Game developers usually go through an evolution, growing from a tiny amoeba to a complex organism. That’s the case with Behaviour Interactive, a 24-year-old game studio in Montreal that had its first huge original game this year with Dead by Daylight.
The PC title is a multiplayer horror game where a killer played by a real human hunts down four victims (also played by real humans). Starbreeze published the game in June, and it has been growing every month, peaking in October thanks to an update that included killer Michael Myers of the Halloween movies.
The success is a heady moment for Behaviour, which has spent most of its existence as an outsourcing company, making parts of games for other developers or publishers. One of its big successes was Fallout Shelter, the mobile title published by Bethesda Softworks.
But Behaviour now has hundreds of employees and multiple divisions. The company can now make multiple games at the same time even as it does traditional outsourcing.
“Our company has reached a new level of success with Dead by Daylight,” said Remi Racine, CEO of Behaviour, in an interview.
During the Montreal International Game Summit (MIGS 2016) event, I visited Behaviour and caught up with the executive team. That included a joint interview with David Osborne and Stephen Mulrooney, chief technology officer and vice president of Behaviour Digital. They talked about how they prototype new gameplay ideas and turn them into full-fledged games like Dead by Daylight.
And I also met with Racine and Jimmy Gendron, head of mobile publishing at Behaviour. Here’s an edited transcript of our interview about moving up the food chain in the game industry.
GamesBeat: Dead by Daylight seems like a solid new franchise for you guys. How important is it relative to the whole company?
Remi Racine: We’ve created some IP over the years that weren’t really successful. Or they weren’t unsuccessful, but they weren’t very successful. Wet sold a million units, but to be successful at that time, with that budget, we needed at least twice that. Dead by Daylight is already very successful, and we still have years to go. We’re ecstatic about it. It did better in October than it did in all the previous months. It’s growing. We started very high in June, slowed down in July-August-September, then jumped up in October.
GamesBeat: The Halloween update probably had something to do with that.
Racine: Right. We have a plan to release DLC through the end of June, a very strong plan. It’s a mix of internal and external IP. Some of the DLC will be original and some will be licensed.
GamesBeat: Has the team size gone up since launch?
Racine: Yes. It launched at 25 and we’re probably around 40 now. We started this three years ago, when Dead by Daylight was a prototype from Hugo. It created a buzz as soon as we had the first demo. We even had a board game concept to test it out. We do demos in about a month to six weeks, so they’re pretty rough. But they’re playable. Even at that point, we understood we had something very good.
For us, it’s the gameplay first. Then we put in the backstory and the environments afterward. The fact that it’s a horror game — at first it was just a game of hide and seek. That was it. Then we felt that, to put some emotion in the game, horror was the right theme for the gameplay.
GamesBeat: It’s more interesting than something like Evolve, which had a similarly asymmetric concept, but it didn’t last like I thought it would. It was very difficult to play, trying to master what you had to do. Here, my first games, it wasn’t hard to pick up.
Racine: Most people can play it, yeah. If you’re not afraid — some people get too scared — you’re going to have fun. What I like about it, some games you can learn. You master the levels. This one is difficult to learn that way. How many rounds did you play?
GamesBeat: Just once on each side.
Racine: If you try it more and more, you’ll see that it’s never the same. People’s reactions aren’t the same. The environment isn’t the same. The tactics aren’t the same. We saw that even when we were playing the board game.
We went through about 10 prototypes. Seven of them were throwaways. How we do this, the creatives sit down and there’s a spark of some idea. Then a team of two does a prototype. We play that prototype and if it’s not fun, it goes into the archives, although we might go back to it later. Sometimes you’re inspired by events in the world or something and you think, “That’d be a great game,” but when you do the prototype it’s not.
One idea we had — you know how in the news you hear about brawls at European soccer games? Fans fighting each other. We had a game about that. As much as it seemed like a good idea in concept….
Jimmy Gendron: Fighting in a pub, yeah. It was almost like Clash of Clans with people in a bar.
Racine: But it wasn’t fun. You try stuff and you see if it’s good or not, and eventually you come up with something. Now we have two ideas that have made it to a point where we’ve presented them to partners. We want to co-finance those projects, so we’re talking with several partners. We’ll co-finance and keep the IP. We want to make them like Dead by Daylight, PC first and console after.
GamesBeat: How does Dead by Daylight’s success advance your plans along, as far as doing more original and independent projects? Is it going to help you in that direction?
Racine: I think so. Our next game — anybody we approach, they’re interested in hearing about it, just because of Dead by Daylight. When we present our next title, some of them will say they don’t like one thing or another about it, but most of them understand where we’re going because — you could call it the next level of Dead by Daylight.
Gendron: An evolution of Dead by Daylight.
Racine: It’s not by the same team, but yeah, you could call it an evolution of the gameplay.
GamesBeat: This was PC first. How are you spread out among the different platforms — mobile, PC, console?
Racine: We’re about 40 percent mobile and 60 percent PC and console. Including our work for hire. We’re still more focused on PC and console than on mobile. The studio in Santiago does only mobile, though, at the moment. In Montreal there are probably two or three projects. The bigger project is in Montreal.
GamesBeat: Do you have any concern that mobile is changing, or it’s gotten too hard to break into? Kongregate just decided to expand into Steam games after having a big focus on mobile. I see a bit more of that happening, with mobile companies going toward VR or going toward Steam or selling to larger companies.
Racine: In mobile you need something huge in terms of marketing to reduce the risk of failure. Our strategy on mobile is to partner with big licenses, both on work for hire and our own mobile publishing strategy. We need a great concept, but also, there needs to be an IP or some kind of marketing that helps you get recognition in the app stores. For us, building Dead by Daylight — if it gets big enough on PC and console, it might be a mobile opportunity, because then it will reduce our risk. But going original on mobile right now — you need a concept that’s so strong and so different that the risk is very high.
Gendron: The vast majority of recent mobile games that have made it into the top-grossing spots and stayed there have been either license-based, or they’re coming from top publishers with the financial capability to push those games to the top.