The Average Gamer

Visceral’s Abney: “We Really Want A Dead Space 3 Eye Poke Moment”

Dead Space 3 - Kill ItDead Space 3 continues the highly traumatic story of Isaac Clarke, a ship system engineer who is battling and for survival in the deepest, darkest recesses of space against the horrific Necromorphs.

If you’re a new player to Dead Space or were simply too scared to play Dead Space 2 with its now-infamous eye poke machine scene there will be a “previously on Dead Space” section covering all the key points from both games.

With the removal of the credit (i.e. cash) system from the previous games, scavenging is going to play a big part in Dead Space 3. You will have to find parts to craft into weapons using the snazzy new weapon bench. Add in the new human enemies, even more horrible Necromorphs and the icy and uncompromising planet of Tau Volantis and you’ve got your work cut out to save Isaac from a hideous death.

I asked Jesse Abney, Lead Producer at Visceral Games about the improvements they’ve made to Dead Space 3, eye poking and Necromorphs working together to try and kill you.

What have Visceral Games improved on and added to Dead Space 3?

Jesse Abney: Everything! We’ve added 10 more rungs on the ladder to the graphics engine. We’ve expanded on the gameplay mechanics and added the scavenging system. We’ve also improved Isaacs’s ability to overcome challenges. This is his third chapter and we wanted Isaac to come off as a little more understanding about when he enters a predicament and able to be more equipped. Understanding the shit storm that he is in and knowing how to deal with it. He’s done this before and his capabilities will give the player a better fighting chance.

Isaac is a simple engineer who has often shown up in the wrong spaces with the wrong equipment. We are addressing this in Dead Space 3 with our all new scavenging-based economy and our weapon crafting systems.

We’ve had to completely enhance the visual system, the cinematic system, performance capture and use a lot of technological innovations to help carry the story. Our visual target compared to Dead Space 2 makes it look like we are on a completely different generation of console. The planet Tau Volantis, blizzards and planetary vistas are something we’ve never done in a Dead Space game. We’ve had to evolve and really blow out the capabilities of the game engine to get to the level of quality we wanted.

The first game was quite claustrophobic. Then Dead Space 2 introduced us to a more open environment. What’s Dead Space 3 got in store for us?

JA: For us the thrills from Dead Space 3 have to come from the environment as much as from the threats. We’ve introduced human opposition, a slew of new Necromorphs and the hostile environment of the planet. Also the terrestrial hazards as well as the organic life forms that exist there. The E3 2012 demo exposed people to the snow beast which we also used to tease throughout that part of gameplay.

The snow beast isn’t what we even consider an epic boss. The player doesn’t have to defeat the snow beast. It’s something that is potentially stalking Isaac. So here’s an evolution in how the planet-side terrestrial inhabitants are challenging and threatening Isaac.

There were a number of disturbing scenes in Dead Space 2 like the incident with the eye poke machine. Have you ever thought something was too full on to put in a Dead Space game?

JA: A lot of people ask if we pull ourselves back from doing things. I’ve not experienced that ever in this production. The eye poke resonates so much in the industry and the fan base. We’ve seen it mimicked in movies and TV. We planned to add more of that to Dead Space 3. We really want a Dead Space 3 eye poke moment. We call it that when were are brainstorming ideas because we really love that this idea really burnt through, even with people who never played the game. You saw it recently in Lockout when they completely mimicked the eye poke, which was effective. We don’t tend to pull back. I’m not too sure what horror tropes would be considered too much for Dead Space. If you’ve played our [gamescom 2012] demo to the end, I think you see that we are still full of that stuff.

Yes, there is a fair bit of legs, arms and head decapitation going on in the demo.

JA: We like the corpses [smiles].

Although some of the most unsettling moments from the first two games were actually when nothing was happening.

JA: Absolutely. The chirps of horror are often the misleading elements of horror games/movies. We don’t want to get too caught up in the traditional scare tactics. We don’t like the monster closets. We don’t like people perceiving our designs as just guys getting thrown out of ventilation because that where they spawn from. In Dead Space 2 these guys [Necromorphs] were using the vents to traverse and to actually cut you off. People didn’t really get it because of the traditional trope is for something to jump out of a scary, dark corridor.
Dead Space 3 - Ugly Necromorph
However, in Dead Space 3 we’ve just evolved the AI to act a little more deliberate. We evolved our VFX and our audio system to support that. Vent traversal is the method in which Necromorphs move around. Now we are trying to play that up even more so that it’s more obvious to the player; this is where the threat comes from for that particular type of enemy. Humans obviously come straight on. Big monsters come over the top.

I think our audio design lends itself so well to make that empty corridor as tense and foreboding as any of those things jumping out of vents. We use the lack of horror tropes to drive tension as much as the traditional tropes.

Is this the scariest Dead Space game yet?

JA: Well, given the visuals, the locations and the audio design, I would say absolutely. People that play that single-player game in the right setting are going to feel the same thrills, excitement, tension and fear that they’ve felt in the previous games.

We still know that recipe is for pacing, tension and putting people in precarious situations. One of the other favourite things we love to do is kill Isaac. There’s been over a 100 ways to die in Dead Space and we’ve just continued to build upon it. Taking the player right out of their comfort zone and putting Isaac as the extension of themselves in a place where he dies the most horrific death is actually part of the sadistic fun we have at the office day to day. It’s unfortunate for Isaac but fun for everyone else.

There was a scene in Dead Space 2 the earned you the “Clever Girl” achievement where two Necromorphs worked together to try and kill Isaac. Will we be seeing more of that in Dead Space 3?

JA: Well you’ve seen an example here of one of our new times of enemies – previous occupants of the ships and the terraforming project on Tau Volantis with the archaeologists who come dual wielding ice axes. We have a number of new NPC types that we are not talking about. It’s an interesting point you bring about intentionality in our NPC design.

One thing in this demo which involve Necromorphs that have been in stasis for 200 years and they are not actually spawning or appearing from vents, instead they are coming out of the ceilings and the walls in cocoons. It presents the player with opportunities to creep really cautiously on some occasions so that they may advert or skirt around the danger. And we might also use it to scare the hell out of you.
Dead Space 3 - Make Me A Boom Stick

The co-op is just one mechanism we’ve used to try and get more people to appreciate and experience our product. Dead Space 3 co-op has a really unique approach that fans should appreciate. It’s a single-player horror survival game at its roots. They can play through that story and experience all that content but like new game+, the co-op player also brings a fictional story arc with this own motivation and content at times. It going to expose the player to additional stuff that they won’t see with just Isaac’s story. John Carver’s addition to the Dead Space universe is our interest in helping people alleviate some of the fear by bringing a friend along for the ride as well as being able to tell a new story in line with Isaac’s quest.

Soon after I’d reviewed Dead Space 2 I participated in a global play though organised by our friends at ex-games blog 7BbitArcade. We started on Saturday morning and tweeted game progress updates and photos as we tried to finish the game first. It was great fun.

JA: [Smiles] We’ve had people we know that started their games with their buddies over their cell phone headsets at the same time as the played Dead Space 2 together. It helped them to solve the objectives and also alleviated the stress. We don’t want to stress people out, although that’s part of the fun. At the end of a long day at the office, having fun is the main objective and giving people an outlet for expression and entertainment.

Thanks for your time.

Dead Space 3 is due out on the 8th Feb 2013 for PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.