Saturday, March 19, 2011

GDC Notes - Dead Space 2

First, the Dead Space 2 talk by its art director, Ian Milham.

I loved this lecture because he approached the first and second games with an honest self-analysis, an aspect of personal achievement I dearly follow. He discussed:

Art style

- The sweeping artistic theme that can be seen throughout the game is the noticeable darkness. This eventually was embraced and taken further for the sequel. (Some other games and movies purposefully use darkness not only to create suspense in the audience's minds, but to save money.) For DS2, darkness was an artistic choice rather than a cost-effective one.

- Between the first and second games, they improved their utilization of color boards, giving color meaning alongside gameplay rather than just slapped together.


- The art team used Gothic architecture as inspiration for the environment, and as a motif they kept repeating the 'ribbed' pattern as a stylistic choice. Isaac's design is most memorable for the ribbed pieces adorning him.


- Variety in environment
- - - Ian showed us screenshots of different areas in Dead Space, each labeled accordingly. He admitted that even though they called the areas different, the architecture was all incredibly similar. And this was true - seeing all the places side-by-side, it was evidently hard to tell one area from the next. For the second game, they fixed this very well, making it clear where the player was.

- Character development, emotion, connection
- - - In the first game, Isaac's face was never revealed until near the end, and he never spoke once. This design choice was used to give the player a blank slate to enter, rather than imposing a personality. However, this prevented the character from having any sort of say in the matter. He didn't have a voice, opinion, or connection to the player. This changed drastically - and very well - in the second game. They gave him a voice, an expressive face, emotions, and opinions. He developed as the story progressed. In the end, he even changed. In my humble opinion, this allowed for us to really care about Isaac.

- Gameplay
- - - The first Dead Space was a constant stream of action, making it less scary and more like agonizing busywork. For the second game, they changed the gameplay to include epic moments: times and events where the character is immensely focused and/or specifically directed to create tension and suspense. They also included places for the player to relax. This combination gave the game a more roller-coaster-like feel with a grand finish, rather than an arduous hike.
- - - When Amanda played a certain part in DS2, she was too terrified to do it, even though it was one of the simplest parts of the game. All she had to do was [spoiler] slowly, carefully guide a needle into Isaac's left eye. [/spoiler] The premise may be simple, but the execution was so hardcore and suspenseful that she nearly gave up out of sheer terror.

Day 2 will be posted soon!

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