Still Wakes the Deep: how a dev’s own claustrophobia inspired the first-person horror, out June 18

With Still Wakes the Deep releasing on PS5 tomorrow, we wanted to highlight some of the inspirations for the environments of the upcoming first-person narrative horror. Early on we decided that Still Wakes the Deep would be set on an oil rig and the team wanted to play on different fears and phobias. One of the main fears is the ocean itself; another is being isolated.

One of the first levels I worked on from the ground up was a space inside the engineering section of the rig, with a lot of machinery inside these four echoey, metal walls.

I wanted to try and play with the fear of claustrophobia, which in hindsight was an odd thing,  because it’s a fear that is very vivid for me due to my own personal experiences. In the end I found it quite useful and intriguing to use my own triggers to build an environment that might in turn trigger the same emotions within players.

I pulled from my core childhood memory of claustrophobia a lot while we were developing Still Wakes the Deep.

I remember being at an event with lots of kids outdoors and they put out this big wooden crate with lots of little wooden compartments for the kids to play and crawl through.

As I got halfway through, I remember the twists and turns becoming narrower and the angles becoming harder to navigate.

My heart was racing, and I started to hyperventilate. I still remember the feeling of the wood under my fingers, the sounds, the smells.

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

Since there are no windows, you lose that sense of where you are. Now imagine moving through this space, while you’re up to your knees in a mix of water, oil, rust, and dirt, and you realise there’s something else in there with you. All you want is to get back to the open top of the rig for a breath of fresh air, but the only way through is by entering even narrower spaces.

The audio team did the brilliant job of capturing these vivid nightmarish sounds of horror.

In trying to trigger certain emotions with dark eerie visuals and audio I started to imagine how terrible it must feel to have all that moisture in the air with oily, dirty water seeping into your overalls.

You have a constant mix of these engineering sections like hot pipes and machinery but then every time you come outside you have terrible cold weather, cold steel. I wouldn’t say it’s comforting but I think it will make for a thrilling story.

There lie the strengths of The Chinese Room. On one side, we have people that love storytelling, whether it’s through movies or writing, and on the other we have musicians and audio technicians all from different walks of life.

Would I say that working on Still Wakes the Deep has conquered my fears? Probably not. If anything, it’s intensified fears of what’s lurking in the shadows! Still Wakes the Deep launches tomorrow on PS5.

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