GDC 2009: Reliving Dead Space

Senior producer Chuck Beaver explains why his team started development on the original Xbox, worked 18 months before being greenlit.

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SAN FRANCISCO--The atmosphere of last year's survival horror hit Dead Space was designed to instill a sense of dread in players, keeping them on the edges of their seats for hours on end, wondering if every shadow concealed another variant of the game's unspeakable monsters. But that's nothing compared to the tension the development team endured.

The ghost of systems past?

In his 2009 Game Developers Conference presentation today, Electronic Arts Redwood Shores senior producer Chuck Beaver said that the studio worked on the game for 18 months before it finally received a green light from the publisher. Dead Space was one of the first projects in EA's renewed focus on original intellectual properties, and Beaver said the publisher at the time was committed to that focus, but not confident about executing on it.

EA's reluctance might have been understandable. Beaver noted that the Redwood Shores studio had been a factory for licensed games like The Godfather and The Simpsons for years. He said the last original IP created by Redwood Shores was 1991's motorcycle combat game Road Rash.

After the original pitch for Dead Space in early 2006, EA provided the team with three months to work on the project. Given that an original IP was a different sort of game for EA, the Dead Space team took a suitably different approach to development than is typical for the company.

Beaver said EA games typically spend a lengthy period of time in the design phase before anything playable is created. For Dead Space, Redwood Shores focused on "putting pixels on the screen" as soon as possible. That meant prototyping some of the gameplay mechanics before the team had an engine to work with.

Because work on Dead Space started before EA had a next-gen engine ready for use, the team started prototyping some of the basic gameplay on the original Xbox, figuring it would be easier to find out how well the mechanics worked in practice and go through the pain of converting it to a next-gen platform later.

Beaver showed an early demo from this build, which had already implemented some of the weapons and the zero-gravity gameplay. While rough, the prototype helped "immensely," Beaver said, adding that the process of making demos early and often in development allowed for many more iterative improvements than the standard EA practice would have.

That wasn't the only EA convention Redwood Shores thumbed its nose at to get the game greenlit. Beaver said they "staged an aggressive internal PR campaign," treating and developing the game as if it had already been given the final go-ahead.

However, the final push that helped get Dead Space approved after 18 months of development was a vertical slice--a demo incorporating all the major features of the game Beaver described as "a completely polished bite-size serving of the whole game." While it took the team a year and a half to create the level in the vertical slice, it prepared them well for the rest of the project. After getting the green light, the team cranked out the game's other 11 levels in just 10 months, Beaver said.

For more on the game, check out GameSpot's Dead Space review.

Discussion

123 comments
cyw1988
cyw1988

To get me to buy a game you have to make it atmospheric. I am a settings kinda guy who needs to feel like he is in the game to play the game. And all I could say about Dead Space was consider it sold. One of the better games that came out from EA.

felix19194
felix19194

I totally LOVED this game the audio effects the logs and the atmosphere in particular all build up really nicely to make it one of the best horror games available for the pc, ps3, xbox etc. I just couldnt stop paying it the first time played it on medium and wasnt too hard, but then when i played it on the highest difficulty level that you get after completing the game once... with no weapons and no help IMO it scares the sh*** out of you when you only have a friggin pistol u run out of ammo and are being chased by friggin monsters I just could not help meeself from shouting.

RonTorque
RonTorque

I love this game and i am waiting for the sequel. They did a great job with the first although the PC version crashed with a lot of people and had some issues but and i haven't played it yet but i read the synopsis. Would love to see the sequel on PC.

Nirv69
Nirv69

such an awesome game....the world would have missed out on such a great experience in playing this game if it had not been made.

Phazevariance
Phazevariance

It was an amazing game with great graphics and gameplay. Story was ok, but again, the fun factor really makes up for that, and is also the important factor of any game.

CreatureRising
CreatureRising

@ pilot riaz Its not DS2 I believe, but a Rail shooter for the wii wich provides Back story on too what went horribly wrong. My memory is itchy but i know its for the wii

Gamerpoopy
Gamerpoopy

Dead space is probably one of my favorite third person shooter in my list , this in my opinion could be better than re4 and re5 , very good game.

pilot_riaz
pilot_riaz

They are currently working on Dead Space 2, should be awesome again hey

pilot_riaz
pilot_riaz

I have not played this yet, looking forward to playing it soon

H0rr0rG4m3r
H0rr0rG4m3r

This game is definitely in my top 10 favourite games of all time, the atmosphere, the graphics, the gameplay, the scares, its just overall a breathtaking game :)

tlow0678
tlow0678

i think dead space was possibly the best survival horror game ive ever played. The claustrophobic setting of the spaceship and the uber-creepy atmosphere was PERFECT. even the little things like having the pause menu in real time and no hud made the game so memorable.

EvrenDawn
EvrenDawn

I loved DS and I'll look forward to a second one. I wonder what kind of setting it could have. I also hope they put out more of those animated comics to entice us about the story before hand.

Port5
Port5

This game was amazing.

2w-sephiroth
2w-sephiroth

I would be happy if they introduced a whole new story with a new protagonist for the next dead space, imagine a holiday spaceship that was hit by small meteor and got contaminated. Introduce a more RE feel with it and woala

fantom513
fantom513

As for people who want co-op in the next dead space... Why???? A survival horror game should leave you alone scrambling to survive by yourself. If you add someone else its just not that scary and it ruins the game and thats why I found RE5 to be boring and not scary at all.

deathwishx2
deathwishx2

I did not enjoy dead space. It didn't scare me. I didn't enjoy the controls. The monsters looked retarded. The thing I did like about this game was the blood and gore effects of the creature ripping you apart. Over all I had a better time playing Doom 3. (Doom 4 coming out soon!!! :D)

13lackfriday
13lackfriday

awesome EA should definitely this approach in the future... I mean cmon they seen the results...pleased reviewers, a good fanbase...not even they could say no to that

Devilboy96744
Devilboy96744

ea said there is going to be a second Dead Space

xtremeflem2day
xtremeflem2day

dead space was good, but it should have had more open area, like bioshock. superb graphics and visuals though, and i have all the achievements for it on xbox 360. Does anyone know if there is or isnt gonna be a dead space 2? i would love to know what happens to issac at the end.... even though we all assume the worst.

DRAGENOV
DRAGENOV

that game is so creeeeeeepy but really fun ...

mr0806
mr0806

game was awesome!!! loved every second of playing it...

lonelygamer360
lonelygamer360

*I'd have to say this game gave me plenty of heart skipping moments. I have 2 chapters left and I have to say i'm pretty impressed. I wouldn't mind having a little more story, but the gameplay is fun and different, and it's exactly what I needed coming off of completing Prince of Persia + Epilogue. I hope there is a sequel in mind. I really didn't like the S.H. genre because of it's impossibly frustrating situations, but this game handles that nicely with plenty of ammunition. This kills the Resident Evil series in both gameplay and "horror" story. It make RE look like Barney and friends.* couldnt agree more...absolutely

Knight398
Knight398

Dead space is great. Very underrated in my opinion. Definitely my favorite 3rd person 'over the shoulder' camera game ever.

machew100
machew100

Dead Space is probably my favorite survival horror action game ever

rbenns2
rbenns2

I agree - Dead Space was awesome! I thought it was even better than RE5! Too bad it sold so poorly that it, and the idea that new IP's are worth investing in, are now dead.

smiguelv
smiguelv

Grind-Bastard Dead Space is fantastic! I really would like co-op in the next game, don't play alone so much. Though I would like a smart co-op game, where you really use the element of TWO working together. Can't find that anywhere, or have I missed something? Well Grind-Bastard I don't know if there is anything this gen but there was this little game called Splinter Cell chaos theory and the co-op campaign was awesome, you couldn't progress without your partner. I didn't play double agent cause I heard it wasn't near as good.

Grind-Bastard
Grind-Bastard

Dead Space is fantastic! I really would like co-op in the next game, don't play alone so much. Though I would like a smart co-op game, where you really use the element of TWO working together. Can't find that anywhere, or have I missed something?

xdeiri
xdeiri

just because dead space was good that dosnt mean re5 is bad, its called different approach people, so dont compare, diversity is fun and exiting you know

mastiffchild
mastiffchild

DS was a really good step(along with the flawed but pretty Mirrors Edge)in the right direction from EA and if they continue we'll be more than happy as a company that size can really effect the industry and giving us great new ip is just the thing. I even think the way they're doing Extraction on the Wii is the right way to do that to avoid comparisons with the brilliantly gory HD game that would have hampered it. They even seem to be taking the"on rails" thing in a new direction and if they implement the gameplay well we could end up with a multiplat franchise that plays to the strengths of each console it's on. I really rate the first game higher than RE5 if I'm honest(miles more atmosphere and co-op kills a survival horror even if it's fun with a mate-no fun with Sheva mind as a npc partner)and def one of the best new IPs around. Great effort.

ejstrup
ejstrup

Dead Space was an awesome game. I can't wait for the next one :)

ResidentEman
ResidentEman

Dead Space was probably the first EA developed game I've enjoyed in a long time. I can't stand their sports games because they're so repetetive and they're the same thing every year, but Dead Space is solid.

mayceV
mayceV

wow I just realized the next dead space could be on the next generation game system because if it comes out in 2011 3 years from now microsoft will have undoubtly made a nother system since sony microsoft and nintendo seem to follow a pattern of system releases. In that every 5-6 years a new system comes out. everyone Just Imagine DEAD SPACE 2 "More real than you are"

termadoyle
termadoyle

this is an EA studio to watch for future awesome games.

Wild_Card
Wild_Card

A great game. it did just about every thing very well. graphics and artstyle was great as was the story. the use sound was prob the best i have ever exp in a video game. the weapons,suits,upgrades ectwere very well done. the paceing of the game was great. I have nothing what so ever to say bad about this game. I just wish more people would have given it a try. its sales def dont match up to its lv of qulity. one of the very best games this gen and stacks up very well aginst any game from any gen. as far as deadspace vs re4....im not sure. im going to give it more time for the new to wear off before making that call. Re4 was a great game for its day.

joelgargan
joelgargan

@ShadowBass989 THANKYOU SO MUCH. But seriously thx.

XFilthX
XFilthX

I also agree with EdgarAllenPWN. But as far as scariness goes, Dead Space>RE4>RE5

ShadowBass989
ShadowBass989

and for the topic, i love dead space, and all i can say is that i cant wait for the next one.

joelgargan
joelgargan

Can someone PLEASE tell me what IMO means?! It seems like everyone on this site uses IMO like all the friggin' time, its so frustrating. JUST TELL ME WHAT IT MEANS!!!?!?!

Toro_Nev
Toro_Nev

i agree with EdgerAllenPWN

B1G_DADDY
B1G_DADDY

lol the first game to make me jump was MGS4 i was standin still and i turned around and i blew up from a claymore lol

Warbringer_95
Warbringer_95

Dead Space is my favorite game of all time, and it's good to know that some people also found out about it and enjoyed it. Some of the comments here are really off though. Anyone needing clarification on anything in the story can ask me, because I pretty much know it inside and out, thanks to tons of attention payed to each of the audio, video, and text logs thoughout the game, as well as numerous readings of the comics. Anyways, Dead Space is AWESOME, and I can't wait for Extraction to be released, as well as a sequel, which will hopefully follow in 2010 or 2011.

Dawg9000
Dawg9000

This game is the only game in existence to get me to jump. Not even Resident Evil or Silent Hill could do that.

msharki
msharki

I'd have to say this game gave me plenty of heart skipping moments. I have 2 chapters left and I have to say i'm pretty impressed. I wouldn't mind having a little more story, but the gameplay is fun and different, and it's exactly what I needed coming off of completing Prince of Persia + Epilogue. I hope there is a sequel in mind. I really didn't like the S.H. genre because of it's impossibly frustrating situations, but this game handles that nicely with plenty of ammunition. This kills the Resident Evil series in both gameplay and "horror" story. It make RE look like Barney and friends.

BattleAxeRX
BattleAxeRX

Dead Space!!! One of the best xbox360 games IMO. The level design and quality of visuals and sound is nearly mindblowing compared to pretty much any other game and it's got a mature setting in space.

jtthegame316
jtthegame316

i don't really like ea games generally but dead space is an awesome game. well done with dead space ea see you can make a good games.

moeman636
moeman636

To all those that don't think dead space is not scary probably had their display way too bright. When I played the game in the beginning I had the brightness way too high and could see everything coming at me. Obviously it was not going to be scary that way. I turned it down to where I think the game makers intended and It made the game that much more intense.