Watch the full video interview embedded above, or click here for a direct link.
: Ladies and gents, welcome back to AusGamers. I am here with Steve Papoutsis, the Executive Producer for Dead Space 3.
I guess we start off with what’s on everyone’s mind: Dead Space traditionally being such a scary game. How have you guys approached such a huge story, with so many new elements to it, but still maintained that scare factor that everyone loves from the game.
: Well I think, one of the big things when we started Dead Space 3, was that we wanted to set out to answer some questions. There are a lot of questions from Dead Space 1, Dead Space 2, and Extraction, that have been out there, and our players have really been interested in getting answers to.
So we said “You know what? With Dead Space 3, we’re going to answer some questions”. So that put us in a position where, we’re assuming a lot of people know what’s going on; and that’s why we released the story-so-far video, and we want to make sure people can get up to speed with the story.
So Dead Space 3 is the type of game that you can jump into, with never playing any other Dead Space game, you’re able to just jump in; we bring you up to speed really quick in the beginning, and then you kind of understand what’s happening.
So with that being said, the story allowed us to introduce more characters, and play off the different factions that have existed previously in the Dead Space Universe. So for instance, in Dead Space 1, and Dead Space 2, the Unitologists were a threat. They were in both games, but in Dead Space 1, Isaac was captured by them, and in the other, he had stumbled upon what they had kind of caused. Now with Dead Space 3, he’s going to have a showdown, he’s actually going to run into some characters -- Jacob Danek, and others -- that are from that faction, and have to deal with them.
That kind of introduced, immediately, that notion of a human enemy, and that again, came out of the story. It’s not that we’re just trying to throw in humans, it’s that they’ve always been there. As people may or may not know from Dead Space 2, those guys were up to some bad stuff, and they actually tried to kidnap Isaac. So this is his chance to face off a little bit with them.
So that was the reason that we brought that in. The other elements, the crew that you’ll be interacting with from time-to-time, they’re all super important to the story. Ellie Langford, she was in Dead Space 2, so people may remember her, but the new characters, they all fit into the story; they’re integral into what’s going on.
That’s really the biggest piece that’s kind of changed in terms of the formula. We’ve also taken the game to a planet this time: you’re going to Tau Volantis, but that’s part of answering those questions. I think players will really get to know and understand why they’re there.
So I think this is really an evolution of what we’ve done in the past, and it’s really the biggest Dead Space game we’ve ever done, and hopefully we’re going to answer a lot of questions for our players.
: You mentioned making it accessible to new players. Was that an important thing for you guys? Everyone talks about, if you’re a fan of Dead Space, you really immerse yourself in that experience; you play it in the middle of the night, with the lights off, and sound cranked up as loud as possible, just so you can get that amazing experience from it.
But there’s also always going to be that new factor of bringing new people into the game. But how do you come into that third game in the series? Was that something that you guys kept in mind all throughout it?
: Well we definitely are always looking to attract new players. It’s something that helps us to continue to make games, and the more people that play it, the better for us. So for Dead Space 2, we introduced the idea of that story-so-far video that starts of the beginning, “previously on” so-to-speak, which gives people a quick leg-up on what’s going on.
We just continued with that for Dead Space 3, so we have that there as well. But we certainly... co-op is one of the things that we thought would really help people get their friends into it. So now, I can get the game, go home and play it by myself, and enjoy that single-player Dead Space that I’ve always liked. And now, I can get a friend, who maybe was afraid to play it, or didn’t want to play it in the past -- now we can play it together, and I think it becomes a more interactive experience for people.
I have always enjoyed playing games with my friends, and the fact that we built co-op has been awesome, because now I can play the game through with my buddies, and we can experience the story from start to finish, and there’s motivation for me to go back through it again. And I just think that the inclusion of co-op has been something that I personally have been super-excited about, and I think the team did a fantastic job in delivering it.
: Awesome. So sticking with co-op, and that whole thing about immersing yourself in the game. The Dead Space games make you do things that are uncomfortable -- you’re sort of forced to do it in the game -- but then again, that’s what you’re after when playing that game. With co-op, which I haven’t experienced yet, but I kind of imagine that having someone there to talk to, or however you’re playing it, would sort of soften that. Make me more “oh, I’ve got company, I’m alright”.
How did you guys balance, again, the scare factor into implementing this co-op?
: What we tried to do, was do something very different and unique from what people would kind of expect with co-op. Our co-op is really centered around John Carver, the new character that you get to play.
So you experience the same story A to B, but you now get extra detail about his story. And with that you get to kind of experience his dementia, and we’ve created this psychological moments, where both players are seeing something different from time-to-time.
So the fact that you could be seeing some dementia moment, and I could just see you there standing in the corner not doing anything, I think immediately is going to create tension for players. I going to be saying “What are you doing Naren? Get over here; help me out”, and you’re like “Dude, aren’t you seeing this? This is messed up!”.
I think that is very different, I think that’s going to create a different kind of emotion for players, and as we do that throughout the experience, it’s going to keep people on their toes, where they’re kind of second-guessing what they’re seeing. We’ve kind of planted the seed to keep players on their toes.
So that was our approach. It’s kind of like going to a movie with a friend. if you go to a horror movie with a friend who’s really into it, and really loves horror, and wants it to be a scary experience, and that’s what they’re after, then they’re going to be more quiet, and more on the edge of their seat and really engaged; and cool, they’ll have a good time.
Now if you go to a movie with one of your buddies who maybe laughs at horror movies, and goes there and talks and comments about everything, I think that is going to impact your experience. But the great thing with co-op is, you can decide who you want to play with. So if you get a buddy that is kind of a tosser, and is doing stuff that you don’t want [laughs] and don’t particularly care for, kick ‘em out! Don’t play with them right?
If you want to have that kind of sitting on the couch, watching a movie kind of experience --even though you’re sitting at your individual homes-- you can do that to. So it’s totally up to you, you can make a private game, you can invite people, you can not invite people. You can customise it to what you want.
But for me, if I got into a game, and I wanted it to be scary, I certainly wouldn’t be inviting my friend that’s Mr. Chatty, I’d be like “Hey, tone it down buddy”.
: So in a way, just more of a way to customise your own experience, and how you do it.
You mentioned that single-player and co-op are quite different experiences. To what degree? Is there a way to quantify? Are they completely different? Obviously, you’re still telling that same story, but how does that impact it?
: Our goal was to create something that’s additive. So as you say, the story is the same; what happens in the various acts, and at the end: that story is the same. But Carver’s piece of the story is additive. So again, when you’re playing single-player you’re kind of getting Isaac’s perspective. Carver is in the story -- he pops in and out from time to time; you get to meet him, and there’s conversations with him and what-not -- but only when you’re playing co-op, do you actually get to experience some of those dementia moments, and get deeper into his story. The cut-scenes change, and you get a little more flavour for Carver.
So it’s an additive. So if somebody’s really into understanding everything about the Dead Space Universe, and really wants to know what John Carver is all about, then I would definitely recommend playing co-op.
If somebody, for whatever reason, doesn’t want co-op, is angry about it or only wants to hear Isaac’s story, then play single-player. There is no follower in single-player, as you’ve seen, so it feels like Dead Space 1 or Dead Space 2.
: With John Carver, you mentioned earlier in the presentation how you guys do transmedia. So we’ve got the graphic novel coming out, we’ve seen the animated movies, and comics. How strong of a character is John Carver, and how do you guys plan on getting that across when Isaac has been such a strong character that we’ve seen develop through all of it?
: Like we said earlier: one of the things that’s really important to the series is the story, and in order to have a great story, you have to have strong characters. And for us, a strong character is someone who goes on a journey, has strengths and weaknesses, and flaws, and throughout the course of the game, kind of embraces and takes those issues head-on, and then has some sort of evolution.
So I think you’ll see that with Carver. I think you’ll see kind of a transition in terms of his personality. He is a strong character; he’s somebody that we hope people will like and enjoy. We definitely didn’t want to create a character that people just straight up hated. We wanted people to see that he does have a personal side, and there is something more to him than just being a military guy with a machine gun.
I don’t want to spoil any of that; let people go ahead and see. But like I said, it’s important to us from the get-go, that he had a backstory, he was interesting and engaging, and went on that journey, and encountered, and took head-on those issues that he’s facing.
: It’s undeniable that there’s more of an action factor to the game. While there’s still that traditional Dead Space experience, we’re seeing a few more open spaces. We’ve seen crafting; a lot more of that. Then with that comes the looting. Was that kind of always the plan, or was that kind of a story driven thing? That it just had to happen from really focusing on that?
: The locations and the spaces was definitely out of the story. That was just where we wanted to take players. And when we sat down to think about the environments, we looked back at the previous games we’d done, and The Ishimura, as a location has a specific feeling, flavour, and personality. The Sprawl, also had it’s own unique kind of feel and vibe to it, that added to the tension and the overall experience.
With Dead Space 3, when we sat down and said we wanted to answer questions: well, we wanted to take you to a place, but we thought of Tau Volantis, we wanted that to have it’s own personality, and that’s where we came to the place where we thought we would have this snow/ice planet.
To me, and the team, when we starting talking about this snow and ice planet Tau Volantis, immediately you start thinking about survivability. How are you going to survive in the elements, the frigid conditions? Well, survival, is something it says to you. And then the low visibility, and the fact that you can have things pop out of the snow, spoke to us in terms of the horror and the scares that we could achieve with it -- whether it was from the low visibility, or a snowdrift with something jumping out.
So those, immediately, were elements that we latched on to and said “You know what? This location would be cool; it would be very good for us to add”, and that’s how we came to the planet. The Lost Flotilla, again, it’s kind of an open space. It’s a ship graveyard right? It’s full of a bunch of derelict ships. You get to go inside of those ships, so instead of just having one Ishimura, like you had in the first game, now there’s a variety of ships that you can go, and check out, and explore inside of. So that felt very natural to us.
: With weapons, you’ve brought in creating your own weapon. So, a step up obviously from just customising or adding to the nodes of the weapons before. What sort of amount of weapons or combinations do you think we’ll see? How broad is it?
: Well I think we have probably over a thousand different combinations, if you count all of the nodes that you can apply to your weapons and all of the fire-types and attachments. Weapon-crafting for us, was something that just felt like an evolution. We were happy with the system that we had in the past, but we wanted to do something that just felt better, and really leveraged Isaac as an engineer.
So as I kind of mentioned during the talk today, we actually saw somebody on Twitter talking about a system exactly like we were building. So when I saw that, I was like “You know what? We’re delivering on what our players want, which is the ability to customise, and decide what kind of weapons you want to create, and how you want to combine them”. And I think the resource management that’s associated with the weapons system is really cool. Because now you’ve got a reason to go to every nook and cranny, or use that scavenger bot to get all the different pieces.
So you and I can have a very different experience. Maybe you’re going for the traditional Plasma Cutter line-gun combo, but I’m using ballistics, and stasis coating, and we wind up having a very different kind of gaming experience. Then you take that, and then you add co-op in, and now you and your friend can talk about strategies. Like, I’m going to be the guy that handles the slowing down and crowd-control so-to-speak, of the enemies, while you’re going to be the guy dismembering the shit out of them.
I think that really creates a cool dynamic, and lets players have fun, and talk and trade, and share ideas, and blueprints, and I think it’s going to be cool for people.
: Yeah, it sounds awesome. You mentioned again in the presentation, next-gen. Obviously there’s rumours about us seeing next-gen stuff later on this year. Where do you guys see that going, and with releasing a game this year, obviously you’ll have to factor all of that in.
: Well, what I was saying was: for the current generation of games, I was hoping that people would look back, and think of Dead Space 3 as a game that was very innovative in the co-op space. And I definitely feel that. I think that the team, as we started to work on this, that we wanted to make something that when people look back at this generation of games, they go “Wow, Dead Space 3 really did something unique and different with co-op”.
And I think the team has, and I’m super proud of what they’ve delivered, and I’m hoping everybody out there that gets to play it, has a great time with it.
: Sure. So no comments on... well, even what you see next-gen doing? With the next-gen consoles.
: I’m as excited about it as everyone else, to know what’s going to happen next. I’m just excited that there’s going to be more gaming, and as a gamer I’m right there with you. I want to know what it’s going to do, and what everybody’s going to make. Right now, we’re just super-excited about Dead Space 3, and making sure that this leaves a real imprint on this generations of consoles.
: Awesome. Last question: obviously you guys are focused on Dead Space 3, but are there any plans after that? Or is it still just heads-down with this?
: Well it’s kind of the same approach that we’ve taken in the previous games, which is kind of “Keep focused on this; get this out; then sit back and see what the players think of the game”, and if they enjoy it, and love it, and we continue to see that from the players, then hopefully we get a chance to keep doing more.
But there’s one thing I can tell you: the Dead Space Universe is humongous, and there are plenty of stories left to tell out there. So if we get the chance to do that, that’d be awesome. So we’ll have to see.
: Awesome. Sounds good. Well, thank you very much for your time, and we’re looking forward to the game.
: Thank you.