callisto protocol docuseries episode two mastering horror atmosphere & tension featured image
Game: The Callisto Protocol
Content Type: Gaming News
Date: November 3, 2022

As part of the lead up to the release of their survival horror game The Callisto Protocol, developer Striking Distance Studios have been releasing episodes of a docuseries on the game entitled “Mastering Horror”. The developers have identified five key horror elements for their game, and it appears each episode of the docuseries will examine one or more of these elements. In addition to interviews with the devs, notable horror actors, FX people, composers, and more all weigh in on the specific concept of horror focused on in the episode.

The first episode was on the game’s brutality, and today’s episode dives into The Callisto Protocol’s “atmosphere and tension”. Read on for a brief TL;DW, or just watch the full episode below!


Mastering Horror Episode 2 Summary

The episode starts with a discussion surrounding the importance of tension and atmosphere. The first Alien movie is used as an example of atmosphere: in addition to the well-crafted environment, and the immersion in the day-to-day lives of the “space-truckers” on the Nostromo, the movie does a good job of making you feel just how far away from Earth — and safety — the characters truly are.

This is followed by a discussion on what atmosphere means: it’s defined as the space the player is in — the lighting, the size, the sounds, and how they work together to build the “attitude” of the current environment. It’s mentioned that “probably half” of the game’s development resources went into environmental design and atmosphere, and that a lot of idea were workshopped in order to come up with the design of the game’s prison and planet.

callisto protocol prison interior

Key influences on horror are mentioned, including James Cameron, Stanley Kubrick, and Ridley Scott. The devs talk about wanting players to “feel afraid opening every door”, and of making players want to ask questions like “Why are these cells empty?” Creature design is discussed, and how the concept of mutation is a part of the enemy appearance and the game’s environment. The idea of “emotional color” was used in conjunction with lighting in order to create specific moods (like disgust and fear). How environments help make the player feel isolated, trapped, confused, or curious is also covered.

The importance of sound in terms of the impact of a scene is discussed; the speaker on the DualShock controller will be utilized by the game, allowing for extra spooky sounds to come from right under the player’s nose. The importance of music is also mentioned, and how the team utilizes an Apprehension Engine (basically a machine that makes scary sounds) for the game.

apprehension engine callisto protocol docuseries
The Apprehension Engine for this project was built by Tony Duggan-Smith and Mark Kett (the original instrument being a collaboration between Tony Duggan-Smith and Mark Korven)

The episode ends with the developers expressing that they want the quality of the content they’re creating to “be on par with any film”.


If the clips in the latest episode are anything to go by, it appears Striking Distance Studios may have hit the mark with The Callisto Protocol. It certainly looks to be as terrifying as anything to come out of Hollywood. You’ll be able to get your hands on the game when it releases next month, December 2nd.

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tony duggan-smith
tony duggan-smith
1 month ago

Hey Daniel D! Just wanted to make sure you knew that this Apprehension Engine was built for this project by Tony Duggan-Smith and Mark Kett and that the original instrument was a collaboration between myself and Mark Korven, without whom’s request for such a thing, it would never have existed. We love how they have used it in this game and I’m sure it will be played in our household.

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