Words by Paul Ryan and Shane Patterson
Did you know that no one in space can hear you scream? What about the sound of gurgling as you slowly bleed out after being impaled by a multi-limbed tentacle monster? In any case, we recently got our hands on Dead Space, EA’s gamble on the survival-horror genre. DS has been shrouded in secrecy up for a while now. And with its release two months away, we were able to score a few nifty tidbits from a recent Community Day event held at EA. Behold!
1) Early art concepts featured giant, open environments
Everyone loves pinnacle sci-films Blade Runner and Aliens so much, that it seems like every goddamn sci-fi game must feature environments or lumbering space marines inspired from each film. And while Dead Space includes obvious inspirations from those films, in addition to The Thing, Battlestar Galactica and Event Horizon among hundreds of others - EA’s survival horror purposefully side-stepped obvious parallels to create something richer.
When Art Director Ian Milham showcased a number of early conceptual designs, he indicated that there was a conscious effort to move away from cold/sterile Utopian cityscapes. Instead, EA wanted the game to be a bit more gothic with claustrophobic spaces and a yellowish color palette like something out of a David Fincher film (Seven, Alien 3). Not to mention an effort to make characters and the ship as detailed as possible. Specific design choices like a prevalence of circle imagery and ribbing motifs make the dank corridors and Issac’s suit look as detailed as possible.
Hell, even the signage is inspired by Japan’s way of using symbols to instantly make areas recognizable. For example, a picture of a hamburger indicates a restaurant. Fascinating!
2) EA focus tested everything - but not in the bad way
Being a brand-new game from EA, you better believe they tested the crap out of DS. Testers from in-house, other companies and gamers just like you were brought in to play almost every week to see if the gameplay worked. Of the much-needed changes were cumbersome designs mechanics left over from tired survival-horror gameplay.
For one, Issac used to move like he was made of molasses because EA wanted to put you at a disadvantage when playing. Turns out, it wasn’t fun. Testers unanimously wanted Issac to be faster - hence the inclusion of a run button. However, running kinda broke the game. The camera wasn’t fast enough. The game couldn’t load quickly enough and enemies weren’t smart enough if you continually strafed around them. EA had to fix almost every major aspect of the game just so you could jog - which in turn made the game better.
Secondly, you were only able to heal through the real-time menu originally. That was deemed not only cumbersome but really annoying. Taking a cue from BioShock, DS enabled a “Heal” button, mapped to X (Square for PS3s). Not only does it work incredibly well, but keeps you from being bogged down in menus while a Necromorph is chewing on your trachea.
3) Dead Space 2 confirmed - kinda
With a rich history spanning 500 years - encompassing a game, comic book and animated movie - it’s no secret that EA is prepping Dead Space for the franchise treatment. And with sci-fi games being pitched as trilogies these days - Mass Effect, Halo, Too Human and Gears of War for example - we asked Executive Producer Glen Schofield to elaborate on his plans for the sequels we all know are coming.
“There was absolutely no pressure [on cutting things from the first game]…We are talking about a sequel…We’ll see how Dead Space 1 does. I have an idea for Dead Space 2 and we wrote it up and it’s just sort of the beginning of an idea. But it’s not like at the beginning, we said “This is a trilogy.” I just wanted to make this game…You can go back to medieval times and this [new] idea would work.”
Our own Paul Ryan then asked Schofield about what features he liked that were cut from DS1 and Schofield refused to elaborate because he was intending on using them for the sequel. So there you have it - confirmation of Dead Space 2 taking place in Victorian England - or something.