Interview with Dead Space 3 producer John Calhoun!
Dead Space 3 is one of the upcoming game releases of 2013 that I'm truly excited about. Dead Space was part Alien, part Solaris. Dead Space 2 was like Aliens meets Apocalypse Now. Dead Space 3, however, promises to be the biggest, angriest and most complex installment in the series yet. And somehow, I managed to chat with John Calhoun, Dead Space 3 producer and all-round nice guy.
Paul: Ok, John, I know it's your job, but i'm sure at some point way back when this game started development, you were probably dying to be asked questions about it. Now, though, i'm sure you've been asked every conceivable question. So… this might sound odd, but… what are the questions you've wanted to answer but nobody has asked?
John: Well you're right, I think I've been asked everything! The things I always get asked about are how the new co-op mode works, the differences between single player and co-op mode, difficulty settings, what makes this one more scary than the others, game length, weapon crafting, and… oh, there's one thing I never get asked about because nobody really knows about it. There's a new scavenger robot that you can send out to gather materials for you. That's totally new.
Some people, and I am absolutely not one of them, have said that Dead Space one was more cerebral, whereas 2 was too crude. 3 looks more action packed than ever. Do you think this shift is has been organic and necessary or did you guys feel pressured to move towards action more?
Well, I know two was different from one, like you said. But I like to think that those kinds of shifts are less like a linear progression and more like a pendulum, and with 3, it's swung back halfway. Meaning we feel like we've take the creeping terror of one, and combined it with the full blown action of two. The thing is, without having the entire game at their hands, nobody has been able to demo the full experience; it sort of gets dispersed over the length of the game. Also, the second game ended with (SPOILERS) Isaac blowing up a moon. I mean, that's the penultimate action hero moment right there, yeah? That's something Bruce Willis would do. What we've done in three is scale it right back down to something more close to home, slightly more relatable.
Ok. Well, that brings me to Isaac, because… look, I don't think I can recall another hero who has had more crap dumped on him. Isaac joins Chief Miles o'brien in Deep Space Nine as possibly the most unlucky yet beloved engineers of all time. Why'd you go with an engineer, and not someone else on the ship?
Well, it really makes him so much more relatable. We could have taken a soldier, or someone in marine armour, and had him be the one to have the adventure, and it would have been such a vastly different game. I mean, you could have had the ship crash, and this armoured soldier crawl out, but that would have been a very specific genre: an action game. Our franchise has always been about trying to avoid being pinned down as one genre: action, horror, survival horror, adventure. We're more interested in using someone like Isaac, someone vulnerable, someone who gets thrown into the story by accident. It raises the stakes so much higher.
Ok, so that's Isaac out of the way. Now talk to me about the new character in the mix, because he's one half of the co-op experience, right?
Yeah, and his name's John Carver, and he's military. He was a family man, and had a wife and child, who died because of marker meddling; basically he was stationed on planet where a marker was being tinkered with for use as power source; obviously, the marker was affecting the minds of the colonists, it wasn't their idea to work on it. That led to a necromorph Infection, and that's why he's got a very personal vendetta against markers and necromorphs and ontologists.
Well In the trailer I saw, Carver was… and I have to be blunt here… he was being a bit of a dick to Isaac. Was that a pep talk or are we, in fact, going to be playing co-op with an absolute dick?
Well that's the thing, Carver is a very three dimensional character. He brings all this baggage with him, and he does start the story as a very angry man who tackles problems in the most direct way possible, by blowing stuff up. Isaac is very much more angled towards fixing things, and working out ways around problems. And they're forced to work together.
Oh, like a jock and a nerd! On a terrible road trip!
Yeah! Though there is a point in the story where we try and challenge the way they tackle problems. There's a slight inversion, things get more complex.
So is playing single player in ANY WAY going to change the experience for the worse? I.e., is Isaac and Elly's fate going to be worse in one and better in another?
Lots of rabid fans have been so worried about this, even angry, saying "why are you making us suffer because you want to cram in a co-op portion of the game?", but really, that's not it at all. There's some dialogue changes, slightly different cuscenes, and combat harder with Carver involved. But he's also in single player, just in a more supporting role, like Elly was in two; running ahead and making sure stuff goes down smoothly for Isaac. There's no key content missed out on, and we've been very careful to make sure every plot point, moment of discovery and goal is the same. It just changes the tone from isolated and in Isaac's head, to 'we have the same goal but don't see eye to eye'. Really, you're getting ore replayabiltiy, you're not losing a thing.
And finally, is there any more story to tell after this, or are you guys done with the Dead Space universe?
Well, there's certainly more story to tell. Back early on in the development process for the first game, the game started with a story bible, to help understand the universe. Actually, the game bible was written before the game was made, and it filled out so much lore. For example, in Dead Space, Earth had totally depleted itself of resources, meaning planet crackers had to be developed. All that kind of stuff was established first, and we wrote hundreds of years in either direction, going way back before the events of the games, and centuries into the future. Not necessarily for more games to be made, though we might do that, too. Just to create context for our stories.
Well John, thanks so much for talking to us. We can't wait for the game!