[Interview] Steve Papoutsis, Executive Producer of DEAD SPACE 2

We chatted with Steve Papoutsis, the executive producer on Dead Space 2 about multiplayer, story challenges and Isaac suddenly finding his voice.
Author: Parjanya C. Holtz
Published: September 13, 2010
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Steve Papoutsis, the Executive Producer on Visceral Game's Dead Space 2 team was kind enough to share with us a couple minutes of his time, and we couldn't resist the temptation to ask a few (as we find) interesting questions, focusing on some significant production choices that were made in the development process of the sequel to arguably the best survival horror game of this generation.

Here are the results:


TotalPlayStation: What made you feel the need to add a multiplayer component to a historically single-player genre? Did you feel it was necessary to compete in today's marketplace?

Steve Papoutsis, Executive Producer of the Dead Space franchise: The main motivation behind adding multiplayer to the Dead Space universe was that we thought we could bring something new to the table that hadn't been done in a multiplayer game before. We're allowing people to play as the Sprawl Security Force or the Necromorphs, and of course letting them strategically dismember their friends. People are going to find out when they actually play the multiplayer that there is connection into the single-player game, so we're hoping that, for fans of the fiction, that they're going to enjoy that connectivity, but also we wanted to give people the chance to experience Dead Space with another person without removing that sense of fear and tension that you get in the single-player game. So having multiplayer, we thought, would be a great way for people to experience the game with friends.

TPS: It might seem like the original game mechanics would not lend themselves well to a multiplayer experience, so did you redesign the game's controls from the ground up with multiplayer in mind?

SP: Well, just in general with Dead Space 2, we've focused on improving the game from the controller out. We put a lot of effort into listening to what players said about it, making sure that it felt more responsive, and more natural when new people picked up the controller and that they could just get right into having fun. Those enhancements for the single-player game actually carried right over to the multiplayer game, so it's actually a really nice blend, and hopefully when you get to play it tonight, you'll see for yourself.

TPS: There seems to be a great deal of emphasis from the team on listening to and incorporating fan feedback from the first installment. Is there a point when this cuts into the artistic process or vision of the game?

SP: My job on the team is to make sure that we're balancing the feedback that we get from the community and the players and what is correct for the franchise. We get it a lot of times – you know, we're game developers, people that are playing the game are gamers, and we value their feedback, but we have to kind of understand how it fits into creating a game like Dead Space. It's important to have the horror, it's important to have the tension, and sometimes what happens when you're getting feedback from people is, you know, everything needs to be faster, more powerful, because, you know, they think that makes it fun.

We're constantly evaluating that feedback, but one example is we were showing the game to a group of people and one person thought that they should be able to just run over collectibles and have them auto-go into their inventory. The quote was, “When wouldn't I want to have ammo or health?” Well, part of Dead Space is that decision – wanting to get something for your inventory because you're managing that as you go through the experience. That's kind of an example of something that maybe on the surface sounds like “of course I want to pick up this or that,” but in reality that takes away from what we're trying to do with the game.

TPS: Will the world's political and theological components be more than just, essentially, window dressing this time 'round? How have they been more incorporated into the narrative?

SP: The premise of Dead Space 2 is that Isaac fights to destroy a government plot to resurrect the marker. Without giving away too much detail on the story – which I never want to do, because people are really into it – I can say that those factions are going to be important that you mentioned, both the government and the Unitologists and the CEC [the mining corporation that employs Isaac]. All of those factions are going to play a bigger role. Again, I can't go into a lot of detail, but I think as people experience the game and it opens up to them, they'll see what I am saying.

TPS: What was the biggest lesson learned, either positive or negative, from the first game?

SP: One of the things that we heard, you know, an outpouring from people, is that they enjoyed the atmosphere, the tension, and the horror elements that we delivered, but, at the same time, I think we realized that there were a couple of places in the game where we frustrated people. One that jumps to mind is the ADS cannon, the asteroid defense cannon that we had in the game. That was a spike for some people. Whether it was through lack of messaging on our part of explaining how the cannon worked – I think some people didn't know that they could use both triggers to fire it. And just the difficulty.

We wanted it to be something different for players, so that they experienced something new, and it broke up the pacing in the game, but we never want to frustrate people and create a cliff where people just can't progress. So I think that's one area we really learned a lesson on. We want to do a better job of making sure there aren't those moments where people just get super frustrated. I mean, you have to have challenges in games, right? You have to have that sense of “I did it,” you know, but you don't want to put it at the expense of having people just get turned off and not want to keep going. That's probably one of the bigger lessons [that we learned].
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