I know I’m not the first person to say so, but the Dead Space 2 ad campaign was bathed in the stench of uncreative desperation.
Three days ago I said on Twitter:
Just finished #DeadSpace2. Visceral Games: Guys, love the production values. Call me. I can fix this pacing and atmosphere problem you have.
Visceral Games never called. They probably lost my number. Rather than make them hunt it down, I’ll just post my fixes here:
- See how many monsters you have in the game? Take out four fifths of them. No, I’m not kidding. Yes, I realize you think the game will be “less scary”. This is because you have no idea what you’re doing.
- Notice how, during the tutorial, you show off all those monsters, walking around in a well-lit room, fully visible? And then later, you’ve got those same monsters playing peek-a-boo with the player in the dark? Those two things are backwards.
- I know they’re called “jump scares”, but they’re not really scary. There just startling. And they’re lame. Especially when done often. Very especially when done often on monsters you fight often and which are not otherwise scary.
- Fear comes from uncertainty. When monsters announce the beginning of a fight with a roar, and the DJ puts on the slow tunes when the fight ends, it removes all of the uncertainty from the game.
- Less blood. Blood is not inherently scary. If it was, Serious Sam would be the most terrifying game ever. Blood can make you feel uneasy when used carefully, when placed somewhere unexpected or alarming. It’s not unexpected or alarming if you use it like paint.
- Check out this screenshot, which is completely unedited, aside from scaling it down:
Do you see what’s wrong with that? No? Neither did I. That little bracket shape at the bottom of the screen is the prompt for me to HIT THE LETTER E TO NOT DIE, which was off to the side and even off the screen for most of the quicktime event. Notice how the pale color makes it easy to miss. I understand that you might not want a great big colorful Skittle shape popping up in the middle of your quick time event, ruining the mood. But too bad. THAT’S WHAT THEY’RE FOR. If you don’t like them, then don’t put them in the game. What you’re doing here is like saying, “I don’t like jumping puzzles in games, so I’ll make the player do the jumps in the dark where they can’t see that they’re doing a jumping puzzle.”
It might break the mood to have a big colorful prompt, but it’s even worse to die three times because you didn’t see the prompt or understand what you were supposed to do. This goes double for a situation like the one above, where this is the very first button-mash event of the game and the encounter itself exists to teach the player how to do them.
Did you guys not playtest this?
- That scene where a couple of unarmed orderlies grab the protagonist? By the upper arms? That was beyond ridiculous. I’ve been shooting waves of deadly monsters and stomping their limbs off, and now a couple of regular, non-monster guys are going to overpower me? Give me a break. This scene couldn’t be more lame if you put it on crutches and sent it down the stairs.
I see what you’re trying to do, here. You need this character to say their stuff without me blowing their head off. Fine. Have them trap me in an airlock and talk to me over the intercom or something.
Also, the resolution to that scene struck me as being overly convenient and gutless. Sure, lots of movies do the same thing, but letting the player respond (or not) would be the better videogame choice.
- In general: Less is more. You have the components for a good game here, much like a big bowl of cayenne pepper and salt has the components for a fine bowl of chili.
Thanks for being good sports about this, guys. I’m sure you’ll do better with Dead Space 3. Good luck!
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