Executive producer Steve Papoutsis says Visceral has been planning co-op since original Dead Space, talks challenge of finding new ways to scare gamers.
The Dead Space series is one of Electronic Arts' biggest properties. And with Dead Space 3, the most ambitious game Visceral has made to date, horror comes home in a whole new way. The game features a new co-op campaign where series hero Isaac Clarke fights alongside newcomer John Carver. It is a major change to an established franchise. And it fits.
That's according to executive producer Steve Papoutsis, who told GameSpot this week that Visceral had been toying around with the idea for Dead Space co-op since the original Dead Space. He said co-op in Dead Space 3 fits the narrative and is a natural evolution of the franchise.
Elsewhere in the discussion, Papoutsis explained how his time as bassist for '90s punk rock band No Use For a Name influenced the music in the Dead Space series, why EA skipped the Wii U for Dead Space 3, and the challenges associated with finding new ways to scare gamers.
Your musical background is intriguing to me. No Use for a Name was unabashedly a punk rock group. But the Dead Space series seems to have a different energy. Whereas punk rock typically takes no time at all to get going, the Dead Space series feels slower, more direct, and more finely focused on building tension instead of launching straight into the action. Considering these dueling ideas, how did your time with No Use for a Name influence your work on the Dead Space series?
First off, I’m just one of many people that contribute on the game. In terms of my musical background’s impact on Dead Space, it actually comes in handy all of the time. Prior to being a video game producer, while I was playing in No Use For A Name, I was an audio engineer and producer, with my first work in video games as audio director at Crystal Dynamics, working on games like Soul Reaver. Whenever I’m working with the audio team here at Visceral my background really helps me provide feedback and direction for our soundscape. In Dead Space 3, we are trying to add in more melodic themes in addition to our usual musical queues. This is something we started playing with in Dead Space 2 and we are continuing to push into more. So far I’m digging the results. We have some really interesting themes going that I find myself humming after playing the game.
As for the game at hand, one of the biggest and most obvious changes with Dead Space 3 is the addition of a co-op partner. There was a report from this summer that suggested EA research found that single-player-only Dead Space games may have been too scary. Is this why a co-op partner was added?
We added co-op to Dead Space 3 because it was something the team was passionate about, something we actually played around with even on Dead Space 1, and it was where our story was heading. When we sit down to work on a game we really focus on our story and look at that as ways to develop and evolve our games. The story of Dead Space 3 really lent itself to introducing new characters and John Carver is just one of the new faces people will get to see.
I recently went on a haunted hayride in the middle-of-nowhere Maine. It was terrifying, but I was not alone. Rather, I was on a wagon with a dozen others. In a way, for me, going through that experience with others was exactly the right "scare level." Is there a similar aim in Dead Space 3? Or am I just a baby?
"We added co-op to Dead Space 3 because it was something the team was passionate about, something we actually played around with even on Dead Space 1, and it was where our story was headed."
That’s the thing; horror is subjective. What is fun or scary for one person may be boring for another or absolutely terrifying. We see this with feedback on Dead Space all the time. Some people claim it is not scary; others say it is way too scary. Ultimately, we just want people to say it is a really fun game and give them the opportunity to share the thrilling Dead Space experience with a friend, just like you and friends enjoyed the haunted hayride together.
Why did EA choose to skip the Wii U for Dead Space 3?
When we kicked off development for the Dead Space franchise we targeted the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC as our target platforms after our initial prototyping. Given that, we decided to stick with what we have done to date and stay with those systems. I’m sure the Nintendo will have great success with the Wii U.
What are your thoughts on the platform, specifically its GamePad controller? What kinds of control opportunities does it present?
A game developed specifically for the Wii U from the ground up would open up a lot of possibilities. The fact you can have a second screen with touch interface is pretty awesome. Some of the more obvious things that come to mind are maps and inventory on the second screen, or even some sort of cool scanning device if your game called for it. It would be fun to brainstorm ideas around it for sure.
Horror is at the core of the Dead Space franchise. But from what we've seen thus far of Dead Space 3, there is more action than ever before. How are you balancing staying true to the horror roots and providing an action experience as well?
The team takes the core tenets of Dead Space very seriously. For a game to be a Dead Space game it needs to have the following: great atmosphere, tension, thrills, horror, terror, immersion, superior sound, and action. If the game does not have a good mix of those key elements it's not a Dead Space game. The biggest challenge is blending and balancing all of those elements and ensuring the pacing does not become predictable. This is something we work on all the way up until we ship the game.
What are some of the challenges you face designing scenes meant to be terrifying when two players are involved instead of just one?
Our approach to creating tension and terror in co-op is slightly different than the in single-player. In co-op we utilize the dialog between the characters to amplify key moments, and the fact there are two players in the scene can really support making something feel more sketchy or challenging or risky. We also have introduced additional missions that only Carver can unlock that are centered around his own personal story. You’ll see Carver is having fits of dementia and that allows for us to tap into the elements of psychological horror that have been a key pillar of the series.
"That’s the thing; horror is subjective. What is fun/scary for one person may be boring for another or absolutely terrifying."
Is it difficult to continue creating new ways to scare gamers?
Our goal with the game is to try and get the pacing to a place that works and keeps things fresh and avoids repetition. The inclusion of scares or horror moments is really a part of our pacing pass. We need to look for pockets of the game that support scare moments. As an example, it’s not going to be super scary for someone to have another necromorph jump out of a vent in the middle of combat, as the player is probably already focused on another threat, so that type of scare is lost on the player. The best scares are the ones that come at unexpected times and keep the player on their toes.
So many EA titles today not only include a competitive multiplayer component, but they focus a lot of time and energy on this. Why did EA drop competitive multiplayer from Dead Space 3?
Competitive multiplayer made a lot of sense in Dead Space 2 given our story. There was an outbreak on The Sprawl, so The Sprawl security forces attempted to fight back the necromorphs, as a component of our story. In Dead Space 3, we are introducing co-op because that is where our story is headed and it is evolving our franchise. We are focusing on co-op because it is new for Visceral and we want it to be innovative and awesome. Dead Space 3 is the biggest game we have ever made so we want to make sure we nail single player and co-op.
A multiplayer component is often used, by EA and others, as a means to extend a title's longevity. Battlefield 3 players are encouraged to hold on to their discs because DLC streams in, even a year later. The same can be said for Mass Effect 3 and others. Without a competitive multiplayer component, how will you convince players to hold on to their discs?
Dead Space 3’s campaign is huge in itself as it’s the biggest game we’ve ever built with many side missions to explore, but we’ve also added new game modes, and our new weapon crafting system really encourages exploration, experimentation, and replayability. Couple that with co-op, which unlocks new story content focused around John Carver and I think we have a very compelling game for people to play and enjoy with their friends for a long time.
Certainly there is more material to tap into for future games, but is Dead Space 3 the end of a trilogy?
The Dead Space universe is massive and there are tons of interesting stories left to tell. We are looking forward to what our players think of the game and will consider our next steps then
Dead Space 3 is due out on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC February 5.
Devs: We're adding things to Dead Space.
Kids: OMFG ADDING THINGS RUINED EVERY GAME EVER
Devs: Calm down, we're just introducing another way to play. We left everything else intact.
Kids: OMFG THEY DIDN'T CHANGE ANYTHING! IT'S A CLONE GAME!
Devs: No, we're expanding the content into new territories!
Kids: I F*CKING HATE NEW!!!
Devs: We didn't change it THAT much.
Kids: OMFG STALE GAMEPLAY.
That's all I hear anymore about any game on the market. A flurry of tears over a game they have yet to try, with features that children are all afraid of. They want something different and new, but if it's too new it's garbage. Pathetic.
This is going to be a catastrophic failure, Electronic Arts pressuring their studios for online features even if it doesn't fit the game. Help abolish EA to emancipate their development studios, boycott EA today and forever. Say no to the EA corporate bloodsucking leaches that are killing the good studios tricked by EA.
At least give the game a chance! How can you say it will be a catastrophic failure if you (like everyone else) know very little about the game. Dont be so closed minded:)
I imagine that among other things the failure to scare comes because the notion of an undead menace is dulled by the fast-paced and mindless action of an FPS genre, and possibly because there are so many other games where the undead are more frightening by comparison...Other considerations would be the fact that zombie themes are over-used and really not all that frightening, not to say that there aren't other alternatives which would be more effective for the scare...
Question: "Why does Co-Op Fit the Horror of Dead Space 3"
Answer: "Because this way we count on making moar mony."
Follow-up question: "Is that really in keeping with the spirit of the game?"
I never understood why they scrapped MP. Now I just might download the game instead of buying it. Yes, I went there. Now it'll be just another "FINISH CAMPAIGN, PUT GAME ON SHELF TO COLLECT DUST."
@yourdem1ze How the heck did you game on PSone and PStwo then? They had no online,yet you loved it. Man you are one heckuva IDIOT if you think all this current gen is just MP or no buy. You are what i hate about this current gen gamers,dont care if you're poor and need to pay your college fees, Not every game needs MP. Case in point : Mario Galaxy games,GOTYs
Its so clear that the developers are shiting there pants after the huge backlash that Residen tEvil 6 receive from the survival horror fans. why can they understand that co op and survival horror does not go together. They game is just EA trying appeal to fans of call of duty uncharted gears of war and battlefield. This game is gonna get a huge backlash and poor reviews
Really Eddie? The haunted hayride you went on with a dozen people was "terrifying" ? Not only does that make you sound like a child, but it's a completely illogical argument. If the ride scared you when you were surrounded by 12 people, would it not have been a more "terrifying" experience if you were isolated with none of your friends? Sure it wouldn't have been as much "fun" but it would have been a more horrific experience. Visceral games is cashing in on the Dead Space name by turning a once horror based experience into an action game. This is blatant public damage control after the poorly reviewed Resident Evil 5. Sadly RE5 sold well for Capcom so maybe EAs title will be ok, but as for consumers, we'll be getting a milked franchise.
Back to PR s**t, Gamespot? I thought we were past that.
What's scary is that people are stupid enough to buy a game that is being compared to "haunted hayrides" as if it were a good thing.
All the fans of past games will continue buying the games.
All the people that didn't like the past games didn't buy them.
By changing the game so that they now would like it and removing the horror and adding multiplayer they may not want to pick it up.
They now sold more copies of the game and made more money. Quality of the game is irrelevant. Capcom learned this a long time ago. Despite how upset people sound to be they still make millions.
Did EA write the headline for this interview? This whole thing read a bit more like a PR release than the normal GS interview.
Question: Is the Dead Space team still the Dead Space team from the first two games? I got the impression plenty of those guys moved on, the lead on DS1 in particular went to Activision to form Sledgehammer.
I only played the demo of this but my understanding is that it never was scary. It was just a shooter in space.
Maybe I just have another definition of scary as I don't get frightened by stuff making loud noises and jumping out in front of me. Or maybe the demo did a poor job of representing the game. *shrugs*
I do think it is possible to make a good co-op horror game. But it's more complicated than adding a second player.
You'd need to be separated and have poor radio contact and stuff like that. And it would have to be internet co-op so you don't know wth the other person is doing. Counting on someone else to help you when you have only occasional contact with them. Stuff like that.
it is a bad idea to have the game waste resources to make co-op when those resources can go into making the game longer and even scarier then the last two, but i mean you asked if it was a bad idea to go co-op, heres the thing about co-op, unless you and the partner are getting seperated and tehn having to play different paths of the game to link back up, and during those splits you get the scare moments of alone knowing your boy is someone and he is only, and then bam nercomorph behind you, no one has your back now, then some horror in order to get to a door that is closing due to a airlock, there is the thrill of knowing you have to do this alone, and eventually maybe you'll meet your boy again. but EA and viseral aren't doing that, as most have said, it allows ea to charge for extra content and as ea always does to great titles, allows them to ruin it for the core gamer base that made it what it is, in order to reach casual gamers to enhance sales. Is anyone shocked though it is EA. however viserial was a good company and i thought they would tell ea no, but they have no control.
Actually, if you pick single player you'll not going to have a partner. Otherwise the main game is similar.
Total garbage, adding a co-op partner to the game just breaks the immersion and fear of being alone and isolated in a haunting space station, now your going to have your annoying friend running around in front of you. The DeadSpace franchise is built on being alone in outter space. Now they have made it into a generic co-op shooter which is pretty much the same formula alot of other successful games are doing. It's like the game had its special niche, and now its dropping that in something a boardroom has deemed more commercially viable. Thanks for ruining yet ANOTHER franchise E.A.
@electrobanCo-op is optional. If you select single player then the co-op partner appears as your radio operator. This was annouced back at E3.
@electroban electro scroll down and read my comment, if EA was truly wanting co-op read my little comment about how they should implement co-op from the words of a dead space lover here, have all the movies have all the games, love them all and i think my comment truly should be how the co-op in games like this are done.
No competitive multiplayer on DS3... damn. I guess the unbalanced bad multi on DS2 made them scrap it. It would of been cool if DS3 has human vs human. Oh well... i just hope the co op is challenging.
Yeah, this article, also EA clearly stated all their new games will introduce Multiplayer or Co-op, so we are going to see Multiplayer later on in Dragon Age 3, and they will also say "We wanted to make it Multiplayer since the first game guys!"
Just, come on EA.
It's almost required to play the solo version of the campaign first if you want to experience COMPLETE. HORROR. SATURATION.
It's too soon to say if co-op is going to work well in DS3. But I got the impression they added it because, with other guy on the screen, you don't feel so alone...? Anyway, great series, I'm looking forward to it!
EA Board: "1 12 year old kid and 1 house wife found Dead Space 1 and 2 too scary. Take out all the horror and add co op for Dead Space 3 to maximize our sales"
Why Co-Op Fits the Horror of Dead Space 3? because of there is no horror in Dead Space series, DS1 had some creepy moments in beginning of the game and nothing more... DS2 had none. For me it's just a shooter with grim atmosphere. (and pretty good one)
@321FOX123I'm sorry but, when Isaac discovered Nicole was dead in the 1st DS (although, as players, we kinda knew she was from the beginning; she was like a "persistent thought" on his imagination), it was creepy realizing that through his eyes! His devastation was clear. If this is not horror for you...
@franzito I was horrified when realized that James Sunderland killed his wife in SH2.... in case of Nicole (since Isaac in DS1 doesnt speak) I couldn't care less.
This reeks of PR damage control, the co-op is being forced in to allow EA to charge for map packs or co-op DLC it has nothing to do with making a better game.
Their is Something else......to Everyone calling this a COD......Have you actually played the Game or do u just like Criticizing (B****ing) on anything EA Develops ???
.....to everyone Hating on the coop.......If you dont like the Co-op...Then SIMPLY... Dont-Play-The Coop......you can Actually play it Single player only (as it was mentioned alot before btw)
....and their is something else.....after u finish the game on your First Playthrough alone in single player.......is it Really such a Bad idea to Finish it Again With your Friend on Coop ?????!!!
@RIIIIKU it is a bad idea to have the game waste resources to make co-op when those resources can go into making the game longer and even scarier then the last two, but i mean you asked if it was a bad idea to go co-op, heres the thing about co-op, unless you and the partner are getting seperated and tehn having to play different paths of the game to link back up, and during those splits you get the scare moments of alone knowing your boy is someone and he is only, and then bam nercomorph behind you, no one has your back now, then some horror in order to get to a door that is closing due to a airlock, there is the thrill of knowing you have to do this alone, and eventually maybe you'll meet your boy again. but EA and viseral aren't doing that, as most have said, it allows ea to charge for extra content and as ea always does to great titles, allows them to ruin it for the core gamer base that made it what it is, in order to reach casual gamers to enhance sales. Is anyone shocked though it is EA. however viserial was a good company and i thought they would tell ea no, but they have no control.
@david1230 All what you said is true....I want to be Scared and have the "no-one-having-my-back" felling you mentioned...thats why i well play it Alone on my first playthrough with no partner ....Then after i beat the game i'll play it again with my friend....it wont be scary at all i know that....but it well still be good fun :D
I would have agreed with you on the "Wasting resources" bet if they where making multiplayer like in DS2....but this game they are just focused on the main campaign....thats why i have high hope for DS 3
Wait... A report that 1-2 were too scary in SP?! The F***?! That's the point isn't it? I like the idea of co-op tbh, but I don't know how I'd feel about being the lone survivor in a zombie-esque nightmare hellhole surrounded by countless enemies trying to devour me...oh, and Bob is there too... RE should be the framework that DS3 avoids, co-op can be good, but it has to be done very carefully in this type of genre (though, in all fairness to RE, it hasn't been in this genre in quite a while.).
That's a pretty long and drawn-out way of saying "EA doesn't believe in pure Single Player games anymore."
Natural evolution of the series, sure... Soon he'll tell us that they are gonna include online competitive multiplayer in Dead Space 4, of course as part of this "natural evolution". Fuck off!
@toshineon Ummmm, they had competitive multiplayer in Dead Space 2. Have you even played the games or are you just Trollin'??
@jsphcnly69 I have, never noticed that. Don't call me a troll, I wasn't trying to insult anyone, don't take it so personally.
@toshineon Wasn't calling you a troll. Was askin' if you played the games and were trollin'. Legit questions.
Yes there was competitive multiplayer. Wasn't that good, entertaining for a bit, but didn't last.