Polish studio-developer Bloober Team prefers to attribute their latest titles to their own genre — «hidden horror». By this term, Bloober refers to the horror sub-genre, which is much more focused on emotion and psychology, while most horror is focused on the «survival» prefix.

According to the developers, the main goal of their games is to enable players to get rid of their fears by dealing with the problems of the protagonist.

“We don’t want to tell the players how to behave or tell them what is right and what is wrong. We simply offer them a moral dilemma, which ideally leads to an emotional state that we call Catharsis 2.0,” said Rafal Basai, producer of the studio.

Interestingly, five or six years ago, Bloober Team was doing their business on a different level, not touching the horror genre, and even more so not trying to make each of their games conceptual. However, everything changed with the release of Layers of Fear in 2016, and on January 28, 2021, the studio’s main creation, The Medium, will be released.

Bloober Team

Bloober Team was founded in 2008 by Piotr Babeno and Piotr Belyatovich, and initially the studio functioned as a branch of the Nibris company developing titles for Nintendo, but over time, the developers wanted more freedom. The studio planned to keep working on Nintendo games, but was eager to explore other avenues.

“We think that the future of the gaming industry lies in digital distribution. This is where the Bloober Team should be focusing, despite the fact that boxed games will not disappear from store shelves for a long time, ”Babeno said in 2008.

In 2012, Bloober released its own title, A-Men, for the PlayStation Vita, which was immediately followed by a sequel. The turning point was the release of Basement Crawl on PS4. The game was received so badly that the developers decided to completely rethink their approach to game design. Having redesigned the concept of the game, they received BRAWL, which turned out to be much better than its predecessor and was distributed free of charge to all Basement Crawl owners.

“Finally, we firmly decided that we want to create only those projects that we will be proud of. We had a difficult conversation with investors, because we were ready to give ourselves completely to the idea, even if it could fail financially, ”Babeno.

Bloober Team

Bloober Team

Layers of Fear (2016)

In February 2016, the first attempt at the Bloober Team pen in the first-person horror genre, namely Layers of Fear, was released. This title not only turned out to be the studio’s first truly successful and impressive project, but also became a turning point in the history of the Bloober Team, which decided to become one of the main ambassadors of the psychological horror industry.

“As soon as we thought about creating horror, we realized that we aimed to become the Blumhouse (the film company that produces series such as Paranormal Activity, Astral, Sinister) of the video game world,” admitted Babeno.

Bloober Team

Interestingly, one of the main triggers for all the changes was PT, the acclaimed Silent Hills demo by Studio Hideo Kojima, which made a lot of noise in 2014. Inspired by the quality of the scary atmosphere and the success of PT, Bloober immediately decided to develop its next project, focusing on this game.

In the story, the player takes on the role of a perfectionist artist and watches as he plunges into madness, painting his life’s work and exploring his huge house.

Bloober Team

Bloober Team

In mid-2015, Layers of Fear was launched in early access on Steam and immediately found a large number of fans, which led to a contract with the publisher Aspyr Media.

When the full version of the title reached the players, they were satisfied with the Bloober Team methods, in which one could see echoes of both classic and Kojima’s Silent Hill along with a modern approach to horror from the position of the victim.

“We’ve received a lot of messages from players saying that Layers of Fear has helped them solve problems in their personal lives. For example, one woman said that after playing the game, she finally understood why her husband left her ten years ago. She was so immersed in the game that she was able to recognize the problems and accept their consequences,” Basai said.

Bloober Team

Bloober Team

DLC Inheritance, released in August 2016, revealed the plot from the other side, inviting players to act as the daughter of the protagonist of the original story. She must return to her father’s house, find the cause of his obsession, and face her childhood memories.

In 2018, Layers of Fear: Legacy was released, a remastered version of the game for the Nintendo Switch, including DLC ​​and fully adapted to the console. Legacy scored higher than the original and became one of the only horror games on the Switch at the time.

Bloober Team

Bloober Team

Observer (2017)

The developers began discussing the concept of their next game Observer shortly before the release of the full version of Layers of Fear in 2016. First of all, the team decided that they wanted to work with a cyberpunk setting, however, to add originality to the style, they moved it to Eastern Europe.

“When we finished Layers of Fear, we realized that in the next title we want to completely flip the setting and do something unusual with the horror genre. Our screenwriter Andrzej Madjak came up with several ideas, one of which turned out to be cyberpunk horror,” Basai said.

Bloober Team

Bloober Team

The Observer was first shown at E3 2016, with the slogan «What would you do if someone hacked into your fears?» set the theme.

Events are developing in 2084, when people who survived the war and the so-called digital plague are completely obsessed with drugs, virtual reality, and cybenetic implants. The player takes on the role of Daniel Lazarski, a detective who hacks the minds of suspects in order to use their feelings or thoughts in court.

Bloober Team

Bloober Team

Among other things, popular actors Arkadiusz Jakubik and Rutger Hauer were involved in the development, the latter of whom starred in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, one of the most iconic films in the history of cyberpunk.

Observer was even better received by Layers of Fear, showing that the team knows a lot about psychological horror films. Critics were especially pleased with the aesthetics of the game, the way the Poles beat cyberpunk, as well as the setting of the title as a whole. The Observer was even nominated for «Best World» by Giant Bomb and won «Best Setting» by Game Informer.

Bloober Team

Bloober Team

Layers of Fear 2 (2019)

Working on the sequel to Layers of Fear, the developers wanted to re-engage everything that worked in the debut. Claustrophobic interiors, levels that change before our eyes, as well as a deep storyline once again delighted the players, but in a different setting.

The player takes on the role of an actor, the star of the «Golden Age of Hollywood», who has received an offer to play a leading role in a film from an enigmatic and eccentric director on an ocean liner. The actor will explore his role under the instructions of this same director, whose voice was given by none other than the actor Tony Todd, who played Candyman in the horror film series of the same name. As a result, the «cruise» on the ship will turn for the actor into a journey through the depths of his own consciousness.

Bloober Team

Bloober Team

“When you have been portraying other people all your life, you risk losing yourself,” the developers noted.

As for the visual style of the game and gameplay, the main source of inspiration for the developers was the entire history of cinema, regardless of genre. Even inattentive players will be able to notice in Layers of Fear 2 references to a large number of cult films, including The Shining, Trip to the Moon, Seven, Fight Club, Psycho, The Call, and even the famous clip of Aphex Twin «Rubber Johnny», which, by the way, became one of the starting points of another horror from the first person — Outlast.

Critics received Layers of Fear 2 almost as well as the first part, but a completely different title received much more attention in 2019.

Bloober Team

Bloober Team

Blair Witch (2019)

Having established itself in horror, Bloober could not help but notice that the 20th anniversary of one of the cult and most successful horror films, Blair Witch Project, is approaching.

This time, the developers had to work with an already created universe, which was successfully combined with their love of psychological horror. They introduced some fresh gameplay elements, like solving puzzles with the camera and a companion dog, and experimented with the combat system.

Bloober Team

Bloober Team

According to the plot, former police officer Ellis and his faithful dog named «Bullet» are investigating the disappearance of a boy near the city of Burkittsville. The search very soon leads Ellis to the very Black Hills forest, where he will have to face not only his fears, but also the Blair Witch herself.

While the player does not have to watch any of the Blair Witch films to navigate the game, the developers have noted that it is possible that the events of their title will influence future film releases in the lineup, which is currently owned by media company Lionsgate.

Bloober Team

Bloober Team

On the one hand, Blair Witch received rather restrained reviews and ratings, but on the other hand, it may have become the first worthy sequel to the cult original, given that all its sequels and spin-offs did not even come close to the quality of the 1999 film. The brainchild of Bloober Team was praised for its excellent atmosphere and sound design, and all the criticism was focused on the game’s gameplay shortcomings.

Bloober Team

The Medium (2021)

In 2012, Babeno’s wife, who is also an employee of Bloober Games, came up with a concept in which the player could interact with two worlds at the same time. True, the implementation of the idea had to wait.

“Our engineers came up to me and said: “Peter, we can do everything, but the game will only run on the most powerful PCs and certainly not on the current generation of consoles, because it was necessary to render two worlds at the same time,” Babeno explained.

Bloober Team

However, when the developers received the dev kits for the next consoles, they realized that the very moment had come when they were ready to demonstrate The Medium to the world.

«It’s important to be unique in this day and age, and I hope The Medium can do the job.»

The Silent Hill series, in which the main characters constantly switched between the two worlds, became the main source of inspiration for the upcoming Bloober title. Moreover, the studio managed to persuade the composer and producer of the Japanese line Akira Yamaoka to write the soundtrack for the game together with Arkadiusz Reikowski. Also, the aesthetics of the title were influenced by the work of the Polish artist and photographer Zdzislaw Beksiński.

Bloober Team

***

Most likely, the Bloober Team is in for a great year. The studio just released Observer: System Redux for PS5 and XSX/S, not to mention the many projects coming out in 2021 under Bloober subsidiary publisher Feardemic.

And yet the main expectations are connected with The Medium. The developers are so confident that they can revolutionize the world of video games that in 2018 they patented their technology.

“The Medium is unique not only within our portfolio, but throughout the industry as a whole. We have received a patent, which means that if in the future giants like Activision or Sony want to implement something similar, they will need our permission, ”summed up Babeno.

Bloober Team

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