Dead Space Writer Sees Action As Necessary Evil

Dead Space Writer Sees Action As Necessary Evil

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Antony Johnston, one of the writers behind the original Dead Space, says the sequels aren't really for him.

Action, according to Dead Space writer Antony Johnston, is "a necessary evil in order to broaden the fan base," and while he admires Visceral's balancing act as it attempts to please the game's original fans while expanding the game's scope, he doesn't think the sequels are "really for me". Moreover, says he, the seeds of this evolution from survival horror to action title were planted at the very beginning.

"I've mentioned before that the universe we created was huge, with lots of elements, which simply didn't make it into the first game," says Johnston, "so to get that story told, to round out the universe, it was inevitable the settings and environments would open out a bit, become a bit more epic in scale." Anything else would have meant basically telling the original story all over again in a slightly different setting, which wouldn't have been much fun. But epic scale isn't what survival horror does best; that's more of a big action thing, and Johnston admits that, given everything, the shift in focus was inevitable.

Johnston - whose credits include Wasteland and collaboration with Alan Moore - was one of three writers involved in the original Dead Space title back in 2008, the other two being Warren Ellis and Rick Remender. None of the three have worked on any of the other Dead Space titles.

Source: Now Gamer

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Hm, that's a very interesting take on the situation.

Or you could just say that it was a homogenized mess that focused to much on DLC being a big hit. This is the case with many games released in the past couple of years.

With that known...it's a lot more clear now. It's weird that not even one of the three hung on, I wonder what bomb got dropped on the team.

I'm okay with action games. But I still think they should stop marketing it as a horror. Dead Space 1 was barely a horror title to begin with and 2 was pretty far attached. The footage I've seen of Dead Space 3 is almost Gears of War if all the enemies ran screaming into your face like a pack of Zerglings.

Which is cool too. I just think they're being misleading to newcomers.

Meh, Horror does epic scale extremely well. Indeed the sheer scale of things is what makes the whole "Lovecraftian" school of horror so effective, something which tends to be large in scope with people leading expeditions, and visiting parallel dimensions. Hellraiser, which got pretty cheezy after a while is another good example, especially when you look at the second movie where they actually visit hell. While Barker had nothing to do with the movies after the first, it is noteworthy that his works in writing seem to involve a shared universe where the same expansive mythology fits into a lot of the things he writes. The whole "D'amore" character which featured in the horrendous "Lord Of Illusions" movie is actually a recurring protaganist of some of his stories.

Action, fantasy, and horror have always kind of intertwined and interbred, and with a video game you have to expect there to generally be some action, which also makes sense in most horrorific situations. Like it or not humans are predators, we fight, we kill, we dominate. It's something we're going to try and do, and avoiding this is a mistake a lot of horror makes.

What made early survival horror titles effective was that they presented options, multiple avenues of solving problems, something which developers today tind to find anathema to their design sensibilities. Today you rarely see a game where you have an option to shoot your way through a problem, or stealthily avoid it, or develop your own combination of both techniques. Such games do exist, but even so, they generally seem to vastly favor one approach over the other (such as with Deus Ex, or Dishonored where your basically punished through more limited character development if nothing else if you actually adopt a combative approach).

The early survival horror games created an enviroment where shooting/clubbing your way through enemies was always an option, but limited resources meant that it was a losing strategy if that's all you did, thus you had to carefully manage what you did, and where, and even once the game progressed and your pile of resources increased the game was good at making you want to hoard what you had, and stop to think "is it really worth the bullets to shoot my way past these guys"?

The problem with games like "Dead Space" (before even getting into the financial aspects which ensured I will not buy DS 3) and the later "Resident Evil" games is a general lack of options. Sure there might be some jump out scares, but for the most part your sheparded from one combat arena to another, and you always have enough bullets/weapons to progress, though the game DOES encourage you to shoot well with what it gives you, but in both cases you generally have inherant options (effective melee, or Issac's Telekinesis device that throws items and monster parts) to fall back on. You really can't avoid/run away from/sneak past monsters anymore. In Resident Evil or Dead Space I'm pretty much exterminating everything and anything that gets between me and my goal. If I die, it's because I didn't shoot well enough, not because I made the wrong choices, or got paticularly scared by overwhelming odds, everything seems perfectly reachable and doable.

There is also the issue of the gaming industry not really wanting to do real horror any more. Today they create scary monsters for you to fight, and then label it horror, science fiction, or fantasy depending on what market they want to go after, with little or no differance.

Horror by definition involves taking people outside of their comfort zones. When your dealing with a visual medium like video games or movies this generally involves showing people the kinds of things that inherantly want to make them recoil in real life. Not everyone enjoys horror for this reason, and most people that do, tend to appreciate it more in retrospect than anything. The rules involved like "no harming children, no overt sex, no graphic torture, etc..." all contribute to ensuring that horror games will never genuinely become horror as those rules exist to prevent games from going outside of a very politically correct safety zone.

Truthfully I feel video games, horror games in paticular, died when the industry refused to fight against people like Hillary Clinton during the whole "Hot Coffee" thing. An "M" rated game should be able to go as far as an "R" rated movie, but the industry generally does not push for it's rights, and tries not to make waves. Most "M" rated games barely hit the level of what a "T" (or PG-PG-13) rating allows. When someone like me talks about things that would make a good horror game, people oftentimes go "well, they would get an AO rating and only be able to sell through porn download sites" and the answer to that is that no they wouldn't, if they bothered to fight. You start looking at the more extreme horror movies, erotic thrillers, etc... that release as "R" or unrated (which carries the same basic thing for all intents and purposes).

To put things into perspective, the "Saw" movies are actually relatively tame compared to some of the things that have been released under the label of "extreme horror" over the years. Whether your a fan of so called "torture porn" or not the bottom line is that "Saw" even as far as it went created some truely F@cked up scenarios, and visuals, with people talking about them for years afterwards, and fueling what was it? 7 movies. I personally attributed the relative success of "Saw" not due to it being an incredibly good series, but due to it being one of the few horror movie series that actually seemed to remember they could try and make a horror movie (if only they had better writers). Crap that twisted, as opposed to just implications of it, or the remnants of things that have happened, is pretty much what you should find in your typical horror game. Finding some corpse covered in barbed wire stuffed into a bathroom stall in "Silent Hill" for example gets bloody passe after a while, especially when it lacks any real context. In a game like "Silent Hill" you should have a mother dealing with guilt over a miscarriage or abortion find a baby on a meathook, only to have it start writing and struggling as they get closer, or being forced to watch the still living anastetic-free autopsy of their current five year old daugher (complete with begging and screaming) before finding out it was an illusion. That's the kind of F@cked up crap you should be seeing in these kinds of games calling themselves horror... disgusting? Wrong? That's the entire point.

To be entirely honest I've never especially thought the Necromorphs (including the exploding babies) ever really went anywhere paticularly special. To be honest they aren't visually any worse than the monsters in some of the more surreal action games like "God Of War", "Devil May Cry", or "Darksiders", none of which were really making pretensions of being horror. I'll also say that I think "Mass Effect", the original, was more of a sci-fi horror game than Dead Space ever thought of being due to one paticular scene at the beginning where they showed the Reaperization of a bunch of New Eden colonists on the giant "Dragons Teeth" spikes. A scene I might add you never saw repeted to my memory or followed up on to any extent... that right there was probably more intense than anything we ever saw from the Necromorphs transforming people in the Dead Space games as far as I remember.

"None of the three have worked on any of the other Dead Space titles." This really shows

I can understand wanting to escalate the story and raise the stakes, but I still feel they took it too far into the action territory. Dead Space certainly didn't need cover shooting or co-op. Moving the story forward is one thing, but what they did is closer to pandering.

It can be a fine line, between horror and action, and Dead Space 1 and 2 seemed to walk it very well. Hopefully they learn from this and can get into balance again.

Oh wait, they need to sell 5 million copies of Dead Space 3 to continue the franchise. Never mind then.

So tell me then, what's the deal with the stomping?

Well, maybe if they stop marketing it as horror...

It makes sense, though. It's also fodder for the anti-sequel crowd, though.

Mcoffey:
I can understand wanting to escalate the story and raise the stakes, but I still feel they took it too far into the action territory. Dead Space certainly didn't need cover shooting or co-op. Moving the story forward is one thing, but what they did is closer to pandering.

It can be a fine line, between horror and action, and Dead Space 1 and 2 seemed to walk it very well. Hopefully they learn from this and can get into balance again.

Oh wait, they need to sell 5 million copies of Dead Space 3 to continue the franchise. Never mind then.

They did get it right with 3, I am sorry but the "action" element isn't anywhere as bad as people make it out to be. If anything the game is more like the first game, its pacing is much slower and the fights more spread out.

At most you spend like 15 minutes out of a 18 hour campaign actually fighting humans with guns so its not even close to becoming a full on cover shooter. DS2 felt way more action packed then DS3 does especially toward the end. Even with their need to reach that "5 million to continue" the game still continues to feel like Dead Space and that is what ultimately matters, not like resident evil which barely even resembles the resident evil of old.

Coreless:

Mcoffey:
I can understand wanting to escalate the story and raise the stakes, but I still feel they took it too far into the action territory. Dead Space certainly didn't need cover shooting or co-op. Moving the story forward is one thing, but what they did is closer to pandering.

It can be a fine line, between horror and action, and Dead Space 1 and 2 seemed to walk it very well. Hopefully they learn from this and can get into balance again.

Oh wait, they need to sell 5 million copies of Dead Space 3 to continue the franchise. Never mind then.

They did get it right with 3, I am sorry but the "action" element isn't anywhere as bad as people make it out to be. If anything the game is more like the first game, its pacing is much slower and the fights more spread out.

At most you spend like 15 minutes out of a 18 hour campaign actually fighting humans with guns so its not even close to becoming a full on cover shooter. DS2 felt way more action packed then DS3 does especially toward the end. Even with their need to reach that "5 million to continue" the game still continues to feel like Dead Space and that is what ultimately matters, not like resident evil which barely even resembles the resident evil of old.

I certainly hope so. I haven't gotten to play DS3 yet, steam's being slow today, but I really do like the series. From what I've seen and read of 3 it sounds like it's a far cry from what Resident Evil's become. Still, those additions really feel like blatant intrusions in the series. What has the series gained from cover shooting, co-op, and micro-transactions?

VanQQisH:
I'm okay with action games. But I still think they should stop marketing it as a horror. Dead Space 1 was barely a horror title to begin with and 2 was pretty far attached. The footage I've seen of Dead Space 3 is almost Gears of War if all the enemies ran screaming into your face like a pack of Zerglings.

Which is cool too. I just think they're being misleading to newcomers.

To be honest I have played the first two and am around chapter 10 of the third one. I am only just starting to see much of a difference between the three right now. The first chapter had human enemies, and they have only just re-appeared. In between that it was more or less the same kind of thing that the first two had. That is, small corridors and necromoprhs coming of of the vents etc.

The only noticeable difference seems to be rather than having one or two very dangerous enemies, they seem slightly weaker so you instead get 3-5 of them at a time instead. Like the children in Dead Space 2. Plus this game relies too much on enemies jumping out of places you know they are going to the moment you walk into the room. For example you know there will be a large fight whenever you walk into a room and there are explosive and stasis cannisters all over the place.

The "action-orientated game" people keep talking about seems very exaggerated to me, especially the fact that I am between halfway and two thirds through the game and have probably spent about 15-20 minutes behind cover. I'd say the difference between the games is about equal between Dead Space 1 compared to 2.

I won't deny that it lacks the tension of the first game, but I'd say that's down to general enemies being more numerous while weaker as opposed to the game-play itself. Not to mention the weapons can be made a lot more powerful than before. The game-play itself isn't all that different.

Mcoffey:

I certainly hope so. I haven't gotten to play DS3 yet, steam's being slow today, but I really do like the series. From what I've seen and read of 3 it sounds like it's a far cry from what Resident Evil's become. Still, those additions really feel like blatant intrusions in the series. What has the series gained from cover shooting, co-op, and micro-transactions?

To the player? Nothing, although the latter two I haven't experienced and haven't had a problem with (although it's annoying constantly being asked to sign into a single player game so co-op is enabled).

To the developers it means more $$$.

Don't get me wrong, I'd be much happier with a game more in line with the first game, but this one honestly is not as bad as people make it out to be.

Mcoffey:

Coreless:

Mcoffey:
I can understand wanting to escalate the story and raise the stakes, but I still feel they took it too far into the action territory. Dead Space certainly didn't need cover shooting or co-op. Moving the story forward is one thing, but what they did is closer to pandering.

It can be a fine line, between horror and action, and Dead Space 1 and 2 seemed to walk it very well. Hopefully they learn from this and can get into balance again.

Oh wait, they need to sell 5 million copies of Dead Space 3 to continue the franchise. Never mind then.

They did get it right with 3, I am sorry but the "action" element isn't anywhere as bad as people make it out to be. If anything the game is more like the first game, its pacing is much slower and the fights more spread out.

At most you spend like 15 minutes out of a 18 hour campaign actually fighting humans with guns so its not even close to becoming a full on cover shooter. DS2 felt way more action packed then DS3 does especially toward the end. Even with their need to reach that "5 million to continue" the game still continues to feel like Dead Space and that is what ultimately matters, not like resident evil which barely even resembles the resident evil of old.

I certainly hope so. I haven't gotten to play DS3 yet, steam's being slow today, but I really do like the series. From what I've seen and read of 3 it sounds like it's a far cry from what Resident Evil's become. Still, those additions really feel like blatant intrusions in the series. What has the series gained from cover shooting, co-op, and micro-transactions?

Well we will see once the financial stats come out, if the game sells more then previously, then obviously EA got what it wanted more players and more money but for the players what have we gained....more options in how we play the game.

If it does worse off then the prior games in terms of numbers then it did nothing for the game and that will probably be it for the series. Personally I see this game selling just a little better then 2, but I really don't see it reaching the so called "5 million mark" but who knows, maybe the game will take off, hard to say at this point.

Yesterday I finished Dead Space 2 in preparation for Dead Space 3 and while it technically is better than the first game in almost every way, in the end, I found it lacking, I liked the focus on action and it still retained much of the atmosphere, but it no longer was a psychological experience like the first one.

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely liked Dead Space 2, but I'd put it a notch down compared to the first one and I can definitely see why they needed to compromise the horror a bit in exchange for action, they wouldn't be able to tell the rest of the story otherwise.

But hey!, at least it's still better than Resident Evil and Silent Hill combined, wich is a bit depressing when you think about it.

Never really got why the story is so often seen as the core of games. When games are rebooted itīs to tell different sides of the story, we get prequels and sequels that are all based around the idea of progressing the story, while the core of the game: the gameplay is something disposable and changeable. I think game series should be defined by their core Gameplay and not the story, it makes more sense in my eyes. Not that i think Dead Spaced has changed that much, thereīs a bit more shooting, but the first game was pretty damn action packed, so yeah... :p

I have yet to play either of the sequels so I can't make any comparisons, but I found Dead Space 1 to already be way more action than it was horror. To me, it seems like the natural progression is to emphasise the action elements just because they were capable of executing that much better than the horror.

Phht.

The first game was a decidedly non-scary alien-blasting romp.

Whether you like or hate Dead Space is up to you, but this "OMG the first game was great now they've ruined it" thing just confuses the hell out of me.

Why is Survival Horror the only genre where it's okay to "turn it into something it's not" because whatever.

If I sit down to play Madden, am I going to be weird in suggesting that it needs more action? If I sit down to play Call of Duty, should I berate it for it's lack of roleplaying features? Man you know, Final Fantasy XIII was okay and all, but it needed more platforming and jumping.

I like all the Dead Space games, but the departure into all out action really does suck. I am at least glad they didn't go crazy with the zombies with guns or just people with guns aspect. It occurs very little throughout Dead Space 3, and when it does occur, it is quite too much. It almost seems like they begrudgingly had to put the shooty shooty scenes in because a certain publisher told them to, so they put it in the beginning and towards the end a little and told the publisher, "See, it's in the whole game!".

"Anything else would have meant basically telling the original story all over again in a slightly different setting..."

Uh, seriously, isn't that what happened?

Considering how the main character has been carried through all 3 games it would be increasingly difficult to keep it as a horror game. The protagonist would eventually become accustomed to the foes he is constantly encountering - military training or no.

It's hard to be afraid when you're commanding an alien slaughtering machine.

The fact that action games are a "necessary evil" to begin with speaks volumes about the state of gaming.
If your big-budget AAA franchise can't survive on its own merits and has to cop-out to the lowest common denominator, I see that as a sign of strong unhealthiness in the business. (yet so many people insist that gaming is "unquestionably" better than ever..pfft)

It's hard to write a game after having some of the biggest scifi/horror writers around write the first game in the series. The kicker for me is that all of the games have been good. I can't help but feel the first one didn't need a followup. It was written with an ending that like any good horror film in that it wasn't due for a followup. The game wrapped up. It's like the movie Event Horizon, no one really escapes that horror. It always gets you in the end. EA wanted more games out of it. I almost think the story would have been better served by having a whole new protagonist rather than Isaac Clark again.

That said, lets be honest with ourselves. The first one had some good horror elements, but as soon as you can kill the monsters, the game becomes less scary. Having played and beaten all three games, they are fine games, but aside from a few scary bits, they weren't. They never had the elements that make a game like that scary, at least not entirely. Action was always part of the equation. But contrary to popular belief, I don't think the games were different from each other. They were all the same, just a continuation into new environments with some new characters.

Truth be told, it makes sense that the games would slowly evolve into action if we keep following the same character through all these horrific scenarios. I don't remember who said it on this site, but I recall someone breaking down the survival horror genre by saying that once the mystery of the monster is revealed there's nothing left to do but take it out guns a blazing. After three whole games, dealing with the necromorphs for Isaac would become extremely similar to how Master Chief deals with the Flood or how Gordon Freeman deals with the Combine. He knows what to expect; he knows what they can do; he knows how to kill them. There's nothing to be horrified about.

The second game played with the idea of having Isaac lose his mind a bit with PTSD and other mental issues to keep the horror going, but he had to overcome that by the end of it else he wouldn't be a progressive protagonist and not nearly as interesting. Even if the necromorphs change or evolve into something unexpected in a future installment, that kind of change will just become a gimmick to keep the series going if it happens more than once. In order for the horror aspect to take center stage again, we need complete change: change in setting, change in enemies, change in protagonist.

Zhukov:
Phht.

The first game was a decidedly non-scary alien-blasting romp.

Whether you like or hate Dead Space is up to you, but this "OMG the first game was great now they've ruined it" thing just confuses the hell out of me.

I agree, the first game was not much horror fro mthe moment you got your hands on a gun. i played it as an action movie set in gritty settings and that made it quite good, though i did enjoy the whole culk of marker setting. i liek my games gritty. but the first one wasnt some godsend supergame and neither is this franchise (sorry JIM, its not).

When first announced, dead space was supposedly a game where you use the environment and your engineering tools to escape from enemies in zero g areas.
Then, later on, there were guns and that concept was out the window. So this makes sense.
He probably envisioned dead space as something more like penumbra in space but they had to "broaden the fanbase" to maximize sales.
What a shame.

I am a fan of the series, I really enjoy the universe its in, and I guess I am one of those that people that the story makes a big difference to, that said.

If you enjoyed DS1 & 2 you "should" enjoy DS3.

I do agree, there is definitely less psychological elements going on here in 3 and it shows that the original writers were not in on it but it does not detract from the game being a good Deadspace iteration. The fact that it has become a tad quicker pace with more enemies and more powerful weapons (even though Issac trudges around as he always has)is nothing to complain about.

The hate for this makes me think of only one thing.

Legion:

The "action-orientated game" people keep talking about seems very exaggerated to me, especially the fact that I am between halfway and two thirds through the game and have probably spent about 15-20 minutes behind cover. I'd say the difference between the games is about equal between Dead Space 1 compared to 2.

I won't deny that it lacks the tension of the first game, but I'd say that's down to general enemies being more numerous while weaker as opposed to the game-play itself. Not to mention the weapons can be made a lot more powerful than before. The game-play itself isn't all that different.

This ^

And for the love of god, everyone needs to stop bitching about the micro transactions you don't need them, ANY of them. The only one I grabbed was the scavenger personality as it does not affect difficulty and I found it rather entertaining to have an English sounding chap complaining about the man with his face on backwards. Could they have made it part of the core game? Sure. Did they? No. Because EA is EA. If they realize that most people aren't buying the micro transactions perhaps they will get the hint.

And seriously, if you didn't enjoy this area.

I have some bad news.

PS. I'm probably biased and you have every right not to like it but, WHEEEEEEE!

loa:
When first announced, dead space was supposedly a game where you use the environment and your engineering tools to escape from enemies in zero g areas.
Then, later on, there were guns and that concept was out the window. So this makes sense.
He probably envisioned dead space as something more like penumbra in space but they had to "broaden the fanbase" to maximize sales.
What a shame.

Actually they did hit on that zero G area pretty well this time around and the modifications made to weapon creation are an improvement, you craft your weapons now and not just upgrade them.

 

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