Dead Island 2’s producer on eight-player zombie massacres (Wired UK)

Dead Island 2- Official E3 Announce Trailer | PS4PlayStation

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Michael Kempson is a producer at Yager Development, currently at
work crafting a Californian zombie apocalypse for next year’s
Dead Island 2. Following the game’s E3 reveal, Kempson
talks with Wired.co.uk about taking up the reins of the franchise,
the narrative of zombies, and postcards from hell.

Wired.co.uk: How long have you been working on Dead
Island 2
?


Michael Kempson: A couple of years now. It’s been a long time
cooking for us. We rolled in there pretty much right after Spec
Ops: The Line
, once we heard that there was interest in doing
a follow-up to Dead Island. When [the first game] came
out, everyone at Yager went bonkers and it was always on in our
communal area. The co-op was amazing, the melee system was
fantastic and it had a really big presence. When we heard we could
pitch for it, we jumped on the chance. We pitched it and Deep
Silver really responded well to it. We struck a partnership up
pretty quickly. 

What do you think the biggest difference is between the
first games and your approach here?


We don’t see it in terms of differences. We loved the first games
so we looked at them and asked ourselves what we had to do to take
things further. We’re not trying to out-compete them so much as
tweak things, make a few things better and live up to the
expectations of users now — those expectations, especially online,
are drastically changing. A platform to leap from for that would be
Dead Island and its seamless co-op, so that’s what we’re
trying to do with eight players online on a dedicated server. It’s
like the world’s smallest MMO. Micro-multiplayer online? We need
more acronyms for it.

A “MiMO”, perhaps?

Hah, yes. But it was a really solid foundation to build on with
eight player co-op and bringing persistency to the world as well.
With that persistency, when you’ve got your players there you can
return to the world as it was and continue with your games. That’s
what players expect now and it just made sense to use Dead
Island
for that.

When the first game came out, it had an amazingly evocative reverse-time trailer — have you embraced
the inherent schlock value of zombies?


I wouldn’t say it’s schlock. There are some things you do in a
zombie apocalypse that always come across as slapstick [but] your
characters aren’t running around like Laurel and Hardy or falling
down for your amusement. We found — especially in pre-production
and with what we’ve been showing people — that there’s just humour
in how you interact with zombies. We had this moment where you
basically uppercut a zombie with a sledgehammer and if you’re lucky
he flies sixty feet — very realistic physics engine! When we
discovered that, we could have toned it down, but why would you?
That shouldn’t go away because that’s always going to be funny and
games should be entertainment. It is quite a different direction
from what was in the first game, but we want people to understand
that and get into it. That’s why we made the trailer this way. We
worked with Deep Silver on that and it just clicked. We knew we had
hit the right tone right away.

Do you think a zombie game can touch on satire the way
certain movie outings do?


You can use zombies to tackle issues if you want. “Zombies!” is a
very malleable narrative. Romero did it with consumerism and it was
a really powerful message. There are other messages in there.
The Walking Dead does a good job focussing on humanity and
what that means, all with a backdrop of zombies. Resident
Evil
struggles with science gone awry and zombies are just the
meat of that effect. You can use them to illustrate any sort of
narrative you want. 

You’ve shifted to being able to craft weapons and items
anywhere. How does that affect gameplay? Does it leave you
vulnerable?


You’ll want to get a little bit of space when you craft something.
It’s a pretty quick process and it means you can change up your
play style faster than before. So you could go from a choppy-choppy
style with a blade, build a weed-whacker with machetes and an
electric mod attached to it and mow down enemies a lot faster. It
really has a lot of benefits. 

You’ve also introduced human enemies for Dead Island
2
. How does that change your approach to the
game?


The humans and zombies are occupying the world in equal share and
that leads to a lot of interesting conflicts between the two.
They’re not partitioned in an artificial way. The human enemies and
non-playable characters interact with the zombies in the same way
the players do. It was a technical challenge to get that going but
it’s a great thing to see once it works. You get to see the human
AIs doing things and then you want to try it. 


Dead Island 2
Dead Island 2


Let’s delve into the online side of the game a little.
How will the co-op system work?


It’s going to be pretty seamless. In Dead Island, if
someone wanted to join the game you’d get a prompt and an input.
We’re using a lot of the new match-making techniques in online
games on PS4 and Xbox One. So, if you and I are playing and when I
join you’re on my friends-list, you’re always going to find me and
we’ll always drop into each other’s games. But if you don’t have
any other friends who play, it’s going to go by stat ranking with
other online players. Maybe there are people online you’ve played
with before, acquaintances. Then it goes by your level or region.
It’s all to make sure you get a great online experience.

Why the shift in setting to California? That’s not an
island!


I just really wanted to go to California on holidays! [Laughs] I
mean, it was one of the core things of Dead Island, the
contrast of a beautiful environment and bloody, gory zombies. That
contrast is key to Dead Island‘s identity and when we
started thinking of beautiful, iconic locations people will
understand immediately without having to be walked through,
California was the first thing that popped into everybody’s head.
As for it not being an island, in the fiction of the game,
California has been quarantined, partitioned off, islanded off as
it were. You can go there, but we’re not going to let any infected
out. So it is isolated. And back in the 16th century, Spaniards
actually thought California was an island of America! They listed
it as an island and it showed up as an island on maps for a long
time.

How much of the state have you mapped in?

We’ve tried to represent the key beautiful elements on California.
We’re in LA now and if you went down to a gift shop and picked out
all the postcards, what you had would probably show everything
that’s in the game. We’re showing LA and Santa Monica at the
moment, but there are other areas we’ll be showing off later in the
year. It’s really our take on the postcard aesthetic, looking at
the vision of California everyone has in their minds and trying to
best represent it. With zombies. 

Dead Island 2 launches in Spring 2015 on
PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

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12 June 2014 | 11:37 am – Source: wired.co.uk
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