Dead Space: Rewriting and Improving the Story of a Horror Classic – IGN First

The original Dead Space is a video game classic and horror story fondly remembered by many. The story of an engineer struggling to survive the dark, corpse-filled hallways of a dead mining ship left a lasting impression, and so when it comes to the remake developer, EA Motive paid attention to how whose story he tackled.

But there are some changes. Just as the remake looks different, it’s also scripted differently. This is because all the teams working on Dead Space had the same goal.

“Overall, it was to give the narrative the same kind of sparkle that everything else had,” says Jo Berry, lead writer on Dead Space. “As a player, usually what you want is to have that same feeling again, to feel like you’re playing for the first time. And so part of it was figuring out how to tell that story for newcomers to series ? […] But for veteran players, we wanted to give them a little surprise, like, “Oh, that’s a little bit different.” You change that direction ever so slightly and it can take you somewhere very different. So it was kind of a dichotomy between making sure that newcomers feel welcome, but also that veteran players will be kept off guard, because if you’re not off guard, you’re not scared.

The first big change you’ll probably notice is that Isaac Clarke can now speak. The once-silent protagonist now has a full script and will chat with the other characters and himself. To ensure Isaac’s new dialogue was as authentic as possible, EA Motive reviewed other games in the series in which the character speaks.

“There was a lot of staring at Dead Space 2,” Berry says, “and watching key scenes. ‘How is he reacting right now? What’s his sense of humor? How does he react to verbal pressure? What does his speech sound like? […] And he was just trying to get that personality correct. By trying to make him feel like Isaac, he doesn’t feel like another character. You always want to have a player character who you want to be, so Isaac is this very smart and savvy guy who has empathy for the people around him. He has a salty language and he’s kind of fun to write actually.

Our goal was to give the narrative the same kind of sparkle that everything else had.


The rewrite of the Dead Space script offered the writers a chance to improve upon the storytelling of the original. One of the things the team wanted to emphasize better was the Unitology Cult Church, which is introduced relatively late in the original game. In the remake, the characters start discussing the church much earlier, which lays the groundwork for its important role later in the story.

“What I didn’t want to do was write Dead Space where Isaac is like, ‘What is the Church of Unitology? I’ll go with them, I’ll trust them,’ Berry says. that every veteran player is yelling not to trust Unitologists. So you end up with a situation at the start of Isaac like, ‘Yeah, I hate the Church of Unitology.’ And then people who are new to the series might be like, ‘Okay, what is Unitology? That’s interesting.’ Veterans would be like, ‘Why does he hate Unitology at this point? Because he’s obviously right later on. , but why does he hate Unitology so much?’ And then unraveling this mystery of why he has this relationship with the church, and what their kind of philosophy is, and why he is so hostile to the idea. It personalizes it, and I think it was something that was kind of a theme running through the script, making everything personal.

The effort to make everything personal meant that some scenarios from the original game were expanded into new, more emotional scenarios. Chen, once simply an NPC who was killed upon opening the game, is now a larger character who demonstrates the true horror of necromorphs.

“Chen’s transformation makes the Necromorph transition very personal for the crew,” Berry explains. “That means Necromorph is very personal to Hammond. […] So that’s all in the original game, it’s just trying to find those moments and tweaking them, making them stand out a little bit more. And that’s really it, because again, all those seeds are there, it just helps them bloom.

Dead Space’s script isn’t the only thing driving the narrative forward. The environment is equally important, which is why the hallways, rooms, and decks of the Ishimura spaceship were all designed to tell a story.

“A lot of the game’s original design took on a lot of themes from gothic motifs, gothic architecture, as well as lots of repeated skeletal structures,” reveals Taylor Kingston, an environmental artist on Dead Space. “So that’s where you see the repeating ribs all over. It was supposed to evoke a bit of the feeling of being inside a creature, a skeleton. The Ishimura itself is often thought of as a living entity, like it’s a being that you’re inside of, and the Ishimura is sick, and he’s dying, and that’s what you’re in gone there to try to help.

Our challenge was, ‘how can we bring much more life to these environments?’


In the remake, the power of modern consoles and PCs allowed EA Motive to enhance the original game’s excellent environmental storytelling.

“We went back, looked at each location, and designed,” says art director Mike Yazijian. “And our challenge was, ‘How can we bring much more life to these environments? How can we give the impression that the crew who lived there made it their daily space? ‘”

“If you look at Nicole’s office for example, there are a lot more accessories and things that speak a little more to what she does,” he continues. “If you go to medical areas, it feels more like a real medical bridge than just a generic space, for example. Other areas like hydroponics add a lot more life, more vegetable plants.

Thanks to its realistic and industrial nature, the Ishimura is littered with all manner of signage. And, thanks to HD graphics, each is a whole new opportunity to add even more story to every hallway and crevice.

“Dead Space had so many labels, posters, signs,” says Kingston. “A lot of things in the original game were in such low resolution that you couldn’t read what was on them. And now that’s the kind of stuff you have to consider, if you put a d warning on the wall, you can walk up and read all the individual steps.

“At one point I worked with our artists, they were like, ‘We have all these articles for The Marker on Unitology, and in the original, you can’t read them because they’re too low. resolution at this point. What text do you want here?” Berry recalled. “And he’s trying to think about it because people have 4K monitors and high resolution stuff, they can read all that stuff. So I was trying to make sure that when there’s text you can read, it makes sense and is in there.

During your journey through the Ishimura you will find a variety of diaries and audio logs, many of which can be recognized during your initial journey through the ship.

“A good number of them are very similar or textual,” says Berry. “We have new ones for various reasons. […] But some of them have actually been translated into AR scenes. For example, in the original game, when you enter medicine, there’s a video diary you can pick up from Nicole. When we were watching this, it seemed like a great candidate for an AR scene where we actually see Nicole trying to save a patient and recording a message saying, “Commander won’t help us, we’re overwhelmed.” We need help. This guy is dying. I need someone to help me”. And again, just personalize it and make it stand out at that moment. And creating that atmosphere as well, it’s almost ghostly to see those AR characters around the ship.

Unlike the Final Fantasy 7 Remake, Dead Space isn’t trying to completely reinvent itself. EA Motive’s approach to the story is much closer to that taken by Capcom for Resident Evil 2; it’s an updated and polished take on a story players know and love. And, from what we’ve seen so far, it promises to make the horror classic a little better.

For more dead space, check out how the developers recreated his iconic weaponsand our comparison between the remake and the original game.

Matt Purslow is IGN’s UK News and Features Editor.

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