over the years Schofield has continued to draw, eventually ambidextrous. But then something hits him during the production of The Callisto Protocol that he previously only knew from hearsay. “You know, I’ve read all my life that artists get artist blocks,” he begins, casually waving his hand to say that it was never an issue for him. Then he adds ruefully: “Now I get it.”

New studio, new stress

“I don’t know why,” he regrets this state of affairs in an interview, adding that it’s probably due to the pressure on his shoulders. After all, it is the first time that he not only leads the development of a game, but also manages a studio. His partner at Sledgehammer Games was responsible for the latter: Michael Condrey, with whom he had already designed Dead Space at Visceral. Now Schofield has to be director and executive director at the same time.

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Incidentally, when Schofield presented the planned The Callisto Protocol to his new parent company, Krafton, it was agreed that it would take place in the future of the PUBG universe. In the course of development, however, the plot and game design have moved so far away that it now stands on its own two feet.

“There is so much to do and most of it is about the people. That takes up 80 percent of what you do. And then there are important decisions: on working with Krafton (the South Korean company that Striking Distance belongs to; editor’s note), on the budget – the budgets are gigantic these days. Then came Covid. Then came the great resignation (a wave of layoffs in which many gave up their jobs without an urgent reason; editor’s note). I just couldn’t do anything else. I just had to think about the game.” That’s probably how the inspiration for drawing got lost.

But why did he actually leave his own studio Sledgehammer Games to open Striking Distance? There were probably various reasons for this. On the one hand, the commute to work became too long at some point. An hour and a half each way is no picnic on a long working day. Also, after three parts of Call of Duty, he wanted to do something different.

But he was also interested in founding a company on his own. Initially he was concerned about the location, which is not in Silicon Valley, but a little further away in East Bay, California. After all, this would mean that some of his employees would have to travel long distances to work or would have to relocate – which many would have liked to do, also because of the good schools and cheaper property prices. Striking Distance was still closed even during Corona times and was constantly receiving calls from interested parties.

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By the way, while you’re progressing on a straight path, you should get to know a believable and very detailed location on many forks – the director calls them Beta Paths.

In Schofield’s experience, that should actually increase once the game is out, if you can tell it’s a quality title. And so that is certainly one of the reasons why apparently inconspicuous little things are so important to him, and why he attaches such great importance to the fact that The Callisto Protocol comes out as bug-free as possible. He mentioned that at the beginning of the conversation.

One tool he wants to use to ensure this high quality is the motion or performance capture studio, which he and his team use to create animations. Interestingly, apart from Lucasfilm, they’re the only ones in their area who enjoy this luxury, so I’m asking if they also rent out the studio: “Nope. We use it every day! Never thought that would be the case.”

Because where it used to take weeks to make an appointment that was then so full that there was no time for any additional work, you can now create a new animation from one day to the next. “It’s about quality,” Schofield says of this not-so-minor detail of his new work environment.

“I want to see my character die”

Given these conditions, it shouldn’t have been difficult to pack a few extra animations into the Season Pass – a topic that’s making the rounds. At the time of the interview, however, there was no talk of this, so the following is only speculation. Even then, however, the lead developer said that many players really liked the death animations in Dead Space and that’s why he wanted to continue it. Maybe that’s why the current download content is there.

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According to Schofield, many players liked the death animations in Dead Space. That’s why The Callisto Protocol should also convince in this regard.

And that also fits with his answer to the question of why he actually prefers classic shoulder look horror to first-person horror: “I want to see how my character gets scared. I want to see how my character reacts. I want to see my character die. The more I see my character, the more connected I feel to her.” At least that would make the horror trip even more intense.

I’m sure this preference for looking at the alter ego also has something to do with the fact that Glen Schofield is not just a game director, but primarily a graphic artist or painter who puts the visual in the foreground. And hopefully, after the release of the first game from his all-own studio, he’ll regain the inspiration to create the cartoons and paintings that drove him since his early childhood.

The Callisto Protocol game director Glen Schofield speaks plainly - The Callisto Protocol - game director Glen Schofield speaks plainly in an interview: "It's about quality."

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The Callisto Protocol – game director Glen Schofield speaks plainly in an interview: “It’s about quality.”

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