Supermassive Games knows the appeal of a good horror story. Millions of the studio’s fans have jumped and screamed through Until Dawn and the Dark Pictures games. But the developer recognises that not everyone enjoys horror in the same way. That’s why The Quarry, Supermassive’s upcoming spiritual successor to Until Dawn, has multiple different game modes in order to allow a whole spectrum of horror fans to join in. It can, of course, be a choice-based story game. But, much like the spookiest of shadows, it can morph into other guises.
If you want, The Quarry can be a movie you just sit back and watch for ten hours. Or it can be a movie you direct, where you instruct your cast ahead of time on how they should respond to the adventure’s many threats. And, should you not want to endure the scares alone, The Quarry can even be a multiplayer game.
“The Quarry has probably the widest range of modes that we’ve done,” says director Will Byles. “We wanted to go and open this up to a much wider audience than just traditional gamers.”
While by its very nature horror will never genuinely have something for everyone, Supermassive Games is determined to offer the right options to allow as many people as possible to experience The Quarry. That effort begins in the main game itself, which as you’d expect plays much like Until Dawn, The Dark Pictures, and games from the likes of Telltale and Quantic Dream. Prominent among these games’ traditional mechanics are moments in which you must quickly react under stressful conditions, something Supermassive Games recognises may push some people away from playing.
Byles offers a hypothetical example of the way The Quarry addresses this problem. “I want to play it through, but QTEs really frighten me and I don’t like those, they stress me out,” he says. “So you can turn those off.”
Supermassive has included on/off toggles for not just QTEs, but almost every major mechanic in the game. Combat, clues and evidence collection, dialogue interactions… all of these and more can be tailored to be interactive or automatic. This is an incredibly helpful addition, both in terms of accessibility and approachability. For some people, horror is an intense experience that’s difficult to endure. For others, a disability may make quick or precisie button inputs a challenge. These toggles ensure that The Quarry can be played by as many people as possible.
But what if you want to turn all those toggles off? The result is Movie Mode, and it’s exactly what it sounds like. The game plays itself, rendering the interactive movie just a movie. But that’s not to say you don’t have a little control over the experience.
“You can pick a style,” explains Byles. “You can have an ‘everybody lives’ movie, you can have an ‘everybody dies’ movie. Or you can have my favorite one, which is the ‘gore fest’ movie.”
If that’s not quite enough control for you, then there’s Director’s Chair mode. This is, once again, another mode where you watch The Quarry as a movie, but you get to make four important decisions for each of the nine playable characters before the story starts. What do they do under pressure? How do they approach conversations? Do they cope well in fight or flight situations? And how attentive are they to the world around them? These four aspects allow you to tailor each character into whatever kind of personality you want, from horror stereotypes to subversive trend buckers.
The Quarry Characters
“Are they a bit clumsy? They would probably fail QTE’s,” Byles says. “Are they argumentative? You set a whole bunch of these little parameters for every character and then you just let them go and see what happens in that movie… It’s the closest to literally directing somebody. If you tell an actor to just be clumsy the whole time, that’s what they’ll do. That’s the way they’ll play it through.”
Real directors have the ability to shout “cut” and re-film a scene, something which choice-driven games have typically shied away from in order to provide a more genuine sense of consequence. However, The Quarry has a limited ‘lives’ system that will allow players to rewind a maximum of three times and make a different decision. To preserve the shocks and permanence of the branching story, this can only be done on a replay (or on your first playthrough by buying the Deluxe Edition).
“It’s just in case you did something and you think, ‘Oh, I really didn’t want to do that one’,” says Byles. “You get a choice and a little thing will pop out saying ‘Do you want to use one of your lives?’ There’s also a little warning that when you die, it’s not because you may have done something just now. It may be because you did something three chapters back. We have to give you a warning that if you do use your life, you’ve got to go all the way back to that point.”
The Dark Pictures Anthology introduced a welcome new addition to Supermassive’s horror formula: co-operative multiplayer. It returns for The Quarry in the form of Couch Play, which supports up to eight players. This pass-the-pad mode allows each player to control the game when perspective switches to their character. It’s a fun spin on a classic house party movie night, and Supermassive has been careful to ensure everyone can join in, even those who don’t usually play games.
“Each [character] can have accessibility options associated with it,” explains Byles. “So if you want to play with your gran who has never played with a controller before, you can dial hers right down and you can dial yours right up.”
Alongside this is online co-operative multiplayer, which makes a few deviations from tradition in order to make the interactive movie format work. Rather than a group controlling a different character each, a host player controls the game and up to seven other players can provide input on the choices made.
Supermassive Games has clearly put a lot of effort into diversifying the kind of experience The Quarry can be. For most people, it’s likely going to be a lot like Until Dawn. But for many others, it may well be remembered as an animated horror movie, a modern version of those early 2000s choose-your-own-adventure DVDs, or perhaps even the first horror game they were ever able to play.
“Stories in film are very vicarious,” says Byles as he reasons why it was important to make The Quarry playable by so many different kinds of people. “They’re third person, you sit and watch them, and you empathise with a character. Games have a lot of agency and are much more about who you are. Mixing those two things together is a really, really good thing. Mixing this third person narrative with first person emotion is really, really powerful. I think a lot more people would appreciate it who normally would have a barrier about just playing a game.”
For more from The Quarry, check out our hands-on preview, our breakdown of how a creepy scene of the story was made, and how Supermassive wrote a game with 186 different endings.
Matt Purslow is IGN’s UK News and Features Editor.