Today we got to chat with Jarrad Trudgen, Lead Designer of EA’s Dead Space for iOS…
As the proud father of the game, Jarrad has been eagerly watching the hype build on various sites and forums, and of course reactions to the accidentally released hands-on video we shot at the EA event in December. That build shown in the video was a few months earlier from where they are now with the game, and since then they have added even more polish and are still tweaking the game right up to its eventual release later this month.
While graphically I could see that the game pretty accurately reflected the mood from the console version, it was hard to hear how the video and audio worked together to provide the scares due to the fact that I was in a loud bar. Jarrad assures me that the game will pack plenty of scary atmosphere, with one of the big goals of this game being to produce a fully fledged console experience on the iOS. And because he and his team are such fans of survival horror they felt really privileged to be working on that franchise, and so to deliver anything that didn’t capture that sense of horror of the console editions would be doing it, and gamers, an injustice.
A lot of effort has been put into the sound, and so you’ll be prompted at the start to don your headphones in order to get the best experience. The game is fully voice acted using the same acting talent from Dead Space 2, as well as fully orchestrated music and atmospheric/ambient sound effects which cross fade and transition with what’s happening in the game. What made the console original so scary were the 3D positional stereo sounds, and Jarrad states that they are a big feature of this iOS edition with creaking metal, wind and creepy sounds, that may or may not be a monster… to keep you on your toes!
Jarrad mentioned that someone actually dropped an iPhone while play-testing the game with headphones. He knew then that they were on to something with the game’s scare factor!
When quizzed on how the iOS game fits in between the first game and the soon to be released Dead Space 2, as well as the comic that was designed to bridge the two, Jarrad says that it’s set on the Sprawl (space station), which is where DS2 is set, and that you actually play through the events that lead right up to the beginning of the sequel. So, it’s not so much a bridging story, but a lead up to set the stage for DS2. They worked with the writers from the original Dead Space to develop and create the story and script the dialogue.
Jarrad is happy with how the controls panned out. He saw how I played the game in the demo, and was surprised that I didn’t die when I was dropped right onto the tram level, which offers pretty intense hand-to-hand combat. It made him proud that the controls are intuitive enough for anyone to pick up, especially those who have played the original games. A clear tutorial level integrated into the story will ensure a fun and non-frustrating experience for newbies, so you are actually driving the story as you learn the ins and outs of the controls. By the time you get to the later and more challenging levels, you’ll be able to shoot out stasis and chop off the limbs of the Necromorphs pretty precisely.
On what challenges the team faced on creating the game for a mobile device, Jarrad said that basically everything was a challenge to a certain extent. He made clear that they don’t port games, and so they do not grab assets or other things from the original games which can result in delivering a game that has a half baked look and feel. So, instead everything is built from the ground up specifically geared to the strengths of the iOS platform. Smart decisions needed to made at the planning stages to ensure the best results and of course the best experience for the gamer.
Having worked on Mirror’s Edge and Need for Speed Shift for iOS, the team are very familiar with the hardware and what it can do. What they have learned though are better ways to achieve results, such as optimising the artists assets to look as good as they can while keeping the performance high through the use of proprietary programming tools. They developed a scripting system which hasn’t been used before Dead Space, which ensures those scare moments are kept fresh and don’t get repetitive or predictable, and so enemies don’t spawn in the same place or react in the same way every-time.
With id’s John Carmack opting to present RAGE on iOS as an on-rails shooter, I thought it would be interesting to ask if during the birth of Dead Space for iOS if it was ever going to be on-rails. Jarrad was honest and said that at first they did flirt with the idea, as it seemed like the thing to do at the time, and in fact an early prototype did feature automated movement. Luckily for us, that thought didn’t last long as Jarrad and his team opted to produce a full console-like experience.
Jarrad says that for seasoned 3rd person gamers, the first play through will last around 4-5 hours. The game is playable in easy or normal mode and once you’ve finished either difficulty level, a hard mode is then unlocked which, according to Jarrad, takes the gameplay to whole other level in the survival horror stakes. With ammo drying up fast, it’s the only way to play in his opinion.
There’s another option where you can play through again, but this time with all the upgrades you received on the first play through, giving you another way to experience the game and to kick ass. 40 achievements also add replay-ability with some extra specially challenging tasks, such as finishing the game only using your plasma cutter, a speed run, taking out a brute only using a plasma saw, and more.
The game is available for both iPhone and iPad, but as separate apps. But one point that will please many owners of older devices is that the game supports all iPhone and iPod Touch’s, with engineers specifically put to work to optimize the game to work on older hardware… though obviously the game looks best on the newer devices.
Finally, there is a link between the iOS game and Dead Space 2. By registering with EA through the game, you’ll be able to unlock a special treat when you next boot up DS2 on your console, though Jarrad couldn’t say what it would be.
We’ll have more news on Dead Space in the run up to it’s release.