With Dead Island 2 (almost unbelievably) looming around the corner after a long wait, we had the chance to quickly talk to Adam Olsson (Art Director) and Lydia Cockerham (Narrative Designer) of Dambuster Studios about meeting expectations, open worlds, and terrorising food.
So, it’s been almost ten years since the game was first announced, with fans all over the world building up all kinds of expectations for what Dead Island 2 would one day look like. That’s got to feel like a lot of pressure, right?
Adam: Absolutely. When we developed this game, we wanted to make something that would make the fans rejoice when we finally unveiled it. To approach that, we looked at what made that first game great which ultimately was, zombies at the core and paradise gone to hell and we really wanted to build on that and fulfill those two fantasies for our players. And that’s something I feel that we have accomplished. And I hope fans agree with that.
Did you set out to make the goriest game ever? Because it feels like you did, and we’re all for it.
Adam: Our vision involved elevating the zombie slaying experience, and what better way to do this than by literally making zombie slaying that much more visceral! Our F.L.E.S.H. system technology allowed us to really hone in on this and create an insanely gruesome experience unlike anything seen in a zombie game before. Rather than mindlessly killing zombies, now you can exploit soft-body physics to decide where and how you choose to dismember zombies. It all feeds into that zombie-slaying fantasy we’ve created and hope it allows fans to stomp zombies in style and flair.
Speaking of gore, F.L.E.S.H. is the most impressive “destruction” tech we’ve seen in a game in some time, maybe ever. How did you go about researching how the body breaks down so brutally, lots of Romero and minced beef?
Lydia: Whilst yes, these were people that are now zombies that we are tearing apart. It’s this kind of movie magic feel, right? It’s gore that isn’t real gore, its exaggerated. It’s like gore you would see in a pulp movie or classic 80s horror films. So that’s where all the research came from. We wanted to get the balance of, when you see it, you’re partially disgusted but you’re also partially like, oh, that looks amazing.
What was the design decision behind making HELL-A a series of sandbox playgrounds rather than an open world?
Adam: In our world, our Slayers are not just surviving in their environments. In open world, there could be a tendency for gamers to run away as a strategy for evading zombies. We wanted players to go head first into battle and really themselves into the zombie hordes they’ve come across through the streets of LA.
Where did the idea for cards in the Skill Deck come from over a more traditional upgrade system?
Adam: We wanted to ditch the traditional skill tree in action games and implement something more dynamic. The skill deck system allows you to swap cards in and out, on the fly, however and whenever you desire. There’s a greater risk to your survival depending on how you customise your skills, but the reward is exponentially higher!
Some of the sound effects in Dead Island 2 are crunchy and squelchy to the extreme. What kind of things were the guys over in the foley team destroying?
Lydia: Lots of fruits and veg! The sound team twisted frozen celery to simulate the sounds of snapping limbs and bones. They also found out that smashing pasta was excellent for simulating visceral crunchy noises when brutalising zombies with large weapons.
Dead Island 2 releases on April 21st, 2023 for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X & S.
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