The buzz surrounding Electronic Arts’ upcoming “Dead Space” is rising to a fever pitch as the game nears its October 14 release date. Early hands-on previews have been very positive, and at the E3 conference this year, “Dead Space” walked away with the Game Critics Award for Best Action/Adventure game.
“Dead Space” is a survival horror game set aboard the USG Ishimura, a mining ship that has been stranded in space and overrun by an alien horde known as the Necromorphs. Players will take on the role of Isaac Clarke, an engineer who was sent to reestablish communications on the Ishimura, only to find that there were much bigger problems to deal with.
As good as the project is looking so far, some of the biggest factors in the buildup of anticipation surrounding “Dead Space” have been EA’s efforts to flesh out the game’s universe and provide a deep backstory. A “Dead Space” comic book by Antony Johnston (“Wasteland”) and Ben Templesmith (“30 Days of Night,” “Fell”) launched in March of 2008, and details the events on mining colony Aegis 7, which are a precursor to what happens aboard the USG Ishimura. An animated movie titled “Dead Space: Downfall” will be released at the end of October, and will delve further into what happened aboard the mining ship that is the setting for the game.
In late August, EA launched the latest chapter of the “Dead Space” saga with ”No Known Survivors” (www.noknownsurvivors.com), an interactive site that provides another look into the days preceding the horrific events that happened aboard the USG Ishimura. “No Known Survivors was developed over fourteen months,” EA Community Manager Ben Swanson told CBR News. “The piece was concepted by the ‘Dead Space’ community team and developed in partnership with the game's development team, Antony Johnston who wrote the game and the comic book, and a team of amazing creatives, artists and engineers.”
“No Known Survivors” consists of nine chapters of content, broken up into two separate stories. A new chapter is released every Monday and will take users right up to the game's release. Each chapter features audio, video or interactive elements that give clues as to what's happening aboard the Ishimura. The gateway to each chapter is “The Hub,” a group of floating body parts that are slowly changing into Necromorphs. Every week, a new part morphs, signaling new content that is available.
“The team generated over eighty pages of detailed backstory while working on ‘Dead Space,’” Swanson said. “The comic and animated series focus primarily on the events leading up to the game. While the stories in ‘No Known Survivors’ take place right before the game, many of the interactive artifacts and items in the environments deal directly with the distant past and the culture of the world. It was important for us to make NKS not only deep, but also textural. ‘NKS’ is an opportunity to get deeper in to the world of ‘Dead Space’ than ever before.”
The first story arc of “No Known Survivors” is titled “Misplaced Affection,” and involves an organ replacement specialist named George Greggs, who begins to fall for Jane Gauthier, one of his patients who is a security officer aboard the Ishimura. The story is seen through the eyes of Greggs as he is holed up in his lab at the start of the first chapter. Through patient files, voice logs and video, users can piece together recent events and follow the relationship between the two characters, which is destined to end in tragedy. In the first three chapters, it's clear that Greggs was obsessed with Gauthier, and something has happened to her. An event has also occurred on the Ishimura, as signs and sounds of violence can be seen both inside and outside of George's lab. The fourth and final chapter released last week, and brings the first arc to its grisly conclusion.
The second story arc, titled “13,” will begin on September 29, and according to EA features “a sleeper agent who makes the wrong decisions for the right reasons.”
For fans that have been following the “Dead Space” comic as well, the site provides a contest that will reward winners with a free copy of the game. The contest consists of a series of questions that are contained in each chapter. The questions reference information from the site as well as the comics series. Some of the answers require users to solve puzzles based on clues embedded in the content of each chapter. Users can register for an EA account and then enter their answers, gaining points for each correct one. Point values for correct answers decrease as time goes on, and a leaderboard at the site tracks users' scores. The top 100 scorers receive a free copy of “Dead Space.”
While it’s not clear what plans EA has in store for the “Dead Space” universe after the game’s release, the foundation exists for more stories to be told. “I think everyone is trying to focus on making sure that ‘Dead Space’ is as robust as possible,” said Swanson. “ That said, the team's dedication to story and to world building will persist into any future installment, and the intention of creating depth through things like ‘NKS’ and the comic series, is not only to give value to our community, but also to develop a really strong creative base to build on in the future.”
To catch up on the “No Known Survivors” story so far, head to www.noknownsurvivors.com. For more info on “Dead Space,” head over to www.deadspacegame.com, and check out our interview with Senior Producer Chuck Beaver.