Ideas for Dead Space Came from the Game Design Team’s “Horror Competition”

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At one point in Issac Clark’s adventure on the USG Ishimura, a giant tentacle grabs him. As a player, you launch a desperate assault on the appendage as it slowly drags you down the hall. It’s a tense segment, especially considering that Dead Space is a 2008 game.

“One of the things we had with the team at Dead Space was to put on a horror competition,” said Glen Schofield, CEO of Striking Distance Studios. “Anyone could submit horror ideas and once a week or so we would go through them.”

Schofield’s Dead Space anecdote is part of a larger discussion about how creators find inspiration during the first day of GamesBeat Summit 2020. He explained how he came up with several ideas for his work on Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Dead Space. He showed a clip of the tentacles scene in Dead Space, which he recalled as a fan-favorite idea from the competition during the talk.

“Games are a combination of millions of creative decisions and thousands of ideas,” he said. “Teams have to come up with them all the time – and on time.”

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Schofield said he was almost always in brainstorming mode, seeking ideas by reading science papers and news, interviewing other creatives both in and out of the gaming industry and by organizing competitions between its teams of developers. These tactics are still possible while game designers are confined to their homes during the pandemic.

He also mentioned other specific anecdotes, like how a road trip through Europe to visit several World War II sites helped shape Call of Duty: WWII and how a trip to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the NASA in Southern California to see its “walking tank” led to the design of a futuristic tank in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. He encouraged travel in order to seek inspiration, although this may not be possible in the foreseeable future.

Schofield also touched on the topic of brainstorming sessions and that studios should prepare for them by coming up with ideas ahead of time and encouraging everyone to bring something to the table. “Good ideas can come from anywhere, from anything, or from anyone,” he said. “You just want to make sure they come into your game.”

Striking Distance Studios is a new independent, wholly-owned subsidiary of PUBG, which began operations in a new office in Northern California in February. Schofield, who co-founded Sledgehammer Games, heads up the studio recently acquired by the battle royale giant. The company hopes to go “beyond battle royale” with its projects.

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