We’re Not Going to Let Dead Space Go Stale: An Interview With John Calhoun

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With Dead Space 3 just around the jump-inducing corner, we were lucky enough to have a sit down with one of the game’s producers John Calhoun. What followed was some more fascinating insight into Isaac’s latest outing, detail on planned DLC and weapon upgrades and just why the series won’t be going stale.

What new things did you want to bring in to the franchise with Dead Space 3?

The biggest thing we’re bringing to the table in Dead Space 3 is co-op, which is drop in/drop out and entirely optional. But that doesn’t mean it’s something we haven’t given a lot of time and effort into. When you play the game in single player, it’s a classic Dead Space experience. Isaac Clarke, isolated, not relying on anybody and with no followers. And then you can play the entire campaign in co-op as well. Your friend will play as John Carver, who is a character we’ve always had in the wings, a kind of relatable military style character that we wanted to bring into the franchise.

We think our approach to co-op is pretty innovative. The fact that it’s drop in/drop out mean that the story and the difficulty of the game adjust dynamically depending on whether there’s a second player involved. Some of the cut scenes will be different, some of the dialogue will be different and obviously the game becomes harder. That also gave us new ways to scare the player. There’s going to be unique moments that only one player will see. Every now and then you’re going to hear something or see something as player two that player one won’t experience.

It’s not until you guys start talking to each other to compare notes that you’ll start to realise what you’re seeing isn’t real. When it starts to manifest itself really seriously, Isaac will see Carver shooting at thin air and it looks like he’s just gone off his rocker. The socialness of playing co-op we believe will make a new way to scare the player.

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Is co-op really what Dead Space needs?

So there’s no split-screen co-op in Dead Space 3. Is that because of the processing power involved?

Any AAA quality game is really pushing the PS3 and Xbox 360 to its max, so to do split screen would have required degrading the quality of the game in terms of visual fidelity. That’s not something we were willing to do. It also allows us to do the tricks where one player sees something the other doesn’t so it was a conscious decision.

What about the weapon upgrade system? How extensive is it and what new elements have you brought to it?

We first deconstructed every Dead Space 1 and 2 weapon into its atomic elements. Looking at a plasma cutter, it’s something that shoots three beams, can rotate and fires plasma. The base is it fires plasma. Firing three beams is an attachment to that and being able to rotate is a modifier.

Now we let you recombine those things into any other weapon so you can make a rotating light gun or a military style weapon that fires three beams. We threw in a whole new bunch of tools that never existed before. An example would be the hydraulic engine, which amplifies Isaac’s physical force so it allows him to create things like bayonets and knives.

We also have new electrical style attacks. With it you can create a chain lightning gun. One of my favourites is the bouncing ball mod. It fires two electrified orbs chained together that ricochet off the ground. If you’re really crafty, you can fire behind an enemy and then have it cut off his legs as it bounces back towards you. There are thousands of different weapon combinations.

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“I’m flying, Jack!”

Enemies move a lot faster than they did in previous installments. Is there a reason for that?

Dead Space players are getting more savvy. We do a lot of focus testing and we recruit people who have never played Dead Space before and we recruit our fans. They are better than they were in Dead Space 1 or 2 and new players are more sophisticated. They play the Call of Duty’s and the Medal of Honor’s. They are more comfortable with faster moving enemies. The original slow, shambling necromorphs that you see in Dead Space 1 or 2 are no longer scary or threatening to players, so we had to speed it up. In order to keep pace with today’s gamers you have to adapt. We’re not going to be stale and make the same game over and over again.

Is there any future DLC planned for Dead Space 3?

I don’t believe we’ve announced any of our DLC plans at this time so I can’t talk about it right now.

And the future of the franchise. Will we see Isaac return?

That has to do a lot with the fans. It’s only after the game ships that we’re going to be really thinking about the future, so nothing to talk about at this time.

Dead Space 3 will be available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC on February 7th.

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