Until Dawn has been in development for a very long time. It was originally announced as a PS Move game for the PS3 back in 2012. I’ve been going through the old footage, which looks weird (and in one case, kinda creepy!) now.
Sony and Supermassive Games have been trying to make an interactive slasher game work for years, but after Until Dawn was unveiled at Gamescom in 2012, the game disappeared. The company kept issuing statements confirming the project was still alive, but it wasn’t until two years later that Until Dawn finally resurfaced for PS4, and with a clearly reworked approach.
The 2012 trailer had some familiar beats, with a group of young people stranded on the mountain, hunted by something in the dark. The game did not, however, feature any of the celebrities—like Hayden Papanettiere—that would eventually lend their voice and likeness talents to the 2015 version of Until Dawn.
This trailer largely focuses on Jessica and Mike and their romantic detour to a small cabin in the woods, but it was always supposed to be about eight friends getting into trouble. There are even some scenes lifted practically verbatim.
Here’s the 2012 version:
And here’s the 2015 version, which is slightly more dramatic and terrifying:
It seems like the 2012 version might have had a different villain, too?
I don’t remember that guy running around, though maybe it’s an early take on the dude you think is killing everyone, when he’s actually trying to help.
The biggest difference between the two versions, however, is the shift from first-person to third-person. Back in 2012, Sony was still pretending it cared about making games for the Move, even though it was clear the motion controller trend was not only fading away, but Sony never had its heart in it.
But Until Dawn was trying to make novel use of the Move, as evidenced by this gameplay footage captured by BrasilgamerNet during an on-stage demo:
Originally, players were to navigate around the environment and shine a flashlight with the Move. The 2015 version actually keeps some of this motion functionality intact, allowing you to adjust the flashlight’s direction by tilting the controller. (It doesn’t really work, and I turned it off almost immediately.)
You also had the option of switching over to a gun, which would let you bust through certain doors and, presumably, kill enemies. In the version that actually shipped, guns only became part of the equation when the story demanded it.
Perhaps the strangest use of the Move comes while Jessica and Mike are getting hot ‘n heavy on the couch, and the player is tasked with...unzipping her jacket.
I’m not sure what’s weirder: how the presenter pauses for a second to, presumably, brag how “cool” this is or how such a mechanic made it into a formal stage presentation. Maybe it’s a sign of progress nothing like this is in the final game? I’m trying to rationalize here, people. Help me out.
The gameplay demo ends with a scene familiar to anyone who played the game, with Mike catching up to Jessica and hoping she’s okay.
Compare this to how it plays out (depending on your actions) in the final game:
Lots of games go through dramatic transformations during development, but it’s not often that we’re exposed to them. Not only am I glad Sony stuck by Until Dawn until it figured out what kind of game it needed to be, but it’s fascinating to see those changes. The industry usually buries all of his, hoping people never see the mistakes along the way. Sometimes, the mistakes are pretty interesting.