Visceral: Dead Space 3′s Priority is Quality, Not Survival-Horror
Whether fans interpreted Visceral as a champion of survival-horror or not, however, Papoutsis said it was never the studio’s intention to fall solely into a horror niche.
“I can’t speak for everybody thinks about what we do, but as a group of developers, our No. 1 focus is to try to make really entertaining games….” he said. “We didn’t set out at any point to be the survival-horror studio. We set out to be a studio that makes high-quality games, and initially it was high-quality mature games. And that’s kind of what our goal was way back. I think as we’ve had support around the Dead Space franchise, certainly, I think a lot of people make us synonymous with survival-horror, and as I’ve talked about in other conversations with folks, we really try to stay away from specific stereotypes when we talk about the game, because it means so much to so many different people.
“Some people — and I read the message boards, for better or for worse — and some people like to speculate that ‘Dead Space isn’t scary at all, it’s never been scary, oh my god it’s never been scary.’ And other people say, ‘Oh my god, this moment was so great’ — and it’s completely subjective. So given that, when we talk about the game, we talk about it in terms of feelings and emotions and things that we try to deliver, and those things are great atmosphere, tension, drama, suspense, thrills, sound, action, horror. We want all of those things, because those highs and lows, that dynamic range of emotion that you experience, really creates, we believe, something that is a memorable experience. So that’s the way we look at what we do. We’re not putting the survival-horror game on our shirts or anything. We just want to make great games that evoke those feelings with our players, and ultimately make them happy.”
While players have pointed toward the addition of a cooperative mode to Dead Space 3 as killing the scares because of the presence of a second person, Papoutsis said it was among the elements of the game with which he was happiest. The drop-in, drop-out and storytelling elements posed a significant challenge to the development team, requiring alternate cut-scenes in the story and technical additions like a persistent inventory that players can carry with them between single-player and multiplayer. Those all posed a lot of challenges, not the least of which was making sure that co-op fit with with the franchise.
“And then co-op was just cool because, one, it allows people to experience the game with a friend, but two, we did it in a way that feels Dead Space,” he said. “When you actually are playing and you do some of the side missions, it really taps into the psychological horror aspect of the game, and that was something that we wanted to do with co-op — we wanted to make sure that our version of co-op was unique and Dead Space, and felt authentic to the franchise. And I think the team did a great job delivering.”
While co-op can be considered a successful addition to Dead Space, especially when players head into optional missions that reveal unique bits of new story, there are some action-oriented changes that felt like they worked less well. When asked why Visceral included the cover-shooting portions in which players face off against human enemies — what was considered the weakest part of the game in Game Front’s Dead Space 3 review — Papoutsis said some of those elements were dictated by player expectation.
“The reason why we introduced the Unitologists is because the story kind of dictated it. It would just feel weird that, you know — again, I don’t want to get too spoilery, but that Danik was this all-powerful guy sort of thwarting Isaac at every step. The idea is these guys are their cronies, the Unitologists are there in support of the Unitology movement and Danik. So they made sense to include in the story, and with that, what we thought was, many people who play games where they have human opponents kind of expect certain things — such as the ability to take cover. So we didn’t want to create a cover system that was sticky because, one, we knew weren’t going to have a preponderance of human enemies. I think if you look at the game in total, as you have, you’ll realize there’s not a ton of them. So based on that, when we sit down to kind of balance out how much focus we’re going to put on something, we got them to a point, stood them up where they felt sufficiently fun, and worked with the story the way that we needed them to, and kind of moved on. So we were not creating a cover-based shooter, we were adding some cover-based elements into a Dead Space game.”
As for what the future holds for Dead Space, Papoutsis was very closed-lipped, refusing to confirm if the studio would be working on a fourth Dead Space game or to explain the meaning of the hidden message Game Front discovered in Dead Space 3 and how it would affect the franchise going forward. Visceral currently is working on the first Dead Space 3 DLC package, “Awakened,” which Papoutsis said would be “disturbing.”
Papoutsis encouraged players to interact with him on Twitter in regards to Dead Space; he can be found on the service at @leveluptime.