How to Make a Monster!

Art: there’s not that much to it. To prove it, we talked to Lead Art Director Ian Milham and Lead Creature Designer Ben Wanat about their sci-fi survival-horror game, Dead Space. Ian’s in charge of all the environments in the game; basically, he makes sure that nothing looks out of place while keeping the entire game terrifying and believable. Ben’s job, meanwhile, is to imagine and draw Necromorphs, the vicious, reanimated corpses of the former crew of the starship Ishimura.

Now, don’t let the job descriptions fool you. After seeing many of the hundreds (maybe thousands) of sketches Ben and Ian went through before settling on a final look for Dead Space, we thought we’d give it a go ourselves. It turns out anyone can do it. Here’s a drawing of a scary creature we made:

Above: That’s a (terrifying) crab with a pirate head

And here’s a picture of a Necromorph Ben drew:

Above: A notable lack of pinchy crab claws, but this creature is a pretty good effort from Ben

Obviously, there’s not much to it – that was just our first try! But if you’d like to hear it straight from them, here’s what Ben and Ian had to say about the process they went through to create Dead Space.

GamesRadar: When you’re developing a creature, where does it start?

Ben Wanat: Way back when we started the project, it was wide open. We didn’t even know what we were making - didn’t know what the aliens would look like, didn’t even know if they were going to be aliens. Were there going to be robots? You gonna fight aliens? You going to fight other people?

Eventually, the design team came up with a list of enemies that they wanted to design. They had a pretty good idea of how they wanted those creatures to operate, gameplay-wise. But at that point, we were still trying to come up with a look for the creatures. I was just cranking through the drawings. We’d think we hit on something, and then I’d try cranking on that for awhile. Eventually, we ended up with the look pretty close to what we have now, that we ended up shipping the game with. That was pretty close to two years of concepting.

Ian Milham: When creating a new area for Dead Space, we’d consider several different things.  First, what happens here in terms of gameplay?  Is it a place for storytelling and pacing, combat or both?  Will the player likely be running for his life through here, or creeping along?  Second, how do we want the player to feel in here?  Some spaces are meant to invoke dread or foreboding, to feel uncomfortable.  Others present a clear relief or feeling of “Whew! I made it!”  Third, how can we make this area unique?  The player might spend 15-20 hours on this spaceship, and endless metal halls get boring.  We were always trying to make areas feel new and different.

Above: Here’s a final version of concept art next to an image of the same area rendered in the game


  • chester_spartan - October 4, 2008 7:32 a.m.

    I hope its long and not vague on what your doing or were your going, will definitly at least rent it.
  • CandiedJester - October 4, 2008 12:08 a.m.

    *cough* Hey samael..have you seen any gameplay videos? To definatly looks like an action shooter. Even though it may claim it's survival horror. I think it'll have as much scare as bioshock..or resident evil did. Honestly I hope it is scarier than it looks. but I guess we'll have to wait and find out.
  • Corsair89 - October 2, 2008 2:32 a.m.

    I can't wait for this game.
  • NelosAngelos - October 1, 2008 10:04 p.m.

    Something tells me I'm gonna hate the Infectors.
  • Jason.Darksavior - October 11, 2008 8:38 a.m.

    Graphics look stunning and sets great atmosphere! Can't Wait!
  • noofer7 - October 6, 2008 8:24 p.m.

    I hope to be a game designer when I'm older so this is definitely an interesting article for me to read.
  • Smeggs - October 4, 2008 4:39 a.m.

    He couldn't think of any enemies in games that infect people? There was the little Flood from Halo who went around and took over corpses. There's the "Lost Souls" from Doom 3 who go around zombie-fying everyone. Headcrabs go and create zombies.
  • Samael - October 2, 2008 11:26 p.m.

    "There aren’t too many games that really have a creature that runs around and makes more creatures. I can’t really think of any." C'mon dude. You really can't think of any? But in all honesty, this game looks friggen incredible. The first real "survival horror" game in a long time. I loved RE4 and I'm sure I'll love RE5 but they aren't horror anymore. There just action shooters with some creepy enemies. So Dead Space is a breath of fresh air.
  • CandiedJester - October 2, 2008 10:32 p.m.

    Aww how dissapointing, the concept art looks a bajillion times better than the screenshots :( I guess that's expected. But still it goes from a really interesting, dynamic place to like..a toned down halo-fied version. The atmosphere disappears. Anyway I would still get the game if I found the money. I wish it luck. :)
  • grover117 - October 2, 2008 6:22 p.m.

  • sloppy - October 2, 2008 12:08 p.m.

    Do you want a free ps3? Free Ps3 games? Free anything? No Scam, No Joke, Just free gifts at
  • blocpartier - October 2, 2008 2:42 a.m.

    Oh man those infectors look scary as hell.
  • lewis42025 - October 2, 2008 2:04 a.m.

    im seriously thinking about paying this off
  • drprofessor - October 1, 2008 10:14 p.m.

    very nice article.
  • moof77 - October 1, 2008 9:58 p.m.

    awesome article

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