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Dead Rising 2 Developer Interview and Hands-On Preview
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 02:58pm 28/04/10 | Comments
AusGamers' Captivate 2010 coverage continues with more info on Dead Rising 2...

We took Dead Rising 2 for an initial spin at last year's Tokyo Game Show and walked away massively impressed. While the series' creator, Keiji Inafune, is clearly still involved in the project, development has been handed over to relative action genre newcomer, Blue Castle Games. Hailing from Canada, Blue Castle Games' experience prior to Dead Rising 2 was in sports games, but being the creative bunch they are, the team built their own internal framework to allow for additions should the action game green light ever blink in their favour, which is exactly what happened with landing DR2 on their development whiteboard. Their framework was then tweaked accordingly (hence the three year delay between Dead Rising and Dead Rising 2) with all the structural improvements you could want from a Dead Rising sequel.

The game's protagonist, Chuck Greene, is a much more agile character. He's stronger and more resilient, and this is aptly translated to how he feels through the controller. The game is much less sluggish, and your combos make much more impact now. The zombies have remained marginally unchanged (as you'll learn in the following interview), and are the playthings you remember them being in the first game. Blue Castle's engine is capable of allowing a lot more to happen on-screen, and while we were only privy to two areas of play (in mini-sandbox form), given the pedigree you can likely expect Vegas to fill to the brim with the undead.



While co-op was the major revealing factor at Captivate, another stand-out was the Combo weapon system. For those unaware, you're not just given a series of shops to explore and loot for zombie-smashing devices in Dead Rising 2, instead you need to hunt for Combo Cards. These then allow Chuck, in true MacGuyver-inspired fashion, to fashion his own creative weapons. There have been a few examples riddled throughout videos since the game's initial unveiling, such as the Paddle Saw (two chainsaws jimmied onto either end of staff) or the dual SMG-mounted motorised wheelchair, but at Captivate we saw a few other awesome examples. One in particular saw a number of power-drills rigged to a metal bucket; find an unsuspecting zombie (well, they're all unsuspecting really), put it on his head and flick the switch. The end result? An explosive pop of the head in the donned bucket with pools of blood spewing from under it in hilarious fashion.

Other examples saw a led pipe combined with fireworks for a home-made bazooka, replete with celebratory fire-power - actually pierce a zombie with one of the fireworks and voila, pieces of him or her shower the area. Combining circular saw blades with an industrial vacuum cleaner made more mess than it was ever intended (with serious suction) while a hard-hat, two beers and some duct tape gave Chuck a ready supply of health to use whenever his energy depleted (this came with a side-effect that saw too much drinking result in Chuck vomiting everywhere - the pay-off: zombies coming in touch with his pools of vomit procedurally slip over). I even combined a massive teddy-bear with an SMG which turned him into a sentry gun, firing at any zombies in his immediate fire-zone.



At the event we were told there were numerous combinations, but it would take a while to collect all the Combo Cards. The 72 Hour time-frame returns, which should help in the game's replay factor while we were also promised there would be a much deeper story on offer this time around (there's a five year gap in narrative between the events of Dead Rising and Dead Rising 2, but they will tie-in together, according to Blue Castle). The newly revealed co-operative system is available to play through the whole game from start to finish, but only the host will unlock all the story arcs, the other player will just gain items and PP to take back to his or her personal save. There was no mention of how the single-player would tie into multiplayer (which we've already talked about), but there's more to come prior to the game's release, and with E3 just around the corner, Blue Castle were promising they still had more to reveal.

So far the game looks and feels better. You can aim correctly with weapons now, and move while aiming (a major issue with the first game) which makes for a more action-game feel. The use of Ragdoll coupled with Euphoria works very well, as does the Havok physics system. Blue Castle were remaining utterly tight-lipped about a Checkpoint or revamped Save Game system (another issue players had with Dead Rising), so we'll just have to wait and see. Thankfully we interviewed Blue Castle Games President, Rob Barrett, and covered taking the development reigns off Capcom internally, dealing with a largely Japanese-based company, the technology behind Dead Rising 2 and using dildos or 'massagers' as weapons in the game. You can check it out below, but from our time with the game, so far so good. Co-op, multiplayer, and inventive zombie-killing weapons in Vegas - not much more we can ask for really. Stay tuned for more on Dead Rising 2 in the not-too-distant-future, and read on for our full interview with Barrett below.



AusGamers: You were saying during the presentation that Blue Castle Games have nailed the feeling of Dead Rising 2 being a "Capcom game" - what makes a Capcom game a "Capcom game"?

Rob Barrett: That's a tough one. Inafune had trouble answering that himself, but there's a quirkiness to it, there's that humour element, but that's also hard to say that's a common element in everything Capcom does, there's a feel to the way the game handles and you know, it's just really a lot of little things and it just takes a while to get it all working and you've just gotta look at the way they all interplay and if it's not quite 'Capcom', then you tilt it a little bit until it is, and it's just a lot of that sort of thing.

AusGamers: You guys have said that you've learnt a lot in dealing with Capcom while working on this game and you mentioned that some key Capcom Japan staff actually joined the Blue Castle ranks to work on the game - what specifically have you learnt now, you didn't really know or do prior to this project, and how has any of this helped to shape the development of Dead Rising 2?

Rob: Well it's really on two different levels. On a technical level, for us, having made sports games before this we needed to work out how to get our engine to support a game like this. We'd always wanted to do action games so we built the framework of our engine to be able to accommodate any type of games that might come along, but you can imagine now that we feel our engine is super strong. We built it so it wasn't genre-specific, and also, just on a technical level, you know, working with Capcom on advancing this engine has been really collaborative; more collaborative than any other publisher we've worked with, despite the language barrier - the amount of communication we go through weekly, you know, video conferences to Japan (and several conversations back and forth in between as well). We've never had that level of communication with a publisher before.



AusGamers: So this engine, you think it can just become your staple design platform?

Rob: Absolutely, you know we already refer to it as our 'Forge Engine' - its our forge inside Blue Castle and you know I think its already more capable, at this level, than a lot of other engines that are out there; at last year's Captivate we were rendering 6,000 zombies on-screen in a strip of environment. Is there 6,000 zombies on-screen this year? well no, because that was shoulder-to-shoulder in that demo last year, so there's no practical use for it any more...

AusGamers: Unless you're running across zombie heads, squishing them...

Rob: ... Yeah of course (smiles). So we know we can dial it up if we want and that's a massive point of capability for any engine to do, so we're super happy with it.

AusGamers: The other thing about the engine though, and specifically how the game looks, is it still feels and looks like Dead Rising, so how many assets did you nab from the original game, and specifically how much retooling was involved to even get it looking and feeling so familiar? I know you guys are using some cool middleware stuff like Havok, Natural Motion's Euphoria and Ragdoll, but was anything salvaged from the first game?

Rob: Well the engine we built from scratch, so none of the original game's stuff is in there, but as far as assets go, we took some animation, you know, zombie animation because the zombies are basically the central part - the core - of the game, and we didn't want to go and mo-cap our own zombie animations because no matter what we did they weren't going to come out the same, and we wanted the same lunges and things like that from the first game, so we took a lot of the zombie animations but we also took a lot of the main character's animations, so we had a lot of Frank in there too, you know we initially applied them to our Chuck character and then over time replaced them, but we used them as our original template, and a lot of that was to make sure we were hitting that same quirkiness; the over-extension and some of the humorous elements of the animation.

AusGamers: And humour is a big part of it. In the demo you guys were double-teaming a zombie while showing off co-op, you know, humiliating him by dressing him up in a barrel and then putting a demon mask on him, and finally finishing him off with the Pony toy, but we noticed despite all that effort you didn't really get a lot of Prestige Points (PP) out of it - did you guys ever think about rewarding the player more points the more humiliated a zombie is?

Rob: Yeah we considered that, but it's a tough thing to check for... I guess some of the Combo weapons provide that. You know, you saw some of the base weapons aren't that effective. They're funny, but ultimately ineffective...

AusGamers: Like the 'massager'...

Rob: ... Yeah, exactly! (laughs) There're Combo weapons that aren't necessarily that destructive but they do have other functions like embarrassing zombies, so even on the elevated style of weapons, you know, the Combo weapons, we try to keep things evenly balanced.



AusGamers: In talking about PP, obviously the big pull in Dead Rising was taking amazing photos and at times being rewarded with three-to-five thousand PP for a single shot. So far in any of Dead Rising 2, and we played it at TGS last year as well, we haven't seen any figures like that - so what's the big generator for Chuck? Or is it just that there're more zombies to kill so it kind of balances out?

Rob: That's really what it is; there are more zombies to kill, and you can kill them faster. So I would say in Dead Rising 2 you have a greater capacity for earning PP than taking those shots in the first game, you know, you had to replace batteries and actually generate those high-impact photos, so if you worked it out into the amount of PP per-second, we made sure that with the Combo weapons - because they're going to last a certain amount of time - like the Paddle-Saw, you know, you're going to go through one hundred zombies at 100 PP a piece, so you're going to generate some big numbers with the Combo weapons.

AusGamers: Okay moving onto co-op, because it's the big reveal here at Captivate, you guys mentioned you'd had co-op in mind from day one, but you obviously need to cater gameplay to accommodate single-player as well as co-operative, but did you work on crafting any bottlenecks, or scaling to maybe encourage players to want to invite their friends in to push through the game? Did you toy with crafting co-op specific branches of the game to really take advantage of the feature?

Rob: We looked at making some very specific content for co-op, but what we found was we don't know if it was really necessary. Everyone plays differently, and even now when we play the game at the studio, you know, there are bosses that just seem to have my number - I always struggle against them. But then there are other bosses other people struggle against that I can just slaughter, so you're always going to have that variety of skill and aptitude with different players so we didn't feel we needed to create bottlenecks because the players themselves will cater to that, you know, with some people just struggling with certain aspects of the game. And then the rest of it; the sandbox stuff, we don't increase the amount of zombies if you're co-oping because there's enough, there're tonnes of them, and so it's really what you can do with them with two players. The crazy stuff we're doing at the studio right is... insane. Just watching people spend 10 minutes just to set up this mass of devastation they're gonna pull off on the zombies, you know one guys will be, like "I'm gonna go and get a propane bottles, and I'm gonna stack them here, you go and get five helicopters...", and it's just crazy, and so we've found it's just more fun with two people. You know, you could probably do it on your own but it'll take you longer and it's really less fun.



AusGamers: So who is Chuck Greene? Is he an amalgamation of different characters, or based off a specific person or other character?

Rob: Not really. You know, like Frank he's a bit of the 'every man', so people can identify with him. And just like Frank, he doesn't come into this as a superhero - it was important to Capcom that the main character isn't a cop or a fireman because it implies that that person has responsibilities; they should be saving survivors and things like that. Capcom want you to be the 'every man' because who you save is up to you, and they didn't want you to feel like you had to play the game in a certain way.

AusGamers: One of the most engaging factors of the first game, and something you've carried over brilliantly here, is that procedural ecology of the game-world and everything in it. You know, what angle you're facing a zombie, the weight of your swing and what weapon you're using will realistically damage them, but going against the concept of a procedural game-world empowering emergent gameplay, you guys have specific Combo Cards for weapon combinations - did you ever think about just leaving weapon combinations in the hands of the player?

Rob: We did. You know when we were just starting out we knew we wanted the Combo weapons and we had to look at different ways to handle it. In total, including the Combo weapons and all the base weapons, we're close to having 300 weapons in total in the game, and so you start allowing combinations and suddenly we realised people have 40,000 weapons that they can make. And then it comes down to quality, so how many of those 40,000 would be effective and good and I think that's the point where we realised if we allowed that we might just be frustrating the players; let's say there're 100 good weapons out of 40,000, outside of that 100, everything else is just frustration and we just wanted to make it a very controlled experience, and that's what makes it Capcom as well is that we've already put the thought into the absurd with the Combo weapons themselves, and so there needs to be a good blend of completely humorous weapons, completely devastating weapons and luring weapons, and we need to maintain that balance, which is why we decided to make a more deliberate list.

AusGamers: Anything on the cutting room floor?

Rob: Yeah, lots of weapons...

AusGamers: Can you give us one?

Rob: Well not really, most of the stuff that didn't make it just wasn't good, all the good weapons are in the game...

AusGamers: No one suggested two 'massagers' attached to either end of a staff?

Rob: (Laughs) A lot of people actually, makes me think we need to go back and put it in there.



AusGamers: Okay, so finally, zombies have become a little run-of-the-mill recently, can you give us your pitch as to why people should invest their mettle in Dead Rising 2, why this zombie experience is worth their time...

Rob: Well this series is different. The Dead Rising zombies are toys. You know, most games with zombies, they're your primary threat; you're scared of them and any one individual one is a threat to you, but here it's just a mob of toys. You know they represent this base level of threat but as long as you're levelled up and have food, you're fine. As soon as you're not paying attention and they surround you, they suddenly become a threat and you change what you're doing to seek out food and be aware of where other mobs are, but they're only really there for minor threat, the real threat is the bosses and psychos, they're the guys who're gonna kick your ass - the real monsters are the people, the zombies are just your toys.

AusGamers: Rob, thanks heaps for your time.

Rob: You're welcome.



Latest Comments
MatchFixah
Posted 05:19pm 28/4/10
This is looking like the goods. It's been in development for some time now hasn't it?

i lub capcom lung time.
Dazhel
Posted 05:21pm 28/4/10
the first Dead Rising was awesome fun. Looks like the sequel is on the shopping list as well. :D
Josh
Posted 11:02pm 28/4/10
Im not really sure about the story, but the gameplay and graphics seem vastly improved from whats been shown.
The GuVna
Posted 12:21am 29/4/10
This screenshot alone should convince anyone to purchase it.

Resonate
Posted 08:21am 29/4/10
Did they keep the same s***** save system for the sequel?
greazy
Posted 11:05am 29/4/10
A better question is did they keep the same s***** weapon system?
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