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: Are there parts of him that you added and then took back later?

BW: In some of the earlier ones I built him way too crazy. I originally wanted him to be like five or six people jammed together and contorted into some kind of creature, a huge thing.

It almost looked like a chicken. It was really confusing. If you shot off an arm or leg would it actually hurt the creature? His legs were so thick that you didn’t think you could shoot them off, but then he had all these weird things sticking out of his back, but what would be the point of shooting one random arm off his back?

If it looks like it can be shot off, it can be shot off in Dead Space. So it was important to not go too overboard with limbs on creatures. When you shoot off one limb the implications on the gameplay are exponential. If a creature has, say, four limbs and you cut off an arm, then you’ve got the two legged, one armed animation. If you cut off both of his arms, you’ve got the two legged animation and the head attacking, maybe.

So I streamlined the brute, and he ended up with four limbs, which made it a lot easier to focus on the gameplay element that grew out of that character, which were the armored exterior and the fleshy weak spots inside.

GR: What’s another example of one of the character types you started with and how you made it different from other games?

BW: We have our infector. 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.

He looks like a kite almost, like a triangular shaped thing. That’s one of the ones that I’m happier with the final version of. You look at it and you see it coming down the hallway. Especially the way the animators made it do this almost chicken walk thing. That one started out as one enemy type that will be able to make new enemies out of corpses. It’s the most basic version of the alien and it gets into something and turns it into another alien.

To think of what that would look like, I went all over the place; I had jellyfish things that would float around and things that would walk around on multiple limbs with some sort of infection apparatus on them. The problem I was trying to solve with that one [the jellyfish] was that you’ve got ragdoll corpses that can be all over the environment, in any position, sitting in a chair, crammed under a table, whatever. This thing has to be able to grab them wherever they are and turn them into a creature. We didn’t want it to be a fairydust kind of a thing, you know, sprinkled it on and turns them into a creature.

It had to physical, so I came up with this harpoon attachment. He has a crazy organ structure on his chest and he’ll shoot a harpoon out. Then there’s this kind of a paired motion where it grabs the thing, gets ready to infect and the proboscis shoots out to hit the guy in the head. That makes it so he can see a guy, glide over and then shoot that harpoon in, which did take a lot of doing. I’m sure the engineers weren’t all that happy with how I decided to do it, but they made it all work, and they made it all work really well, so I was pretty happy with that.

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