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How the worst 40 seconds in dead space almost killed the game

The story of the creation of one of the most famous horror films
In the process of creating games, the authors ‘ ambitions can turn into huge problems for the project. Some ideas are rejected due to technical difficulties, while others are tried at any cost. Few people know that one short scene in the cult horror Dead Space incredibly delayed the development process and jeopardized the very release of the game.

Dead Space was released 12 years ago. Since then, the franchise has managed to die, and its developers-to disperse who where because of the closure of the Studio publisher Electronic Arts. But the first part is still considered a classic of modern horror. It was scary, but exciting. Scary, but interesting. So typical, but at the same time surprising even in small things.This is how he was seen by Glen Schofield-the CEO of the late Visceral Games, as well as the producer and chief developer of Dead Space.

Preparation
Scofield had the idea for Dead Space just three years before the game was released. In 2005, Glen and his team took the first Xbox DevKit and created just three rooms where everything rotated and glowed. This was necessary to understand what horror might look like.

This prototype helped a lot in the future. When the Studio engineers received the finished material, they immediately understood what Schofield wanted. This allowed EA Redwood Shores, later renamed Visceral Games, to develop its own engine.

“My main goal was to create the scariest game in the world. No one wants to make the third scariest game in the world. I also wanted it to be exactly as I see it. I made a lot of games the way others wanted. Here my desire was to show myself. I think the result shows that it was a manual game, ” says Glen Schofield.

Glen Schofield chose Resident Evil as his inspiration. Just in 2005, the fourth part was released, which was destined to become the best-selling game in the franchise. Schofield was so impressed with the Capcom horror film that he simply announced to his team: “you have to make Resident Evil in space.”There was no need to explain anything to anyone else.
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Resident Evil 4 impressed with its atmosphere. This is a game in which it is scary to look around the corner, but I really want to look there. Scofield was drawn to this tension, a sense of fear bordering on interest. He experienced this when playing RE, Silent Hill, and watching various sci-Fi horror movies. For example, “across the horizon”.

There is a strange irony in the fact that “across the horizon” influenced one of the scariest games in history. The film by Paul Thomas Anderson, which marked the beginning of the film adaptation of Resident Evil, was defeated by critics and failed at the box office. But it affected the dead space, probably like no other tape:

“The film succeeded in a narrative that takes place in the background. For example, one of the characters is in the cockpit. A flash of light illuminates the stage-the walls behind him are covered in blood. It doesn’t look normal, you know-something terrible happened here. But the character has no idea about this. And I wanted to bring that into the game. We wanted the player to experience episodes of relaxation, but… not very often.”

Perhaps the most important aspect of dead space was sound. Schofield admits that sound design is a higher priority for him than for other developers. Often the sound is reduced at the last moment, when there is not enough time, or game memory,or neither. Schofield immediately noted that the sound and soundtrack are what you need to work on first. Therefore, the game managed to win several prestigious awards (BAFTA, DICE, etc.) for its sound design.

As it turned out, the most terrible sound of Dead space many of us hear almost every day. The game’s sound engineer don century believes that there is nothing scarier than a train rushing along the subway. He described to the Studio Director in all colors what he felt in the subway, and the next day he was already in the subway with all the necessary equipment. So Dead Space got one of the scariest sound effects.

The rules of the development of dead space
When developing Dead Space, EA Redwood Shores employees were guided by a small set of rules. But it was difficult to keep track of them, because they were not easy. :

The game must not have a user interface;
The character must be silent;
Must be ” dismembered»;
All key points should be interactive;
The most important point is that all aspects of the game should be more or less innovative.
Innovation is what Schofield demanded of all employees. Appearance of the main character? This is something you haven’t seen before. Standard melee attack? Also something simple, but unusual-the hero angrily tramples everything that is possible. Even shooting-and then borrowed, but at the same time reinterpreted by developers. The mechanics were taken from Resident Evil 4, but Scofield knew that staying in dead space was not an option. Therefore, the character does not shoot as if in a dash, but moves, although slowly because of the need to aim.

One of the most interesting ideas developers have seen is not in space, namely … under water. After imagining what a game might look like without an interface, one of the Studio’s employees remembered scuba diving. Divers have some indicators on their backs, which was the main reason for creating the Isaac health bar. One of the Studio employees realized that when another monster devours a hero, its indicators still glow an inspiring green color. Then it made the HP strip turn red and then disappear. But the system of dismemberment of opponents (and Isaac himself) was key. This affected the design of weapons and opponents. What’s the point of inventing monsters if they can’t cut off a claw with a space cutter?

You may not have noticed, but there are no commercials in the dead space. All game moments are interactive. You go through the time of audio and video experts, fight with opponents, even if they just grabbed you and are going to eat you. However, the desire to make the game fully interactive almost forced the developers to abandon their own rules.

Main problem
For a month, the Studio was engaged in only one task. Development stalled, and about twenty employees tried to embody a scene in which Isaac is grabbed by a “pulling tentacle”. The episode was supposed to be a short, bright, and frightening flash. And according to the original idea of the developers, if the hero came across a tentacle-he died. However, Isaac simply would not have lived to see this moment if he had not tried to fight any threat. So the developers realized that they should give players the opportunity to shoot back.

The problem wasn’t just the reanimation of the tentacle and the captured Isaac. The monster had to calculate the position of the character, grab his ankle, hit the ground and start pulling. Schofield divided the duties between the teams. Some worked on animation, others on tracking, others on sound, and so on. after handing out tasks, Schofield left for a few days to find out when he arrived that nothing was working.

– I arrived, but nothing happens. At the same time, everything was ready. The guys did everything right and well. They say to me, ” Glen, we did what you asked, but this is some shit,” and I look up and realize that Yes, it is. After several weeks of various errors, we realized that there must be some other way. And then I realize that the problem was not in the team, but in the way I set the task, ” Schofield says.

Decision
Schofield decided that it was necessary to divide the process of capturing Isaac with a tentacle into stages. He called it “layer management.””As the game designer himself admitted, there is probably a professional name for what he came up with, but it is the “layer” designation that has taken root among his employees.

How do I know you can’t do something? You need to start small and solve one problem after another. Thus, the team started with the process of animating the capture from any point where the player could be located just before the beginning of Isaac’s confrontation with the tentacle. Then the developers added an animation of the hero’s rise and impact on the ground. And so on and so forth.

At some point, the Studio realized that from the prone position in which Isaac found himself, they could not “hook” the finished animation of the shooting. And then it was decided to develop a new shooting mechanics and animation for any weapon that could be in the hands of the player at that moment. It all lasted 40 seconds-that’s how long the tentacle scene lasted.

“I remember people coming up to me and asking if I was sure we needed to do this at all. We cut out two other points for the tentacle. I can’t say exactly what we cut out because… I do not care. The pulling tentacle was very, very steep, ” Glen concludes.

Lesson
We all feel a great sense of pride when we overcome obstacles and achieve our goals. Schofield and his team were no exception. The “pulling tentacle” noticeably slowed development and even made the team question some of the decisions made. However, the very process of solving the problem, searching for answers to the questions that arose, and the very fact that the plan was implemented made it possible for developers to understand that they can do whatever they want. In the month they had been dealing with the tentacle, they had gained experience and confidence. As a result, they made the game faster, printed it two weeks before the deadline, and even saved money.

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