Visceral Games on breathing life into Dead Space

Comic-Con 2010: Developers discuss the tie-ins to their survival horror franchise with the people behind the comic, novel, and animated film.

Who was there: From the Dead Space team at Visceral Games, there was executive producer Steve Papoutsis, art director Ian Milham, and producer Rich Briggs. Joining them on stage were Christopher Shy, artist on the Dead Space Salvage graphic novel; Brian Evenson, author of the novel Dead Space Martyr; Christopher Judge, an actor lending his voice to the upcoming animated film Dead Space Aftermath; and Gunner Wright, voice of protagonist Isaac Clarke in Dead Space 2.

Dead Space 2 art director Ian Milham manned the podium for most of the panel.

What they talked about: The panel was a discussion of the various ways EA has expanded its Dead Space intellectual property into new forms of media, with a focus on the most recent projects.

Leading the panel from his place behind the podium, Milham began by asking Shy about the upcoming graphic novel. Shy started by offering some basic context, stating that Salvage will explore the "dark corners" of the Dead Space universe in order to shed some light on the lesser known characters. In a later audience question, Shy described the story as a "sidequel" to the events of the video games. When asked about translating Dead Space's trademark horror atmosphere--a quality reviewers praised about the original game--Shy responded by saying he's going for a very "bleak" visual style, making numerous references to the first two Alien films as inspirational material.

After the graphic novel discussion, the conversation turned toward the printed word. Evenson, who coincidentally has written a novel based on the Alien franchise, described Martyr as a prequel that sets the stage for all the stories told in the Dead Space universe thus far. Like Shy, Evenson was initially drawn to the project by Dead Space's dark and imposing atmosphere. Much of Evenson's remarks focused on the themes he explored while writing Martyr. These range from basic ideas like how people react to intense trauma to a more intellectual subject matter, like how people behave when society is collapsing around them. An interesting comparison Evenson drew between the game and his novel was the sense of desperation and panic the player feels when his or her oxygen is rapidly depleting in the game's zero-gravity sequences. Taking those emotions and translating them into a text-based narrative was one of the most compelling challenges he faced.

Next, it was Judge talking about his voice acting work in Dead Space Aftermath. Judge, who has a sci-fi background playing Teal'c on Stargate SG-1, was asked about some of the challenges of going from a traditional acting medium like television to using purely his voice in an animated movie. He joked that the hardest part was going from a "monosyllabic" character like Teal'c to playing someone far less stoic. Expanding on that joke with some seriousness, Judge said that he initially had a hard time believing that the script was for an animated movie, praising the script for being far more "emotional" than most animated fare. They then showed a very work-in-progress clip from Aftermath, which despite its unfinished animation, served to show that the plot will deal with Judge's character searching desperately for his daughter.

After this, the members of Visceral Games took the opportunity to talk about their upcoming games. Briggs gave the audience an overview of the recently announced downloadable title Dead Space Ignition, which brings the franchise's multimedia expansion full circle in the form of an "interactive comic book" video game. A description of Dead Space Ignition can be found in GameSpot's recent preview.

Christopher Shy wasn't… bashful… about wanting to create a bleak atmosphere in his graphic novel.

Saving the highest profile title for last, the trio of Visceral developers then talked to Wright about his involvement in Dead Space 2. Unlike Shy and Evenson being drawn in by Dead Space's atmosphere, Wright said it was the story of the first game that got him interested in voicing Isaac in the sequel. (Wright wasn't a part of the first game.) He cited Isaac's status as an unremarkable everyman, which was more interesting for him than voicing the typically powerful video game protagonist.

As a visual aid for what kind of work went into playing a character in Dead Space 2, the panel showed a clip from a motion-capture session with the actors recording dialogue in full mo-cap gear, including dozens of small sensors attached to their faces. Wright said that the biggest challenge recording this way was simply being on an empty stage with the in-game environment invisible to him. This kept him from being able to move freely about the stage because there was no way to know whether he'd run into an object in the level or collide with another character in an awkward way. But he soon grew to enjoy acting in an empty space because the lack of distractions let him run wild with this imagination. "It's like going back to being five years old in a sand box," Wright said. "You're just getting paid for it."

Quote: After an audience member dressed in full Batman attire asked a question during the audience Q&A session, Briggs pointed to someone across the room and said, "Can we go to Joker next? That seems only fitting." Sure enough, there was someone dressed as Batman's archnemesis waiting to ask something next.

That wasn't the only highlight from the Q&A session. One fan garnered quite a bit of laughter for asking this blunt question about Dead Space's enemies: "Why exactly do they die when you chop off their arms?" Papoutsis got just as much of a laugh by immediately quipping with "You know, technically they're already dead."

The Takeaway: One thing made clear by the Dead Space panel is that a lot of time and effort has gone into developing the Dead Space canon. Visceral has done a lot to create a universe rife with stories, and the developer is confident that the franchise can be adapted across multiple forms of media.

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Discussion

47 comments
Krinnium
Krinnium

i think its gonna be great too, loved the first one, but didnt personally think it was scary. i hope this one comes out with some better scares. i dont think ive ever been scared in a video game, but i hope this one comes through xD

pidow
pidow

This game is going to be one great game, I hope everything pan out.

64-bit
64-bit

pants ready bring it on.

RonTorque
RonTorque

My Favorite Horror action adventure game ever.

gbrading
gbrading moderator

I'm interested as to how the novel might play out.

yoyoman500
yoyoman500

they should make a film of bad company and bring the humour from the first one back. it should feature jake gyllenhaal as preston, though not a big chance they can do that.

rnmmnr
rnmmnr

cant believe u can unlock him in skate 3

bazikadehadi
bazikadehadi

DEAD SPACE SUPPORT THE 3D VISION????????????.........

MrWhite325
MrWhite325

Dead Space just got better because Teal'c is now part of it. :)

RostamDastan
RostamDastan

That guy dressed like Issac Clarke look Exciting ,will buy it for my PC.

lightwarrior179
lightwarrior179

Loved the first Dead Space and the second one looks amazing so far. Might even consider getting Martyr for a read. :P

Elian2530
Elian2530

My #1 Multi-platform game, right next to Halo Reach exclusive Xbox 360. Love the franchise.. own the blu-ray Downfall, own Dead Space Extraction Wii, will get PS3 Move HD remake of Extraction and I especially enjoyed the 5 segment animated comics.

eddy96_1
eddy96_1

Looks great. Cant wait to get this on the PC

irwin888
irwin888

I have faith in these guys. It'll be a good game (if not outstanding)

shiny5
shiny5

There's a demo???

King-Tigre
King-Tigre

Beat the demo there, it was great.

crabapple87
crabapple87

I find the guy getting interviewed to be hilarious

SpedKnight
SpedKnight

dead space is easily the scariest game without a fixed camera angle. this is one of my most anticipated, its going to be a trip!

meke186
meke186

i bet you that dude dressed as isaac wasjust dressed wandering around the game floor and they just picked him up for the interview

BionicBrando
BionicBrando

the new helmet makes his forehead look like a shovel

Vaultboy-101
Vaultboy-101

I hope its a CGI movie not some crap cartoon. Although i really enjoyed Downfall whats the point of cheap cartoon if we have the power to make a realistic cinematic experience?

drokmore
drokmore

This will be a quality game.

Pete5506
Pete5506

Looking forward to dead space 2

SolidTy
SolidTy

DeadSpace...what can be said, but give it to us. :P

that1guy67
that1guy67

YEAH!!!!!!!!!!! DEAD SPACE!!!!!!!!!! WOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!! DEAD SPACE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! DEAD SPACE RULES!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! DEAD SPACE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i like dead space

Sturm_ng
Sturm_ng

I am sorry but, the first dead space anime was drop dead boring. The story line and the voice acting were very poor. I think EA should keep it simple and let the game be a game. I think they should invest more on the development for new and improved scenario, visual effects and sound effects instead of wasting money trying to sell comic books and movies for Dead Space.

joeborg14
joeborg14

This is very typical of EA. Personally I don't give a rip about comic books (or their movies to a lesser extent, mainly because of the inevitable lack of quality), I just want to see the major installments. I'm also a little perturbed by the doing away of Isaac Clarke as our silent hero; he only just missed the mark of Gordon Freeman or Link. Can't wait for the sequel either way!

otanikun
otanikun

New movie? You've got me sold, I'll take this over a comic book any day :D

shaunmc
shaunmc moderator staff

@Pipboy360 Thanks! Appreciate the kind words.

JamesCodelius
JamesCodelius

They managed to develop a whole universe out of a single game. I love this franchise!

Rebornpheonix
Rebornpheonix

I'm glad they worked on the telekinesis gameplay, I often tried picking up their claws to use against them in the first one but it didn't do much of anything.

Palaxius01
Palaxius01

Nice looking outfit! I have to get one of those:-) Never had the opportunity read the novels, but from what I hear, they're good ways for bridging the gap between subsequent games(DSEx, DS and DS2), I have to start reading one of those soon. Many thanks to Gamespot for making this article, it makes me want play the first game again a day before Dead Space 2's release.

pinoyboi
pinoyboi

i still need to finish the 1st game.

amaan4ever
amaan4ever

comic-con has become e3 part 2 mainly featuring games

Pipboy360
Pipboy360

Hey Shaun, might I just say a big thank you for not doing what IGN just did to me and spoiling a major part of the ending of Dead Space 2... friggin already. Thank you so much Gamespot, I'm really starting to like your approach to journalism and unbiased reviews a lot more than the other guys.

Toysoldier34
Toysoldier34

The Comics were good, I'm excited for more Dead Space.