Dead Space 3 interview: Sci-fi survival horror gets a multiplayer make-over

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Next February sees the release of the third main entry in EA’s critically lauded sci-fi survival horror series, Dead Space. While the first two games followed very similar templates, the latest instalment really mixes things by introducing full co-op play to the main campaign.

The optional drop-in, drop-out multiplayer lets a second player join in the story as new character Sergeant John Carver. While the game is fully playable as a solo experience, if you play with a friend you’ll have an expanded story and get to experience a number of extra sequences and set-pieces.

We sat down with the game’s producer Steve Papoutsis to find out how – and why – developer Visceral Games has implemented this new system and what fans of the series can expect from reluctant hero Isaac Clarke’s latest adventure.

What goals did you set yourself when you first started work on Dead Space 3?

Steve Papoutsis: When we started work on Dead Space 3 we set a couple of things in front of the team. One of the things we talked about was how do we make the best game we’ve ever done? So, we came up with a weird saying: we want to make a AAAA game. Everybody says they want to make a AAA game. Well, we said ‘you know what? **** that, we’re going to make a AAAA game’. I know it sounds funny, but we needed to set a target for ourselves.

The other thing we set out to do was to really deliver on what the essence of a Dead Space game is. We’re really not into the stereotypes of ‘it’s an action game’ or ‘it’s a horror game’, and so on. It’s a Dead Space game. That means intense atmosphere, engaging narrative, thrilling action, horror, survival, tension. Those are the thing a Dead Space game needs to have. Those are the blocks we’re building with.


You introduced competitive multiplayer in Dead Space 2 which had a mixed response from gamers. Do you think Dead Space 3’s co-op play is a better fit?

Steve Papoutsis: We’re not doing competitive multiplayer this time – we’ve done that – but it was a big help in us understanding how to build an online game. With our co-op we wanted to make sure that whatever we did felt unique. We didn’t just want to have an AI bot follow the player around and then when you hit a button someone starts controlling that guy. That wouldn’t feel like Dead Space.

The other challenge was creating a co-op mode that felt additive to the experience. You don’t have to play it – you can play Dead Space 3 in single player and it plays out in very similar way to what you’ve experienced in the past.

And we needed to create a character that fit into the universe and didn’t feel like a throw-away character. We first announced John Carver through a graphic novel, so he has his own unique personality and backstory. So when you get into the game he actually brings value to what’s going on. You learn about him and his own personal demons. That’s very different, and we feel it’s very innovative.


Many of the original Dead Space’s scares derived from the sense of solitude and loneliness.Won’t having another player at your shoulder dilute the horror?

Steve Papoutsis: As for being alone and walking down a corridor on your own – you still have that in Dead Space 3. You can play the single player and you still have that. But now when you have another character in the scene with you, it’s a different approach to the horror – it’s more psychological. That’s a new feeling that you’ve never had in a Dead Space game. That’s how we’re injecting horror into the co-op.

I also think there’s a lot more to horror than things just popping out at you. There’s the atmosphere, the sound, the events, the things that you see in the environment – those all have different impacts on people. You can still have all that when you have two people walking around the environment.

Ultimately I think it will come down to who you’re playing with. I like to think of it like going to a movie. Say you and I go to a horror movie – we’ll sit there as horror fans and really get into it. We’re not going to talk during the movie, we’re going to sit on the edge of our seat, and be really into it.

But if you went with a different friend who doesn’t like horror, he or she might choose to talk through the movie or laugh at what’s going on. That’s going to impact how you enjoy the movie.

So, if you want to have the intense single play experience you can still do that. And if you want to have an experience in co-op like that, I suggest you play with someone who likes to play that way. But if you just want to have fun like you’re at a popcorn movie, laughing and having a good time, play it with a friend who likes to play like that.


How hard is it to make a game that’s genuinely scary?

Steve Papoutsis: What’s interesting to me is that I’ll read a lot of the feedback to our game and it’s vastly different. Some people say ‘oh gosh, it’s the scariest thing I’ve ever played’ while others just say ‘bah, I wasn’t scared at all’.

So, yeah, I think it’s hard to say you’re going to scare people. It’s very subjective. We don’t have a magic formula. We take our best guess at what will resonate with players. For us, it’s usually things that are relatable. Look at the character design of the necromorphs – they’re humanoid. You can relate to a guy who doesn’t have a jaw and has weird spikes sticking out of his arm. You can imagine ‘Ooh, that would be terribly painful!’ You can react to that.

How much of the game will you miss out on if you only play the single player?

Steve Papoutsis: You’re not missing out on anything. The multiplayer is additive. If you’re playing single player you’re choosing to have that solitary Isaac experience. If you’re interested in learning about Carver, you’re playing with a friend and you’re getting that additive information, but it’s not changing the end of the story. It’s impacting Carver’s story.

Isaac has had a pretty terrible time over the course of the first two games. Will he finally catch a few breaks in Dead Space 3?

Steve Papoutsis: We’ll see! I can say that Isaac was not looking to get himself into an adventure in this game. We’ll leave it at that and see where it winds up.


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  • Think they lost their touch with this one. From what I’ve seen it looks way too action oriented for my liking. Will be passing on this one.

  • I hate to say Fred but Dead Space 3 is going to suck just like Resident Evil 5. Adding the co-op concept into an horror game is a bad idea and just takes away both the fun and the horror at the same time. Dead Space 1-2 were MUCH better hence why Dead Space 2 got GOTM back in August.

    Seriously this is like adding co-op in Slient Hill, oh wait, Slient Hill on Vita had co-op. -__-

  • This sounds pretty cool. Was wondering how the co-op would affect the overall game. Have yet to play through the 2nd though. I don’t know what it is, I loved the first one but whenever I think about playing it I always play something else. For some reason I find them hard to start getting into but once I do their brilliant.

  • You say that but Visceral isn’t Capcom nor is it Konami.
    They haven’t botched up a game yet and we’ve had a lot of great titles from them as well as a very immersive gaming experience.

    Not only that, they haven’t had main directors or head of the department or the entire team being disbanded so we still have a very cohesive series of games.

  • I think most people who saw it didnt know about the solo experience. Even I was under the impression when I first saw it that if you played in single player you would have a cpu player joining you.

    The devs should really try to push the information that co op and the extra character are optional. Learning this, my interest in the game has upped

  • I agree Agamer2006. Its not the only botch up they made in marketing execution on the game. When gamers see your game and say “Oh another Lost Planet game, great”, you know you’ve messed up.
    Seeing as I’m on the topic, Lost Planet 3, WTF? Who asked for this or is going or buy it?
    Imagine existing in a world where there is not 1, not 2 but 3 Lost Planet games and no Resident Evil REmake 2? I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.

  • I still can’t believe this is the series people turn to in need of survival horror.. This is no more survival horror than RE is now imo. This is pure action, with some horror elements to it. In any case, not the kind of game of which I’m very interested in a multiplayer, but co op is always a big plus for me. Adds to the replay value too.

  • ” We didn’t just want to have an AI bot follow the player around and then when you hit a button someone starts controlling that guy. That wouldn’t feel like Dead Space.” I think that makes dead space fans and horor players happy . The horor games not need second character like Resident evill with bad AI waiting them to open the door. I know there a lot people to buy games only for co-op but co-op is not good with games like this. If you want to turn in to action with run, gun and zombies co-op is a good idea

  • It’s a shame EA is killing this franchise also. To bad. I’m nt exited and won’t buy it unless it gets awesome reviews for sp and it’s very cheap in the budget bin.

  • I think this looks great and i’m really looking forward to it. I realise that there are many hardcore horror fans thinking that the game if not the genre has become too action focused but I think this has enhanced the experience and opened up the game to a broader audience. Besides I don’t think Dead Space 2 lost anything from the first game by having a little more action in it, as the developers say they are adding things to the experience, the core game-play, tension and horror are all still there from what I can see.

  • This is the problem with having EA as your financier. Being forced to include features you as a developer know will be a dire mistake. EA insist on reaching a broader audience, at the expense of a franchise current one.
    We’re told “Hey it’s okay! Play Dead Space 3 on your own and it’ll be just like DS1 & 2. But now a friend can join you and DS3 becomes ‘psychological’ horror”. What does that even mean?

    Has the environment been designed for one player or two? Does co-op simply include more necromorphs and mid-level boss fights? Do you guys really know what a devastating mistake you have made by saying “YES” to EA?

    I’ve bought both Dead Space games at launch, and the pretty awesome singleplayer DLC for DS2. I bought both Dead Space films on Blue Ray, and really enjoyed everything born from the franchise. But I’m not going to buy Dead Space 3.

    I don’t care for the EA marketing hype and half-truths. Forcing an unwanted feature as extreme as co-op has rendered DS3 unwanted by the fan base. As sad as it is, I will not be buying Dead Space 3, and as far as I’m aware none of my friends are either.

    “Singleplayer” is and always will be King.

  • OMG!!! Cant any of you READ? Hes said (again and again in MANY other interviews ive read too….He sounds as if hes getting annoyed in some of them and i can understand why) that Co-op is OPTIONAL!
    Its still going to be the same awesome scary game campaign played ENTIRELY single player if thats what you want but now instead of having competitive multiplayer the other mode will be a Co-op campaign. But again… dont have to play it.

    Anyone that says they wont get this game cos of this ADDITIVE gameplay is going to miss out either cos they dont bother to read things properly or just plain ignorance.

    Oh and by the way, ANYBODY who says these games arent scary just havent played them correctly. If you play it during the day with people with you and through tv speakers….damn right its not scary. BUT…lets see these same people play at night all alone in the dark with headphones on.

    They’d feel like short sighted idiots for saying its not scary.
    I cant WAIT to be scared WITLESS all over again!
    Great interview Fred and a great game. Along with The Last of Us, Dead Space 3 is my most anticipated game.

  • We’re not doing competitive multiplayer this time… what. why. i dont want co-op that im never ever going to play EPIC FAIL

    im sure deadspace 3 is going to be good but looks like im not going to buy it brand new, i will probably get preowned and then resell it.

    personally i really liked the multiplayer in deadspace 2, it was unique and now somehow you’ve managed to to look at one of the greatest achievements of deadspace 2 and go ‘ERRR NAWWW TOO MUCH WORK”

    culminating in a big middle finger to most gamers

  • Is the co-op only online or you can play locally in split-screen?

  • Not into the whole co-op thing, which is why i’m gone off RE. At least there isn’t a stupid ai getting in your way every step you take with this.

    If this has co-op trophies i’m out, don’t want to be made to do something i’m not in to. All trophies should be available for the single player.

  • @ Coody-Baroody

    So you’re the type of person that believes they have to insult others in order to get your point across? Disappointing, but expected.

    The entire design ethic for Dead Space 3 will be completely different to that of its predecessors. It’s not quite as simple as adding co-op functionality. The locations have to be developed to allow for two playable characters at all times, naturally altering the mindset from one being designed for a single player. Audio and visual que’s have to be altered to take into account people will be talking over the in-game audio etc. This in turn once again affects the singleplayer experience, because they’re not developing two games for two different groups, but one game two different groups can play. Unfortunately do to the nature of its design, co-op has to take the lead priority.

    This is why the core fanbase is upset. Not because we simply don’t pay attention, but because we won’t be spoon fed PR bovine waste.

  • @16 Scuffy_P

    How have insulted anyone? I just asked if they can read.
    Dont you think that Visceral know exactly what they’re doing? Just HOW you think the game has to incorporate such a vast difference in things to scare 2 people other than just 1 and that in consequence its going to ruin the Single Player i dont get. This is their game, they know what they’re doing and after the 1st 2 i have complete faith its still going to be THE horror series to beat come next spring and all the complainers that started moaning on the news it will include co-op will eat humble pie when they play Dead Space 3 too.

    When they say the Single Player campaign will be Single Player only they mean no AI partner too. The co-op campaign i think will just up the number of necro’s thats all. It wont be as scary but the Single Player will be.

  • Interesting to see I’m not the only one who thinks this will be as big a misguided disappointment as Resident Evil 6. The same indicators are there both in trailers and developer interviews, getting their excuses and justifications in early to try make sure they appeal to the widest range of money, er, I mean players as possible.

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