How Dead Space aims to redefine survival horror – IGN First

Dead Space returns in 2023 after a decade-long hiatus. But the remake will arrive in a very different context from the one it left; Terrorism has become big business and the survival horror games that used to be a hit are now exploding. Resident Evil has regained its glory, Silent Hill is returning from the grave, and countless terrifying indie games have captured the imaginations of players and streamers across the globe. Where the original Dead Space was a gamble for mainstream publisher EA apparently in 2008, the remake is practically a solid hit in 2023.

As part of this month’s Dead Space-focused IGN, we first sat down with members of EA Motive to explore how the original Dead Space changed the survival horror genre, why the genre is so popular these days and how the evolution of technology has made the return of the game even scarier.

Take a look at Dead Space and it’s immediately clear where its origins lie. Taylor Kingston, an environmental artist at EA Motive and a veteran of the Dead Space series, said: “I think something like Resident Evil 4 changed the landscape of the survival horror genre in at that moment. “Dead Space definitely took a lot of inspiration from [it].”

But while Resident Evil 4 certainly inspired Dead Space’s approach to shoulder combat and haunted house level design, much of the direction of the original game was taken from movies like Alien, The Thing and Event Horizon.

“I think over the years we’ve seen the game being influenced by the feature film and bringing more of that cinematic and influence into the game,” said Mike Yazijian, artistic director of Dead Space. . “And over the years — whether it’s Silent Hill or Resident Evil, it’s clear that Dead Space has delivered on a lot of that feeling — it really feels like it’s a lot more immersive, has a mature tone. a lot more than your old video game. horror game.”

Roman Campos-Oriola, the creative director of the Dead Space remake, believes the original game’s dedication to cinematic-style realism has broader implications. “I think one of the elements that Dead Space has really pushed further, and that has inspired a lot of other games, is really the thing about immersion,” he said. “Since then […] starting with Resident Evil 7, I think there’s been a bigger push towards the survival horror genre to try to make them more immersive to make them more terrifying.”

Oddly enough, it might actually be because the effects of Dead Space have kept it frozen for ten years. When Dead Space 3 came out in 2013, the survival horror genre changed. The Resident Evil formula is out of fashion, and scarier indie hits like Amnesia and Outlast are redefining the genre. These games have a new-found dedication to immersion through their first-person perspective, which increases the intensity of the scares. Third-person horror has become an anachronism in the past, to the point where even Resident Evil itself is finally transitioning to first-person.

I think one of the elements that Dead Space really pushes further… it’s really the thing about immersion

However, years later, Resident Evil has returned to the third-person perspective and is more popular than ever. In fact, the popularity of survival horror games in general seems to be higher than ever.

“Why do I think [survival horror is] return? That’s because it’s not just back in the game, but back in the broader entertainment industry,” Campos-Oriola theorized. “It’s been a long time since it [came] back in the broader entertainment industry. If you remember when the original Dead Space [was released], or even before that, if you wanted to go see a horror movie, you had to find the only horror movie theater in town. Today, most horror movies are released nationally.”

Yazijian agrees. “I like the way it came back,” he said. “But what I like about it now is that it’s almost mainstream, isn’t it? There are a lot of games coming out, there are a lot of movies coming out that are also very popular, and people are watching the horror genre like never before.”

While the popularity of the survival horror genre today certainly makes 2023 an ideal time for Dead Space to return, the biggest benefit is the advancement of technology. “We have more tips and tools as developers,” explains Campos-Oriola. “And so we could go back to the original Dead Space inspirations – The Thing, Alien, Event Horizon, those genres – and look for elements in tried and failed films. much success in the original because of technological limitations, or not even tried because we [could not] do that. Today, now we can do those things.”

“If you think about the original Aliens, when they walked into that big room with all their eggs hidden in the fog, the fog wasn’t just the surroundings, it was part of the hiding. ,” he continued. “Now, we have the real dynamic physics fog. So yes, we can hide creatures in there. You can actually lose an enemy inside the fog. You can trace him and how he separates the fog and how the fog closes behind him.”

New technology available in the Frostbite engine means the team at EA Motive can improve on Dead Space’s core: the fully immersive experience.

“I think for me the most important thing is the atmosphere, right?” Yazijian said. “Because looking at the three main pillars of Dead Space, from an art direction point of view, […] The first is horror. […] So we want to go back to that horror. And we asked, ‘What’s the scariest thing in a horror movie?’ It is the feeling of light, light and shadow, the game between the two. So when you play the game now, it’s darker. […] So when the player is moving in the environment, the enemy is moving. You can see the play of light and shadow in the environment.”

In a quest to promote further immersion, Ishimura was transformed from a series of separate levels into a complete, interconnected spaceship. You can walk its entire length and freely turn around, a feature that makes it feel more like an authentic location than a set of video game quests. But that transition means more work than just creating areas that link the original game’s maps.

Intensity Director creates moments that drive you crazy.

Technical director David Robillard explains: “If you have this one ship, then you have created another problem that you need to fill it with. “So, how do you fill those empty moments? […] Well, we made this Intensity Director, not just an AI spawner. It creates moments that freak you out and that’s the whole point. And it follows you through a projected intensity curve that the level designers put in their levels and adjusts it based on where you are in your mission summary.”

A bit like Left 4 Dead’s lauded AI system, Intensity Director can analyze the action and horror curves of your experience and trigger events if things have been quiet for too long. Robillard says there are “nearly 400 events we can spawn” and that dropping enemies on the map is just the beginning of it.

“It’s not just AI,” he revealed. “It has audio tracks, it has animations, it has environmental triggers. So you will have a fan that will start, you will have a creak from the ship, you will have flashing lights, you will have lights off, you will have psychotic events happening. . So anything that happens in the script can happen with the Intensity Director, and that’s how we managed to make sure that the lines are blurry and you’re never really sure what’s written. in the script and what not.”

Immersive horror is at the core of the original Dead Space. And now, with the horror genre’s popularity at an all-time high, it’s the perfect time to kick the genre back and use modern technology to push that immersion to a new level. a new level. New VFX technology allows environments to recreate the cinematic influence of the original game, and the Intensity Director ensures that the immersion supports the gameplay as well as the atmosphere. To see what else the Dead Space remake is improving, see how the EA Motive team created a new version of the terminator’s shapeshifting scene and How is the story rewritten?.

Matt Purslow is IGN’s UK Feature and News Editor.


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