The Story Comes First–Interview with Dead Space 3’s executive producer Steve Papoutsis

ds3_researchfacility_01If there’s one thing Steve Papoutsis wants you to know about Dead Space 3, it’s that it’s all about the story. Gaming Trend had a chance to speak with the Executive Producer of the Dead Space series on Thursday he wanted to make that explicitly clear: “The story comes first, then we start roughing out all the environments, and then we start roughing in all the combat.”

Papoutsis was adamant that every aspect of the game was fueled by the series’ plot threads, even leading the development team to skip the expected competitive co-op. “It just goes back to the story,” he says, claiming competitive multiplayer made sense in Dead Space 2’s heavily-populated Sprawl. “ It made a lot of sense: There’s the [human] security forces, there’s the necromorphs, and hey! You’ve got two factions, and you can have multiplayer here.” But when it came to Dead Space 3, Papoutsis and the rest of the development team decided that competitive multiplayer didn’t fit into world, based on the game’s lonely, isolated setting. “It just didn’t fit naturally into what we’re doing, so we opted to do co-op.”

[singlepic id=10332 w=320 h=240 float=left]Yes, co-op. This time around, Issac Clarke—our unlucky engineer protagonist—will be joined by Jack Carver. Carver, an officer in the government’s military, joined Clarke in order to combat the necromorph menace on the icy world of Tau Volantis. Cooperative gameplay is a new addition to the Dead Space franchise, but Papoutsis is excited about it’s use in furthering the world and story of Dead Space. “Co-op came in [to development] very, very early,” he said. After originally considering using an entirely separate side-story co-op mode, the Dead Space team decided that wasn’t for them. “What would really be awesome would be if we could deliver the great single player experience, and retain the feel of Dead Space…and then add co-op.” But Papoutsis wanted to make sure that the new character was engaging. “If we were going to make a co-op game, we needed to make sure that character had depth, strengths, weaknesses, flaws and an emotional journey they go through. It took tons of meetings, a lot of effort from the team, and many late nights, but it got us to where we are today.” It had been a long time in the works, because according to Papoutsis, the development team had begun toying with the ea of co-op back in the original Dead Space. “It was something we turned on, just to experiment with, and we said ‘That could be cool someday, we’ll keep that in the back of our minds. Next thing you know, Dead Space 3 comes around and BAM! Co-op.”
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One of the striking features about the latest Dead Space game is the change of scenery.  Dead Space 3 trades the previous games’ dark, claustrophobic corridors for a more open setting, on the icy planet Tau Volantis. When asked what about the arctic environment attracted his interest, Papoutsis replied, “The conditions of that planet just speak to survival. If I took one of you guys, or if I was dropped off in the middle of Tau Volantis, the first thing I’d be thinking is ‘How am I going to make it?’” The environment will affect the game, allowing the devs to use different tools to affect the player, including blinding snowstorms that reduce visibility, deep snowdrifts that serve as spawn points, deep snow that will impede movement. The team even considered a survival mechanic such as that seen in Capcom’s 2006 title Lost Planet: Extreme Conditions, but decided the story limited its use except for a specific segment of the game. Papoutsis says the team thought it non-sensible, considering the advanced suits the characters are wearing. “The suits are created to allow people to go out into space, and space is freezing. If you landed, you should be fine. If your suit is intact, you should be fine.”
Papoutsis was very quick to distance Dead Space 3 from similar games and movies. When asked about similarities between Dead Space and Lost Planet, he claimed that it was players that were drawing the comparison, not the developers. “That was never anywhere on our radar—it never really came into conversation,” he said before adding, “We don’t measure ourselves by other games…we take our story and our universe very seriously, and we want to deliver against that.” Papoutsis was willing to admit a bit of influence drawn from the The Thing, John Carpenter’s bloody masterpiece. “ Clearly we love that film,” he said, adding that he was also a big fan of the works of H.P. Lovecraft.

[singlepic id=10334 w=320 h=240 float=left]Another new feature in Dead Space 3 is the addition of a more robust weapon crafting system. The idea came from the developers noticing how much time forum users spent discussion their loadouts. According to Papoutsis, the developers then decided to take the whole system one step further. “We wanted players to have customizability, to have ownership over what they make—if one player really likes the military gun with the force gun combo with the stasis coating, they can build that” he said, before adding “By the way, I like that combo.”

The last major new feature for Dead Space 3 that Papoutsis wanted to discuss was is the addition of Kinect support. The game will respond to voice commands such as “Give Player Health.” “It can be fun to bark commands at the screen, it’s a little cathartic.” Papoutsis then added that the game will recognize cursing. Papoutiss claimed that one of the bigger challenges for programming the game with Kinect in mind was realizing that the commands would have to work recognize various accents. “We had never really considered that ‘Oh boy,when an Australian uses the Kinect it will have to recognize his accent.’”[singlepic id=10330 w=320 h=240 float=right]

Papoutsis was cagey about revealing any plans for the future of Dead Space and Visceral Games in general, declining even to speak about DLC for Dead Space 3. He expressed interest in creating a sequel to Visceral Game’s 2010 brawler Dante’s Inferno, but when pressed replied “We’re just worried about good old Dead Space 3 right now.” He did pause a moment when asked what he would like to do with the franchise if he were given unlimited resources before conceding, “I could see an awesome open-world game, or an MMO. A Dead Space RPG could be sick.” He was quick to add, “The story needs to support it. It has to feel like a legit Dead Space game.”



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