Dead Space 3 Interview – Discussing Co-Op, Survival Horror and Not 'Going Action' With Steve Papoutsis
Written Tuesday, November 20, 2012 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Released back in 2008, the original Dead Space was a masterclass in survival horror with outstanding audio and visuals that brought its setting of the seemingly abandoned USG Ishimura mining vessel to startling life. A game that ratcheted up the tension at every turn, Dead Space nailed its lonely atmosphere right out of the gate, you could hardly blame the fans for being worried that Dead Space 2 might be going 'too action' for their tastes.
Confounding expectations, Dead Space 2 was for all intents and purposes the sequel fans were hoping for, yet there's still a lingering sense that Dead Space 3 might be walking down the third-person shooter route, a notion brought about by the introduction of Isaac's new dodge-roll manoeuvre, his ability to crouch and use cover.
Visceral Games' Executive Producer, Steve Papoutsis dispels any such notions, affirming to all-comers that Dead Space 3 is Dead Space as you know and love it, despite the added fluidity of movement and its new co-operative component that introduces the tortured soul, Sergeant John Carver. If you're still worried that Dead Space 3 is going off the rails, then let Papoutsis allay those fears. “Dead Space 3 is going Dead Space...” he tells us.
What's the one question you get sick of being asked about Dead Space 3?
Wow. Boy... I actually don't mind being asked questions, because that means people are excited and interested about what the team's doing. But to answer your question, the one that really steams my clams or frustrates me and flusters me a bit is when people want to classify Dead Space and ask, “is it going too action? Is it not going to be horror?” And my answer to that question is Dead Space is going Dead Space. In order to make a Dead Space game, it has to have some very specific things. Those things include tension, immersion, a really intense and interesting atmosphere, action, horror and thrills. If it has those things, then it can be a Dead Space game. If it doesn't have those things, then it probably isn't delivering on what those people expect of a Dead Space game.
Where do you think these assumptions and accusations that Dead Space is supposedly “going more action” have sprung from?
That's hard to say. I really don't know. I think people become fearful, and when they really like something they like it for very specific reasons, and when things change, change is scary for people. No pun intended there, but change is scary for people, so they kind of start fearing the worst and when people get on the forums or whatever, they start chatting and throwing around things, and people jump to conclusions, and I guess that's how it starts. They see something we show of the game and they get scared. For instance, this year we went to E3 and we consciously wanted to show what was new in the game, so we showed some things that became 'hot button' items for the community. We expected to have people show concern, but if we had come out and shown the exact same game as Dead Space 1 or Dead Space 2, I think we'd be dealing with a different set of questions right now.
Beyond co-op, what would you say is the most exciting new aspect of Dead Space 3?
I would have to say our weapon crafting system. I think it's a unique take in the sense that we're going away from just having credits to actually having resources, and it really leans into Isaac's profession, which is engineering. So he can not only upgrade his weapons, he can actually craft them, crafting tools and weapons. So if you wanted to have a ripper with a flamethrower as the alt-fire, you can do that. If you wanted to have a pulse rifle with a javelin gun as secondary fire, you can have that. We've got other ideas as well, like attachments that can imbue things with a flame glaze or a poison glaze, we've got circuits that you can enhance your weapons with, and you can also craft your owns health packs and stasis packs. There's a lot of opportunity there for people to customise and really make the game feel unique and original, and we hope people go online to talk about their creations and share blueprints, and just really get into it.
When we're talking about weapon customisation, are we looking at hundreds of possible combinations?
I think we totalled it up and there's probably about a thousand different combinations of things you can do. Maybe a little bit more than that... It's quite numerous.
Going back to co-op, John Carver's part of the game offers a different perspective to Isaac. How much does Carver's additional sections of the game account for?
With our co-op, we wanted to create something that was additive. John Carver's story is not mandatory for the single-player campaign, so the way it works is if I'm playing single-player, a friend can drop in and drop out at any time. Carver is in the single-player story like Ellie was in the single-player story in Dead Space 2, but now he takes on a more active role, so rather than just being in a scene where you have a conversation with him, he's actually going with you.
In those moments where Carver is with you in the game with you playing co-op, we do have special missions for him, but in addition to that, there's dialogue between Isaac and Carver. And because he's in the world that will change certain circumstances, like at E3 when we showed a cut-scene that changed when Carver was there. He appeared in it and some of the dialogue leading into that cut-scene was different, and those are the kind of enhancements and tweaks that we've done. The alpha path story or overall narrative does not change in terms of the outcome and the big finale, but you're getting more context around Carver, and as you would expect now that another character is walking around the environment with you, there's dialogue and banter that is occurring, and they're talking about things and commenting on things that when Isaac's walking around by himself he's not doing, because there's nobody to talk to.
Is Isaac going to seem relatively sane and stable in comparison to Carver? It seems that Carver's dementia results in some pretty lucid, surreal and 'out there' hallucinations.
I think that's something that I'm not going to talk too much about, because I want players to discover for themselves. But Isaac's got his own set of challenges to deal with, and as you'll have seen, so has Carver.
When we last went hands-on with Dead Space 3, we faced a pretty huge boss. Are you going bigger with the bosses for this one?
We're basically going to be very similar to the previous games in the sense that we're going to have bosses. We're going to have some that you kind of have to interact with a few times throughout the game, then we're going to have some really huge, gigantic things in store for players. Really big. I would have to say that our approach to bosses this time is probably the biggest and most ambitious approach we've taken.
Dead Space has always been pretty tight from a control perspective. You've added a roll move for dodging in this one, but what other areas have been improved or refined regarding the control system?
Thank-you for what you said there... We're constantly trying to evolve the controls and the feel of the characters, but really the biggest thing we did is add the crouch and the roll move that you mentioned. We've also got a system that's kind of an adaptive cover, so it's not sticky cover, it's not something that's going to suck you into it, but if you're up against half-height cover you will crouch behind it and pop up to shoot. That's another thing that we've done, but for the most part we've tried not to tinker too much with the overall felling of Isaac. One other enhancement is we've got some melee weapons you can craft this time, so you'll be able to use melee weapons. That will probably change the way some people will want to approach the game.
Once Dead Space 3 is finished and released, where do you see the future of the franchise heading?
Well, we've always taken the 'wait and see' approach. The Dead Space universe is really big and there's a lot of stories we'd love to tell, but what's most important is that we continue to deliver high quality entertainment experiences for the players that have been supporting us. If we're able to continue to deliver at a very high quality bar and people are excited and enjoy what we're making, then we would be more than excited to continue. Right now we're just focused on making Dead Space 3 the very best Dead Space we can.
I think it's pretty fair to say that these days Dead Space is the only mainstream survival horror game in town, especially since Capcom went for full-on action with Resident Evil 6. How would you respond to that?
I think that Resident Evil is a great franchise that's done a lot for video games, and I've enjoyed those games over the years. What they choose to do with their franchise is their decision, and they look at what they're doing as an evolution, I'm sure. But with Dead Space it's kind of getting back to what I said earlier. We have tenets that define a Dead Space game: the atmosphere, the tension, the action, the thrills, the suspense, the horror, the survival elements. That's a Dead Space game, and we continually reinforce that with the team to ensure we're delivering those tenets. That's how we do it. And, as I say I've enjoyed the Resident Evil series a lot.
It seems that Isaac and John are really zoning in on the series' ubiquitous Marker in Dead Space 3, fighting the Unitologists as they strive to destroy it. Are we looking at Dead Space 3 being a trilogy closer?
Honestly, where we're gonna take it... I don't want to give away any spoilers, because I think that would be crummy. I don't want to sound like a broken record, but we're just concentrating on trying to make this one the best Dead Space that we can, and if people really really want us to keep doing more Dead Space then they'll be really anxious to see where we're going with it too. It's really all about earning the right to continue and continue to deliver at a really high quality level. We don't want to have a disaster where people don't enjoy the game or they perceive that the quality has lessened.
The team has done a phenomenal job of staying focused on making the best game they can, and we've even created a saying amongst ourselves. The last game we were really pushing to create a game that was of 'triple-A' quality – that's something that you hear a lot – not in terms of budget, but in terms of the quality. We looked around and agreed that we didn't want to do that again, we want to do better. And in striving to do better we came up with this idea of 'qua-day' (quality day). I mean, it's silly and kind of a kooky thing to say, but it's just another example of us trying to set a target in front of us and trying to hit that target. Honestly, that is the most important thing to us: delivering high quality to those players that have been supporting us, so that they get the experience they want and they continue to enjoy playing our games.
What do you think is the key thing to consider when making a game like Dead Space that's scary and tense?
For us, tension, scares and horror, those elements really are a bi-product of pacing. A lot of that stuff kind of comes in with ideas you have at the beginning, where we might want to have this particular horror moment or have this particular thing happen. But really making it work and making it cohesive and maximising what you're doing is first and foremost a multi-disciplinary effort. You have tons of people on the team that need to make any of those moments happen, but also you have to take into account the story, the combat – especially now with our weapon crafting and resource collection – all of these things that are at play, so you have to step back and make sure you have space for these moments and that they don't feel forced upon the player or contrived in any way. It's just a case of continually looking at what you're doing, continually revising and changing bits of the game so that you can get the moments you want to have stand out, to stand out.
Dead Space 3 is out on February 5th, 2013 in North America and February 8th, 2013 in Europe.