It almost seems like "player empowerment" is all relative, don't you think? With you guys, you make the character more agile, but at the same time, you compensated with some faster enemies in later levels. You can also empower the enemies as well as the player to kind of close that gap.
WB: Exactly. I remember on Dead Space 1 I have to admit I was really worried about it, and I said, "You know, we're entering an arms race. If Isaac [Clarke, the game's lead character] moves faster, than it just means everything else is going to move faster." And I felt like we were going to have these two knobs that just kept going up and up and up, and it would just be this arms race.
It turns out it wasn't that hard to give the player the abilities without taking too much of the horror out of the game. We did add some faster-moving enemies this time.
The Pack, the little sort of children at the marsh that you see... [that was] actually one of the first things we built for Dead Space 2, because what we said was, "We need to build some enemies that give you a different kind of experience," we focused a lot on giving you more variety this game around.
And we said, "Let's build these guys. Let's build something that's strategically very, very interesting, that feels like a very different style of gameplay." And we actually used those enemies as a litmus test to figure out if our controls were good enough.
So, one of the first things we did in Dead Space 2 when it came to the mechanics is we built The Pack, and then we basically just had people fight them for hours on end. We used that as a test to iron out the kinks in the controls.
People said, "Hey, well, the right stick sensitivity isn't quite right" because they felt frustrated that they couldn't get a bead on them with just the right sensitivity. The speed that the camera rotated, all these kinds of things, we use that, again, as a test to figure out, are the controls what's scaring you or is it situation you're in scaring you?
And I think once we got a lot of those little kinks out of the controls, we just found that it was a lot easier for people to pick up the game and find themselves immersed. You don't want the player to pick up the game and be thinking about the controls. You want the player to be immersed in the world and caring about what people are saying and looking at the interesting things in the world.
I think for us, it was a way that when we brought in Dead Space 1 gamers and other people in the studio, it was a way for them to more immediately get into what we were trying to do.
The original Dead Space was one of the goriest games I've ever played. It was kind of surprising to me. You've got some of these death sequences for Isaac that seem like they're maybe 15 seconds long. I'm curious if there was any concern with the first game, or is there any with the second one, that you would run into any issues with the ESRB?
WB: You know, there's always a concern. I have to admit, I don't deal much with that kind of stuff, but here's the great thing. Generally, I think that's a good thing because people rarely ever tell us or tell me that we can't do something. I don't think that there's anything in Dead Space 2 that we had to pull because of concerns from the ESRB. Generally, we use gore... We try to be relatively tasteful with it.
You do? [laughs]
WB: And by that, I mean... [laughs] We do some crazy things for sure, no doubt. I'm sure some people would argue [against the idea] that we're being tasteful. But to us, we're not doing it to try to be as silly or as bloody as possible. We're doing it to try to really just sell the idea that there are big consequences to failure in the game. The other interesting thing about it is we discovered on Dead Space 1 that failure sometimes became a reward.
Because the deaths were so entertaining at times, that when people died, it was one of the highest moments of entertainment for them. If you go on YouTube, there are dozens and dozens of little movies that people have made of all the death sequences in the game, which I think is a testament to how entertained they were.
That was one of the things we did on Dead Space 2 to say "Let's continue to try to make death in Dead Space be something interesting rather than purely a punishment." Of course, it is punishing to die, but it's funny how people feel a lot less bad and feel a lot less frustrated when they get rewarded with a really cool animation.
Dead Space is the kind of game where sometimes we'll throw some things at you that that in other games might feel really, really frustrating, but again because we give you this gift of awesome animation and effects when you die, you're not really thinking, "Aw man. That guy kind of came out of nowhere and hit me!" You're more like, "Okay. Alright. That guy hit me, and that was pretty cool to see that, and I'm going to watch out for him next time." It kind of makes you feel better about the fact that it's a pretty brutal game.