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The New Theory Of Horror: Dead Space 2's Creative Director Speaks

Dead Space 2 creative director Wright Bagwell delves deep into the creative process that the team followed in devising a compelling horror experience and discusses how Visceral Games hopes to push the medium forward.

Kris Graft

January 24, 2011

34 Min Read

[Dead Space 2 creative director Wright Bagwell delves deep into the creative process that the team followed in devising a compelling horror experience and discusses how Visceral Games hopes to push the medium forward.]

2008's Dead Space from Electronic Arts reenergized the horror genre for the current generation, clearing the cobwebs of design conventions that had built up over the years while retaining the ideas that made the genre so beloved to gamers. Now, Dead Space 2 is about to ship and is even more evolved than its predecessor.

The sequel aims to build upon a genuine franchise at EA. Dead Space saw a Wii-exclusive spin-off in Dead Space: Extraction as well as animated videos and comics that further explored the rich universe. A live action feature film is also reportedly in the works.

In this detailed interview, creative director Wright Bagwell with Dead Space 2 developer Visceral Games delves deep into the creative process that the team followed in devising a compelling horror experience.

Bagwell also recounts the influences, from both game and film, that informed the team, and discusses how Visceral Games hopes to push the medium forward with its work on the game.

You were senior gameplay designer on Dead Space. How did you end up becoming creative director on this game?

Wright Bagwell: Well, the previous creative director [Bret Robbins] left, and I was the creative director on Dead Space Extraction for Wii after Dead Space 1, so I was pretty knowledgeable about the franchise and pretty passionate about it.

When he left, that created an opportunity for me. After we started working on Dead Space Extraction, I was working together on Dead Space Extraction and Dead Space 2, trying to get it up off the ground.

Just based on marketing materials that I've seen for Dead Space 2 -- I saw the whole "Your Mom Hates Dead Space 2" campaign, by the way -- it sounds like the sequel will have a heavier focus on action. Would that be accurate to say?

WB: You know, I think so. It's kind of a tricky thing to say until you play the game. I think a lot of people are worried that we're sort of taking this game in a direction that makes it less scary, less atmospheric, less tense -- all those sorts of things. Our intention is not to turn the game into an all-out action game. Our intention really is to just give you better pacing throughout the game. What I told the team when we started was that we wanted to make it feel a little more like a roller coaster ride.

So, in Dead Space 1, it's tense throughout the game. It never really lets up. And what we found is that there were a lot of people who told us first-hand -- I can tell you that I probably have at least five friends who played the game and came back to me and said -- "Aw, man, Dead Space 1 was really good. I loved it. I was playing it last night. It's totally cool, but I can't play anymore because it felt like I was going to have a heart attack."

They're like, "You know, when I come home, I really want to be able to relax a little bit. I don't want to feel like I'm playing a game that's going to give me a heart attack." So, we talked about it quite a bit, and what we said was that we obviously can't give up what made Dead Space 1 great. It still had to be scary and atmospheric and tense and all those sorts of things, but we had to make players feel like it wasn't just up to ten the whole time.

On Dead Space 2, what we said was that there are moments where we'll kind of change things up a little bit. There are moments that you feel like you have a little bit of empowerment, or there are times when you feel like the action in the game sort of takes a turn from being slower, more strategic, more sort of action-horror-style to a little bit faster paced. It'll show you something a little crazy for a little bit so that it feels like a little bit of break from the claustrophobia and darkness and tension. And after we put you in those moments, it kind of rams you back into the Dead Space 1-style gameplay.

In the end, I don't think that people are going to say that the game really became this action game. What I think they're going to say -- what I hope they're going to say -- is that it feels like there's just a lot more variety, that it has everything that Dead Space 1 has but a lot more as well.


For me, and I think for a lot of other horror game or survival horror game fans, that's a selling point, though -- the claustrophobia that you get throughout the game; the tension. Do you think easing up on that would kind of take away from what the game is trying to do?

WB: Well, what I think is going to happen, or at least what we strive to do, is make it feel significant every time you go into an area that is dark or claustrophobic or scary looking. What I found and what we found from talking to people after Dead Space 1 is that for some players -- not all players, some players were scared from the first moment to the very end -- felt like once you've seen one hallway with a strobe light, you've seen all you need to see and the effect sort of wears off on people.

They become desensitized.

WB: So, what I wanted to do this time is actually give you variety in the different kind of spaces that you're going to be in so that when you did come across a darker or more claustrophobic space, it would be more likely that it has a significant impact on you.

What I wanted people to do was when they get to places that are especially claustrophobic, say, "Oh no, I really don't want to go in there." What I described to the team is sort of like, in a vampire film, as the time of day changes, you get this feeling of, "Oh no. The sun is going down. It's going to get really, really bad now".

Or in a film when you're outside the house. Now you need to go into the spooky, haunted house and go down into the dark basement. And when you open that door and look down into the dark basement, you have that moment of like, "God, I really don't want to go down in there."

And what I told the team was that it sometimes felt like Dead Space 1 was just a series of dark basements, and so after a while, you don't look at a hallway and think, "Oh, I don't want to go down there." It's just another dark, creepy hallway.

So, I guess the jury is still out. We're waiting to hear back and see how well things worked out for Dead Space 2. But everything that I've heard so far is that people really appreciate the variety. It's another way to keep people on their toes when you keep throwing spaces that look and feel a bit different at them. [Initial reviews for Dead Space 2 are currently averaging over 90 percent. -- Ed.]

You mentioned references to movies. I definitely noticed a lot of Alien movie franchise stuff going on there, even the inclusion of a mining ship. Do you look at film quite a bit to find ways to frighten your audience?

WB: Yeah, definitely. Alien and Aliens were things that we reference a lot on Dead Space 1 and Dead Space 2, and I think almost everyone we talked to, the first thing they say is kind of like, "Ah, it sounds like you guys are going from Alien to Aliens." I think that's pretty fair to say.

We definitely take a lot of influence from films. Everybody on the team is a film junkie. I think everyone in the game industry is. We all love entertainment. I think, though, that we've tried to do some things this time, there are a few moments in the game that I'm really proud of because I think that we're doing things that I think only games can do. We're trying to pioneer, in terms of ways to terrify or horrify the player.

Can you describe at Visceral -- is there a method in which the team tries to engineer fright in a video game?

WB: There is a couple of things that we do. What we try to do first at the start is write a story that puts you into some pretty terrifying situations. That's the first step. And I think it's just a start. It's pretty hard to get at that level that's really terrifying. But then what we do is we usually go -- and after we've thought about the story and how do we break the chapters down -- we actually have a guy on the team we called a horror producer. So, that was Rich Briggs.

He's been with the franchise basically from the start. It was his job to basically go through the game, figure out where the moments where the team would really focus on to try to create something really memorable. Throughout the whole game, there's atmosphere and there's blood, and there are guys popping out of vents and things like that and trying to scare you.

There were moments where we really wanted to make feel special and moments that we knew we had to get the whole team involved because it was going to take special effects and music and lighting and all these kinds of things.

It was his job to go in and work with me and a few other guys on the team, the art director, our production designer, and the level designers to coordinate, to make sure everything all came together.

That was really the methodology, going through and finding these spaces that were really good opportunities because the story called for it or because it was going to need a new enemy introduced or because somebody just had a random really good idea like "Oh, hey, what if we had this happen in this room?"

Beyond that, what we also did is we tried to get the whole team involved in the idea. We tried to get the whole team involved so that we can really leverage some simple ideas that we weren't really thinking about.

What we did is we actually had this little horror contest [within Visceral]. People just wrote up ideas and sent them to the leadership of the team. And some of the best ideas that we had in Dead Space 1 and Dead Space 2 came from artists, level designers, sound effects guys, all kinds of different people on the team who had good ideas for little moments, just small little simple things that were interesting horror moments.

When it comes down to how we engineer the horror... after we came up with some ideas that we thought would be good, it's actually really, really hard to get the horror in early, to get the tension in early.

When we first started coming up with these ideas, we put them in the game, and typically, the first pass we take at them is pretty comical. You know, like a level designer will go in and say, "Okay, well, we want to have this thing happen right here." So, you know, the room's not lit yet, and we don't have the sound effects for it yet, and we might not have an animation for some things. You walk in, "Oo", a little guy pops up and jumps out at you or something.

Or you come in, and [the designer says,] "Okay, when you come into this room, you're going to hear this banging sound, and there's going to be a light flashing in the corner, and we're going to try to lure the player over because his eyes are going to be drawn to the flashing light or the sound of the thing or the spinning thing in the room.

And then right when he's walking over to it and he's looking at this thing that we're baiting him with, we'll hit him from the side, or we'll reveal it to be something else." We built those, and they're really, really crude at the start. Inevitably, every time we look at this, we were just like, "Really? That's how we're going to scare people?" [laughs]


It takes a lot of time because first we sort of have to get the timing right. We have to go through them and make sure they're the right size and shape. Make sure there's nothing else going on. We have to make sure that, for example, it's not likely that you would be engaged in combat while we're trying to do something else.

Or we have to make it so that it's very unlikely that an enemy might chase you [to an atmospheric fright moment], or that [the player] might run past a fight and walk into this setup that's supposed to be atmospheric, while you're firing your guns and enemies are screaming and jumping at you and that kind of thing.

Once we get the sort of space and the timing and that sort of mechanical stuff out of the way, really, it's actually a very long process because we have to start getting the lighting just right. We have to take a lot of care to make sure that there's not a lot of other things that might be happening that could spoil it, like audio logs placed in the room or, for example, oftentimes level designers go in and sometimes forget that they're trying to get some good atmosphere, good tension in a room, and they start placing pick-ups in a room.

You know, you're walking around a room. [Designers] are hoping you're going to be scared, and instead players are running around the room like, "Aw yeah, cool, look at all these pick-ups!" They're smashing boxes and picking stuff up. That spoils it. So we keep trying to remove stuff, and eventually the last thing that happens is the sound effects guys go in and tune the music and get the right sound effects.

And what we've found is that the game is basically almost never scary until the very, very end. This happened on Dead Space 1 and Dead Space 2, where I was playing the game and I was just like, "Ah, man. This is not going to scare anybody. We've got to do better than this." And inevitably, one the sound guys go in, and they're the last guys to touch the game, they're the last guys to touch a level... They go in and they layer in sounds, and it just makes a world of difference.

In fact, I can tell you on Dead Space 2, when we went beta, I was playing through the game, and I was really, really impressed with it. I was super happy with what the team accomplished. But as I said, the sound guys are usually the last guys to go through a game. And about two weeks after we hit beta, they had done their final pass on audio through the game, and I played it again after they did that, and it was like a whole new game. It was twice as good.

We found that so much of it requires getting the designers especially to coordinate to make sure that there aren't other things going on. Typically, we find that after we design a level on paper and we build it, it's usually a process of pulling things out rather than putting things in to make them better.

We found that in Dead Space, less is more. We always overestimate how much combat to put in. We always overestimate how many pick-ups you need to put in a world and that kind of thing. Every time we build a level, we have to keep learning the same lessons. We put all the stuff in, and then as the sound effects go in and we get all those moments with a fine tune, we keep pulling more and more stuff out.

Getting silence in a game is what we find sort of the best thing in terms of getting the Dead Space experience. We're constantly finding that long periods of silence work really well for us, which is great, because that's relatively easy to do.

That doesn't really surprise me at all because games like Dead Space, with all the atmospheric clanging and groaning of monsters in the distance, really get to people because they don't know what's happening; you're letting the player come up with things in their own head.

Have you had a chance to play Amnesia at all?

WB: Yeah, I have. I played the demo. I have to admit I didn't get through the whole thing. Unfortunately, I have really bad carpal tunnel syndrome so I can only play a PC game with a mouse for a pretty short period of time, so I have to spend my time with a PC wisely.

But, yeah, I'd love to have a conversation with you about Amnesia. I think there's a lot of interesting things to say about it.

The number one thing that you said that's really tough to accomplish with video games is letting the player use his imagination, to let the player think there's more going on than there actually is. So, having sounds that suggest there are creatures in the room with you when there aren't any physically there is one of the best ways to scare players.

And some of my favorite films of all time are the films that don't really show you much, if anything at all. I think the films that probably scared me more than anything else were the Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity.

People's imaginations are always far more powerful than anything you can put on screen, but the problem with video games, of course, is that you've got to have 10 hours worth of content, and you can only make so many enemies because it takes so long to build them, to concept them, to animate them the right AI for them.

So, it's always frustrating making games when we want to try to have moments that might be like Paranormal Activity, but it just doesn't work because it's oftentimes really hard to draw stuff out too long without giving the player something to fight against.

I think Amnesia really fascinated me because it got such a good reaction from people. The fact that you, as far as I know, hardly ever really see an enemy in a game is quite interesting. I think the thing about Amnesia for me, though, is it's definitely a niche game. I can't imagine that there are a lot of people in the mainstream that would really be into a game like that.

And of course I don't know much about sales or anything like that, but it struck me as a really great game that I think a very small number of players might enjoy. We found that when doing market research on Dead Space, when we look at other survival horror games, stuff from Japan like Fatal Frame and the like, there's a really, really rabid fanbase for those games, but they actually don't sell very well at all.

Of course, we'd like to make games that sell a lot. Everybody does. It was pretty hard to convince people to give us the money to make a game when you're talking about sales in the hundreds of thousands, you know.

The other thing I think that's interesting about Amnesia is you mentioned in your mail [prior to the interview] is about empowerment and its usefulness in scaring the player.


It is a small indie game, it's kind of a niche game, but at the same time, you said that a couple of your favorite horror films were these small low budget films that happened to make lots of money. Could it be just down to marketing an indie horror game like that? ... Do you think that there's more room in the horror genre for the mass market than just weapons-based action, Aliens-type sci-fi games?

WB: Absolutely. One of the things about our industry is we're so focused on the big titles, just as Hollywood is, but the film industry does better at letting small titles break through. Personally, I would love to see more kind of great, more focused indie titles out there. Personally, I play a little bit of everything from... I still play text adventure games, I love stuff on the iPhone and iPad, I play console games. I'm always checking out the stuff on Xbox Live Arcade, on PSN. I love going to see the stuff that's on the Indie channel on Xbox Live. There's some really good stuff there.

I definitely think that we need to figure out how to promote these smaller indie titles, everyone's been saying this. We've got to figure out how to bring in new ideas. We've got to figure out how to promote fresh thinking in games. I really think that there is a space in the market for it. I'm not in marketing, though, so I don't know exactly how that would be done, but personally as a designer and as a guy who just loves games, I'd love to see more of that kind of stuff.

You guys did play quite a bit with player disempowerment with the Regenerator and with the ammo situations that you run into at certain points.

WB: Yeah. I think that's the main way that we tried to [do it]... I sort of disempowered the player in Dead Space, giving him very limited resources.

There's an interesting story from Dead Space 1 and Dead Space 2, which is that when we started building Dead Space 1, we basically started with a mechanic set that was really similar to Resident Evil 4. We were all really huge fans of that game.

We kind of started -- we had never made a survival horror game -- by saying, "Well, I think in order to scare the player, you really need to sort of cap how much control the player can have, right?" In RE4 and a lot of those survival horror games, they all have these pretty clunky control schemes that don't let you do all the things that you can do in most other shooters, for example.

Yeah. Like walk and shoot a gun. [laughs]

WB: Yeah, exactly. [laughs]. Well, if you could walk and shoot and strafe and everything, you couldn't possibly scare the player that bad if you let him do that [we believed]. And so we started off with a mechanic set that was almost identical to Resident Evil 4. We kept focus-testing the game, and every time we focus tested the game, people would complain about stuff like that.

We thought, "Well, but, you know, that's just kind of what we have to do [to scare people]." Eventually we got kind of tired of hearing people complain about it, and we said, "Hey, we should be trying to scare players by doing things that are actually kind of scary rather than making them just feel helpless." So, we started to do things like... letting you move.

And we turned up the speed that you rotate. And we turned up the speed that you could run, and things like that. And, obviously, we never got to the point where you feel like a superhero, and we never got you to the point where it feels like you playing some kind of acrobat or anything like that.

You still feel you're like an everyday guy walking around in a big heavy suit, but what we found is that as long as we focused on making the game really atmospheric and putting you in freaky situations and getting the timing of everything right, you didn't really have to disempower the player that much in order to scare him.

And I think the upside of that is that, again, we don't want to make a game that feels like a niche game. I think most players, if they pick up a controller these days -- after having played so many other shooters and things like that -- if you pick up the controller and suddenly you felt like all the freedoms you had in other games are taken away from you, it's hard for people to stomach that. People don't have a palate for it.

I think it's sort of the win/win that we gave people a control scheme that didn't feel like it was too deliberately cumbersome but yet still manage to scare people pretty darn well. And I think that's the direction we went with Dead Space 2 as well. What we said was "Hey, let's take this a little bit farther. Let's get people to pick this game up, and the moment they start playing with the controller, we want them to feel good."

We want people to feel good about controlling the game because we don't want them to be thinking about how to wrestle with the controls. We want them to be thinking about their strategy. We want them to be thinking about "Hey, which weapon should I be wielding now? Am I reloaded? What am I going to carry in my inventory?" That kind of thing.

We would much rather have people thinking on a little higher level, a little more strategically rather than thinking more about, "Oh my God, if something jumps out at me, am I going to be able to shoot it in the face?" You know what I mean?

It almost seems like "player empowerment" is all relative, don't you think? With you guys, you make the character more agile, but at the same time, you compensated with some faster enemies in later levels. You can also empower the enemies as well as the player to kind of close that gap.

WB: Exactly. I remember on Dead Space 1 I have to admit I was really worried about it, and I said, "You know, we're entering an arms race. If Isaac [Clarke, the game's lead character] moves faster, than it just means everything else is going to move faster." And I felt like we were going to have these two knobs that just kept going up and up and up, and it would just be this arms race.

It turns out it wasn't that hard to give the player the abilities without taking too much of the horror out of the game. We did add some faster-moving enemies this time.

The Pack, the little sort of children at the marsh that you see... [that was] actually one of the first things we built for Dead Space 2, because what we said was, "We need to build some enemies that give you a different kind of experience," we focused a lot on giving you more variety this game around.

And we said, "Let's build these guys. Let's build something that's strategically very, very interesting, that feels like a very different style of gameplay." And we actually used those enemies as a litmus test to figure out if our controls were good enough.

So, one of the first things we did in Dead Space 2 when it came to the mechanics is we built The Pack, and then we basically just had people fight them for hours on end. We used that as a test to iron out the kinks in the controls.

People said, "Hey, well, the right stick sensitivity isn't quite right" because they felt frustrated that they couldn't get a bead on them with just the right sensitivity. The speed that the camera rotated, all these kinds of things, we use that, again, as a test to figure out, are the controls what's scaring you or is it situation you're in scaring you?

And I think once we got a lot of those little kinks out of the controls, we just found that it was a lot easier for people to pick up the game and find themselves immersed. You don't want the player to pick up the game and be thinking about the controls. You want the player to be immersed in the world and caring about what people are saying and looking at the interesting things in the world.

I think for us, it was a way that when we brought in Dead Space 1 gamers and other people in the studio, it was a way for them to more immediately get into what we were trying to do.


The original Dead Space was one of the goriest games I've ever played. It was kind of surprising to me. You've got some of these death sequences for Isaac that seem like they're maybe 15 seconds long. I'm curious if there was any concern with the first game, or is there any with the second one, that you would run into any issues with the ESRB?

WB: You know, there's always a concern. I have to admit, I don't deal much with that kind of stuff, but here's the great thing. Generally, I think that's a good thing because people rarely ever tell us or tell me that we can't do something. I don't think that there's anything in Dead Space 2 that we had to pull because of concerns from the ESRB. Generally, we use gore... We try to be relatively tasteful with it.

You do? [laughs]

WB: And by that, I mean... [laughs] We do some crazy things for sure, no doubt. I'm sure some people would argue [against the idea] that we're being tasteful. But to us, we're not doing it to try to be as silly or as bloody as possible. We're doing it to try to really just sell the idea that there are big consequences to failure in the game. The other interesting thing about it is we discovered on Dead Space 1 that failure sometimes became a reward.

Because the deaths were so entertaining at times, that when people died, it was one of the highest moments of entertainment for them. If you go on YouTube, there are dozens and dozens of little movies that people have made of all the death sequences in the game, which I think is a testament to how entertained they were.

That was one of the things we did on Dead Space 2 to say "Let's continue to try to make death in Dead Space be something interesting rather than purely a punishment." Of course, it is punishing to die, but it's funny how people feel a lot less bad and feel a lot less frustrated when they get rewarded with a really cool animation.

Dead Space is the kind of game where sometimes we'll throw some things at you that that in other games might feel really, really frustrating, but again because we give you this gift of awesome animation and effects when you die, you're not really thinking, "Aw man. That guy kind of came out of nowhere and hit me!" You're more like, "Okay. Alright. That guy hit me, and that was pretty cool to see that, and I'm going to watch out for him next time." It kind of makes you feel better about the fact that it's a pretty brutal game.

We haven't really talked about Isaac's character. He's kind of the strong, silent type in the first Dead Space, but he's not going to be like that in the second one.

WB: Well, there were a couple things we wanted to change in Dead Space 1 about Isaac. Number one, the structure of Dead Space 1 was that the story structure and the mission structure is you were an errand boy. Dead Space 1 was "Isaac, go fix the thing." "Okay." As soon as you pressed the button, it fixes the thing. Somebody calls you and is like, "Okay, now go fix the other thing."

And what I noticed was that there were people who complained that the missions weren't very interesting, and that the backtracking became a little repetitive. And we thought long and hard about it, and we realized that backtracking, for one, is not inherently boring or bad.

Backtracking is interesting when you have an idea about where you're going and what you're doing any why. It's a lot more interesting when it's sort of self-driven rather than a mission that's given to you. It's like "Okay, go here. Okay, well, now go back." That's not quite as interesting.

What we wanted to do this time is make the missions and objectives in the game feel a lot more intuitive. So, instead of things that people had to phone you and tell you you had to do, they were just more intuitive.

It was more obvious that there were things that needed to be done and that Isaac could then therefore be the driver of the missions in the game. So, first of all, yeah, we wanted to get rid of the idea that Isaac was somebody's errand boy.

The second thing is that we found it really, really hard when we started thinking about the story of Dead Space 2 to think that Isaac, after all that he had been through in Dead Space 1, would not have anything to say to anybody in Dead Space 2 about what's going on. Obviously, there's going to be Necromorphs. Obviously bad things are going to happen.

And it's also because we want to grow and build the franchise. We've made Dead Space 1, Dead Space Extraction, and Dead Space 2. We've done the comics, the books, the films and everything. We want to feel like there's depth and that the world continues to get more interesting.

If Isaac didn't really have anything to say about what was going on in Dead Space 2, then I think that the statement we would have made about the franchise is that there's this sort of ignorance on the character's part and on the player's part about the fact that you've seen the stuff before. And that just didn't really seem interesting to us when we were writing the story. And I think a lot of players might not have cared.

Most video games, I think, sort of have that ignorance. You know, you start up a sequel and it doesn't matter what happened before but it happened again this time, and you'll just have to shoot through some people again to get through it again.

We wanted Isaac to have an opinion. We wanted him to make observations and say interesting things, and we thought it would be really fun to develop him into a real character. So, from the start, we thought about Isaac talking. It was a big challenge, I have to say. It took us a while to get happy with the voice acting, just to get the right tone.

It was hard to get Isaac to feel like he has an opinion on things and he's the guy in charge, but to not make him feel like he's confident and brave. Because when Isaac comes off as confident, as a gamer, you're no longer scared. You're like, "Well, the guy on the screen seems to think everything's okay, therefore I think everything is okay."

That was one of the big challenges, getting Isaac to feel like he's in charge, he's making calls, but yet still sounding like a guy who's absolutely fucking terrified about the stuff that's going on.


Do you think that it's easier for a player to put themselves in the shoes of a silent hero as opposed to someone who is talking a lot and seen in cutscenes?

WB: I do think it's definitely easier. Believe me, there are times that we thought, "Oh my God, what did we get ourselves into?" It was a lot of work. "Maybe we should have kept Isaac silent!"

In the end, though, I think every time we asked ourselves that question, the answer was "We absolutely did the right thing because we want to tell a good story and we want to continue to figure out how to create good characters in our games."

It's definitely easier. And if you look at GameSpot, they did a survey of what people's favorite characters in games were, and I believe Gordon Freeman was the guy who came out on top, which was really fascinating.

It was fascinating because if you think about it, it's like, "Well, Gordon Freeman almost isn't really a character." You never see him, and he never speaks. You only see him in the picture on the box, and I thought it was an interesting statement about how gamers think of characters in games.

It's definitely hard to make a character that acts and speaks on screen that you're trying to get the player to relate to. But I think it's definitely the right call because I guess I see it personally as a challenge to figure out how to create more interesting characters that the players can be in control of, and I also think it's an interesting challenge to figure out how to become better storytellers in the games industry.

It's something that we're really struggling with now. It seems to be that there's sort of two camps. There's the Gordon Freeman camp, which is "never let your guy speak, let everybody else tell you what's going on." And then there's the camp that is really vocal about doing lots of cutscenes. Some people really love non-interactive cutscenes.

I'm really, really pushing our guys -- I have been for years in Dead Space 1 and Dead Space 2 -- to try to figure out how to create characters that are in alignment with the player. So, the trick is to get the character on screen to never do or say something that the player doesn't wish that he would do or say. And I think that's the challenge for the entire games industry moving forward, actually.

And speaking of the story, one of the things that made the game kind of like a page-turner is because it started out with a mystery, and it just slowly unravels. Is that a concept you're taking over to Dead Space 2?

WB: Yeah. The game starts off with a big question mark actually.

It's been a couple of years since Dead Space 1, and we don't tell you too much about where you've been or why you are where you are at the beginning of Dead Space 2. We started the game off with a little bit of mystery because we thought it would be really fun to throw you in right from the start into a situation where you're in a little bit of a panic and you don't know what's going on, and you need some answers right away.

There are some other big questions that remained unanswered throughout the game. It's a little bit different this time because we couldn't tell the same kind of story where it's like, "Hey, you go somewhere, you show up, everyone's dead, and you need to figure out why."

Yeah. Because you kind of know now. [laughs]

WB: [laughs] Yeah. It's the same reason we couldn't have Isaac not talk. It's just like we just can't throw you into another haunted house, change the house and change the monsters, and expect it to feel like a compelling story. So, the kinds of mysteries that you're going to encounter are a little different this time.

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About the Author(s)

Kris Graft


Kris Graft is publisher at Game Developer.

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