Key art for Dead by Daylight showing four survivors threatened by looming shadowy killers.

Dead by Daylight is slowly absorbing the entire horror genre

By Kazuma Hashimoto, Contributor

It’s 11:32 PM and I’m hunched in front of my PC playing Dead by Daylight, my mic pulled close to my mouth as I anxiously repair an in-game generator. I can hear my heartbeat in my ears as I spot a faint red light shine through the mouth of the classroom I’m in—a recreation of Silent Hill’s Midwich Elementary School.

A ghoulish white mask leans in, watching as I nervously fiddle with wires. Ghostface from Scream is watching me, but he doesn’t attack. Not yet. I sprint out in the hallway and nearly run into Resident Evil’s Leon S. Kennedy, controlled by one of my friends. Over comms, I tell him that Ghostface is in the classroom and we immediately head towards another generator, abandoning our progress.

Five minutes later, I’m watching Chris Redfield (also from Resident Evil) bleed out on the floor as Alien’s Ellen Ripley loops Ghostface around some shrubbery in the courtyard. Leon is already dead, and David King—one of Dead by Daylight’s original cast—is off somewhere trying to open up the exit gate so we might have a chance to escape.

But we don’t make it. Ghostface kills us off one by one.

This is the kind of experience—a mashup of killers and would-be victims from across the world of horror movies and games—that you can only have in Dead by Daylight.

From monsters to horror

Dead by Daylight in and of itself is an amalgamation of characters and concepts drawn from different horror franchises. Its mascot character, The Trapper, is effectively Behaviour Interactive’s own take on Jason from the Friday the 13th series.
Dead By Daylight Gameplay 7
As the game’s reach and popularity expanded and grew, so did its general roster. Behaviour Interactive came out swinging, putting out the game’s first licensed collaboration just months after Dead by Daylight’s release. Famed masked killer Michael Myers and his mainstay “victim” Laurie Strode from the Halloween franchise arrived in time for 2016’s Halloween celebrations. This became the first of many collaborations to grace Dead by Daylight, with Behaviour Interactive adding a steady stream of Chapters featuring notable horror properties from both film and video games.

Behaviour Interactive knew from the start that it had something special on their hands. Both Mathieu Cote, Head of Partnerships, and Dave Richard, Senior Creative Director, said they always knew the game would succeed.
"When asked about the intention behind Dead by Daylight, Cote mentioned that it was actually inspired by 2K and Turtle Rock Studios’ Evolve. The team at Behaviour Interactive felt that there was nothing else quite like it."

When asked about the intention behind Dead by Daylight, Cote mentioned that it was actually inspired by 2K and Turtle Rock Studios’ Evolve. The team at Behaviour Interactive felt that there was nothing else quite like it.

“There was very little happening in that space,” said Cote. “On our side, there was no profound reflection on the fact that, yes, this is a piece of the market that needed something. It was never about making something niche. It was a cool idea that appealed to us as gamers, so we went with it.”
Dead By Daylight Gameplay 4
Richard mentioned that a lot of the people on the development team are fans of horror. “Even before we were working on Dead by Daylight, we had ideas of going into horror because it’s a little bit more of a niche,” he said. “When horror succeeds, it strikes the hearts of many in deep ways. And that’s what we wanted.”

To dig into the rich history of horror, the studio leaned on its vast network of connections. “Behaviour is a company that has been making games for other people for the past 30 years. We’ve been in contact with a lot of licensors—movie licensors, a lot of people in Hollywood and around—so we already had a couple of contacts there,” said Cote. “But we also had a reputation for taking someone else’s property and creating something new with it—something that would create an homage or pay respects to it. That helped us secure those first few licenses since we didn’t have anything to offer.”

While those connections helped with Dead by Daylight’s earlier collaborations, it was still challenging. But things got a bit easier for Behaviour Interactive as Dead by Daylight grew and proved its strength.

“Now the conversation today, eight years later, is very different,” said Cote. “Talk to anyone in licensing and say ‘Dead by Daylight’ and they go, ‘Yeah, I know what you’re talking about.’”

Silent Hill

While there have been many massive collaborations since the launch of Dead by Daylight, Silent Hill has had perhaps the biggest and most lasting impact on the game and the team that continues to nurture it.
Dead By Daylight Gameplay 6
“It was a huge deal,” Cote said. “Until then we had done a lot of movies and other mediums that are different. All of it was horror classics, so a little niche. But video games are different. It was being acknowledged and legitimized as the ‘Hall of Fame’ of horror. These legendary creators—literally, when you talk about Resident Evil and Silent Hill, these are in the pantheon of video game gods. We were like ‘You’re gonna come into Dead by Daylight?’ and they were like ‘Yes, we’re going to proudly stand next to your creation,’ and that was absolutely amazing.”

And Silent Hill’s inclusion in Dead by Daylight didn’t impact just the developers at Behaviour Interactive. It also had a monumental effect on the game’s reach in the Japanese market, according to both Cote and Richard.

“PlayStation Plus solidified and surprised us with the Japanese community,” said Richard. At the time, Dead by Daylight had managed to maintain a healthy playerbase on PC—but it was when the game was available to obtain entirely for free via PlayStation Plus that it exploded internationally.

Since then, there have been numerous collaborations within Japan. Dead by Daylight’s even been featured on Japanese television multiple times and special pop-up shops featuring Dead by Daylight-themed food and merchandise have appeared in the region.
Dead By Daylight Gameplay 3
The success of Dead by Daylight in Japan was also reminiscent of the first time Richard and Cote said they knew the game was going to succeed. Dead by Daylight’s first Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) outing offered a clear sign that the team was onto something. Behaviour Interactive’s booth was nestled next to the Twitch booth, and Cote said that it was “flooded by content creators” saying how great the game would be for streaming.

“That started the conversation on how we could promote the game and our grassroots approach to marketing the game,” said Cote. “We had an inkling, but that sort of cemented it.”

Building an engaging and inclusive game

Behaviour Interactive continues to focus on the future of Dead by Daylight. Among the things that the team wants to improve is how inclusive the game is, Cote said. Behaviour Interactive introduced characters with varying body types, sexualities, and ethnicities, rounding out a roster where anyone can play as any character they’d like through the game’s Perk system. That, and folding in more crossovers, is the current focus of the team, which has grown from 30 people to a team of hundreds over the lifetime of Dead by Daylight.
Dead By Daylight Gameplay 10
“I think the team prides themselves on working to build a game that is inclusive, accessible, and can represent a lot of different people around the world,” said Richard.

Cote added that as creators, they have a responsibility to deliver something positive or bring some change. “Having some people reach out to us and say ‘You’ve created a character that I see myself in and I feel seen,’ that is absolutely amazing,” Cote said. “There are a lot of marginalized communities that see themselves represented in video games, or culture in general, and I think it’s important to do just that.”

Dead by Daylight is available now on the Epic Games Store.