Monster Q&A – Dead Space
EA’s Sci-Fi horror title, Dead Space, is nearly upon us, so much so we can already feel our stomachs churning at the scary antics we’ll be experiencing within the game. To help give us some moral support in readiness for EA’s literally shocking title, we cornered Rich Briggs, Producer for the game in our exclusive Monster Q&A.
First of all, how are you? How is life at EA Studios?
Thanks for asking! I think you are the first person to start an interview like that. Things are great right now. We’ve just announced that we’ve gone gold, so we are formally, officially, finally, completely finished with the development for Dead Space. This is a fun and a nerve-wracking time. It’s fun because I get to talk about the game all the time. It’s nerve-wracking because we’ve done our best, and now we’ve shipped our baby off to the pageant so people can tell us what they think. But enough about me, how are you? How’s life at Console Monster?
We’re good thanks…It has been just over a year since we first heard about the game’s development, has the development been a smooth ride for you?
Dead Space has been in development for over 2.5 years now, and it’s been an extremely rewarding process. Of course there were rough patches, but I’ve never seen a team work so well together, or embody such a cohesive desire to make a great game. People kept positive attitudes even in the busiest times, responded to feedback without making it personal, and made tough changes that resulted in a better game.
Have there been any particular features that didn’t make it into the final game?
There are always a few things that don’t make it into the game, for a variety of reasons. However, I’m very pleased to say that there was never anything that we were asked to remove. We were always allowed to push our vision as far as we wanted to, so when it comes to the story, the violence, and the horror, you’re getting the uncut experience.
For the average gamer, roughly how long does Story take to complete?
The game has 12 chapters, and each chapter takes anywhere from an hour to 1.5 hours to finish. That puts Dead Space at about 15 to 18 hours of gameplay on the first run through for most players.
How about once the game is complete – Is there much replayability in the game to keep us coming back for more?
The upgrade system is a great example of this. Power Nodes are an extremely valuable commodity, and you won’t find enough to upgrade all of your weapons and accessories on a single play-thru. You keep your upgrades if you start a new game, so you can work on maxing everything out. In addition, playing through the game will unlock the Impossible difficulty mode, which should pose a challenge for even the most hardcore survival horror fans.
Great! Will there be any difficulty modes to choose from and if so what affect do they have in the game?
We have Easy, Normal, and Hard difficulty modes selectable from the start, so players can make their way through Dead Space at a level that matches their experience. Ammo drops, enemy damage, and player damage are some of the ways that the gameplay differs across the difficulty levels.
We love achievements, could you tell us what we will be unlocking in Dead Space?
A normal playthrough should net a player a decent amount of achievements, probably a little less than half of them. However, we also have to reward the hardcore players, so there are some achievements that take quite a bit of work, even multiple playthroughs, in order to unlock them. There are also achievements that will reward you for messing around and trying new things as you play.
How about Trophy support on the PlayStation 3?
There most certainly will be. However, as with the achievements you’re not getting detailed info out of me just yet!
Damn that is a shame, so are you a GamerScore/Trophie junkie yourself?
I run hot and cold with them. Sometimes I get into a groove and do nothing but play to unlock achievements. Other times I play normally and don’t focus on them at all. It usually depends on the game – if it’s a great game, and it’s adding to my GamerScore on a regular basis, I’m a lot more likely to start searching for other Achievements. However, if I’m halfway through a game, and I’ve unlocked 4 of 50 Achievements, that really turns me off and I don’t even try for any more. That sounds like one of those kids who doesn’t get picked for the team, so he takes his ball and goes home, huh?
We really couldn’t say 🙂 So what innovations will there be in Dead Space and what will ensure it stands out amongst other titles in this genre?
Our core gameplay mechanics are strategic dismemberment and zero-G. Dismemberment dramatically changes the combat and resource management, which are two huge elements in the survival horror genre. It means headshots are not the answer, and you have to make every shot count because the enemies will keep coming at you until you rip them limb from bloody limb. Zero-G changes how you approach movement, puzzles, and combat, because everything happens in a full 360 degree range, just like real space. These two elements really make Dead Space stand out.
We’ve searched for Crows in Condemned and Artifacts in Uncharted, will there be collectables to hunt for in the game, such as data items/briefcases/packages/gold etc?
We have video logs and audio logs that you can find in the environment, which will give you more info about what is going on in Dead Space, and what happened on the Ishimura before you arrived. We also have schematics, which allow you to download new weapons and items at the store. Finally, there are rare semiconductors which can be sold for credits at the store.
After seeing hundreds of horror films, and playing quite a lot of horror games, we would have to say we’ve become quite immune to scares; does Dead Space have enough in it to scare us?
It’s difficult to constantly scare someone over the course of a 15+ hour experience. We can’t keep you running in the red zone the whole time. So we spread things out and use a variety of tactics to create a roller coaster experience. There are three ways we build the tension: The environment is an entity, using disturbing images, lighting, and scary audio. Each room tells a story and builds tension, even if there’s no actual combat happening. Second is the “boo” moment where something jumps out of a vent at you, or grabs you, or gets ripped apart in front of you. We can’t overuse this method as it can quickly lose impact. The third tactic is resource management and the controls. We make it so you never have quite enough ammo, and you don’t run or turn quite as quickly as you might like. This was constantly tuned and balanced so it provided a tense, but not frustrating experience. Hopefully all of this combines to offer even the most desensitized player a few scares, but even if we don’t get you to jump, I guarantee you will see at least three things that will make you think “I can’t believe EA did that.”
Interesting…Is there anything that has disturbed or scared you in the game?
The first time I saw the Lurker enemy, I was a bit horrified. Its face is almost cute, since it is basically a transformed baby. The first time I fought one I didn’t want to kill it. Of course, then it sprouted tentacles, threw some projectiles, jumped on me and ripped my head off. After that I didn’t have much trouble killing them.
What was the decision behind creating the Comic book style story trailers for the game as well as the No Known Survivors www.noknownsurvivors.com website?
We feel that we have a very rich universe with Dead Space, and the comic book, No Known Survivors, and our animated feature Dead Space: Downfall are all ways that we can explore more of the timeline. While you don’t have to read or watch all of the different projects to appreciate Dead Space, it is a great way to truly understand what has happened on the colony and the Ishimura before the game even starts.
Does visiting/watching these viral sites and trailers aid us in the actual game in anyway?
I wish I could say that it helps you in the actual game, but it won’t stop you from getting your head torn off. Or your arms torn off. Or ripped in half. You get my point. However, it will deepen the experience, as you’ll know all sorts of background info about characters that you’ll hear about or meet in Dead Space.
From a developers point of view – Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3?
We were really lucky in that we had the tools and support we needed to deliver Dead Space on both platforms with what we consider to be the same level of fidelity. The experience will be the same on each platform, as we had dedicated people working on each version.
And from a personal point of view, which is your favourite console at the moment out of the two?
I play both platforms regularly, but my Xbox 360 is getting a little more quality time with me right now.
Besides Dead Space, what else are you playing at the moment?
I’m playing a lot of games that I started, but couldn’t invest as much time in as I would have liked given the development schedule. I just finished Army of Two, and now I’m rotating between Ninja Gaiden 2, Metal Gear Solid 4, The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess, and GTA 4. Even though I’ve played through Dead Space more times than I can count, I’m still going to go through it again to rack up all the achievements once I have a retail copy.
Are you looking forward to playing any other particular games in the coming months?
I am absolutely frothing at the mouth as I wait to play Gears of War 2, Fable 2 and Fallout 3. I foresee many sleepless nights in my future.
Some good choices there. Thank you very much for your time Rich and we wish you all the best with the release of Dead Space this coming October 17th in the UK on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
So there you have it. We’re looking forward to soiling our white briefs in a few weeks time. Let us know your feedback on our Dead Space Q&A and whether you will be picking up the game when it releases in the comments.