The lights are on
Visceral Games’ third installment in the successful Dead Space series introduces many new features to the horror franchise. For the first time, players can team up with a friend for co-op or build their weapons from scratch. Some gamers have criticized the developer for the inclusion of microtransactions and claim the sequel focuses too heavily on action. We talked to executive producer of Dead Space 3 and vice president of Visceral Games, Steve Papoutsis, about the thought processes behind these changes and the critical reception (read our review) of the game.
The game features some unnerving yet engrossing spacewalk sections. Few popular games, if any, have attempted to recreate what it’s like to be an astronaut. Why do you think this is?Isaac’s background as an engineer, plus our deep space setting, is what originally inspired us to explore the idea of doing Zero-G. You probably don’t see spacewalks in many games because it’s an action that’s “low intensity” by nature. I mean, you’re out in space – you can’t fall off a cliff, you can see in all directions… Where’s the threat? Spacewalks and Zero-G succeed in Dead Space precisely for that reason: we WANT to have periods of tension and suspense. Having nothing to see but the void of space, and nothing to hear but your heartbeat, is a great pace changer if you’ve just come from a scene of high intensity and action.
The crafting system is deep and satisfying yet has a pretty barebones tutorial. Did the team always intend to keep the training wheels off, or do you wish there would’ve been more guidance?Our goal was to create a system that would be easy to get the hang of after a few interactions. The Construction Bench is 200 year-old technology, so Isaac should initially feel as unfamiliar with it as the player. In addition to the Bench tutorial, we also have a Weapon Crafting Arena available in the front end of the game that allows people to experiment with crafting. This Arena also appears in the demo we released. We figured letting people go nuts with the system in a place that did not limit or use their resources would encourage experimentation, and lead people to be super creative with their own tools of destruction.
Why did the team decide to do away with Save Points?Co-op was the main reason we changed the save system. We needed a way to ensure specific checkpoints were being used so we could set the game state for our drop-in / drop-out implementation of co-op. The other concept that altered the save system was having Chapter Select. We wanted to let players jump into specific parts of the game easily. The idea was Chapter Select.
Many fans and reviewers seem to suggest the series has strayed from its atmospheric, horror roots in exchange for fast-paced action. Did the team work to develop a more action-focused game or was this an unexpected side effect?We set out to make a game that felt like Dead Space, continued our story, and provided answers for players who have been anxious to learn more about the Markers. The team nailed those goals. Horror is very personal and subjective, as is atmosphere. I think opinions about what’s scary and what’s atmospheric lay with the individual; so far, I’ve seen a lot of comments praising Dead Space 3’s diversity in setting and atmosphere, as well as how the feeling of horror is accomplished in lots of different tiny ways throughout the environments and settings.
Many outspoken gamers have criticized Dead Space 3 for including microtransactions. How did the team feel seeing this drama bubble up over the weeks leading to release?The team was unhappy to read speculation and criticism of a feature that people hadn’t even had a chance to play with or experience hands-on.
Now that the game is out people know that this system is optional, and that the game is not tuned to require any micro-transactions. Going even further, we give players in-game credits (ration seals) that allow them to purchase all resource packs for free. And on top of all that, we also created a Chapter Select system that allows players to easily replay areas so they can farm as many resources as they like. Our team is full of gamers; we would never add a pay-to-win mechanic to our games – we’re all about play-to-win. But as gamers, we also know that some people are busy these days and sometimes like a little boost; it’s easier for them to do that than invest extra time to collect the items themselves.
In the end, we built Dead Space 3 to give gamers more choice in how they approach the game. As gamers, we know how much people enjoy customization and making their game feel unique, this is why we offer different weapon and suit skins, weapon crafting and co-op.
What’s the craziest, most ridiculously overpowered gun you’ve seen the fans come up with so far?Many of the blueprint weapons are pretty crazy. Some of my favorites include: Pitch Black 392, Sweep the Leg, and Ship Repair. The one I made is called ….And Tubes! That one has a very fast rate of fire and stasis-coated projectiles….it’s uber. My favorite fan-made weapon is a Heavy Suspended Ripper with the Electrocution Module and Acid Bath attachment. It’s like a UFO that rains down electricity and elemental damage on the Necromorphs.