Studio Spotlight: Supermassive Games

What were the biggest developments for Supermassive in 2014?
Pete Samuels, MD & co-founder: 2014 was a massive year for us as we re-announced Until Dawn for PS4 and took it out to events across the world. We’ve been delighted with the responses from press and gamers alike to our trailers and demos, but seeing and hearing player reactions first-hand was, for me, the highlights of the year.

I saw people at GamesCom contorting their bodies to cover their eyes whilst playing, and enjoyed the tremendous and totally unexpected crowd-participation moment at the keynote during the PlayStation Experience event in Vegas in December. Until Dawn certainly grabbed attention in 2014 and that has to be the biggest development for Supermassive so far.

How does Until Dawn stand out from your previous titles? How will it show off what you can do?
Samuels: In the early days of the studio, which really isn’t that long ago, we cut our teeth on some small to mid-sized family-games. Until Dawn is a substantially larger, darker and more mature experience than anything we’ve done before, and it’s where we always wanted the studio to go.

We are only six years old. Arriving so quickly at a place where we are about to deliver something as significant as Until Dawn shows that the studio is capable of anything. We have an exceptionally talented and driven team and we’ve developed great relationships with some outstanding external partners, and we simply couldn’t have arrived here if that wasn’t the case.

How did Hayden Panettiere come to be involved in the game?
Samuels: When we re-wrote and began to re-cast Until Dawn for PS4, the game’s director Will Byles said: “I want Hayden Panettiere to play the role of Samantha”. So we approached her and she said “yes”. Almost that simple, although we had invaluable help from an LA-based casting director, Debi Manwiller, who’s well versed in casting for big US TV series.

Hayden’s familiarity with games – from some previous voice work she’d done – made her less daunted than some by the prospect. She was a genuine joy to work with, bringing a contagious energy to the stage. We consulted closely with Hayden on concepts for Sam’s costumes – including the ‘magic towel’ – during which she was very open and very positive and helped us to hone down to the right styles for Sam.

How are you drawing on experience with previous titles for Until Dawn?
Samuels: Our aim has always been to make the game as enjoyable to watch as it is to play, and our experience with movement controllers – coupled with the DualShock 4’s capability and sensitivity – has certainly helped us to achieve that. By mapping characters’ actions to whatever the player is considering or choosing, a spectator is able to see and understand the player’s actions and intentions from the character’s actions on screen.

We’re also using the Killzone 4 engine, with which we have some experience through previous work with Guerrilla, although we’ve made significant modifications specifically for Until Dawn’s look and feel.

What are your plans for 2015?
Samuels: A few of us are looking at what’s next, and we’ve some prototyping and conceptual work going on, but right now the team is totally focused on making Until Dawn.
We expect to be hiring for new projects in the second half of this year.

Tell us something about Supermassive Games that many people may not know.
Samuels: Each year we have celebrated our studio’s anniversary with a big event and party in London, and a new ‘limited edition’ T-Shirt for every team member. On our first anniversary we handed out about 30 T-shirts. Five years later, we handed out 115.

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