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Dead Space 3 interview: "I love seeing our testers freaking out..."

Executive producer Steve Papoutsis tells us what scares him...

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You've now got to ensure every boss and puzzle works in single-player and co-op. Does that mean your approach to design has had to shift, or is there a simple quick-fix to quickly turn everything co-op-compatible at the click of your fingers?

We're really lucky that we get to work with really talented designers and artists and engineers who really think about these things. At the top level it's one of the first things we do: we sit down and talk about a boss, or a puzzle, we think how does it work in co-op because it does need to work in co-op. Then, of course, it's like, "what do I do if I don't have another player there?"

So one of the simple things we've done is, in single player you do an action, one action, while in co-op maybe you have to TK something up while I do another action.

It's definitely important as we design and develop Dead Space 3 to think of both scenarios because we don't ever want a situation where player two feels like a tag-along who isn't adding value or feeling engaged. We absolutely want to avoid that situation.

Does Dead Space scare you?

There are moments throughout the development of all the games where you get startled or you see something you weren't expecting and you go, "Aaargh!" and get a little jumpy. But having the privilege of working on every one of these games and knowing what the story is and being part of that process, I know what's going to happen so it's not like I go screaming.

Do your team sneak stuff in to try and get under the skin of others working on the game?

Yeah, sometimes. When we work together on horror moments we definitely try them out on people because sometimes an artist doesn't see it because they're not working on that part of the game and so we giggle and watch what happens when they do it. People who are in production generally, we have to know about the whole things so we don't really get that completely virginal experience so to speak. So it makes it challenging because we don't want to become totally desensitised. We do have to do a lot of testing in our game lab and observing of people.

Zoom

Do you like watching testers freak out?

Yeah, it's great. I love it. I love seeing somebody jump back.

Best reactions?

It's the usual expletives or make a funny face or jump. I've seen people pause the game and walk away and that's a sad one because it's too much for them and they don't want to play anymore. That's a bummer.

Does that situation concern you as a developer or do you just have to concede that the player isn't right for the genre?

Yeah it is concerning to see, but in a good way and a bad way. In a good way we're getting a reaction and we're causing people to respond, which is good: it's what we're after. But on the negative side it's alienating that person. They don't want to carry on and they're missing out on all the cool stuff we're making.

It's definitely something we think about and something like co-op perhaps is for them. Maybe you're not the kind of person who goes and sees a horror movie by themselves. But if you go with your buddies now you're cool. Maybe that's the experience people get with co-op and now they're able to experience Dead Space.

Or maybe, furthermore, people really want to play but they're not very good. So maybe now they play with someone who is good and they can go through the story and feel that they're helping out. So we're hoping the steps we're taking really open it out and get people to experience and share it with their friends.

What does scare you?

One of the things I was really trying to emulate and recreate was a sense of vertigo and the feeling you get when you're high up. Heights to me are just, "Ooooh." I get sweaty palms and back away from the edge... We have some rappel sequences that do a good job of showing off verticality and to me those are exhilarating as much as they are frightening. I was really happy to see us do them.

The environment calls for verticality. Hey, we have snowy, frosty, scary mountains we need to go up and down. They're not going to put an elevator in there and we're not going to have zero G on the snow planet. So we had to come up with the rappelling concept: the story informs the decisions we make.

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