The Blackout Club

Taiwanese game Detention (now sadly removed from sale) begins in a school, with a student who's fallen asleep in class. It's a straightforward and relatable scenario. Then that student wakes up, alone but for one other student asleep in the auditorium, during the start of a supernatural typhoon. The colors are muted and dark, and everything's in shadows. 

This is 1960s Taiwan, and as the game goes on the school changes. It becomes a corpse-filled world entrenched in horror and history during Taiwan's "White Terror," a 38-year-long period of martial law.

Detention is not the only game to explore the potential for schools to be spooky. They've appeared in the likes of Danganronpa, Silent Hill, Obscure, The Secret World, White Day: A Labyrinth Named School, Last Year: The Nightmare, and plenty more. 

Each of these games take something that's familiar—a place that's formative in complex ways for many of us. In theory a school is a place for learning, a place where we should feel safe. But the reality is that school is often not that for many people. Horrors of the reality include bullying and violence, which videogames play off. 

In Detention, the supernatural elements are built on the real history of Taiwan, and the story and the horror are embedded in that history. Red Candle Games uses the White Terror period, where academics were prosecuted "for fear that they might be communist sympathizers or resist Nationalist rule," according to the Taipei Times, to show that schools became places where fear was common during the period. At the story's center are students and teachers, one smuggling banned books into the school for an illegal book club. The supernatural element only reinforces that historical horror.

White Day: A Labyrinth Named School similarly uses history to influence its horror. In this game, which is set in Korea and made by a Korean developer, the school was once a hospital during the Korean War—and naturally, it's now haunted. Meanwhile, Last Year: The Nightmare has a more traditional horror movie feel, pitting five teenagers against a single murderer. The twist? It's five actual players against one, which is why it's frequently called "asymmetrical horror." The act of being hunted through a school echoes memories of bullying and violence.

...due to how noisy and lively they are during the day, places meant for children have a deeply somber quality when they close for the night.

Jordan Thomas

The Blackout Club, by developer Question, is a mix of both approaches. It uses the history of an area for inspiration—this time the United States National Radio Quiet Zone, where cellular and radio transmission towers and other devices are discouraged—paired with a creepy setting and systems that encourage terror. The game takes place in a fictional town in Virginia called Redacre, a quiet suburb that doesn't even have internet access, but does have an eerie song that may be the reason the town's adults are acting like a cult. It's disconnected from the rest of the world in a way that's disconcerting, just far enough from reality, with horror lingering under the streets.

There isn't strictly speaking a school in The Blackout Club, but the daycare facility in town serves a similar purpose, as developer Jordan Thomas tells me. "A huge area that we added at the end of early access is the Old Growth Daycare facility, where you can see the subtle manipulation of children that the adults—who would insist that they are not a cult—put them through, from quite early in their lives," Thomas says. "Secret doors in the basement. Vents to the The Song pipe into their brains during naptime. And so on."

Like in the other games, the setting is an important call-back to the core themes, a way of enhancing the spookiness of The Blackout Club's world. "We chose it mainly because of the complicated relationship with innocence that our antagonist has," Thomas says. "Rather than being purely predatory, it wants to make all of us truly, perfectly innocent again. And due to how noisy and lively they are during the day, places meant for children have a deeply somber quality when they close for the night."

Old Growth Daycare is a symbol of that innocence being twisted, the idea that history and horror are lurking in the spaces we know very well, the spaces we inhabit every day. And that's a spooky idea in itself—that something's hiding just underneath your everyday. For a lot of kids and teens, the school is that everyday place, as ubiquitous in your life as your bedroom, but scary in a way no adult will understand.

"It is their own neighborhood, the kind of backyard menace you feel sneaking around your own neighborhood in the dead of night for the first time," Thomas says. "All the adults are sleepwalking at night, controlled by a mysterious, pre-musical song from beneath the streets. So their distrust of adults is justified, the children are the sane ones."

The Blackout Club - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Nic Reuben)

Few things are as terrifying, or as potent in piercing morning s sedate veil, as the sudden outburst of an adult Canadian man, shrieking THE SHAPE. THE SHAPE IS COMING, through your desktop speakers.

In the Canadian adult s defence, however, one of those few things is The Shape itself: the Big Bad of stealthy co-op spookfest The Blackout Club. A relentless spectral apparition, only visible as a humanoid heat-blotch when you close your (in-game) eyes, The Shape is an omnipresent threat in TBC s uncanny suburbs, and the labyrinths beneath them. Whatever procedural fetch quests you and your one-to-four fellow players are tasked with during the game s 10-30 minute matches, The Shape will factor into your game plan.

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The Blackout Club

The Blackout Club is a co-operative crouch 'em-up that sees up-to four players assume the role of wily American teenagers who form a backwoods society dedicated to figuring out what the heckin' flip is wrong with their neighbourhood. Why do they keep waking up in strange places with blood on their clothes? Why are their parents sleepwalking in the street at night? And what is that weird-ass music emanating from underneath their homes? A lazy person might describe it as Thief meets Left4Dead. A lazy person, but also a correct one.

Setting up their headquarters in an abandoned rail-carriage, each night sees your teenage team embark on a mission into the neighbourhood to learn more about the mysterious entity invading your dreams. These missions are usually a combination of two randomly selected objectives, which could involve anything from putting up Blackout Club recruitment posters to following a trail of blood and seeing where it leads. You start out scouting the neighbourhood itself, but you'll almost always end up venturing beneath the houses, into a warren of white-walled tunnels simply known as "The Maze".


Developers Question have a strong heritage in immersive sim design, with credits that include Bioshock, Neon Struct, and Thief: Deadly Shadows. This heritage is apparent both in the style and systems of The Blackout Club. The neighbourhood's endless night is drawn in a rich, saturated palette reminiscent of Rapture's bloom-lit architecture, where the sky is a deep-ocean blue and each light is glaringly bright, emphasising just how visible you are when illuminated by them.

Read more

The Blackout Club - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Matt Cox)

If your cult leans into a certain kind of kooky, pop culture has taught me there’s a good chance some kids will come after you. The brave stalwarts of The Blackout Club have spent the past eight months defending humanity from the weakened prism of early access, but now the game’s properly out and they’ll have to step up their game. The spooky, co-opey stealth and hijinks ’em up is marking its launch with a new area. That would be a daycare centre, described by developers Question as “perfectly normal”.

Mhmmmm.

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The Blackout Club - rujuro


This marks the end of the Early Access period and the transition to full launch! Thanks to all the players who joined us on the journey to get here and who helped us grow and improve the game over the past 8 months!

OLD GROWTH

The biggest addition with the release of 1.0 is the 3rd large above ground region, "Old Growth". Old Growth is home to a perfectly normal daycare facility used by many families in Redacre. It is recommended you don't poke around in the basement though, employees only.



It also includes some woods and other outdoor spaces, including a playground. The size of Old Growth is close to the size of the two existing above ground areas combined and it brings with it new connections to the maze.


FIXES AND POLISH

In addition, the release into 1.0 brings a bunch of fixes and further polish to the game. Some areas that received particular attention are issues with collision that could make trees a pain to navigate around, problems with AI pathfinding, fixes to numerous level art issues, and lots more. For a full list, look here.

RUSSIAN SUBTITLES

Do to popular demand the 1.0 build has added Russian subtitles and interface!

As we have said since entering early access, with full launch comes a price increase. The game has far more to offer than it did when we first released in October, and the price has increased to reflect that.

Thanks again to everyone who has joined the club, we look forward to welcoming many more! Have fun uncovering the many mysteries that lie above and below Redacre's streets, and don't forget to close your eyes.

-Question
The Blackout Club - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Dominic Tarason)

Spooky co-op stealth ’em up The Blackout Club leaves early access on July 30th, after a short but busy run of updates. For those fashionably late (or just on time, really) to the party, it’s a four-player (or five, with invasions) immersive sim about a band of teens investigating a very haunted town. Here, sleeping townsfolk rise with eyes still closed, don masks and perform strange rituals in the streets and the tunnels below the town. It’s developed by Question (The Magic Circle) with a team including talent from Thief, Bioshock 2 and Eldritch – these folks know their sneaking.

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The Blackout Club

The co-op horror game The Blackout Club, about a group of kids investigating a horrific mystery in their spooky neighborhood, made a big impression when we looked at it last year, just ahead of its October 2018 launch on Steam Early Access: James called it "a legitimately terrifying cooperative game where the horror emerges from clever systems and enemies designed to ratchet up the tension using the same clear, unrelenting logic of the best movie monsters."

That's pretty high praise, and there have been multiple updates since then, which have fixed bugs and made performance improvements, and also added significant new content including missions, areas, and more oddball (that is, freaky-sounding) stuff like the Enhanced Horror System, which enables the game to record your "vocalizations" while you play (without impacting other microphone settings) and then "use it to create the most immersive possible horror experience, both for you and other players."

It's all apparently coming together well, as developer Question has announced that The Blackout Club will leave Early Access and go into full release on July 30. The full and proper launch of the game will see more fixes and polish, and the addition of a large new above-ground region. It will also bring about an increase on the $20 Early Access price—although it's currently on sale for $16/£12/€13 in the Steam Summer Sale.

The Blackout Club - rujuro


Hello to everyone who is checking us out during the sale! It is a great time to be here, since once the game launches the price will go up, so this is best deal for The Blackout Club that will exist for quite some time.

With the launch into 1.0 we will be opening up a large new region above ground as well as more polish and bug fixes! Now is the perfect time to get in and help the club fight back against what is happening in and under their town before the game leaves Early Access.

We have also released a hotfix that fixes a number of issues that users have reported since the last update, for a list of the changes, you can look here.

Welcome to Redacre, we're happy to have you! Don't forget to close your eyes.

-Question
The Blackout Club - rujuro


Welcome to the 9th update to The Blackout Club! With this update lots has changed as we get closer to release of 1.0. We have totally overhauled the reward system, implemented LOTS of big performance optimizations, and done a lot of polish work on the neighborhood.

So lets get into the details!

ECONOMY AND REWARDS

SNACKS
Rewards have been changed to introduce a new reward type on mission complete: Snacks. Snacks are traded in the new store located on the customization menu for character and hideout customizations (more about those below). You can only get snacks by completing missions, they are never purchased with real money, so this is not introducing microtransactions.

At the end of a mission you earn a badge based on the percentage of the possible XP you earned. The higher the badge, the more snacks you will receive. This means that to really get the most snacks, bonus evidence is important. In addition, as you level up, snacks and XP rewards will also rise to account for the bigger level (more ground to cover) and increased difficulty. Along with this the level curve has been adjusted to be less grindy.



THE STORE
With the addition of snacks comes a store where you trade them for customizations. The store has a weekly stock and a daily special. The weekly selection updates every week, and the daily every day (probably obvious).

HIDEOUT CUSTOMIZATIONS
You can now purchase customizations for your hideout with snacks! These come in the form of props and posters. When you purchase one you choose where to place it in the customization menu. In addition, when joining another person's game your customizations will come with you as long as the host doesn't have anything already in that slot!



SOME HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NEW SYSTEM
  • We have added lots of items to the "Accessories" category of customizations. These include a variety of masks, bandanas, and some other surprises.
  • More clothing options have been added to the other categories as well.
  • NO MORE DUPES! Since you choose what rewards to spend snacks on you never get duplicate items. They are no longer randomly dropped on mission complete.



SUPPLY DROPS
You can also now use snacks in missions for special favors from club headquarters! New Supply Drops have been added to the game in the form of Firework Stations - above ground and Contraband Lockers - in the maze. For some snacks you can request a specific item that you really need and the club will air drop it or send you the code for the locker! For when you REALLY need that tranq!

PERFORMANCE OPTIMIZATIONS
We have done a lot of work with this update to improve performance across the board, both for CPU and GPU. Almost everyone should see a pretty big performance boost, especially hosts.

WORLD POLISH
We have done a lot of work on the neighborhood to give more of a sense that people LIVE HERE. Each home now has more personality that tells a little more about the inhabitants, and when reading journals you might be able to connect some dots! We also did a fair amount of general polish on them as well.

LOCALIZATION
With this update we now have subtitles for German, Spanish, and French. There is still a little more polish work to do on these, but we believe it is fairly complete and playable. Please let us know!



TWO NEW MISSION TYPES

  • Record Behavior - In this mission you are required to set up a special circle that compels the enemies to engage in strange behavior. Set the trap, lure an enemy in, then record it as evidence!
  • Follow the Trail - this is a high level version of the rescue club kid mission, but you don't know where they were taken. You have to go to where they were abducted, record evidence in the area, then follow the trail that was left to where they are now. You won't know if they are OK until you find them!

There is lots more in this update including lots of bug fixes, the ability to increase the filter distance on available lobbies, and other surprises (what are those sleepers doing?) so keep a look out when playing. You can find additional details here. In addition we have done a lot of work preparing the next large above ground region, which will be unlocked with the next major update. As always thanks for playing, see you in the neighborhood!

-Question


UPDATE: Hotfix 6/2 for a few bugs, details posted in the change list

The Blackout Club - Patches


Welcome to the Seventh Early Access update to The Blackout Club!

Full Patch Notes for Update 8 Can Be Found HERE on the Forum

This update brings with it a lot of quality-of-life improvements, better UI, LOTS AND LOTS of behind-the-scenes optimization which will hopefully improve performance on lower-end machines, and some neat new features. We also did some balance changes, including changes to the Prank Caller skill tree.



NEW FEATURES/CONTENT:

  • You'll find some new kids hanging out in the Hideout, the Whisper Twins, a pair of random NPC kid buddies who occasionally discuss the latest rumors and events in Redacre after players complete missions.
  • We've also added a new experimental "Screenshot Mode" by popular request, which allows you to disable the HUD for a more immersive gameplay experience, or just to grab sweet beautiful screenshots. Press Alt+V to toggle this on/off. :)
  • You will find a new Club Handbook in the Hideout . This is a simple tutorial user guide to make our new user experience cleaner. (Let us know in the forums what else you wish you knew when starting the game, so we can improve the experience for future new players!)
  • and more!



BALANCE CHANGES:
  • The Prank Call skill tree received the most attention this update, and in general has received a bit of a nerf. The cooldown on this ability has been increased, and enemies will no longer fall for the entire prank call recording before hanging up. Also, durations have been added for hacked cameras and traps, so work fast!
  • We've made a bunch of background improvements to AI including their pathfinding in tight spaces and areas which require you to crouch. Some of your favorite hiding places may not be so safe in the future!
  • The LUCKY LOOT power has also changed to allow you to get a chance for double loot items for all field items in chests, not just ammo types.
  • and more!

Check out the full notes linked above for the rest (there's a lot more!). We didn't even mention all the new UI, including a new Ritual Menu! Now you can get rid of that body in style, before the Lucids get to you!



As always, we love to hear your thoughts in the comments and forums. Please check out the Discord server to find other players to play with, discuss strategies and tips, or share your speculation about the mysteries beneath Redacre!

Thanks and see you around the neighborhood!
-Question
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