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Interview

Dead Island Interview

There’s nothing quite like a good bit of hype, especially when videogames are concerned. More than probably any other medium, ‘gamers’ go crazy for products in the lead up to release; any snippet of gameplay, selection of screenshots or teased piece of content is snapped up, analysed and spat out by the legion of waiting fans.
In Dead Island’s case it was a fully CGI trailer that did the trick. Without a frame of in-game footage in sight, that trailer has created more buzz than any other in recent memory.
We recently had the chance to sit down and discuss such things with Vincent Kummer, brand manager for Dead Island’s publisher Deep Silver.
You can read our own impressions on Dead Island in our preview here.
IncGamers: Did you think that the trailer (see below) would have the impact that it has? It really has taken much of the gaming community by storm and put Dead Island firmly on everybody’s radar.
Vincent Kummer: No, definitely not. You know you have a good trailer but, when you put it out there, you just hope for the best. No one expects something like that to happen because otherwise everyone would do it basically.
This is not something that happens every day, so we are really happy about what is happening on the internet and the impression we’re making with the video. But no, we were certainly not expecting the giant wave that it has created.
IG: How much involvement did you have in the creation of the trailer? Did you leave it entirely up to the team at Axis Animation?
VK: We had an involvement in the trailer. Yes, Axis Animation were our partners but we have internal people working on trailers as well. In this case we searched for a partner, Axis Animation sent over a script and from that point on it was a back and forth between them and our guys about how the trailer would play out, the whole reverse ‘thing’, how much gore we wanted to show and things like that.
IG: The trailer really has generated an incredible amount of hype. Are you afraid that, no matter how impressive the game may be, there’s no way it’s ever going to live up to the expectation people now have?
VK: It’s a tough question because, you know that a CGI trailer that has concentrated levels of emotion fired out in two to three minutes is something that a game wouldn’t normally be able to achieve because you need to fill 20 to 30 hours of gameplay. We want to have this emotion in the game and we know there’s always going to be a gap between the trailer and the game but we think that the game is good enough to stand up to whatever expectations the player may have.
So, perhaps ‘afraid’ isn’t the right word but, we’re aware of the expectation and we’re trying to show people what the game can do and what we’re trying to make. I really believe that [Dead Island] the game is something that people are interested in and want to see more of.
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IG: What is the relationship between Deep Silver and Dead Island’s developers, Techland?
VK: We’re not the only publisher working with them – they’re working with Ubisoft on the new Call of Juarez. In this instance Techland had been working on Dead Island for about four years and we jumped into the project about two years ago and began discussing our ideas and whether they fit with theirs. Everything went positively in those discussions and that has lead to the point we’re at with the game now.
IG: What was it about Dead Island specifically that made you want to publish it?
VK: It’s certainly unique, the combination of zombies and a paradise gone wrong and the whole open-world make up of the game. It was really that uniqueness about it that made us excited to get onboard.
IG: Zombies are quite a popular theme in videogames right now. Do you worry that Dead Island is going to be released into a market that has become saturated and has had enough of zombies?
VK: The good ol’ zombie fatigue? No, I don’t think so. I think zombies are something that have been around for many years and it’s something that resonates with human beings as it brings our fear of what is actually ‘inside’ of us to the surface.
In this case, because we’re doing something unique with the zombies and the location I think that there is a niche for this game.
IG: Do you ever worry about how explicit the content of the game is and how it will go down with various ratings boards? The trailer shows a kid administering and receiving violence (something games traditionally stay well away from) and the Dead Island logo itself has already been censored by the ESRB.
VK: In terms of the child and the violence, if it makes sense in terms of gameplay then I don’t think it’s something you should be shying away from because it’s not about murdering children it’s about defending yourself against zombies; a zombie apocalypse/infection is not going to stop itself from infecting a child.
In the first episode of the Walking Dead TV show you see this happening, the main character encounters a dead child attacking him but it’s not a child, it’s a zombie at that point. In this particular game I don’t think we would shy away from it but, saying that, we’re not going to have children that you will fight against – it’s more about there being families in the game that have lost children and you witnessing the emotional reaction to that, rather than just providing something for you to fight against.

IG: What about Dead Island’s story? What caused this zombie outbreak?
VK: I can’t say anything about that at this point because that’s something we want players to discover themselves. When you start the game you’re just a normal guy that doesn’t know anything about zombies but, at some point early on, you’re going to learn that you’re immune to becoming a zombie and then your goal becomes how to survive, how to get off the island, how to help the other survivors and trying to find out what is actually happening.
IG: We know that the game gives you the option of playing as four different characters, do they have unique stories?
VK: They have unique background stories but the game story itself is going to be the same across the characters. One of the reasons for this is the four player co-op multiplayer so, if everyone had a different storyline, it would be difficult to drop into another game and for it to still make sense.
IG: So how exactly does the multiplayer work?
VK: It’s a drop-in system which allows a friend to enter your game and follow your storyline for however long they like and then drop out again. We just want to make sure if one player is 75% of the way through the story and you’ve only just started then you’ll be warned that you may be ‘spoiled’.  You can play with up to four players, playing through the same story as single player.
IG: The players that drop in will be using the character they’ve been using in single player?
VK: Yes.
IG: And they can level up in someone else’s multiplayer game?
VK: Yes.
IG: And that levelling up will carry back over when they return to single player?
VK: Yes.

IG: Okay, cool. You mentioned that this is a 20 to 30 hour game, just how big is the world?
VK: We haven’t decided on the final size of the island. We’re in pre-beta right now, so we’ve generated a whole island but we need to decide on exactly what we want to use. There are going to be natural barriers on the island that you’ll have to pass; like a tunnel through a mountain that is blocked at the beginning or a large group of zombies blocking a path early on in the game.
So, we’re still deciding on how big the island and its area are going to be but the area that you saw today [see our upcoming preview] with the hotel and the beach, that takes about 20 minutes to walk from one end to the other.
IG: Aside from that beach area, where else can we expect to find ourselves?
VK: We really want to show a full island, both indoors and outdoors. So you might go from the sunny beach to the indoor areas where everything is broken, it’s dark, you have to use a flashlight. You’re also going to visit a city, the jungle and other locations to make you feel like you’re exploring a real place.
And, of course, there are going to be a few surprise locations.
IG: And what about the zombies themselves? What kind of variations can we expect there?
VK: There are going to be different variations of zombies in there but there’s not going to be, like, dog-zombies or shark-zombies or anything like that. They’re all humanoid zombies. We want to make sure that, when it comes to fighting, you’re using different tactics and strategies – so there will be melee zombies, ranged-attack zombies and things like that.
IG: From what we’ve seen, Dead Island seems more like a fully-fledged RPG than the straight action game many of us were expecting. Is that a fair comment?
VK: I don’t think I would call it a full RPG because I don’t want to raise expectations when it comes to the story telling. This is a linear storyline; there’s no ‘if you fail there then that character is going to die and that will give you a different ending’.
It does focus on different skills, side-quests, collecting items, selling stuff, buying stuff and things like that but, when it comes to the story-telling, I wouldn’t say it was a fully fledged RPG. 

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