Interview with Dead Space Producer Rich Briggs

We recently had the chance to interview Dead Space Producer Rich Briggs. He took the time to answer those all important questions we know you all have been asking about. Dead Space drops at retail on October 14th, so you have plenty of time to pick it up before Halloween. Until then, our Dead Space Preview will have hold you over.

TheGameReviews: Where did your inspiration come from in regards to the overall art direction of the game?

Rich Briggs: We wanted to create our own look and feel in Dead Space, which meant staying away from the crisp, angular, sharp-edged visuals that dominate a lot of sci-fi experiences. Instead, we looked to more historic architecture and were influenced by elements from Gothic designs. The Ishimura and even Isaac’s suit draw from aesthetics found in cathedrals, such as ribbing and flying buttresses. We then moved that look into the future, and made sure it was functional since the Ishimura is a ship people needed to live and work on. This led to futuristic, foreboding, and unique environments.

The decision to incorporate "strategic dismemberment" is one of the most innovative facets of the release. How did this come about, and do you think this could evolve into something more games in the future tend to adopt?
Strategic dismemberment is a fancy way of saying that you have to rip the enemies apart limb from bloody limb, because we wanted to challenge you with enemies that were relentless. They keep coming at you, no matter what you do, until you literally cut them into pieces. This let us contradict some of the normal conventions in gaming, such as the fact that a head-shot is usually the correct tactic. In Dead Space, a head shot is not the answer, and will more than likely make an enemy go into a berserker rage. In addition, dismemberment makes you really think about each shot, which supports the resource management that is a staple of survival horror. If you unload into an enemy’s body, you’re going to run out of ammo very quickly. If you take off their limbs, you’ll slow them down, save ammo, and ultimately succeed. Finally, ripping enemies apart with blood flying all over the place looks pretty cool, so that’s a plus.

TGR: How would you describe the pacing of the horror factor of the game? Will players get a chance to catch their breath between being scared out of their wits or is the horror sort of an ongoing part of the experience?

RB: We spent a lot of time working on the pacing, because you can’t expect people to redline throughout the entire experience. Throwing one horror moment after another isn’t effective. We try to take you on a roller coaster ride, where you have those horror moments, but you also have those spaces in between to let down your guard. In fact, stopping to take a breath makes it even more impactful the next time we throw an encounter at you, or use a false scare to put you on edge. We have 15 to 20 hours of gameplay, which means we have to constantly keep things fresh and unexpected. Of course, we never want you to feel completely comfortable, so there should always be an element of tension. There are three ways we build that tension: First is the environment, with disturbing images, lighting, and creepy audio. Even if nothing is happening, just by looking around we want you to feel an underlying sense of dread. Second is the obvious “boo” moment where something jumps out at you, or grabs you, or is ripped apart in front of you. We can’t overuse this method as it’s the easiest way to desensitize you. The third is the resource management and controls, because you never have too much ammos, and you don’t run or turn quite as fast as you might like. This third method was constantly tuned and balanced so it provided a tense, but not frustrating experience.

TGR: In many scary movies sounds and music can play just as important a role as dialogue and the actions occurring on screen, what type of role can we expect them to play in Dead Space?

RB: The audio in Dead Space is absolutely critical, and we feel that it is one of the strongest elements of the game. Whether we are playing a stinger as something grabs you, or using a false music swell to make you think something is behind you, we use audio to constantly keep you on edge. Sometimes we use silence to magnify things like a dripping pool of blood, and we mute the sound when you enter an airless environment so Isaac’s heartbeat and breathing take center stage. Finally, our fear emitter technology helps ensure that enemies don’t telegraph their appearance with music, but that they do have the appropriate soundtrack once you actually see them.

TGR: What is going to make Dead Space stand out amongst all of the numerous horror games? What makes it different?

RB: The timing will make Dead Space stand out. Everything is about timing when you are trying to scare someone. From the timing of a scary moment, to the amount of time between combat, to the number of times we can use a scare tactic before we have to come up with something new. Everything was iterated on until we had the timing as close to perfect as possible.

TGR: Even though Dead Space isn’t really geared toward the multiplayer experience, with a little tweaking it could be an awesome thing. Could we see any multiplayer modes in the near future? Or in a sequel?

RB: We focused on delivering the best possible single player experience that we could with Dead Space. To us, survival horror is a very personal thing. When you are playing Dead Space, no one is coming to save you, just like no one is coming to save Isaac. You are on your own, and you need to figure out how you are going to survive. As for a sequel, right now we are focused on getting Dead Space into the hands of consumers around the world, and as you probably saw we just announced that we went Gold, so we’re very excited about that!

TGR: It’s clear that that you are working hard to develop the IP beyond just the upcoming game release, are there plans to continue this after release? Can we expect more of the Dead Space comics to be released even after the game comes out?

RB: Dead Space has an incredibly rich universe, which allowed us to flesh out the story of what happened on the colony, and then on the Ishimura, before the game began. You don’t have to read all of the comics or watch the animated feature in order to enjoy the game, but it certainly gives you a much better appreciation for the events of the game. We also have an incredibly deep web site, which offers background on some of the secondary characters in the game. We haven’t made any announcements about continuing the comic series, but fans can look for the graphic novel in comic stores everywhere right as the game ships, and our animated feature “Dead Space: Downfall” will be terrifying people on October 28th just in time for Halloween.

TGR: Are there any intentions to put a demo on Xbox Live Marketplace/PSN near or close to the release of Dead Space?

RB: We haven’t announced any plans for a demo, but luckily you don’t have long to wait before the game ships on October 14th!

TGR: As the game will be released on next gen consoles to what extent will be downloadable content be a factor in the game?

RB: The two pieces of DLC that we have shown so far are Isaac’s Obsidian suit, which is a PS3 exclusive, and Isaac’s Elite suit, which is an Xbox 360 exclusive. These suits will be available for free download by anyone who buys Dead Space within the first two weeks of its release.

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