Archive for August, 2008

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Dead Space Community Event Wrap Up Part 2

August 13, 2008

[Editor’s Note: Wow, I can’t believe this but this post has been set to “private” since the day I posted it and I never noticed until today. Sorry about that!]

I awoke at 7:45 the next morning, the jet lag working in my favor (it being nearly 11:00 back home and all) I was slightly groggy, though nothing a quick shower couldn’t fix. I spent the next half hour watching television, perusing my notes on Dead Space and finalizing interview questions before jamming all my portable gadgets including my digital voice recorder, camera and oh so important cell phone into my pockets. I picked up my notebook, grabbed my room key and headed downstairs. It was finally time to be a journalist.

I once again met up with my journalistic comrades (some sporting hangovers from the night past) and we were led off to EA’s headquarters where we were treated to a nice catered breakfast before being split into two groups and sent our separate ways, one group headed off to experience the game for the first time, and the other sent to another room in which two members of the development team (Art Director Ian Milham and Concept Artist Ben Wanat) gave us a short presentation on the evolution of Dead Space’s art direction encompassing the environments to character and creature design from concept to the finished product.

The day was layered in this fashion with presentations and hands on gameplay time alternating between the two groups every half hour or so. After the presentation concluded, we were quickly ushered into the gameplay room in which seventeen stations, all running Dead Space on either the Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 on high definition monitors complete with noise cancelling headphones to isolate the experience for each player and immerse you within the environment. Unfortunately, my first gameplay session is one of the things I can’t go into detail about so I’ll just say it was pretty sweet and that’s it.

Before I delve further into my first hand experiences with Dead Space, I have to give credit to the development team for finding a way to make me look forward to the presentations nearly as much as I did to actually playing the game for myself.

There was much more to see and hear as we pressed on throughout the day, playing the game and listening intently as the developers told us just how much work had been done to make the game as close to their original vision as they possibly could and how many steps they took, such as a highly intensive focus group program, the largest of which for any game ever developed at EA Redwood Shores.

I was able to land an interview with Ian Milham where we discussed various aspects of the game’s art design, from the necromorphs themselves to the environments, which the necromorphs can use to escape from you and spring traps using network of ventilation ducts and narrow crawlspaces. These environmental designs add a great deal of tension to the proceedings, as you see ominous shadows dancing on the walls around you and creatures hiding just out of eyeshot, waiting to pounce at any given second.

After sitting down to play the game it must be said that all of my previous worries that this would be a Silent Hill or Resident Evil clone (or the illegitimate bastard child of the two) were quickly put to rest within a few minutes of playing the game. The development team behind Dead Space has done a great job of carving out a fairly unique horror niche all its own. There are no space marines and Isaac Clarke is not a trained soldier equipped with the latest in high powered weaponry. He’s an engineer equipped with mining tools and as such, you cannot play this game as if it were a run and gun shooter or you’ll end up dead fairly quickly, often in a most gruesome fashion.

As the day drew to a close, we were shuffled into EA’s theater one final time and thanked for our participation in making this perhaps the best Community Invitational EA had ever sponsored. Bags of swag were doled out and we were treated to one final look at Dead Space’s zero-g gameplay. Sadly, I can’t talk about it in detail but allow me to say that it was awesome up until our presenter’s grisly death.

On second thought, even that part was pretty awesome.

The Dead Space Community day was over, we all met up in the lobby once more to say our goodbyes and head back to the hotel. Some of us, (myself included) had flights to catch that very night. I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bed, staring up at the ceiling and thinking about the events past. Dead Space had impressed me, surpassing my expectations and leaving me salivating for more.

Ah well. I guess all I can do now is wait until the game’s October release. Until then, I guess I’ll have to get myself a drool bib.

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Dead Space Community Event Wrap Up Part 1

August 8, 2008

The Dead Space community event has come and gone and I’m once again back in my hometown and trying to relax and gather my thoughts after what was one hell of an event. Before I get started with my recap, impressions and other self indulgent ramblings, I have to give credit to the guys responsible for putting this together and pulling it off as well as they did. So, thanks to the guys at EA for inviting me out and the development team for being so receptive to myself and everyone else, I had a great time.

Now that the thank yous have been doled out, I can begin recapping the event proper for those of you who care enough to check out this post. The trip began when, around 10:30, a black Cadillac DTS pulled up outside my place of residence and I proceeded to stuff my backpack and suitcase into the trunk. Pretty much everything including the ride to the airport and the four and a half hour plane ride is an uncomfortable blur, being squashed between the side of the plane and a portly Asian gentleman for much of that time.

Once I got to the hotel though, things seemed to become more coherent and before I knew it, I was checked in, dropping my bags off in my room and quickly heading back downstairs to meet up with my fellow journalists in the hotel lobby. All 30 of them. Yeah, this event was much bigger than I thought. Shortly after, our EA contact showed up and carted us off to EA Redwood Shores where a relatively short registration period ensued in which we were asked to sign NDA’s (yep, that means there are things I saw that I can’t tell you about, sorry) and received our official clearance badges.

Once we’d all been registered and given our badges, we walked into the café area where our dinner was still being set up. So, instead of standing around doing nothing, we schmoozed in EA’s game room which had everything from various arcade cabinets and an air hockey table to high end PCs and consoles set up further into the room. After a few minutes of relaxation in the game room, it was finally time for dinner, which consisted of a buffet of delicious barbecued foods, mini appetizers and amazing cupcakes for dessert.

Dinner passed quickly, as everyone was ready and waiting for the highlight of the evening, the Dead Space double feature. Two films, voted on by attendees were to be shown in EA’s movie theater. I kid you not. EA has its own theater (most likely used for large company presentations) because, apparently, that’s how they roll. Having never seen the two movies shown (Evil Dead II and Sunshine) I was in for quite the treat, watching Evil Dead II’s hilariously ridiculous take on the horror genre and Sunshine’s more serious, gut-wrenchingly tense take on the genre.

When the movies were over, it was time to retire to the hotel, as we had an undoubtedly long day of Dead Space coverage the very next day. Many among us chose not to head directly to the hotel room and instead partake in the ambience of the hotel bar and lounge. There, I relaxed with my peers and had many rather insightful and interesting conversations without drinking too much (didn’t want to add a hangover to make the jet lag that much worse). Altogether it was a great finish to an already great day and when I finally did retire to the comfort of my hotel bed, I was enthusiastic about waking up the next morning and trying out Dead Space.

More on the Dead Space community day including developer interviews and gameplay impressions coming very, very soon. For now, I must get some sleep. I had to take the red eye in yesterday morning and the flight wasn’t exactly the most comfortable flight I’ve ever taken.

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Dead Space Community Invitational This Week

August 3, 2008

This Tuesday, I’ll be catching a flight to sunny California once again to visit EA, this time to preview one of their more controversial titles. You may have heard of it, what with its disturbing use of lullabies, genuinely unnerving atmosphere and copious dismemberment and inevitable death that await you, should you fall victim to the hostile alien race that lurks in the darkness. This new, survival-horror title is named Dead Space.

There isn’t much to discuss other than the fact that this will be my second trip out to EA and that I’m pretty excited to have the opportunity to go again. This event will be larger than the last one, as EA seems to be pulling out all the stops to make sure as many gaming outlets as possible have the opportunity to cover Dead Space and write (hopefully) positive previews to garner attention for their new IP. As such, there will be around 30 members of the gaming press in attendance from almost as many sites, including myself of course. There will be roundtable discussions, one on one interviews and of course, the all-important gameplay sessions.

I was planning on watching every trailer, reading every article and listening to every podcast/developer diary I could find prior to going to the event, but ultimately decided against it. Knowing too much about the game before even getting to play it would put a bit of damper on the experience. I want my mind to be fresh, uninitiated, and ready to be blown away.

So that’s it for now. I’ll have much more to report once I’ve actually seen/played/drooled over the game. Yes I’m quite optimistic about how I will react to Dead Space once I’ve played it. What little I have seen concerning the game looks to be pretty good and I’m quite interested to see how it plays out. Hopefully, I’ll come away from this experience impressed and ready to check out the full release on day one.