How to Make a Monster!

We talk to the lead Art Director and Creature Designer for Dead Space and find out what it takes to do their jobs

GR: Were there common technical problems with some environments you didn’t expect to be challenging? Were there issues you had to repeatedly remind the art team of?

IM: From the start, we new we wanted a real spaceship, not a bunch of square hallways and rooms with metal textures. Instead the Ishimura [the starship the game takes place in] has layers of detail, with different open gangways and levels throughout, as a real ship would. Our world is also extraordinarily detailed. The sets came out better looking than even I hoped, but we paid a price. Our game involves a lot of physics and dismemberment, and when we first started chopping Necromorphs up in this detailed world, the resulting physical interactions lead to a lot of headaches and work. It was a brutal summer. But when I see our game now, with real physics happening in a very detailed world rather than yet another game with wide flat gymnasium spaces, I’m glad we stuck to our plans. Although I need to write a thank-you note to our artists and engineers.

BW: One of the earliest things we decided on what the strategic dismemberment. Knowing that early on meant we knew that every enemy we create has to have that. That’s the core gameplay. Every enemy that you face is a dismemberment puzzle or full of multiple dismemberment opportunities.

Some of the early drawings were really thick forms. You couldn’t really tell what it was you were going to cut off of the thing. It didn’t really make sense visually when you looked at it, like, “I guess I could shoot that tentacle off of it. I don’t know what that would do.”

GR: Talk about revising creatures.

BW: On some of them I probably have about 10-20 different takes, like the Brute, which I think you must have seen, the really big guy that knocks Isaac over. He’s in the Hydroponics deck. He’s the one that pulls Isaac apart. That guy went through a crapload of iterations.

I just didn’t want to end up with the brute guy you see in all the games. Which is tough because you want the gamer to recognize that he’s that kind of threat, so I did sort of end up with a form that was brut-ish. You can totally tell that he’s this big charging hulk of a thing. But to differentiate him from other kind of hulk-like characters, by taking the look of the aliens I had already developed and pushing it even further, it’s less human and more… if you look on the underside of his plating, you see more of the veiny structure that binds these alien things together. I think that we ended up giving him more - especially with the bony pieces, giving those really irregular shapes - gave him a more interesting silhouette overall and pushed him a little bit further away from the big burly dude and more to the realm of an alien creature.

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