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'Dead Space 3' to deliver what fans want most

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"Dead Space 3" will be releasing tomorrow, Feb. 5th, and with that release will be an action-packed sequel that fans have been waiting for.

In an exclusive interview with Examiner.com today, John Calhoun, Associate Producer on "Dead Space 3," took the time to discuss the upcoming game and what gamers can expect in the third installment of the series.

Often times when sequels are made, it can be hard for development teams to innovate or know where they want to go with things next, but that was not the case for the "Dead Space" team.

Calhoun said the first thing the team wanted to do when they found out they were going to make a "Dead Space 3," was to implement the "right" type of co-op feature.

"One of the ideas the team was keen to explore was drop-in / drop-out co-op, and testing how this feature could be implemented in a game that’s famous for its single-player story and atmospheric tension.

"Getting co-op 'right' was one of the hardest things on 'Dead Space 3,' but also one of the most rewarding," Calhoun said.

Calhoun said one of the first things they did was to make the game so it could be played entirely solo or with friends, but absent AI characters when people were alone.

"We made two big innovations in this area. First, we made a game that can be played entirely as a solo, isolated experience in single-player: no AI characters to get in your way. But when you choose to play in co-op, the dialogue, cut-scenes, and difficulty change on the fly according to the presence of a second player.

"The story keeps plodding ahead with no resets or separate modes, regardless of whether you’re playing alone or with a friend. The second challenge was to think of ways to keep the game scary in co-op.

"One solution was to create sections where both players experience reality slightly differently, but to not call attention to these differences right away. The differences are due to one character starting to hallucinate, as his dementia grows worse.

"Once you start comparing notes with your partner and realize that you’re seeing different things, it creates a cool twist that makes you really question how much you can trust the partner you’re playing with!" Calhoun said.

The current generation of consoles have been around since the mid-2000's, and having a development team that understands the best ways to utilize those machines can be an important factor in a game's creation.

Calhoun said it was very important to have a development team that knew how to work with these consoles, especially with the high expectations the team had for the project.

"Our artists and engineers are really familiar with the current generation of consoles, which helps when you’re trying to make a game that looks and sounds as top-notch as a Hollywood movie.

"The art direction in 'Dead Space 3' is fantastic – the game’s world really feels immersive and authentic. We were able to come up with a few new tricks, however. There’s a new depth-of-field system that allows us to play up the cinematic perspective of certain areas.

"A new lighting tool lets create realistic reflections and 'super-saturated' lights that peak and then fall off, to mimic the experience of going from a dark to light area really quickly. I think you’ll be impressed with how the game looks," Calhoun said.

Games don't always get to include everything they want to, in which case it is nice to able to continue a franchise so you can add aspects you couldn't last time around.

Calhoun said weapon crafting was one aspect of "Dead Space 2" the development team wanted to get in but just couldn't, but now it is here for the third game.

"We’d talked about weapon crafting on 'Dead Space 2,' but couldn’t fit it into that game’s development. This feature is all about finding tools, breaking apart machines, and deconstructing spare parts to build and modify your perfect weapon.

"Weapon crafting also helps root Isaac’s identity as an engineer, since he should be more comfortable tweaking and modding tools than wielding a traditional pistol. We went big with weapon crafting in 'Dead Space 3,' and the types of tools we see people create continue to amaze us," Calhoun said.

"Dead Space 3" will be featuring a new drop-in, drop-out mode that players will be able to take advantage of. If all goes to plan, this could turn into one of the most unique ways of utilizing this feature among games today.

Calhoun talked how the inspiration for the feature came from the development team and fans of the series.

"The inspiration for co-op came from inside and outside the team. Internally, we just wanted to try something new. If we rehash our previous games and don’t try something different, the quality of the game suffers. Give us a challenge, though, and we go crazy with new ideas.

"We also heard from our fans that they loved playing the story campaign of 'Dead Space 2' over and over – but that they also wished they could try the harder difficulties with a friend. So that’s really where the idea of co-op came from.

"We hope that drop-in / drop-out co-op will be a transparent and smooth experience. There’s no need to launch a separate game mode, or to be forced into a separate story that was designed for co-op.

"In 'Dead Space 3,' the game’s story and difficulty just adapt seamlessly according to the number of players. Better still, any progress your friends make in co-op – whether it’s for 15 minutes or 15 hours – will be meaningful to your their progress as well.

"That means any resources your partner finds, or levels he unlocks, or weapons he crafts, will be applied to HIS single-player game, too. There’s no penalty or loss for trying out co-op," Calhoun said.

Calhoun talked about how making a sequel can be just as challenging as making an original game, the only difference is that there are a separate set of obstacles to overcome for each.

"Original games and sequels both have their challenges; I wouldn’t say one is harder than the other. For a game like 'Dead Space 1,' you have to convince the whole gaming world to try something new.

"And you don’t have a lot of time to make your argument; you have to summarize your story, your features, and why your game is a good value proposition (compared to established games) into something like a 5-minute demo or 30-second clip on the Internet.

"Try doing that for something as complex as a psychological horror game, and you can just imagine the challenges. On the flip side, a sequel presents the problems of how to innovate and improve without getting rid of the qualities that made you a success in the first place.

"Core fans might say they just want more of what they loved in the original; but if that’s all you give them, you haven’t really added any value for them or to the franchise. And if you add something novel to the mix (like co-op), these fans may react negatively.

"Change can be scary, especially when people think you’re changing for the wrong reasons. Ultimately, you have to go with your gut and trust yourself and your team to do the right thing, because at the end of the day – we’re the biggest fans of all!" Calhoun said.

For those who are wondering how this game has performed over the past two installments, they both turned out to be exceptional.

The original "Dead Space" and "Dead Space 2" both received scores of 8.7 and 9.0, respectively, from gaming outlet IGN.

"Dead Space 3" has a lot to live up to, but Calhoun said his greatest hope for this title is simply, that people go out and play the game.

"It sounds silly, but my greatest hope is that people will just play 'Dead Space 3.' Everyone who’s had a chance to play the first few hours of the game, in a 'realistic' setting – i.e., not a demo, or in a controlled environment – has told us that they’re blown away by how authentically 'Dead Space' this game is.

"They love the high-quality graphics and the sound. They love the hour-to-hour experience of high action moments and slow creeping tension.

"They see how our approach to single-player and co-op actually works. We know that if people play the game they’re going to fall in love with it, and that’s ultimately what the development team hopes for," Calhoun said.

"Dead Space 3" will be released tomorrow on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.

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