Dead Space Extraction - The Team Speaks!
Last week we had the opportunity to sit in on a conference call with part of the team behind EA Games' Dead Space: Extraction--namely, Steve Papoutsis (Executive Producer), Wright Bagwell (Creative Director), John Calhoun (Senior Designer), Jonathan Hackett (Art Lead/Direction), and Shereif Fattouh (Associate Producer). Of course we aimed to get you the goods on the game so read on for dozens of reasons why you should be using your Wiimote for something else other than Tennis!
As for when the game takes place in terms of the storyline, John Calhoun (Senior Designer) offered these tidbits of info:
"This game takes place three weeks before Dead Space and dovetails the event that took place in the animated feature [Dead Space: Downfall] and the comic books," said Calhoun, "but the main character that appears in Dead Space: Extraction is Nicole. We don't get to see what happens to her because of the way our timeline intersects with the first Dead Space, but we do get to see what she was like as a person before the infection broke out."
From there Shereif Fattouh answered some questions about the challenges of bringing the Dead Space experience to the Wii.
"The obvious thing with that question is the hardware limitations in some ways of the Wii versus the 360 and PS3, but on the flipside you have a lot of unique mechanics that were important for us to design from the ground up for the Wii," Fattouh said. "We were happy with the graphical fidelity we got out of the Wii; if you look at other Wii titles, we're pretty proud of what we were able to put out there. There were challenges, obviously, from our standpoint, but there were a lot of bonuses, too, that we got from working on the Wii and having the motion controls, taking advantage of the hardware that was there."
Steve Papoutsis than waxed on about why Dead Space: Extraction was conceived as a rail shooter instead of just a straight first person or third person video game experience.
"We decided to go with the on-rail shooter approach, or what we call a 'guided first-person' experience, because we had some very core focal points when we kicked off the project," said Papoutsis. "Those included creating a very deep and rich feeling experience that resonated with Dead Space fans. We found the big key things to making Dead Space originally were having great atmosphere, great visuals, great sound, and, of course, strategic dismemberment. It also helped make strategic dismemberment feel really satisfying. It connected the players greatly with their controls, so that was the motivation there."
When prompted to discuss the game's mechanics, Wright Bagwell offered this:
"We did talk a little bit early on about trying to bring over the controls directly from Dead Space One or make it FPS. We realized that one of the great things about being on the Wii is that it can do things that the other platforms can't, and that's really what we wanted to focus on."
So what about the violence? Did anything have to be dialed back to appear on Nintendo's extremely kid-friendly platform?
"The short answer to that question is no, we did not have to dial back any blood and gore," says Jonathan Hackett. "You're going to find that Dead Space: Extraction is just as bloody and violent as Dead Space One was. For people that really like that visceral experience of seeing things ripped apart, this is definitely going to satisfy you."
John Calhoun then spoke about the freedom they were given with the Dead Space license. Were any liberties taken?
"One of the things about working on an original IP is that we had all the freedom in the world, and even better one of the cool things about working on Dead Space is that it has a story bible that dates back two hundred years. So the real challenge was just figuring out in the timeline where we wanted to be. In Dead Space One we kind of teased the fact that the whole Necromorph invasion started at the extraction hole so we decided to tell that story."
So, what horror movies, if any, were the team inspired by?
"We started thinking about films like The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield, where I thought they did some nice clever things with the first-person camera," says Wright Bagwell. "We wanted to try to imitate some of the things that they did. For example, we wanted to make the camera feel like you were scared so when your player's in a situation where he's feeling paranoid, the camera's a little bit more twitchy, a little bit more nervous. There are times when we want to knock you on the ground and give you a view in the world that you never get in the game."
What about graphics? We all know the Wii is lacking the horsepower of other platforms in this gen. How would that affect the look and feel of the game?
"The Wii is certainly a different beast, especially when it comes to developing on the 360 or PS3," Hackett said. "Were there concessions that had to be made? Yeah, in the sense that you can't have the same amount of polys, same shaders, things like that. That being said, I think that the Wii is graphically a much stronger machine than people give it credit for. I think the graphics are going to surprise a lot of people; I don't think anyone is going to have any complaints about this game not looking like Dead Space."
On bringing more traditional shooter action to the Survival Horror experience:
"We brought over a lot of the weapons from Dead Space One, and we added a few weapons that I think do some pretty cool new stuff," says Bagwell. "We've given you probably a bit more ammo than in Dead Space, since you can't turn and run when you run out of ammo in this game, so we had to make sure that the players weren't frustrated in this situation. But we had to make sure that you felt pressure to conserve ammunition and you felt pressure to scour the world to find ammunition. I think part of the gameplay is keeping an eye out in the world for things that will be helpful for you."
Rail shooters can be notoriously short. What of replay value?
"You're going to come to points in the world where you're going to be able to decide which path you want to choose, and choosing any one of those paths takes you to a completely different environment," Fattouh said. "It's pretty fun because each one will be a different thing, and it ups the replay as well since once you choose to go down a certain path, you're going to be locked down to that path for the remainder of the playthrough, so there are benefits to going back and seeing what you may have missed before."
In closing ...
"It is a brand new story and we're really excited to add all of these new characters to the Dead Space franchise. But that being said, there are a lot of homages to the first Dead Space, particularly in the puzzles and actions that you do in the Ishimura that will have a direct impact on Isaac Clarke," Calhoun said. "You get this experience of coming before Isaac, and when you play both games, it gives you a real satisfying connection, kind of like 'Oh yeah, I did that! Sorry, Isaac, but I kind of screwed you over.'"
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