The Callisto Protocol Developer Explains How its AI Heightens the Scares

Striking Distance Studios' chief technical officer Mark James talks about the role of AI, audio design, and more in the upcoming horror title.

Posted By | On 02nd, Oct. 2022

the callisto protocol

Developer Striking Distance Studios has stressed more than a few times that the “horror” in survival horror is very much going to be at the forefront with the upcoming The Callisto Protocol, and based on what we’ve seen of the Dead Space-inspired sci-fi game so far, it certainly seems like it’s going to live up to that billing. In a recent interview with VG247, the studio’s chief technical officer Mark James spoke more about that aspect of the experience.

In particular, James talked about the AI systems that have been implemented in The Callisto Protocol, and how they play a crucial role in amping up the scares- thanks in large part to something Striking Distance Studios refers to as its “vent system”.

“We have amazing AI,” James said. “Our AI will sometimes make the decision not to attack you. It will instead jump into a vent in front of you – making sure you see it happen – so you now know that an enemy is in there, and it’s just waiting for the next time it can pop out of another vent and attack you.”

Interestingly, the AI will behave in different ways, which means how the enemies – known in the game as Biophages – choose to attack you will vary from time to time.

“The AI is always finding the best way to attack,” he explained. “Sometimes that’s them trying to get closer to you. Sometimes they’re reacting to the way they’re playing to better take advantage of you. Say, for example, you keep using long-range ballistics – the enemy will move out of your line of sight, probably into a vent, and find another way to come to you.”

James went on to explain that The Callisto Protocol combines that dynamic AI with things such as its audio design to heighten the tension and make players feel more on edge.

“The first time that happens, when we get you thinking ‘why did that guy not attack me, why did it run away?’ – that’s when we’ve got you,” he said. “Because, as gamers, we assume that everything on the screen is going to attack us. The first time that doesn’t happen, we make you really uncertain. So then we can use the audio engine to give you little clues about where this thing is around you. You might hear it scuttling off just over there, or you might hear a distant bump, 20 feet away. Or we might even position it in another room. The AI is looking for the best time. Whatever is going to make it worse for you.”

Meanwhile, when you’re in combat, enemy AI will also adapt based on what you’re doing, so if there are attacks that you’re using too frequently, enemies will find change their behaviour accordingly- which is contextualized in the story as the Biophages’ mutations.

“If you repeatedly use the same type of attack, the enemy will intelligently change their behaviours,” James said. “It all links back to that changing virus – it’s mutating and evolving the humans that were in the prison to be better opponents. Opponents that can kill you more easily.”

The Callisto Protocol is due out on December 2 for PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, Xbox One, and PC.


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