Thunderbolt logo

Dead Space 3 Interview

Dead SpaceInterview

Headlining a year primed with top mark survival horror, Dead Space 3 will arrive early next month. We joined a roundtable interview with Executive Producer and VP of Visceral Games, Steve Papoutsis.

Dead Space 3 delivers on the same concepts of the original games, sticking to the working elements of a shooter with dark psychological trappings. This time, Visceral deal both in the empty nothingness of outer space and the full everythingness of heavy winter. From the recent demo, we felt assured that this is the same franchise at play. Half action and half horror.

Steve explained Dead Space 3’s design priorities: ‘Fiction, environment, and tension.’

Throughout, he expounded on the importance of the fiction and the way nearly every inclusion came down to whether it adds to the story and universe.

The divisive inclusion of co-op, for example, exists as a delivery method for the storytelling. It turns out it was always intended to fit into the series. The feature was nearly a last-minute inclusion in the original Dead Space, Steve explained. Ever since they began toying with this concept, the team has been waiting for the right opportunity to capitalize on it. They’ve smartly formed the co-op around the idea that people will play it both cooperatively and solo, adjusting the story dynamically, so the player can experience the horror all by their lonesome.

There’s also newfound variety in the environments. In addition to the familiar claustrophobic space stations, Dead Space 3 branches off into the dead cold of winter. We asked about the differences in designing for this new environment and how that benefits horror.

The horror comes from the lack of visibility and reduced player movement. As seen in the E3 demo, the harsh conditions render the player vulnerable, helpless and weighted in the world. This harsh tundra also provides an outlet for hunting out collectibles and gun pieces, and crucially, new opportunities for contextual storytelling.

We asked, how did Visceral avoid the problem of diminishing returns often found in horror sequels. The problem with horror films, Steve offered, was that the characters never learned. They would often repeat the same mistakes in every film, they were stagnant and flat. To prevent this genre problem, Visceral is focusing on ‘evolving the character’. Isaac grows and matures, undergoes real change as a person. He learns and is psychologically affected. They reasoned that the key is believability and crafting a relatable lead.

Asked about comparisons to other titles, similarities were brushed aside. This isn’t Visceral making a Lost Planet. H.P. Lovecraft and John Carpenter’s The Thing were provided as the team’s primary influences, which shows they are only taking inspiration from the best.

Those influences show through, with a Lovecraftian monster teased at the end of the demo and a tonally fit atmosphere that captures the spirit of The Thing. Now all series fans need is the spirit of Dead Space. And Visceral sound confident they’ve gotten that part right as well..

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2007. Get in touch on Twitter @Calvin_Kemph.

Gentle persuasion

Like chit chat? Join the forum.