Dead Space returns in 2023 after a decade of hiatus. But the remake will reach a very different panorama from the one it left; Horror has become big business, and once-niche survival horror games are now on the rise. Resident Evil has returned to its glory, Silent Hill rises from the grave, and numerous indie horror games have captured the imagination of gamers and streamers around the world. While the original Dead Space was a long shot for EA in 2008, the remake is pretty much a surefire come 2023.
As part of this month’s IGN First focused on Dead Space, 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 evolving technology has made the return of the game even scarier.
It is enough to take a look at Dead Space to realize that where are your roots. “I think something like Resident Evil 4 changed, I guess, the landscape of survival horror at the time,” says Taylor Kingston, EA Motive environment artist and veteran of the Dead Space series. “Dead Space was very much inspired by him.”
But while Resident Evil 4 undoubtedly inspired Dead Space’s focus on over-the-shoulder combat and level design, much of the original game’s direction was inspired by movies like Alien, The Thing and Final Horizon.
“I think over the years we’ve seen how the games have been influenced by the movies and how a lot more cinematic techniques and influences have been carried over to the games,” says Mike Yazijian, Art Director of Dead Space. “And over the years, whether it’s Silent Hill or Resident Evil, obviously Dead Space has brought a lot of those feelings, it’s felt a lot more immersive, much more mature in tone than a horror video game. lifelong”.
Roman Campos-Oriola, creative director of the Dead Space remake, believes that the original game’s dedication to cinematic realism had broader implications. “I think one of the elements that Dead Space drove, and that has inspired a lot of other games, is immersion,” he says. “Since then […] Starting with Resident Evil 7, I think there’s been a bigger trend in survival horror games to try to make them more immersive to make them scarier.”
Interestingly, it may actually have been the influence of Dead Space that froze him for ten years. When Dead Space 3 arrived in 2013, survival horror was mutating. The Resident Evil formula was going out of style, and creepier indie hits like Amnesia and Outlast were redefining the genre. These games had a new dedication to immersion through their first-person perspectives, which increased the intensity of the scares. Third-person horror became old-fashioned, to the point that Resident Evil itself ended up switching to a first-person camera.
I think one of the elements that Dead Space pushed the furthest was immersion.
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 it seems to be greater than ever.
“Because I believe that [el survival horror] its coming back? Because it is not only returning to video games, but also to the entertainment industry in general,” Campos-Oriola theorizes. “It had been a while since I returned to the entertainment industry in general. If you remember when the original Dead Space came out, or even before, if you wanted to go see a horror movie, you had to find the only theater in town that played horror movies. Nowadays, most horror movies are released nationally.”
Yazijian agrees. “I love the revival of it,” he says. “But what I like the most now is that it’s becoming almost mainstream, isn’t it? So many games are coming out, so many movies are coming out that are also popular, and people are watching the horror genre more than ever.”
Although the popularity of survival horror at the moment makes 2023 the ideal time for the return of Dead Space, The biggest advantage is the advancement of technology.. “We have more tricks and tools as developers,” explains Campos-Oriola. “And so we were able to go back to the original inspirations for Dead Space – The Thing, Alien, Final Horizon, these kinds of movies – and look for elements in those movies that were either attempted and not as successful in the original because of technological limitations, Or they weren’t even tried because we couldn’t do it. Today we can do those things.”
“If you think about the original Alien, when they walk into that big room with all the eggs hidden in the mist, the mist is more than an environment, it’s part of the concealment,” he continues. “Now we have a physical, dynamic fog. So yes, we can hide creatures in it. You could lose an enemy inside the fog. You could track him and how he opens the fog and how the fog closes behind him.”
New technology available in the Frostbite engine means the team at EA Motive can improve the very core of Dead Space: a totally immersive experience.
“I think the most important thing for me is the atmosphere, right?” says Yazijian. “Because if you look at the three main pillars of Dead Space, from an art direction standpoint, […] number one was terror. […] So we wanted to go back to that horror. And we ask ourselves: “What is the scariest thing in a horror movie?” It is the sense of illumination, light and darkness, the game between the two. So when you play now, it’s darker. […] As the player moves through the environment, enemies move. You can see the play of light and shadow in the environment.”
In pursuit of greater immersion, the Ishimura has grown from a series of separate levels to a complete and interconnected spaceship. You can roam the entire length of it and go back freely, a feature that makes it feel more like an authentic location than a set of video game missions. But that transformation involved more work than just creating zones that linked the original game’s maps together.
“If you have this boat, then you’ve created another problem where you need to fill it up,” explains technical director David Robillard. “How do you fill those empty moments? […] Well, we created this Intensity Director, which is more than just an AI generator. He creates moments for you to go crazy, and that’s his goal. And it follows you through a predicted intensity curve that the level designers place in their levels and modulates it based on where you are within your mission instructions.”
Similar to Left 4 Dead’s lauded AI system, the Intensity Director is able to analyze the curve of action and horror of your experience and trigger events if things have been quiet for too long. Robillard says that there are “close to 400 events that we can trigger,” and dropping enemies on the map is just the beginning.
“It has something more than AI,” he reveals. “It has sounds, animations, and ambient triggers. There are fans starting up, ship creaking, lights flashing, lights going out, and psychosis. Anything that happens in the script can happen with the Intensity Director, and so on. It’s how we make the lines blurry and you’re never sure what’s scripted and what’s not.”
Immersive terror was at the core of the original Dead Space. And now, with horror’s popularity at an all-time high, it’s the perfect time for you to come back and use modern technology to take that immersion to the next level. New VFX technology allows the environments to replicate the cinematic influences of the original game, and the Intensity Director ensures that immersion aids both gameplay and atmosphere. To see what else the Dead Space remake is improving, check out how the team at EA Motive created a new version of the necromorph transformation scene and how the story was rewritten.