Dead Space 2 Pt. 2
30th Sep 2010 | 11:36
In part two of our interview, Visceral Games' exec producer, Steve Papoutsis reflects on the almost-finished sequel, its scares and why the horror sequel may have gotten some unlikely influence from Pixar...
So, you're almost finished with Dead Space 2... is it better than the original?
The original Dead Space is always going to be a very special game to us because it was what allowed us to make more Dead Space - whether it was the comic, animated feature, graphic novel, whatever. That really opened the door for the team.
In terms of Dead Space versus Dead Space 2, it really evolved a lot. I think it's going to feel better to people when they play it - the visuals have surpassed what they were in the first one, clearly. So yes, I think it is going to wind up being a better game, but I think Dead Space will always be an extremely important game to us all.
Did you feel any pressure when tasked with topping the brilliantly-reviewed original?
Absolutely. We've shown the game a lot but the proof is in the pudding, when you play it by yourself beginning to end. It's certainly going to be interesting and exciting to see what people think of it, but as I said the visuals are outstanding, Isaac controls better than he did in the first game, some of our new weapon additions make it even more fun, Zero gravity segments are awesome, epic moments are cool... we're all very excited. This is the pay off; we get to see what people think.
EA CEO, John Riccitello stated this month that the Need for Speed series was damaged by deadlines and preasure from the publisher. You guys are a fantastic example of the new EA and developer freedom; Do you think that was a key to why the original Dead Space was such a fantastic game?
Games are forever, pain is temporary. So when you're working hard on something, in the short term it may be tough - but at the end you're going to have this thing forever that people are going to get to enjoy.
You may be burnt out, tired or grumpy from putting in all that time, but at the end it's going to be worth it once you have this thing that people love and enjoy.
It's a self-imposed crunch - that is the thing with the Dead Space team. Maybe nobody [at EA] is telling you 'you have to be there' but those people are there because we love it, want to be there and are putting our heart and soul into it - so that's the way we approach making these games.
Nobody ever comes in and says "you have to be here on Saturday". But people respect each other, and when it comes to the work we're doing that they do themselves, they think, "hey, if I can get this thing done so that Sophie can do her work on Monday I'm going to do that so it makes the game better."
That's motivated by the team. There is no pressure - it's a labour of love, passion and wanting to do better than what we did last time. With [the first] Dead Space, any time we showed it [to EA] there was immense pressure. At any minute we might have got cancelled, they might have said, "This isn't making any progress, we don't like it."
There's no formula to game development - it's a matter of having the right types of people that are passionate and motivated about what you're making. That applies to anything you do in your life, if you love what you're doing it is going to show itself in the end result.
If you're passionate about it and care, it's going to yield better results than if you're grumpy. It's a special thing to be able to work with the creative team back at Visceral and see that passion and energy that they put in to the game that we're making for the players. Hopefully it pays off when the game comes out and people will enjoy it.
Do you think it's fair to say that other EA studios are looking at you as a role-model in that regard? The whole company seems to have been revitalised around that passion...
It's hard to say, I don't know. I think we've got some great studios all over the world: DICE and BioWare are two that just immediately pop to mind where they're making top titles. Battlefield is an excellent game, Dragon Age and Mass Effect are excellent games. I think there's a lot to learn from every EA studio, in terms of best practices, what works for them and what doesn't.
I think culture plays a lot into it, the way that you build the team. I've been on teams before where everything is from the top down; there's one guy making all the decisions. One of the things about the Dead Space team is that everybody cares so much about it. They [all] have an opinion, so we try to talk about things and factor that in as we make our decisions.
There ultimately has to be somebody to make the final call and that is the way it works - but promoting more of a collaborative nature in the team is very cool and works for us.
You've had very little competition over the last few years in the survival horror genre. Why do you think that is?
I don't know. It's very difficult to make survival horror games... there's so much that has to go into each moment and planning out each thing, understanding that at any moment a player may not even see what you want them to see. There is a lot of work that goes into that.
Also, I think some of it may even be demand in terms of what games you see that are the big blockbuster games that are selling gangbusters - that may be a motivator. For us, we're doing this game because we like horror, science-fiction, so it makes perfect sense for us but I don't know what other publishers thoughts are on that.
They're challenging - they're not easy games to make by any means. There's twitch action elements that need to be really good, then there's all the atmosphere and tension building, story, character design, all those elements that go into it that aren't as formulaic as some other genres of games.
Do you think the success of your series can help revive the genre?
That would be great. I think it would be awesome to see more games like Dead Space out there, there would be stuff for us to learn from and keep the genre going. I think there are a lot of people that enjoy it and it would be great to see that so I hope that happens.
There were some comments earlier this year about a Dead Space 2 demo...
We're not really talking about that yet, but stay tuned!
How would you say Dead Space 2 compares to the competition in terms of scares?
Horror is very subjective. I play Dead Space 2 every night. At work I'm looking at it all the time and it's extremely difficult to evaluate the horror part of it.
That was one of my duties on the last Dead Space - the horror element. When we shipped that game I was convinced it wasn't scary at all and nobody would think it was scary, because that's all I did, I was so focused... so on it. So It's hard for me to say.
So you're desensitised to it?
(laughs) Well it's difficult when you see something every day. The times when I get the best idea if we're on the right track is if we show it to other people, whether it's focus testers or guys like yourself and seeing their reaction. Once you see one guy banging his head against a wall in Dead Space 1 a hundred times, it doesn't have the same reaction as the first time you see it - you get a little bit clouded.
What's the biggest reaction you've seen from a player?
At comic-com I heard people scream. I've never seen anybody cry but that would be cool though.
Is that your ambition - to make someone cry?
That would be great; I'd love to see someone get that emotionally connected where it made them have that kind of reaction. That's a very powerful human reaction. When I watch a movie and there's certain types of music, like when a string kicks in for a sad moment, that is really powerful.
Sometimes its like 'is it the music that's making me well up or is it what I'm seeing on the screen?' It's very fascinating to see that kind of result. The beginning of Up was very sad. It was a cartoon, you know its fake, but it still kind of got you a little bit.
So Dead Space 2: inspired by Pixar's Up?!
From Up? I loved up, I don't think there was any real inspiration (laughs). What's that bird's name? I liked him a lot. He was awesome.