Two and a half years after the team at Visceral Games saw success with Dead Space, Dead Space 2 is finally here. Just like the first game, it’s going to try and scare the life out of everyone who plays it. However, the question soon becomes: why is Dead Space so scary? What is it about the Dead Space universe that leaves players calling for Mommy?
Late last week, we were invited to a crypt below a Church in central London where we could chat with some of the minds behind the Dead Space universe. During our evening of Necromorph-filled festivities, we had a chance to chat with Ian Milham, Art Director on Dead Space 2, and decided to ask him just one simple question:
Game Rant: Both Dead Space and Dead Space 2 have quite a distinctive art direction, and quite a distinctive feel. What were your visual touchstones when designing the two games?
Ian Milham: “I think the key, when we’re thinking of our inspirations, and looking back on them, is to try to get beyond the exact visuals or their exact styles and move into how they made us feel. There’s no doubt that we’re inspired by these things that we’ve seen, as we all are, but instead of literally copying things from ‘Aliens’ — because Ridley’s stuff is so influential, if you just copy it, you’re going to be derivative. Instead, we think — ‘Well, how did it get us there?’ You know, the pacing of ‘Alien’, or the loneliness and distrust of ‘The Thing’… not just that some bits sprouted out of a guy’s head and it crawled all over the ceiling. It’s creepy, but let’s not do that specifically. It really accomplished some things that we liked, and that sort of thing can translate across media.”
IM: “So, we looked at that sort of stuff from film; we looked at a lot of paintings by Dutch Masters, when they really got into [the theme of] light. ‘Dead Space’ is known for its lighting; light is almost a character in the game itself. The lighting can be an ally, or it can be your enemy. We looked at when light became a character in art, when did it become a character in painting, and it was really Rembrandt, and around that time.”
IM: “Science textbooks, parasitic fungus, that sort of stuff. [Laughs] We wanted to ground it in reality, and see how it makes you feel. The Dentist — we’ve all been to the Dentist and had relatively unpleasant experiences. The Dentist’s lights, as an example. They’re a certain touchstone — they’re very peculiar because of they’re on that arm. The Dentist can move it around and you feel interrogated. That sort of stuff — we tried to figure out how these various things made us feel, rather than literally copy them visually, and hopefully get some of that essence into what we’re doing.”
So, there it is. The creeps, the chills, the shivers-up-your-spine… they all come from an understanding of the way we interpret the world around us. Whilst it would have been easy for Milham and his team to strip scenes from ‘Alien’ or employ scare-tactics used in the Resident Evil games, they chose to use their own interpretations of those moments in order to shock you, scare you, and leave you crying out for a fresh pair of underwear.
Are you excited for Dead Space 2? Did you think Dead Space was a scary game? Do you believe that Milham’s inspirations made it into the final product? Let us know in the comments below.
Dead Space 2 is available now on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. Look out for our review, coming your way very soon.