In a lineup of survival horror characters, Isaac Clarke stands out. More than a normal guy trying to escape from zombies, the protagonist of Dead Space is a space engineer prepared to face the harshest conditions. That is clearly seen in his already iconic space suit.which has received a grimy update for the upcoming Dead Space remake.
the original suit It was designed by Chi-Wai Laoa concept artist who worked at EA with Dead Space creator Glen Schofield, in the early 2000s. “In the beginning, my suit designs were very disparate,” Lao explains. “They ranged from very tight suits to very bulky suits, some were very robotic looking, and a couple of them even carried a giant sword. They were drastically different from the Dead Space suits we recognize today.”
As Lao refined his concept, turned to pop culture for inspiration on the details, specifically in an endearing Japanese anime mecha. “An unusual candidate that influenced me a lot early on for the suit design was the Neon Genesis Evangelion anime series, especially the spine and the EVA input plug design,” he reveals. “It was a prominent functional and visible element of the EVA design, and it led me to implement a similar emphasis of a very prominent spine and some sort of life support system at the back of the suit in its early phase. At the time it was mostly for visual and fictional reasons. However, the idea of having the HUD on Isaac’s back came up soon after by the team, and the spine underwent drastic changes to implement that HUD afterwards.”
The final design of the Lao costume came about when he challenged himself to work with repetitive sci-fi motifs that he traditionally found rather boring; things like exhaust vents that are often used to fill in the blanks in a design. “What if he used this ‘boring’ repetition as a motif, a kind of visual language on the suit?” she wondered. “How would it fit into the theme? It could convey an interesting rough look, but something I wouldn’t normally like.”
The nerve motif became a resonant aesthetic for the rest of the game.
“So as I did more sketches, I started implementing this ‘ribbing’ design into the suit, with long, thick horizontal strips of armor, instead of conventional armor plates,” he explains. “The suit needs flexibility, so I added space between these thick strips of armor to make them less restrictive. The ribs flow more [orgánicamente] in some sketches than others, but that was more or less the first step to [convertir] the iconic Dead Space suit in the current form we know.”
That nerve design soon it became a vital part of not just Isaac’s costume, but the entire game. “Not only did it work very well on a character level, but it could be something that would work in our rooms, in our hallways, in our vehicles, and even on the outside of the Ishimura, the ship where Dead Space 1 takes place,” says Lao. “The ribbing motif became a resonant aesthetic for the rest of the game, wherever we could apply it, to create our version of a grim gothic architectural environment in space.”
That industrial gothic aesthetic has since become iconic, so one of the biggest challenges facing the Dead Space remake team has been update that look for 2023. “Well, it’s interesting because we had the opportunity to redesign the suit from scratch,” says Mike Yazijian, art director at EA Motive. “And we did. At first we did some sketches that explored a rather different version of Isaac. He had a much more sci-fi look, which is always where most artists want to go. But it just didn’t fit. It felt too much futuristic. It felt more like Isaac was turning into a robot. There are lots of bright lights and things about him that didn’t look right to me.”
“There’s a lot in the characters about bones and dismemberment, and basically what’s on the inside that shouldn’t be on the outside,” explains Roman Campos-Oriola, creative director of the Dead Space remake. “The body horror theme is really strong in Dead Space. […] I see those bones and things, that shouldn’t be outside. It’s kind of the same with the concept of armor. That’s why there are all these metal plates that look like ribs and stuff. It’s not just to be consistent with the design of the world […] but also to reinforce some horror themes in Dead Space.”
It still looks like the same suit from a distance, but when you see it up close, it’s much more realistic.
“As with the rest of the game, we want to make sure we honor the legacy of Dead Space,” says Yazijian. “We want it to feel exactly like the original game, but of course with the enhancements we want to add to it. So after those first few passes [del traje] We said, ‘No, no, we have to go back and look at the original design. We want to make sure the silhouette is the same as the original.'”
The final design stays true to the ribbed brass diving suit look of the original, but with a higher level of detail. The goal was sell the helmet as authentic and functional equipment. “We said, ‘Okay, let’s get a little closer to the suit itself and think about how it would work. What do we have to do to add those believable details to it?'” recalls Yazijian. “So we started from scratch. We said, ‘Okay, the helmet is cool, it’s very iconic, but let’s model the whole thing. Let’s see how it looks on the inside. Let’s add the padding to make it more comfortable for Isaac.” That’s how we would think about it, in a very believable way, if you had to wear that suit, what would you do to it?”
To ensure credibility, the team considered what materials would be available to engineers in the Dead Space universe. “What is it made of?” wondered Campos-Oriola. “For example, a good idea that my work as a director gave me was that [Dead Space está ambientado en] a universe in which resources are stranded. That is why they have to go into space to mine a gigantic planet, because there is nothing left on Earth. So leather in that kind of society must be very, very rare. So we have to make sure he’s not wearing leather.”
Although much of the design remains faithful to the original Lao costume, some things had to be changed. “The other thing that bothered us a bit was the boots,” says Yazijian. “It looked very simple in the original version, but we also went back to that design and then gave it a proper boot that has a lot more articulation in the foot and shins and stuff.”
“We’ve added a little light on the heel to let you know when you’re wearing the magnetic boots,” reveals Campos-Oriola. “But now you also have the thrusters, because you can float in zero gravity and now you can navigate and fly around. So we had to think: where are those thrusters on the suit? How do they work? How do they help you navigate in gravity? zero? All of that went into the team design.”
The illuminated spine acts as the diegetic health bar, and the crescent-shaped stasis indicator completes the universe HUD. The design has been kept for the remake.
“I loved the original equipment design,” says Yazijian. “It’s unique and iconic, and we wanted to keep it. We don’t want to spoil it. But when you look at it, it looks a bit flat and simple. What we did was model all the pieces. You can actually zoom into each of those sections and see the mechanism inside. […] And we also added on the back the stasis and kinesis meter. So there are a lot of details.”
“I think overall it works because it still looks like the same suit from a distance, but when you see it up close, it’s much more realistic,” concludes Yazijian. “And the last step was the materials. We went back and added much more realistic shaders to it to make sure it really looked like the material it was supposed to be. Not boring and flat.”
The final version of Isaac’s costume is representative of the Dead Space remake as a whole– A more detailed and believable version of what you’ve loved for years. At first glance it’s the same, but if you take a closer look you’ll find dozens of new elements that help elevate it into the modern age.
For more on Dead Space, check out how the remake fits into the modern survival horror renaissance.