Dead by Daylight: Designing The Dredge
In Dead by Daylight’s new chapter Roots of Dread, the new Killer is The Dredge. A formless mass of twisted limbs writhing in the shadows, The Dredge is a manifestation of darkness itself. A uniquely frightening figure, it was imperative that The Dredge captured the spirit of a monster lurking beneath your bed. And while Dead by Daylight is most certainly a horror game, conjuring such a unique flavor of fear presented an exciting challenge for the game design team.
For one, its Reign of Darkness Power shrouds the map in a pitch-black state, turning simple navigation into a matter of life and death. During this supernatural nightfall, visibility becomes severely limited, making it so that Survivors can only see what’s directly in front of them. While this certainly brings an exciting new horror element to Dead by Daylight, such a drastic visual change was not without a few behind-the-scenes hurdles.
“One of the first things, and this is something people don’t often consider, is that we must think about the technical feasibility of our desired experience,” explains Patrick Harris, Dead by Daylight’s lead game designer. “Lighting levels and visibility levels are a very technical challenge, and when conceptualizing a Power like The Dredge’s, we have to consider that.”
“It becomes an interesting discussion between the tech side and the design side,” he notes. “The design side says we want an experience like this, and tech says doing exactly what you just said will have implications on performance. We work together to find a balance.
“It’s tricky to get the lighting and visibility to change dynamically in a match, maintain performance, and adhere to the original design desire. On top of that, you must then consider the feedback we get from our playtests, which feature a wide range of player skill.
“I’m not the most amazing Survivor player in the world, by my own admission,” Patrick says with a laugh. “When I faced The Dredge, I found the darkness to be very tough — especially in early iterations. A lot of the less experienced Survivors felt that. On the other side, many of the high-skilled players had each Map memorized. You could throw a blindfold on them, and they could still find the Generators.
“We had to find a balance where the high-skilled players were scared and impacted by the Power while the newer players were not completely overwhelmed. That was a tricky one, and that’s where the idea of having The Dredge’s aura be visible during the darkness came from. It helped strike a balance between the two groups while maintaining the fear factor. It also helps that when you see The Dredge, it’s absolutely terrifying.”
That’s only the beginning. The Dredge has the ability to teleport to any locker across the map, granting it an oppressive level of mobility. And should it teleport to a locker while a Survivor is inside? Some things are better left to the imagination.
“We’ve wanted a Killer that jumped out of lockers and scared Survivors for a while,” explains Patrick. “Something that takes a pillar of safety and flips it on its head. ‘There’s three lockers in this room, do I really want to go here?’ This is going to be the Killer that makes lockers scary.”
Survivors can take protective measures by locking a locker door, but there’s one problem. “You can only lock those lockers once,” says Patrick. “It’s not necessarily a great idea to run around and lock them all. If you do that at the beginning of the game, The Dredge is going to smash each lock and you’ll be in for a bad time. Slow your roll and be mindful.”
Dead by Daylight is an asymmetrical multiplayer game where two sides must go head-to-head, and striking an effective balance between Killer and Survivor is an integral part of the game design team’s toolkit. At the same time, both sides are made up of a wide-ranging spectrum of player skill, making it difficult to predict how the community will respond to a Killer’s competitive potential.
“You never know which tier a Killer will end up being until the community gets their hands on it,” muses Patrick. “Sometimes it’s because they figure out how to do something you never thought of. Sometimes they do something they shouldn’t be able to do. Lot of times, we’re just impressed with the creativity.”
It always helps when a Killer’s Power allows for the possibility of mind games, raising the skill ceiling and inviting a good old-fashioned battle of wits. While The Dredge’s Power allows for map-wide darkness and Locker teleportation, there’s an additional ability Survivors must fear: The Remnant. When The Dredge charges its Power, a static Remnant is created. From there, the Killer has two options: teleport to a Locker or instantly snap back to the Remnant.
Consider a scenario where a Survivor you’re chasing is running toward a locker. You prepare to cut them off by teleporting to a locker up ahead, charging your Power and creating a Remnant. After a few seconds, they realize what you’re planning and decide to double back by running toward you. Rather than teleporting to the Locker as originally planned, you can snap back to your Remnant and instantly resume the chase.
“When we did the initial playtests with The Dredge, we didn’t have the Remnant,” recalls Patrick. “It was one of the last parts of the Power to be added. It added a level of mind-gaming to The Dredge that wasn’t present, making for some interesting gameplay during chases. There’s an exciting level of decision-making.”
It’s clear that the game design team is excited for players to get familiar with The Dredge, whose immersive gameplay and unsettling visual design brings a new style of horror to The Entity’s Realm. This harmonious union of gameplay and character has become one of the game’s beloved pillars, and Patrick is keen to praise the work of Dead by Daylight’s Killer Designers. “The Killer Designer we have working on The Dredge, Janick Neveu, has been on the team longer than I have,” he notes. “He is an absolute expert at his craft. I won’t take any credit on The Dredge – Janick absolutely killed it. He constantly impresses everyone on the team with his fantastic Killer designs.”
Embody fear itself as The Dredge in Dead by Daylight’s brand-new chapter Roots of Dread, available on June 7.