It's funny now to think about the hysteria that followed Scorpion cartoonishly ripping someone's spine out in the original Mortal Kombat, but as graphical fidelity in games continues to improve, the line between simulated gore and the real thing can get blurry. Some developers embrace those advances—developers on The Callisto Protocol reportedly studied "real-life examples of horror and gore"—but Tripwire Interactive is taking a different sort of approach with the upcoming zombie shooter Killing Floor 3.
Instead of looking at "human injury type stuff" for inspiration, Tripwire Interactive creative director Bryan Wynia told us during a Gamescom interview, Killing Floor 3's developers are casting back to the action and horror films of the 1980s, when the blood, guts, and all-out violence were so over the top, "It made it palatable."
"When we're looking at reference and inspiration, to be honest, it's really like going through our VHS and DVD collections and looking at a variety of classic horror movies," Wynia said. "What were the things that were burned in our brains as kids that inspired us to make games that we can then be inspired by to inspire the next generation?
"Aliens and Predator—that's so overused but they're so classic and inspired so many people. Where we find those references really hit the Killing Floor world is basically, in those films you had a group of super powerful badasses having to fight tooth and nail just to survive, and at the end of both those films barely anyone survived. They used every last bullet that they had. That's when Killing Floor is at its best, when we leave a game and we're literally wiping the sweat from our brow and we just barely survived. That's when we know we're heading in a great direction."
Tripwire does take inspiration from the real world for Killing Floor 3—Wynia said it's important to keep the game "grounded in reality" so it connects with players—but not always from obvious sources. For example, the turkey.
"I was preparing a turkey for Thanksgiving," Wynia said. "And so you have this raw turkey out on the table. And the membrane and the arm of the wing was such an interesting texture that I was taking pictures of like my family's Thanksgiving dinner, to basically show the art team of like, this is what I'm thinking the flesh [of the creature] would be. Yeah, my wife was like, please just cook the turkey already. Work is over."
Tripwire's ultimate goal, simply put, is to ensure players are swimming in blood and guts and bits of bone and brain matter and the occasional errant eyeball and whatever else comes out of an undead horror when it's wracked with small arms fire—"gibs," reportedly coined by id Software co-founder Adrian Carmack back in 1993, is the generally accepted term for it—and ensuring that nobody's really bothered by the experience.
"Gore has always been a staple of the franchise," Wynia said. "And it's something that we're continuing to improve upon. The thing that we think about gore, it's basically graphic design meets graphic violence.
"We want players who [are] like, 'Oh shit, that felt great,' and not, 'Oh shit, I'm going to be sick'."
Killing Floor 3 was announced earlier this week as a "gruesome graphical vision" powered by Unreal Engine 5, which should make those sticky bits look very sticky indeed. It doesn't have a release date yet, but it's available for wishlisting on Steam.