ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS

I have a confesion to make. I dont really play games. Shocking for someone who is making them! The last game I actually complected was FALLOUT 3-and that was a while ago!

But recently, the blame for the lack of updates falls squarly on the shoulders of DeadSpace 2. Making a game that has its roots in the sci-fi-horror genre, I couldnt resist getting into the boots of Isaac Clarke, and going to kick some necro ass. But there are other reasons for my delve into The Sprawl. I wanted to see just HOW they did it.

When you start developing your own game, and come across major pitfalls and barriers, it only makes sense to take a look at how others have tackled the same issues you have. Now Dead Space certainly isnt an Adventure Game, and apart from the setting of ‘spaceship where something has gone wrong’, shares very little DNA with Stasis-but there is still a ton to learn from it, and translate into Stasis.

Something quite interesting is how they tackled travel. How do you make a game world ‘feel’ big, when in all honesty the actual levels are probably no bigger (if taken to a real world scale) than a school sports field. When playing DS2, you really feel as tho you are in a HUGE city sized environment. You feel tired from walking through these immense environemnts. That is something I REALLY want to get into Stasis.

Heres how I think they did it…

Windows. Having large windows, showing huge expanses of the city beyond makes you ‘feel’ like you are in one little section..makes you feel like there is so much MORE out there, and you are playing one little part in the story.

Elevators. Now Im assuming they are using the elevators in DS2 as loading areas, but it works fantastically because it doesnt take you out of the game environemnt at all. Im a BIG fan of the Dead Space designers take on a UI, with keeping everything ‘in game’, and using the elevators like this really pushes that forward. There is no break in game play. The game plays as tho its one continious level. Infact, if you didnt die (and die often!), you could play Dead Space 2 all the way through with no NOTICABLE loading times.

The elevators also serve to build anticipation, and make the links between levels believable.

Locked Rooms. There are many areas of The Sprawl that you cant access. Closed doors, which when you are close you can hear people behind, areas where the roof has caved in, with rooms beyond them that you can see…but not get to.

Now while, in an Adventure Game, these may serve to frustrate the player (is there something important in that room?), it really opens up the game world, and again gives that feeling of ‘one cog in a big machine’.

Varied Environments. This is a biggie. The environment design in DS2 is very impressive. Each room, floor, and area feels unique. From the different train stations, to the elementry school, to the exterior zero g scenes. They feel ‘organically designed’, not in terms of flesh and bone, but rather that a human designed them. Every office and home in the world is unique, because of the people that live there-and thats the sort of ‘organic’ nature that the design has.

There are a few other things that Dead Space 2 does incredibly well, and they have a ‘feeling’ that I would love to carry through in STASIS. Lets call these, MOMENTS OF AWESOME.

These are times when you trigger something, and play through a part of the game thats different to the rest of the ‘walking, shooting’ variety of the game.

They are mainy scripted events, with minimal interaction from the player, but they make you feel…COOL. The Train Crash, Suiting Up, The Space Jump (complete with Iron Man style landing)..

Now these heavily kinetic momnets are quite difficult to have in an adventure game…esspecially one where memory management and graphics are such a major issue, but having that variation in the gameplay keeps you interested, and ‘in the game’.

Now not all of these ideas will translate well into a game like STASIS, but never the less its always a good thing to stand on the shoulders of giants, and see just how they did things.

Plus I get to say playing a computer game is research. 😉