Still Wakes the Deep: how the creator’s claustrophobia inspired first-person horror, premiere on June 18

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With Still Wakes the Deep launching tomorrow on PS5, we wanted to highlight some of the inspirations for the environments of the upcoming first-person horror game. Early on, we decided that Still Wakes the Deep would take place on an oil rig, and the team wanted to play on various fears and phobias. One of the main concerns is the ocean itself; another is isolated.

One of the first levels I worked on from scratch was the space inside the engineering section of the platform, with a lot of machinery inside these four echoing metal walls.

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I wanted to try to play with the fear of claustrophobia, which in hindsight was a strange thing because it is a fear that is very bright to me due to my personal experiences. Ultimately, I found it quite useful and intriguing to exploit my own triggers to build an environment that, in turn, could evoke the same emotions in players.

As we worked on Still Wakes the Deep, I learned a lot from my core childhood memory of claustrophobia.

I remember I was at an outdoor party with a lot of kids and they put out this huge wooden box with lots of little wooden compartments for the kids to play and crawl around.

As I got halfway through, I remember the turns getting tighter and the angles getting harder to navigate.

My heart was racing and I started hyperventilating. I still remember the feel of wood under my fingers, the sounds and smells.

When our main character Caz enters the engineering section of the oil rig, you immediately feel trapped. The corridors are narrow, the ceilings are low, every surface is metal, and there is a lot of heat and moisture trapped in the air around you.

Since there are no windows, you lose track of where you are. Now imagine moving through this space while you are knee-deep in a mixture of water, oil, rust and dirt, and you realize that there is something else there with you. All you want to do is get back to the open top of the platform to get some fresh air, but the only way to do that is to get into even tighter spaces.

The sound team did a great job capturing these bright, nightmarish horror sounds.

As I tried to evoke some emotion with obscure, eerie visuals and sounds, I began to imagine how terrible it must feel to have moisture in the air and greasy, filthy water seeping into the suit.

You have a constant mix of engineering sections like warm pipes and machinery, but every time you go outside you have terrible weather, icy steel. I wouldn’t say it’s comforting, but I think it will be an exhilarating story.

This is the strength of The Chinese Room. On the one hand, we have people who love telling stories, whether through films or writing, and on the other, we have musicians and sound technicians with different walks of life.

Would I say that working on Still Wakes the Deep overcame my fears? Probably not. If anything, an increased fear of what lurks in the shadows! Still Wakes the Deep releases tomorrow on PS5.

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