Dead Island 2 Interview with Isaac Ashdown

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Sean has been at EGX all this week. Here’s one of the many interviews he got, talking to Isaac Ashdown who’s a Gameplay Programmer at Yager for Dead Island 2!

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It must be really exciting to work on seeing how the well the community received the Dead Island games along with some of the critics.

Yeah, it’s certainly a great opportunity for myself, I was a big fan, and for Yager as well. It’s a really great game to be able to take to the next step by making the sequel.

Do you feel, because this is a different development team to the first Dead Island games, you need to do something slightly different, or get a good enough spin on it yourself to establish yourself in the franchise? 

We certainly aren’t letting ourselves be held back by anything in particular, taking it in the direction we want to make our own, and the next gen consoles give us a lot of opportunities to pull out the stops. We’ve got the seamless 8 player connectable co-op where you drop in and drop out of. We hope that will help bring the game to a more emergent level of gameplay.

I’ve played the build of the game, so lets talk about killing things!

Ok!

There’s a lot of death and we had a lot of competitions between the people who played for the highest death count. How much fun is it to programme that complete melee of destruction of zombies and that humorous tone of everything else about it? 

It’s a lot of fun. I’ve worked pretty extensively on the melee systems and the weapon systems in general. So our goals there are really take it in a direction that maintains the visceral nature of the first game, because melee combat was a lot of fun. We’ve expanded on it in a lot of ways, for a number of reasons. Because we’ve got an 8 player co-op, the number of zombies you’re fighting at any one time is a lot more than before. If you’re with a group of your buddies we’ve tried to keep the combat fun even with the amount so it’s been a lot of fun to do.

I got from playing the preview that there’s a very devil may care attitude about the story and everything in the game. There’s the bit with the Peter Fonda “we want to get loaded” speech on the radio. Obviously that’s very different to the original game so how do you see this fun element keeping people in and keeping the co-op going?

The story tone is a little different to the first game. It’s set in California and you’re one of the heroes that’s decided to stay in the state, even though its kind of been compounded by the government. And there’s also all the other guys there who are there for the same reasons but aren’t necessarily new like you are. But they’ve seen it as a new opportunity to build a life for themselves in a way that it wasn’t possible before in modern day life. So that kind of set up is what we’re going for with the whole combat tone as well. So you’re there to have a good time, basically, and embrace the lighter side of the apocalypse.

So the first game has given a lot of stylistic and artistic impressions to the franchise, but what are Yager’s inspirations for their take on the franchise?

It’s certainly a lot of fun to make such a colourful game. Taking this kind of paradise gone to hell and putting in a real world location like California, it’s a place I’ve been to a few times and have family there, so it’s fun to see a place I’m familiar with that’s been turned in to this zombie playground and still is recogniseable as a real place.

You’ve taken quite a lot of inspiration from the real life California and Los Angeles and how that city operates.

As Europeans, it’s not a place that we can really have a kind of claim to, it’s something that’s such an iconic location in popular culture and Hollywood has done a good job of presenting itself to the outside world. So it’s good as an outsider to be able to run with it, like a fantasy California. Like if the world of Hollywood was presented in this fantasy way, populated by these people who may be anarchistic or want to party, but not taking themselves too serious because… It’s LA.

We’ll see this in Spring 2015, so how’s the development all going?

The demo here we shipped for GamesCom a few months ago has come a long way. We’ve started playtests with the whole world with seamless 8 player. It’s fun to get in to the office, jump in the game and have other people also jump on your server. You’ll be playing and doing your own thing and then your buddy in the next room will jump in and you’ll team up, so it’s been great.

So the next gen tech much have really helped coming along when it did to give you more possibilities and scope?

For sure, the consoles themselves are much more powerful so you can do this open world and we’re using Microsoft’s cloud compute to run our servers so we can do a lot more than the traditional infrastructure of having a bunch of servers in a room somewhere in the world. Being able to spool up servers as you need them, being able to connect people with their friends, all that stuff makes the seamless 8 player co-op possible.

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Dead Island 2 will be released on PS4, Xbox One and PC in Spring 2015. You can check out Sean’s preview from GamesCom here!

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Dead Island 2 – Preview

The first Dead Island was a very good game, despite what the game was compared to the marketing. You’ll be pleased to know that this time around Yager who are making Dead Island 2 know that maybe the message was a bit off.

But the internet spoke and videos of comedic deaths and hilariously overpowered DIY weapons were cleaving their way into our decapitating hands. That’s exactly what we’re getting with Dead Island 2.

Firstly, the promises: Open world with three distinct large areas. California will become alive from the Hollywood sign all the way to the Santa Monica pier. We got to play a small section of that area known as the LA suburbs. San Francisco will also be joining the open world zombie California party and the third will remain a secret for now but there is a lot of California.

dead island 2 preview 1It also promises a seamless 8 person multiplayer and developers like to describe this as the “worlds smallest MMO.” We got to play with the four-player version which does indeed work very seamlessly even though the game is in pre-alpha state. The idea is, although it isn’t ready yet, that you can co-op with anyone on your server… If you want to that is. You can compete with each other (whether that means PvP or not was unclear) or you can just choose to co-exist.

Graphically it looks wonderful with some excellent lighting and frantic blurs as you move quickly, something that the new generation of 60fps consoles eat up for breakfast. It is a tiny bit glitchy at the moment in places but the feeling is there, the feeling that you got playing Dead Island 1 of crazy modified weapon carnage.

There are four classes in the game. Hunter, Speeder, Berserker and Bishop. Bishop looks like Terry Crews with priests garb reigning down violent divinity. We only got to play with the Hunter and the Speeder. Each have their own traits in movement and their own weapon set. We started with the Speeder and got a kick ass machete that we very quickly electrified by robbing the electrical store of batteries and kicking in a few Thugs. We also got a 6-shooter pistol with an added flame kick after draining a gas pump after dodging oncoming suiciders. For the other class, the Hunter, we went in reverse getting an electrified shotgun and a flaming sledgehammer. The latter was slightly unwieldy but was certainly fun to kick ass with. The electrified machete was my favourite, allowing us to execute people with terrific style.

dead island 2 preview 2The game itself hasn’t actually changed too much in its modus operandum. You traverse the open world, guided to objectives whilst scrounging supplies, upgrading your tools and surviving your zombie dodging butt off. After upgrading our tools, we went to defend the fortifications of the ‘Movie Bar’ after they decided to kick out some loud zombie attracting jams including a Peter Fonda quote of “We wanna get wasted…etc” over a radio or PA system. Maybe a ‘Worlds End’ homage or just an homage to California, who knows? At this point, the game being in pre alpha showed a little but was very impressive despite this. If you’re worried about this scrimping on the graphics, it isn’t. The visuals never lose any resolution and the only thing that scares you is the oncoming onslaught hidden by motion blur.

What you can get from this, given it was just a play of the game engine, is that the comedy element is there. The same fun crazy weapon upgrading, limb hacking, zombie zapping weapons that cause much fun, entertainment and cool visuals. The focus on this direction is apparent and it works very well given the slightly larger than life nature of its California setting. There doesn’t appear to be any kind of emotional game attachment or a large effort to build big sprawling narrative relationships. Just kick the hell out of things, stay alive and explore the mad world of Zombie California.

We’re currently looking at a Spring 2015 release and, this is why it isn’t scrimping on the graphics, it will be next gen and PC only. PS4 and Xbox One users won’t have to compete with the engine and resolution having to compatible with past games so hopefully it will keep its looks for the zombie apocalypse.


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