Dead Island: Riptide Interview – Talking Undead Brain Bashing With Deep Silver
Written Friday, December 07, 2012 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Flawed though it was, there was a lot to like about Dead Island. It was after all a game that allowed you to wield a variety of melee weapons to systematically bust zombie heads, break their limbs and survive the zombie apocalypse on the paradise island of Banoi.
For Dead Island: Riptide, the action shifts to the flooded Palanai island, situated within the same archipelago as Banoi. This time, there's more of a military presence, which means more guns, a variety of AI helpers, and a dose of territorial defence gameplay.
Deep Silver's Creative Producer, Sebastian Reichert helped explain these details in more depth, following our recent preview, revealing his fondness for a baseball bat with nails in it, how Fist of the North Star inspired new character, John Morgan, and the new barricade-building mania of the newly instated defensive bits.
What kind of risks did you feel you should take with Dead Island: Riptide?
Obviously the biggest risk for us wasn't really a risk: we definitely wanted to make sure that the quality of the release was better than last time, because we were not happy with it. But on the other hand that is the danger when you get into such a new multiplayer technology, so we're dealing with that and we want to make sure that the new release is much more smooth. A big risk therefore would have been to add 5-player multiplayer in there, so we left it out. Let's be honest.
We have a lot of time and we're using the same assets so it's very important to us to make it feel ore polished and more complete than the last time. As for everything else, we have to admit that we were really happy with how everything turned out in Dead Island, like the multiplayer balancing, which we were very concerned about in the beginning because when we heard about it the first time, it sounded like something that just wouldn't work. We thought you'd just simply take away the progress, but you don't because of the skills the characters have. We were very happy that it turned out so well, as this gives us the option to tell you to keep your character. Without this system we'd have had the problem with a character being too strong or too weak, so what do you do? We can simply say, go for it.
In Riptide, you're now accompanied by friendly AI characters. Is there a difference between how the expendable AI characters behave and how the other four hero characters work?
The heroes are more efficient, while other survivors can fight and will fight, but they're not as efficient as the heroes. And of course, they are the guys that you protect the most during defence missions. It was important to us to still remove the other characters, because if you're not in a defence mission, there won't be other characters because one of the risks would be having a guy running around that is blocking you, hindering you and using your equipment, so we said no [to having AI allies throughout]. The first game worked this way and players will understand that it's better to give them no AI help than bad AI help.
You've introduced the aforementioned defence missions in Dead Island: Riptide, but can we expect any other new gameplay components and side activities like this?
In the defence missions themselves, we're very happy with the barricade system, because there you can simply choose where zombies can walk along and where they can't, which proves very helpful. You can even even use it in areas where you're not in a typical defence mission, so if the zombies are attacking, you can put up two fences to block their path where all four players can then get stuck in just smashing them. It's a very nice change of pace and offers additional enemy control, and the explosive mines too are not just a new item. It's a whole new system, so you could end up in a town full of mines, and running through a minefield is dangerous itself, but being chased through a minefield while being chased by stupid zombies is both very dangerous and funny.
Can you go about disarming mines then or do you simply have to avoid them?
Disarming them means activating them and then running away. It actually works perfectly with the gameplay, as it's really funny to trigger a mine, bait a zombie and then run away so he gets the mine.
Barricades are an aspect of the game that can be used anywhere then?
Yes. Especially with safe hubs, because if you were just running through a tunnel we'd give you no reason to block a way in. There's about twenty ways in around a safe area, therefore we wanted to make sure you could access barricades not only in the defence missions, so it's a system available anywhere in the game world.
Riptide's new island of Palanai is a flooded island, but just how much of it is flooded? Is there still a lot of dry land?
A lot of it is flooded, but that doesn't mean that you never encounter beautiful areas. Palanai is still a beautiful island, but you'll see traces of the storm that has occurred there. You can see it everywhere, so even in the city later in the game you'll come across flooded areas. It's a dominant aspect that we wanted to enforce so that we had that additional contrast in there. Often this destruction can result in something beautiful, and we especially love how it happens when the rain sets in.
Does that mean we can expect to be travelling across Palanai in boats more often than cars then?
There is a big shift from cars to boats in Dead Island: Riptide, although they're both in the game. The boat has the advantage with so many flooded areas to traverse, so it might be most players' preferred method of transport.
You mentioned in the gameplay presentation that Riptide's weather is fully dynamic. Just how severe does the weather get?
The initial intention was to have weather that just changes the mood of the player, and it worked really nicely with how subtly it can turn. Players often don't actively realise it, but they might return to an area and notice that the atmosphere is horribly tense. We love how we can subtly adjust the weather, but we can also throw a dreadful storm in there, causing the view distance to decrease because the whole screen is enveloped in water basically. And that's the peak of the tension, because you'll be having to work out whether you're looking at a zombie or a tree. That's when it gets very interesting.
In terms of weapons, Dead Island had a pretty advanced weapon crafting system and gave you a bunch of options, so has it been difficult to come up with loads of new combinations and weapons?
It is difficult, but we're very happy that we've discovered and made a lot of new stuff. It's the typical thing I have to say! We have more weapons, more modifications, and just more of everything. We're happy to have so much new stuff, but yeah, it's definitely not easy coming up with that stuff.
Can you tell us more about new survivor John Morgan? You said he's an OTT martial arts expert, so presumably the idea is he's a hand-to-hand badass.
Exactly. He's basically what we always thought we could have as a character that doesn't need to use a weapon, because then you have this big advantage of a weapon that won't break. It's his hands, so they don't break. He has designated skill trees in this area, and to make sure it doesn't get boring, he has a lot of additional animations and special moves, which of course have additional effects. One of the options – my personal favourite – is to play with him focused on his fists and kicks.
I remember reading the press release announcing John Morgan said that he's ex-US Navy, relegated to the job of cook... Has someone been watching Under Siege by any chance?
Of course! Let's be honest, it's a zombie game so we took the freedom of saying “hey, people know we are cheesy! We can do it, and we should do it.” He's also a homage to an old 80s anime called Fist of the North Star AKA Hokuto no Ken, and after the release of the first Dead Island, using the version with the debug options still present, fans created a video called 'Fist of the Dead Star' with the title song from the French version of the TV show, and made Logan punch everyone and the enemies were flying away and burning. We were like, honestly guys, if you like it that much, we like it too!
Is he going to be a really fast character then, and will his Fury ability be something more overblown than usual?
Yes. When he activates his Fury he will get a Shaolin Monk-styled stick and start bashing heads in.
Is cosmetic customisation of Dead Island: Riptide's characters something you've considered? I've always thought it would have been cool to change your character's look.
We often think about it, but I cannot confirm anything about that. It's quite an effort to get everything into the memory, because for every one of the different looks for the characters, you have to load even more character models. It's something we're investigating, and we would like to add it, but at the moment we're not sure how we can.
I think most people were rather disappointed with Dead Island's DLC and some people wanted more. Will there be a different kind of strategy being adopted for Riptide's add-ons?
I'm glad to hear that people wanted more. It was a hell of a time, and I'm still sorry that the first DLC (Bloodbath Arena) was released so late, when we promised it as a pre-order DLC and it didn't materialise for months after the game's release. We had a lot of work to do, and we were really sorry that it came to this. We definitely want to improve this for sure, and we still have to investigate the way we want to go, and we're thinking of something like Borderlands' strategy. They made it work perfectly, giving players a perfect dose of DLC, so that you're compelled to return and carry on playing.
With the strong military presence on Palanai island, is Dead Island: Riptide's combat going to lean more towards gunplay or can we expect something that's still very much focused on the melee combat?
Excellent question! I forgot to mention that in the presentation! When you play as Purna (the firearms expert) for example, and focus on her gunfight abilities, you'll be able to shift the experience in which you can use up to 10% or 30 to 40% more guns than in Dead Island. We wanted to make sure that when you play as Purna, you can still play this way when you start the game. In the beginning, you can have more gunfights than you did in the first Dead Island, but we essentially keep the focus upon close-quarters combat and ammunition will still be restricted. It's a very true observation to say that we will have more gunplay in Riptide, but we don't want to shift the focus.
It's still a close-combat game, but one of the criticisms was that even when you had guns, they weren't powerful enough. So we've adjusted the gun gameplay to ensure that the guns have the punch and impact that you'd expect. A weapon that is so rare, shouldn't be so weak. We've tweaked that a lot, and they now appear more often. We took our time, made sure the guns are cooler, and that they can be used more often.
What can you tell us about Dead Island: Riptide's new enemy types? Are they mostly twists on existing enemies?
There are new enemy types, although some of the enemies you saw in the demo were twists on old enemy types, like the guys puking, the drowner is a new type of thug class. But there will be completely new enemies that shift the way you have to approach fighting them.
Have you been tempted to 'go large' with the enemies?
We want to stay humanoid. The Ram is still the biggest enemy and we don't want to go with tentacled mutants. We're tempted, but we don't want to break the cardinal rules of the zombie fiction. Bigger is sometimes cool, so we've thought about how we can do something more drastic, but we don't want to remove the human shape, as that's something very important. Maybe in the future we might think about animals, because then we could go a lot bigger, yet the shape would still be recognisable, like a zombie bear.
Speaking of zombie fiction, what would you say is the most inspirational aspect of that in Dead Island?
We are all about survival terror in Dead Island. You only fight for survival, but you can manage it. It's all about that reset of having no bills to pay, no other responsibilities, it's just all about survival. In real life, the only threat would be dealing with zombies, and that's something you can deal with in Dead Island.
It's more about what would you personally do were the zombie apocalypse to occur then?
Except we don't want to delve too deep into the whole super-realistic, hardcore style of zombie survival. I mean, Day Z is a great game, but it's very hard to get into.
What weapon would you want for the zombie apocalypse?
I would want to go with the baseball bat, as I think it would be the easiest to obtain.
It might break easily though...
Therefore, I love my nails. I'd want a baseball bat with nails in it. That was also our first blueprint demonstration for the mod system in Dead Island. A wooden baseball bat with nails in it. The first time I played with it, I thought it was so awesome, and we hadn't even changed the data to reflect the added effect of the nails. It was as effective as the regular baseball bat, but it was still more awesome with the nails in it!
Dead Island: Riptide is out on April 23rd, 2013 in North America and April 26th, 2013 in Europe.