By Joseph Leray
Boutique gaming mag Kill Screen has posted a great developer diary with the audio team behind “Dead Space 3,” particularly detailing how the audio cues were captured (the screaming Necromorphs are actually sound designer David Lowmiller’s niece) and how and when the game engine decides to use them.
Visceral Games implemented what they’re calling the Fear System into “Dead Space 3”: everything in the game has a hidden fear value between 0 and 1. At a fear level of 0, protagonist Isaac Clarke is cool, calm, and collected; at 1, his heart is beating out of his chest, his breathing is haggard, Necromorphs are screeching, and the game’s score has degraded into “a symphony of destruction,” says executive producer Steve Papoutsis.
I think most gamers assume that a game’s score or soundtrack is relatively straightforward to implement: you record a song, slap it into the background, and move on to something more important like how much Clarke’s plasma cutter recoils, right?
Not so: there is a dynamic, systematic game engine making decisions about “Dead Space 3”’s audio cues, designed to build tension and release tension as necessary. It’s a fascinating bit of design that makes the rest of the game — the shooting, the exploration — more engaging and more fraught.
For game design buffs and horror fans alike, the Fear System seems like a great example of how to merge atmosphere and mechanics to make a game like “Dead Space 3” greater than the sum of its parts.