Interview: 10 Chambers Collective's Simon Viklund on GTFO's New Release Plan, Why Horror is Great for Co-op, and More

GTFO made a big splash at 2017's The Game Awards with a reveal trailer that promised a captivating and intense four-player survival-horror experience set for release in 2018. Since then, the developers at 10 Chambers Collective, comprised of numerous veteran developers who worked on the Payday franchise, have kept their cards close to their chest. As the game's late 2018 release date crept closer, the game was delayed to the spring of 2019. Now, that release window too is here, and 10 Chambers is opening up about when players can get their hands on the game.

 

The answer: soon-ish, though it won't be in a finished state. Rather than the standard launch originally planned for this spring, the game will now undergo a series of alpha and beta tests before launching into Steam's Early Access program sometime in the unspecified future. No dates have been given for when the tests will occur, as 10 Chambers is looking to learn from their past mistake of announcing the game's release date too early. GTFO will now be ready when it's ready, and players will be heavily involved in both testing and helping to chart the future of the title when it does arrive. To learn more about the decision to launch into Early Access and more about the game in general, we recently chatted with 10 Chambers Collective's Simon Viklund.

 


Can you talk about the decision to go through the testing periods and then into Early Access as opposed to waiting for a full launch?

 

It’s about time we put the game in the hands of the players. It’s not quite done yet, but at the same time, we’re pushing some envelopes and we want to test things out more and not just drop it in their [players] lap and say it’s done. Rather, we want to develop the game in cooperation with the community. There’s several aspects to it. We’re at a point where we feel we can let people play, and at the same time we are at a point where we need people to play, in order to test it.

 

For the first alpha test, I know you don’t have exact dates, but is there a time frame to expect that, is that something that’s going to be coming in the spring?

 

That’s the plan, but no exact dates. We heard from people, spring stretches to the end of June. That’s not our idea of spring but we’ll take it, it gives us more time than we hoped for.

 

Going back to the beginning, how did you guys decide on the name GTFO?

 

It was actually by vote. We could submit our ideas within the team, and we had a democratic election...it was Ulf’s (Ulf Andersson, GTFO's director and co-founder of Overkill) idea. It was a mix between it sticks out and you remember it. Whether you think it’s good or bad, you’re going to remember the title. It jumps out to you with those big letters in the middle of a text. It has value. It’s tied to the story, it references the situation you are in the game. It’s also a nice title to use in marketing.

 

Just the nature of it, it does catch your attention.

 

One side effect of it, when people search on Steam for GTA (Grand Theft Auto), and the only fill in the first two letters, GTFO will be in the auto-complete results (laughs). GTA is a good game, you could have a worse game to be a connected with.

 

GTFO is a co-op survival horror shooter. We haven’t heard a ton about the game since it was announced during The Game Awards in 2017, though you did recently release a behind-the-scenes video diving a little more into it. What are some examples of scenarios players are going to have to work together to overcome?

 

Part of what makes the game horror, survival horror, is resource management. Every bullet counts. If the sniper on your team doesn’t have ammunition, and it’s going to be scarce, you have the option then to synchronize your shooting with weaker weapons and it will have the same effect. We have an enemy called the Scout, and if you kill it instantly or in the first point five seconds from the first bullet touching it, then it’s not going to scream. But if you don’t kill it instantly it’s going to scream [and attract more enemies]. Right now there is one category of weapons that can kill it in one shot. If you don’t use that method, you’re going to have to cooperate. No player alone could kill it in time, but if you synchronize your shots, then it would have the same effect as a one shot, one kill. We try to think of all the places where...we want to make sure it’s not a game people find casual or easy and run off and do their own thing. You need to stay together and have each others backs. If you do split up, you want to be two-and-two so you have someone who helps you. All the game design decisions go into the cooperativeness of it all. As I said in the developer interview we released, there are a lot of games that are cooperative, but you only need to fight alongside one another. You don’t really need to cooperate, and aren’t put to the test in terms of how well you can cooperate. That’s the basic idea, the foundation of GTFO.

 

 

What kind of objectives are players trying to accomplish? Are you moving from point A to point B and fighting enemies along the way? What are the roadblocks players are going to be running into?

 

There could be pockets of enemies anywhere. Some of them you’ll have to fight, because you might be close to something that makes a noise when you move through it, like doors that trigger alarms. So there will be forced encounters with monsters. But there are also dormant monsters you can actually sneak by or kill them while they’re sleeping, just to make sure they won’t come after you after you pass by. There are different doors that require different levels of security, like passwords or keycards and puzzle solving. Basically, as you said, you are going from point A to point B but there could be all these hurdles along the way, environmental hazards, monsters and what not along the way. Once you get to point B, you might have to pick something up and get it to somewhere else within the map and then get out. Or you pick something up and bring it to the exit, or you are bringing something inside and have to leave it in a slot or specific place. Or there could be 12 things spread out and you need to pick up four of them and you can play several times and find all of them or a specific set.

 

We’re also trying to mix it up by having scenarios happen once you interact with these things that are tied to the objective. One we have that we played at E3 and Gamescom last year, you have to pick up a decontamination unit. When you pick it up, it’s like picking up a filter that cleans the air in the area where you are. As soon as you pick it up, there’s an alarm going off, you take it out of the ventilation system, and then the whole map is filled with fog because of that. One person has to carry it and can’t use a weapon while carrying it. You can put it down and defend yourself. But when you want to move it you have to pick it up and you can’t shoot, so everyone has to cover this one person. Everything is filled with fog so you can’t see past six feet in front of you or something like that. It changes how you play the game, so you have to start using motion detectors and things like that to see where the monsters are coming from. It’s things like that. It’s not just delivering something, there’s a scenario around it that ties into how the complex works, how the machinery and the generators work. Playing around with that, things that make noise and change the atmosphere, things that mess with the player’s ability to aim or shoot, move around and things like that. What we think is fun is if those challenges are known beforehand. So you know before you go in what’s going to happen and then it feels like a fair challenge. You can then bring the tools you think are the right ones to tackle this problem. That’s part of the core game design. Giving the player these challenges but allowing the player to make informed decisions.

 

What are some of the tools and gadgets players can use to overcome those scenarios?

 

What we’ve shown so far, we have the glue gun. The idea behind all the tools is they are multi-purpose. Some of them you can use them both defensively and offensively. There’s always several different ways to use them. You can shoot the glue on the ground and then any monster that runs into the goo will freeze for a few seconds and they are sitting ducks. You can shoot directly at the monsters to stop them in their tracks. You can shoot the goo on doors and the doors will be reinforced. Monsters can break through the weak doors, so you can put the goo on weak doors to make them last longer. Whenever you get into a situation where you know there is going to be a fight, you want to prepare before you trigger the alarm or set off whatever is going to start the fight, you place the trip mines, the sentry guns, you glue the doors and make these bottlenecks or killzones and try to tip everything in your favor. That’s a huge part of the game, not just the fight itself but assessing the situation before it happens and tipping it in your favor.

 

The glue gun is one of them, I mentioned another one in the description of the concept, the trip mines and the sentry guns. And these are not final so aren’t promises, but there’s one that is like a healing spray that you use if you want to be a healer or medic sort of player. You can use that to heal your teammates. But if you spray it on enemies, it highlights the weak points on the monsters and makes it easier for teammates to kill certain monsters, which is especially effective on monsters that can take a lot of damage, you’ll see these glowing bits appear and if you shoot them it will take more damage. We have the motion tracker and the mapper, which will help you find things in the environment when you are scavenging.

 

It’s actually very important to search the environment because you don’t get anything from killing the enemies. They’re not going to drop any ammunition or health. They suck up your bullets and probably part of your health, so that’s why when you see dormant monsters, you don’t want to wake them up, you don’t want to waste the bullets. Maybe you can melee them if that’s possible, it’s different from situation to situation depending on where they are placed and how many. If you can, you avoid confrontation because you have limited ammunition and you’re not actually going to replenish any of that from killing enemies. If they stand in your way you have to kill them, but you’re not looking for trouble, you’re not running around the corners “where is the next monster, I want to get experience points for killing it.” That’s not what GTFO is about. That changes the dynamic in how you view the game and how you approach playing the game a lot. You find health, ammunition, and pickups that give you the ability to upgrade your weapons and so on and so forth from scavenging the environment. That’s why you’re down there in the complex to do, to carry out the objectives but also to scavenge the leftovers from whoever ran the complex when it was still operational.

 

 

Are players picking their gadgets and weapons as a loadout before the mission starts? Or are you going into a level, finding a sentry gun, and deciding you want to use that and picking it up and taking it with you?

 

It’s all in the loadout. It’s all focused on your gear. You can see your gear in comparison with what the other players in the game have. You can say “let’s not pick sentry guns,” or that could be a tactic and all four of you could pick sentry guns. Most of the things are designed to be used in combination. We try to think of symbiosis between tools and weapons and so on. You can glue the ground and set a sentry gun, and that makes a nice trap because monsters will run into the goo and then the sentry gun will (makes machine gun noise) take ‘em down. That becomes a setup and forget trap. The sentry gun alone can kill a few enemies, but in combination with the glue it becomes so much more powerful. And that goes for a lot of other things as well.

 

On the loadout screen, when you have information about what the expedition is about, you make those decisions, “let’s bring this and this and this,” or “we need a mapper, who has the best mapper on the team?” You can’t move gear from one player to another, so if you consider yourself the medic sort of player, we don’t have classes, but you as a player could choose to upgrade stuff that caters to your style of playing games. So you can choose to be the medic, and you can put your hard earned upgrade points into that sort of stuff. You might discuss on the loadout screen “we need somebody who has a good this thing.” And you might say "I have a level six of that thing, and somebody else might have a level nine, so let that person bring his or her tool." That’s where the tactical aspect of the game starts already, and then you’ll go down there and use those tools in the level. Things you find in the level you’ll be able to exchange for new gear and new stuff next time you are up at the surface in-between missions, or expeditions as we call them.

 

You have a behind-the-scenes system call the Expedition Director. Can you tell us more about what that does and what its purpose is?

 

It’s the system that makes sure there are slight differences every time you play the same expedition, while keeping it so you can still learn from past mistakes if you’ve made previous attempts and failed. Things are going to be enough the same to use information and lessons from previous attempts, but there will be slight changes to placement of monsters, keycards can move around, ammo packs and med packs and things like that. But also, the flow. One of the biggest challenges we’ve had designing the game is making sure the game flows in a nice way, the pacing of the game where you’re allowed to go from stealth to combat and then go back to stealth. You have the problem where if you fire this thing or a grenade goes off, an explosion, how many enemies in how many adjacent rooms do you draw into your room? And if you successfully kill all these monsters you’ve drawn to you with this noise, do you have to go far before you find the next pocket of monsters because you’ve emptied the rooms around you, do you have to go around for a while before there are new monsters that haven’t heard you, that you didn’t draw out with those noises? Making sure there are roaming monsters so that it’s always dangerous to backtrack. You can't kill all the monsters and feel safe to back into that area, because there might be new monsters now. We have these roaming monsters that patrol around and can fill rooms you’ve been in already. Making sure the player is always on his or her toes, that’s what the Expedition Director is doing.

 

 

A good portion of the GTFO team worked on Payday. What was appealing about changing settings and moving into a sci-fi/horror direction?

 

I think it kind of came naturally. We wanted to up the cooperative aspect of it from previous games we’ve worked on like the Payday franchise, maybe especially the Payday franchise. We wanted to push the envelope there and move the tentpole, take it further in how cooperative it is. It made sense to make it horror because horror pushes people together. It’s us against this entity, these monsters, these unknown things in the darkness. It’s natural to huddle together. It goes with the genre. It encourages people in a nice way, the atmosphere itself.

 

Personally I’ve been longing to do a horror game my whole entire 19-year career because I love to do monster sounds, eerie soundscapes and noises that make you uncomfortable, the rumbling basses that affect you on a subconscious level, autotuned music, weird sounds, playing instruments in ways they aren’t supposed to be played. I’m not a big consumer of horror films, but I love the idea of creating that atmosphere. Being a sound designer and composer, it’s such a nice genre to work with because it relies so heavily on the sound and the music to create that atmosphere. I think everyone felt that way, it was a new direction in terms of look and style of everything, and it fits really well with the game design as well.

 

You mentioned this in the behind-the-scenes video, the game’s look is really inspired by Ridley Scott and specifically the first Alien film. What was appealing about that aesthetic?

 

In terms of Ridley Scott inspiration, I think it’s both Alien and Blade Runner. It has a lot to do with those volumetric lights, lights shining into fog so that the rays are caught in dust in the air, the slow moving fans. It’s a creepy look and setting with creepy lighting. It’s done so well in Alien, and used sci-fi is cool. The worn out, dirty look to it, where nothing is shiny any more. It’s futuristic but it’s not pristine, and Ridley has done that well in all the movies he’s worked on. He’s a huge inspiration for sure.

 

 

I know you guys aren’t revealing too many details about the story, but I did want to ask about the monsters players go up against. They are pretty grotesque looking.

 

Thank you.

 

Congratulations, you guys did it! In the behind-the-scenes video it’s mentioned that they aren’t zombies, but they do appear to be human-like monsters with human features. What can you say about the creation of the monsters?

 

It’s part of the mystery that we’ll gradually reveal post-release. Where did the monsters come from, where did things go wrong? Who ran the complex when it was still operational? Why are you there and what’s the agenda of the people forcing you to go down there and finding artifacts? And can you get out of there, of course? The monsters are one of those key things. They aren’t natural, so you realize something is up. Was it some kind of experiment, did we find them down there in the Earth? Did we make them, was it an accident, was it on purpose, all these things. They are designed to be ambiguous in terms of are they humanoid aliens or was it once a human turned into something else? The thought behind the design is to be creepy and ambiguous at the same time.

 

They remind me of the enemies in Dead Space.

 

The necromorphs!

 

Yeah, the necromorphs. They’re human-esque but they morph into these grotesque and weird forms. The enemies in GTFO have that kind of vibe. How many types of enemies are there? You mentioned earlier a type of enemy that would scream if you didn’t kill it fast enough.

 

Right now there are four that are actually in the game and working. We have so many ideas. It’s not we have X amount of regular monsters and Y amount of specials. We just try to think of situations players can get in where they need to apply their tools or ability to cooperate and coordinate attacks, and think of monster designs that allow us to force players into those situations. How would that monster work and how would it behave, how would it attack players in order for players to cooperate more? We just have that list of ideas, whether it’s a monster that’s a novelty thing that players won’t encounter that often or it’s a monster players can encounter at any time, it just works as a regular monster. We don’t care, we make the monster, throw it at the player as often as it feels natural or good.

 

We have a list of design ideas, we haven’t realized all of them but we have ideas for flying monsters, stationary monsters, running monsters, slow moving monsters, fast monsters, hard to see monsters, stuff like that. Last summer we revealed the almost invisible monster that you can see as a shadow in the volumetric light and you can only see it by shining your light into the fog, and it would block your light. Or even better use a motion detector and tag them. Things like that. We try to come up with all these ideas. Some of them are disablers, if a player runs off on his own, he’ll be incapacitated in some way and he can’t get out of that situation alone, which forces people to move together because you need another player to get you out of that situation, like the Smoker in Left 4 Dead. Ideas like that.

 

We’re trying to come up with different weird things that are creepy and scary but also tie into that cooperative foundation of the game. We can’t say right now how many monsters there will be when we go into Early Access, but in the Early Access we’ll start playing around with more monster types. And even post release, after we release the final version — not the final version, that implies we won’t be updating it after release — the full version, we’ll add new monsters, tweak the ones we have, and add mutations and stuff that change behavior of existing monsters and change your approach to killing them or avoiding them. We’re trying to make the most of all the concepts we have.

 

 

So the plan for post-launch is to explore more of the story, add new monsters, levels, and things like that?

 

Weapons, environmental hazards, objectives, mission types. Anything that adds more to the experience and makes you enjoy the game more for longer.

 

What can you tell us about the different characters players will be able to play as? I know you brought on writer Adam Gascoine, who's worked on Doom and numerous other titles, to help write dialogue.

 

We have four characters to choose from. They aren’t classes, so your loadout is totally independent of what character you choose. The character is a look, a voice, and a personality, and you can prefer any one of them and choose as you join a server. We hired Adam Gascoine to help with dialogue and text logs, anything lore or story related. He’s the guy we run everything through. He helped us come up with these four characters, these different personalities that give flavor to the experience of walking around there in the darkness and how they view their situation. You’ll get little tidbits of who they are and what they think about things. In comparison to previous games we’ve worked on, I wrote character dialogue and directed a lot of voice actors for Payday 2, we’ve taken that further in terms of the system that allows characters to have dialogue, making a system that can adapt. If there are two players playing together rather than three, you have to have the dialogue be between those two instead of three. It’s complex to make it work, but I think we’ve succeeded.

 

The four characters are named Woods, Dauda, Hackett, and Bishop. The idea is that all of them have different voice pitch and dialects so they are easy to tell apart. Woods is the American. Dauda is Nigerian. Hackett is Irish. And Bishop is a London eastender. They’ve got their different personalities. Woods is a little bit emotional and believes there’s a higher purpose to everything and tries to hold on to that, in order to mentality be able to handle the situation they’re in — locked inside this complex and forced into hell, essentially, every day. He sees that not just as a figurative hell but almost as his punishment for what he’s done previously.

 

Dauda is the Nigerian and he’s sort of mysterious. He is very secretive but still can be funny and is nice to the other people. There’s a streak of mystery to him, there’s something about him that tells you that he’s not telling you everything he knows.

 

Hackett is the one who tries to handle the pressure, the near-death situations they get into, with humor. He’s very into gallows humor and being sarcastic and trying to puncture the heavy mood with all these quips and jokes, often at other people’s expense or his own.

 

Bishop, the Londoner, is super pragmatic, “let’s get the job done and get out of there.” He doesn’t want to be spending time with the other people and thinks if you’ve got to get something done you’ve got to do it yourself. He’s with the other people because they are forced together in groups of four. He does his thing and hopes the others tag along and do their part of the job. He’s not about to be engaging in any discussions, he’s very short spoken. Pragmatic would be the word.

 

So the characters will be talking and interacting over the course of the level?

 

Yeah, where there are pockets, a lull between the action, they can have an exchange of thoughts and things like that. We are trying to keep it...it’s not something that’s going to happen too often because it would be annoying. We want to create a game where you’ll be spending a lot of time, so it would be frustrating to hear them talk for too long or too often, and as soon as things start to repeat it gets annoying real fast. It’s a flavor to the game. Even though they might not be talking all the time, we feel it’s very important that they are solid, deep characters. There’s thought behind every one of them, they have a deep backstory, and that there’s inspiration or things to draw from when Adam Gascoine writes the scripts and the voice actors record the script, so it feels more authentic. But it’s not going to be babbling all the time. It’s something we put a lot of work into but it’s going to be subtle.

 

You mentioned playing with two or three players as opposed to four. Does difficulty scale according to how many players you have? How does that work?

 

It will scale, but not to the extent that we’d say the experience is the same. Obviously, we’re not going to balance it so that if you’re two people you can carry twice as many tools to make up for having two fewer players. If each one of you carry one sentry gun each, you can have the sentry guns, between the two of you, cover two doors or corridors. Where as if you’re four people, you can cover four doors with one sentry gun each. So it’s going to be harder. We’re not going to balance that. But how many monsters, exactly how many bullets the monsters can survive, we might tweak it to make it less impossible. It will adapt a little bit. We aren’t going to go out of our way to make sure the experience is the same or that you have the same sort of fair chance having two players. It’s going to be less difficult with four players.

 

So it sounds like there’s no AI teammates, it’s just players?

 

That’s how it is now and mostly likely forever will be in GTFO. We started thinking about that. It solves some problems. If you disconnect, your character can be controlled by an AI that can shoot and do basic things, revive teammates and such, until you reconnect and then you take over again. We’ve got problems to solve because we’ve chosen not to do AI or bots. It’s just once you put bots in there, you expect them to be able to do everything we require the human players to do. Since combat is something you want to avoid, it gets really complicated quick when you’re trying to make an AI. In action games, a bot will pickup health and ammunition, revive teammates, and shoot at the enemies. In this game, there’s so much more to take into consideration. You might read a password over voice chat to your teammate, and they feed a password into a computer they are standing by. You can’t have a bot actually do that. Then we’d have to have some text to voice system, it gets complex.

 

As we started scraping on the surface of what we can do in terms of cooperative game mechanics, we figured out quite early that we don’t want to limit ourselves to what a bot can do. We don’t want to strike or not do a game mechanic because we realize a bot won’t be able to deliver on that. So we cut the bots and that allows us to do anything a human can do. Otherwise, we’d be in the business of revolutionizing bots in games, because the bots in GTFO would be the most advanced and full-fledged, pretty much human players that could be. We’re not about to revolutionize bots, that’s not what GTFO is about. It’s a game designed to be played with other people. Adding bots would be a way to not play the game as intended. You could play alone with three bots and that’s not the way GTFO is supposed to be experienced.


Players interested in helping to test GTFO in the coming months can sign up via the game's ambassador program here. Be sure to visit our GTFO wiki to add your own knowledge about the game and to learn more.

 

Cameron Koch

@comradekoch

Cameron is a Wichita, Kansas based writer whose love for gaming spans all genres and platforms. On the rare occasion when he is separated from a keyboard or controller, he enjoys fencing and obsessing over the latest and greatest Godzilla film.

 


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