Developer interview: Layers of Fear (2023)

If you enjoy horror as much as we do, you’re probably looking forward to Layers of Fears, which Bloober Team and Anshar Studios are putting the finishing touches on ahead of the game’s release on June 15th. Reimagining and expanding upon the first games in the series, it’s shaping up to be a gorgeous finale, and we were fortunate enough to chat with the team about the game. Joining us are Szymon Erdmański, the lead producer at Bloober Team, Dominika Czuber, art director for Anshar Studios and Krzysztof Szaton, executive producer at Anshar Studios.

Why and when did you decide to revisit Layers of Fear?

Szymon Erdmański: One of the biggest motivators in returning to the series was our desire to pay tribute to all the support our fans have given us over the years. Since the original Layers of Fear was released in 2016, we’ve truly grown as a company and as a studio, in large part due to the enthusiasm of our fanbase. We wanted to honor that community, as well as the games that initially drew their attention to Bloober Team.

Dominika Czuber: When you combine that desire with the opportunity to work with the technological capabilities of the Unreal Engine 5, the decision to revisit the series came naturally. We now consider the upcoming Layers of Fear (2023) to be the crowning work for the whole franchise, and we couldn’t be more excited to share it with players everywhere!

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Can you tell us about any new or different gameplay mechanics that will be introduced in the reimagined Layers of Fear?

Krzysztof Szaton: One of the most important new gameplay mechanics is the lantern. This device—as you might imagine—can be used to dispel the darkness that often threatens to envelop the player, but that’s not its only function. It can also be used to solve puzzles, destroy certain objects, and confront enemies.

How will the narrative of the new Layers of Fear differ from the original game?

Krzysztof Szaton: On a narrative level, our goal with Layers of Fear (2023) was to both enhance and expand upon the stories of the prior games. This led us to introduce new plotlines—including a brand-new chapter, entitled “The Final Note”, which offers an alternate point of view on the first game’s storyline.

As well, we’ve added a new character, The Writer, whose own story acts as the connective tissue between each entry in the Layers of Fear series. The result is a far more unified narrative overall, one that we hope will resonate with fans.

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How will the team make use of new technology and the experience they’ve gained since the original game?

Dominika Czuber: Working with the Unreal Engine 5 really opened up the possibilities for us, technologically speaking. For example, we were able to utilize the Lumen illumination system for dynamic lighting, as well as Niagara visual effects to create particle effects. These are the kinds of things that simply weren’t an option back in 2016, and we really challenged ourselves to maximize the technical performance of Layers of Fear (2023).

Szymon Erdmański: As mentioned, Bloober Team has grown a lot since we first started, both in size but also in terms of the development of our craft. It’s exciting to see veterans of the team put their experience to work, just as it is to see newer members make substantial contributions to the final product.

What has been the biggest challenge during the development process of the new Layers of Fear?

Krzysztof Szaton: It’s always difficult to return to a series, but in this case our passion helped mitigate some of those concerns. We knew we had the opportunity to enhance the series overall, and to create something that could serve as the definite Layers of Fear experience. That said, we certainly encountered challenges as we set about deciding what was most crucial to achieving that goal, whether it was narrative decisions or introducing new gameplay mechanics in a way that felt organic and unintrusive.

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Can you give us some insight into the art design of the new Layers of Fear and how it has evolved from the original game?

Dominika Czuber: In a way, this relates to the previous question, as we had to both maintain the art style of previous titles while upgrading it to showcase the technological capabilities of next-gen platforms. We pride ourselves on creating impactful horror images, whether that be in character design, setting details, or even in the general atmosphere into which players immerse themselves.

The graphical fidelity allowed for by Unreal Engine 5 is what really elevates the art style into something wholly new—not just in terms of realism, but also in detail, composition, and movement.

How important is the sound design in Layers of Fear, and can you talk about any new techniques or technologies that will be used in the upcoming release?

Szymon Erdmański: Sound design is of crucial importance, not just for Layers of Fear (2023), but for any horror game. We want players to feel truly immersed in the story, and SFX and music always play a large role in that.

We were very lucky to collaborate once more with Arek Reikowski, who worked on The Medium and prior Layers of Fear titles. His compositions include the use of piano and string instruments, and help shape the chilling atmosphere of the new titles.

What’s the current focus for the team, and what’s left to do before the release of the game?

Krzysztof Szaton: For now, our focus is on putting the final touches to Layers of Fear (2023) as we approach the game’s release in June. We like to think of it as our magnum opus, and we hope that players will feel similarly!

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