Dead Space returns in the year 2023 after a decade-long hiatus. But the remake will arrive in a very different landscape than the one you left in; Terrorism has become big business, and survival horror games that once specialized are now thriving. Resident Evil has regained its glory, Silent Hill has returned from the grave, and many terrifying indies have captured the imaginations of gamers and gamers all over the world. Where the original Dead Space was somewhat of a gamble for clearly mainstream publisher EA in 2008, the remake is practically a sure hit in 2023.
As part of this month’s Dead Space-focused IGN First, we sat down with members of EA Motive to explore how the original Dead Space changed survival horror, why the genre is so popular today, and how the evolution of technology has led to the game’s comeback. scarier.
Take one look at Dead Space and you’ll instantly see where its roots lie. “Something like Resident Evil 4 changed, I think, the survival horror landscape at the time,” says Taylor Kingston, environmental artist at EA Motive and a veteran of the Dead Space series. Dead Space definitely took a lot of inspiration from it [it]. “
But while Resident Evil 4 certainly inspired Dead Space’s over-the-shoulder combat and haunted-house level design, much of the original game’s direction was drawn from films like Alien, The Thing, and Event Horizon.
“I think we’ve seen over the years games get influenced by feature films and bring a lot of those cinematic techniques and influences into games,” says Mike Yazejian, art director at Dead Space. “And over the years — whether it’s Silent Hill or Resident Evil, Dead Space obviously brought a lot of that feeling to it — it actually felt like it was more immersive, more mature in tone than the old video game horror game.”
Dead Space remake creative director Roman Campos-Uriola believes the original game’s dedication to cinematic realism had wider implications. “I think one of the elements that Dead Space really pushed it further, and that was the inspiration for a lot of other games, is really that thing about immersion,” he says. “since then […] Starting with Resident Evil 7, there’s been a bigger push that I think has been in survival horror to try to make it more immersive in order to make it more terrifying.”
Curiously, it may have been Dead Space’s influence that put him on ice for ten years. When Dead Space 3 arrived in 2013, survival horror was mutating. The Resident Evil formula was falling out of vogue, and spooky indie hits like Amnesia and Outlast redefined the genre. These games had a new dedication to first-person immersion, which added to the concerns. Third-person horror has kind of become a thing of the past, to the point where even Resident Evil itself eventually switched to a first-person camera.
But, years later, Resident Evil has returned to its third-person roots and is more popular than ever. In fact, the popularity of survival horror games as a whole seems to be higher than it has ever been.
“Why do I think [survival horror is] return? That’s because it’s not just back in gaming, it’s back in the broader entertainment industry,” Campos Oriola theorized. “It’s been a long time since then.” [came] Back in the broader entertainment industry. If you remember when the original Dead Space [was released]Or even earlier, if you wanted to go see a horror movie, you had to find the only theater in town that used to show horror movies. Nowadays, most horror films get a national release.”
Yazjian agrees. “I love how retro this game is,” he says. “But what I love now is that it’s almost mainstream, right? There are a lot of games that are coming out, there are a lot of movies that are coming out that are also popular and people are watching the horror genre more than ever before.”
While the popularity of survival horror right now certainly makes 2023 an ideal time for Dead Space to return, the biggest benefit is the advancement of technology. “We have more tricks and tools as developers,” Campos-Oriola explains. “And so we were able to go back to the original inspirations for Dead Space — The Thing, Alien, Event Horizon, those kinds of movies — and look for elements in those movies that were tried and didn’t work very well originally because of technological limitations, or weren’t even tried because we [could not] do it. Today, we can now do these things.”
Dead Space Graphics Comparison – Remake vs. Original
“If you think about the original alien, when they enter that big room with all the eggs hidden in the fog, the fog is more than just an environment, it’s part of the hiding,” he continues. “Well now, we have real dynamic physical fog. So yeah, we can hide creatures in it. You can actually lose an enemy inside the fog. You can track their trajectory and how they split and open the fog and how the fog closes behind them.”
New technology available in the Frostbite engine means the team at EA Motive is able to improve upon the very essence of Dead Space: a fully immersive experience.
“I think the most important thing for me is the atmosphere, right?” Yaziji says. “Because looking at the three main pillars of Dead Space, from the point of view of art direction, […] Number one was the horror. […] So we wanted to go back to that horror. And we go, “What’s the scariest thing about a horror movie?” It is the sensation of light, light and dark, the play between the two. So when you play the game now, it’s much darker. […] So while the player moves in the environment, the enemies move. You can see the play of light and dark in the environment. “
In her quest to push immersion even further, Ishimura has been transformed from a series of separate levels into a complete, interconnected spaceship. You can walk the entire length of it and backtrack freely, a feature that makes it feel more like a real place than a collection of video game missions. But this shift means more work than just crafting the areas that connect the original game’s maps.
“If you’ve got this ship, you’ve kind of created another problem that you need to fill,” art director David Robillard explains. So how do you fill those empty moments? […] Well, we have created this Density Manager, which is more than just an AI generator. They create moments that freak you out and that’s the whole point. It follows you through an intentional intensity curve that level designers place in their levels and adjust based on where you are within your mission briefs.”
Somewhat similar to Left 4 Dead’s acclaimed AI system, Intensity Director is able to analyze the action and horror curve of your experience and set events in motion if things have been quiet for too long. Robillard says there are “about 400 events we can produce,” and dropping enemies on the map is just the beginning of it.
“It involves more than just artificial intelligence,” he reveals. “It has sound clips and animations and environmental triggers. So you’ll have a propeller that’ll start, you’ll have the ship screeching, you’ll have the lights flashing, the lights will be off, psychosis events will happen. So everything that happens in the script can happen with the Intensity Director and these It’s how we can make sure the lines are blurred and you’re not really sure what’s written and what’s not.”
Immersive horror was at the core of the original Dead Space. And now, with horror at an all-time high, it’s time for him to make a comeback and use modern technology to push that immersion to the next level. New VFX technology allows environments to replicate the original game’s cinematic effects, and an Intensity Director ensures that immersion aids gameplay as well as atmosphere. To see what else is being improved in the Dead Space remake, take a look at how the EA Motive team created a new version of the necromorph transformation scene, and how the story was rewritten.
Matt Purslow is IGN’s UK News & Features Editor.
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