Dead Space 3 Interview with Producer John Calhoun

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At a recent preview event for EA‘s upcoming scary space thriller Dead Space 3, Rebecca was lucky enough to speak to the Producer of Dead Space 3 – John Calhoun. Up for discussion were the new co-op addition to the series, as well as the new weapons system, roll and cover system, the amazing audio featured in-game and just how one goes about making a game scary when you’re playing with a friend. The full interview transcript is below.

Dead Space 3 is the third main entry in the Dead Space series, we have Isaac Clarke returning againing. What can fans of the series expect to see and will we get some answers about previous events?

They’ll see everything they loved in the previous games. I mentioned earlier that the DNA of Dead Space the thrills, the tension, the ambience and audio. All of that is back in full force. What they can expect to see what’s new is drop in drop out co-op. Which is totally optional, doesn’t change the classic gameplay but for some people who want to play with a friend there is now that option. There is also weapon crafting which is brand new. The new way to build weapons in Dead Space 3 which mentioned earlier kinds of brings back Isaac’s identity as an engineer into the forefront of the game.

The audio really does add to that experience.

It’s one of those things that gets underappreciated. It’s really 50% of the experience. You see the game. You hear the game but no one ever talks about the audio but a lot of the times we talk about what makes the game scary, how do you keep it horrific and even in a co-op session. The answer is our audio. It’s largely responsible for that that. No matter if you’re playing alone or with a friend the audio is always going to be the same so we lean on that to keep the torch of Dead Space alive.

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That was our next question actually. How do you keep it so frightening even when you have a friend with you?

Audio is one of things that we do. What’s great about audio is that it can play tricks with you and script a sound of a necromorph to play in the distance even though no necromorph is there but you’ll put up your gun and approach slowly and turn the corner and there’s nothing there. Also we put you on edge with just a sound. Another way they we’re making it scary is asymmetrical demntia. What we’ve found over the last couple games is what’s scary for one person is not necessarily scary for another so you have to find a way to speak to everybody out there. One thing I think that’s true for most gamers today is that it takes places in our imagination more than it takes place on screen. The more we can get people to talk to eachother and compare notes and realise that your reality is different to my reality it makes you question everything you’ve seen up to that point. We’ve kept the dementia moments extremely subtle. And although we talk about them a lot they’re few and far between because if you over do it you expect and it’s not a surprise. But over time everyone’s going to reach a certain point in the game where ‘Now wait a minute, that’s really weird’ and they’re going to say ‘Well I was seeing that 5 hours ago’ ‘But you didn’t mention it. What else haven’t you been talking about?’ Kind of creates an experience that when you’re not sure if you can even trust your friend it’s a great way to create tension.

Sounds pretty unique.

There are a lot of games that plays tricks. We’re not the first but a lot of the games in the past who have done it have been kind of like fourth wall breaking. Like, I love Eternal Darkness and it plays tricks with you. It makes you feel like your TV has turned off or like your sound has gone down or it’s deleted your save game. But no one has tried to do play tricks on your friend. And that’s what we’re trying to do.

Dead Space 3 sees the inclusion of the roll and cover mechanic. What prompted this?

Primarily, it was the addition of human enemies to Dead Space. So, I know you’re very early on in the demo right now. The humans were added because of our story. Our story is all about destroying the markers and the villians are the unitologists sect that has a paramilitary wing to it who are actually trying to allow the markers to reach their final stage of conclusion. So you guys are at total odds to eachother. When you have human enemies with guns who are tactical you need to be able to compete on the same level so originally he didn’t have crouch or roll or cover or anything like that. When we did our testing people were saying ‘The bad guys are smarter than I am. I feel like I’m weak.’ So we added crouch, roll and kind of an intelligent cover system so you’d at least feel like you were on an equal level. But we wanted to make sure you and all your readers know that dismemberment is still the core gameplay we don’t really teach the cover or roll mechanic until well into the game and even then we kind of consider them secondary features. If nobody notices that Isaac does these things, like when he ducks down a little bit behind cover and don’t even think about it then we’ve done our job. He’s not a soldier, that’s not his archetype. But you have to feel like he can bring the fight to the bad guys and that’s what these mechanics allow us.

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Dead Space 3 allows players to construct new weapons from parts gathered. What’s your favourite new weapon and why?

My favourite weapon is one that no one ever bothered to create until the game was pressed onto a disk and sent to manufacture and so that gives us a chance to mess around. One of our QA guys made an suspended ripper blade with an after touch that allows him to electrocute it and we were playing around with it and what happens is this little saw blade comes suspends in front of you and when you electrocute it it just rains electricity down and this hug arc, bigger than any of us were expecting, just the way the code works, and it looks like a flying UFO and if you can knock enemies down and put this on top of them it just obliterates them so there’s no need for it, I call it the UFO, and you can only build it around mid game but it’s one of my favourites.

Some quick fire questions for you: What’s scarier: Lurkers or stalkers?

Stalkers.

Weapon preference: Plasma cutter or line gun?

Plasma cutter.

Dead Space: Lights on or off?

Lights on.

And one word that sums up Dead Space 3?

Thrilling.

What do you hope fans take away from Dead Space 3?

I hope they realise that Dead Space 3 is a work of love by the team. It’s the same team that made Dead Space 1 and 2. We haven’t changed the formula that made it successful,  given it it’s cult following up to this point, so play the software and you’ll see that it is the game that you were expecting. This is a game you will come to love and I’m sure everyone who gets their hands on it will be thrilled to play.

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Save Game would like to thank John Calhoun for answering our questions, and EA for providing the opportunity not just to interview John, but also to get our hands on Dead Space 3 for a few hours. We’d also like to thank Rebecca for being our wonderful correspondent, as always.

Dead Space 3 releases February 5th in North America, February 7th in Australia and February 8th in Europe. A demo for Dead Space 3 is now available to download via Xbox Live and the PSN.


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