“I’ve seen a lot of horror. I mean one much horror,” says The Quarry’s creative director Will Byles. “Probably too much, and I’ve been doing it since I was a kid. My sister used to make me watch horror movies with her [laughs].”
The Quarry is the latest big-budget horror game from Supermassive Games, the team behind the anthology Until Dawn and The Dark Pictures, two games that have found huge audiences, but The Quarry is the developer’s best work yet.
Not only does the game look brilliant, capturing the fantastic performances of its Hollywood cast, but it makes your choices in the story feel like they have a real impact, with decisions you make early in the game extending to the end of the game. A ton of effort has clearly been put into making The Quarry close to the best game it could be.
It’s clear from speaking to Byles, The Quarry was born out of the team’s deep love for all things horror. The Quarry might not be the scariest horror game, but it’s one of the most ambitious and creative I’ve played in years.
A passion for terror
“So basically it’s playable teen horror,” says Byles, giving me The Quarry’s elevator speech. “It’s traditional teen horror, really, archetypal or clichéd teen horror. Everyone can live, everyone can die, as long as you play them in the game. If you die, you’re still dead. You don’t get better.”
The double meaning of the title also hints at what you’re getting yourself into. “The quarry itself is a place called Hackett’s Quarry,” he says, “and it’s a really evocative place to define a horror. Quarry also means ‘the hunted’ or what is hunted is the prey, so when the game starts you realize they are also the quarry.”
a darker image
Supermassive Games may be best known for Until Dawn, but they’re also behind The Dark Pictures anthology – unique stories exploring different sub-genres of horror.
Strangely, these dives into different avenues of the horrible affected the development of The Quarry in a more technical way than you might have expected. “We’ve been making The Dark Pictures for several years since Until Dawn,” explains Byles, “And with Until Dawn we had to write in Excel spreadsheets because there wasn’t the software to do that.
“Over the [course of] The Dark Pictures, we developed a very good narrative design system. We still wrote a script in Final Draft first, but then we split it into a playable storyboard mode with some software we’ve developed over the years. We earn a lot with [The Dark Pictures].”
the power of friendship
Almost from the first horror movies, teenagers were put in the role of the hunted. Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Black Christmas and Halloween all show young people being hunted down and murdered by some cold, adult figure. There’s something about this stage, no longer childish, not yet adult, that makes teenagers an excellent lens to explore larger themes, in the case of The Quarry, Supermassive wanted a story that delved into the evidence of friendships.
The Quarry “is really scary,” says Byles, “but it also has a degree of lightness. More than anything, it’s about relationships. It’s about how these things work under pressure.”
Byles is excited to examine how we play roles with our friends and what’s behind it all. “There’s a thing where people start with this kind of facade of the thing they portray and they shrink out,” explains Byles.
“That’s the persona they give you, but if you start tearing it down, with fear, danger, injury and potentially death, all these [acts] start to fall and then a real person comes out. So I really wanted to look at what the truth is in people as much as possible.”
This persona removal has happened in stories before, but it presents a particular challenge in a game. “When it’s an interactive story, we have to give you a choice of how you behave in those situations and what you would say in response to those things,” says Byles, which means you are, to some extent, choosing who a story is. character is under his persona. “So really, that’s what it’s about. It’s about the honesty of relationships.”
It’s in the demonstration of these slipping facades that The Quarry cast shines. As Byles suggests, each of The Quarry’s main characters seems shallow in the first intro, as if he’s putting up a facade.
Jacob, for example, starts out as the archetypal athlete. Confident, optimistic and a bit crass. As the threats mount, though, Jacob is shown to be really emotionally intelligent and clearly cares about the friends he has surrounded himself with.
“I’m always amazed at how adorable they are,” says Byles, talking about working with the likes of David Arquette, Brenda Song, Lance Henriksen and Justice Smith. “You hear stories about actors being cousins, but they were super adorable.”
In a sign that games like the anthology Until Dawn and The Dark Pictures are finding a huge audience, several cast members have come to Supermassive rather than the other way around. “A lot of them were actually asking to join the games and they’re obsessed,” reveals Byles. “Miles Robbins, who plays Dylan, is absolutely obsessed with Until Dawn. Siobhan Williams, who plays Laura, says everyone in that age group really understands, because they’ve seen stuff like that and played stuff like that, and they’re a part of it.
“Zach Tinker plays Jacob. He’s kind of a ‘douche’ character. the athlete. He was so energetic, super energetic and wanted to do all his own stunts. And so we left it!
“There’s a moment when he’s been chased by a monster and he’s running and skidding and [he] fell to the floor. Anyway, he backed away a little silently, and it turns out he literally broke his thumb. But, God bless him, he just kept going.”
Teenage counselors are just one part of The Quarry’s cast, of course. Several older and veteran actors also lent their likeness and voices to the game. “So Lance Henriksen, there’s Lin Shaye, Ted Raimi… David Arquette. There was a certain degree of bewilderment when they walked on set looking for where the camera would be. It’s like, ‘What are those little dots on you?’ They had to wear these helmets and the 3D camera capturing face things. All of this took a little getting used to, I think. But in the end, they nailed it.”
As is the case with many AAA games released in the last couple of years, the development of The Quarry certainly had its challenges. “The hardest thing, I think, really, was Covid. It was very difficult to come out to America,” says Byles. “We had to do a lot of work with the American Embassy to get there because no one from Europe was allowed to enter America.
“The Screen Actors Guild of America is super strict about [this], and this was all pre-vaccine. So everyone was tested every day. I had to wear three masks on set. I had to wear a cloth mask, an N95 mask, and a shield every time I approached an actor. So I couldn’t breathe [laughs].”
Despite the difficulties faced, The Quarry turned out to be a more than valuable experience for horror fans. While it’s certainly a spiritual successor to Until Dawn, the team at Supermassive Games has managed to surpass their previous work to deliver a genuinely ambitious horror experience that I personally won’t soon forget.