We had a pleasant chat with Dead Island's Producer Adrian Ciszewski
07 November 2007 | By Import
Mike Bowden: From your first title, Crime Cities all the way through to the recent Call of Juarez, plot seems to have played an important role in your games. What can you tell us about the story behind Dead Island? Is story just as important this time?
Adrian Ciszewski: Storyline is always important for us. I think that the zombie genre gives an opportunity to show many interesting things apart from lots of gore. Human behavior and their relations during the fight for survival. It's the same thing with Dead Island. We have survivors who are trying to stay alive, no matter what the cost is. That brings all kinds of situations which occur in a post apocalyptic world. Story begins with a plane crash. The main character wakes up somewhere on the island and finds that there is no plane wreck around and his wife is missing. After a while he learns that the island is overrun with multitudes of zombies. Initially his goals are pretty obvious but things will get much more complicated during his journey.
Survival Horrors, although a much loved genre, has seen very little exposure on the next generation consoles. However, with Silent Hill 5 and Resident Evil 5 both confirmed and on their way, how do you feel your game differentiates itself from the two big hitters?
Adrian Ciszewski: Dead Island is a totally different type of game, first of all it’s an FPP title so the experience while playing is much more realistic. We like to call Dead Island a genuine First Person Melee game. It’s because we assume that the player will fight with everything he finds and what he can handle to carry. Second of all we applied RPG elements to make the gameplay more varied. I think these elements put Dead Island far above a standard FPS or classical survival horror.
Staying with Resident Evil and Silent Hill, how much pressure does the team feel to create something fresh and new compared to these titles? I’m sure Dead Island will automatically be put alongside those games and that Techland must be aware of this. What can we expect to see that we haven’t already experienced?
Adrian Ciszewski: I would say that these will be the ultra realistic combat system and innovative controls that allow for a very precise hit which makes the combat sensational and realistic. All locations offer wide ranges of weapons that can be used. For example when in the jungle the player can find a branch or rock, in the hotel kitchen he can pick up a frying pan or meat cleaver and so on. Weapons will brake gradually, for example wooden objects will finally crack and iron will bend which will reduce their effectiveness. We are focused on melee fighting rather then shooting but of course there will be guns across the island. The combat system also gives the player a chance to gain advantage over the opponents by using environment. Places like pools filled with water, electric fences etc. give a great chance to use them as traps or as covers from zombies. The player can also combine those elements. Water and electricity, gas and fire and so on. There will be a lot of it in the game. That element brings all the fun when playing. We managed to create a unique blend of intense action and thrilling horror by using different ingredients and that makes Dead Island fresh and new compared to these titles.
The Official Site talks of every decision you make influences the world around you. Does that mean we can expect some kind of RPG element to the game much like the style of a Bioware or a Lionhead title or is this something different entirely?
Adrian Ciszewski: Dead Island is a non linear and multi threaded game with lots of RPG elements. It’s different from Bioware or Lionhead’s productions because it’s more action oriented. The main plot will expand variously depending on player’s actions. Every choice will influence the surrounding world and its inhabitants. The main character will gain friends or foes. Player will also have a chance to back track previous locations and pick a task that he didn't get earlier. This will offer a unique gameplay experience every time you play.
I see you’re touting something called Advanced Artificial Life System. Could you tell us more about this new design? What does it mean exactly?
Adrian Ciszewski: It means that the island is a living environment with its fauna and flora. Everything changes constantly. Since the Island is a tourist resort, there are many places where humans live. They are survivors fighting with zombies and trying to get out of the island just like the main character. Those groups have their own goals and motives. The player can cooperate with them for mutual advantages but he doesn’t have to.
With the much heated debate between games being limited by the space on a DVD, how difficult has it been to get your “vast, open world” onto a single DVD? Have you had to make any compromises?
Adrian Ciszewski: We don't care about the DVD space limitations at the moment. We want to create Dead Island without any boundaries so we don't have to make any compromises. We will think about that later.
Staying with format choice, you have chiefly developed for PC in the past and have now ported Juarez over to the 360. Dead Island is also for both PC and Xbox 360. Have you any intentions of either porting or creating a game for the Playstation 3 or Nintentdo’s Wii? What do you think the advantages and disadvantages are of making games for these consoles?
Adrian Ciszewski: We make the game for PC and Xbox 360 because it's pretty similar. We don't say no to PS3, it's a very powerful platform but it will mostly depend on the publisher. Wii is definitely too weak for Dead Island in such a shape, but maybe if we make it more arcade it should work but it will be a totally different game. We like the Wii controls, they fit the Dead Island scheme.
Your self styled ChromeEngine has been constantly revised since its debut back in 2003 and migrated into ChromeEngine 4 for Call of Juarez, have you tweaked the engine again for Dead Island or are you happy with CE4 in its current guise?
Adrian Ciszewski: Of course we are happy with the Chrome Engine 4, it has changed since Call Of Juarez. Those changes are strictly technological. We applied everything that is required to make a stunning looking game and it's still expanding.
I see that you have implemented “...a liquid, gas and electricity physics simulation system, which allows you to create your own unique ways of eliminating enemies”. This reminds me somewhat of Bioshock and the way you can basically create your own killing techniques. Has the team been influenced by 2K (Irrational)? What do you all think of Bioshock?
Adrian Ciszewski: We think that Bioshock is great but we have not been influenced by it. Our system is not based on some super powers that the main character possesses, it's based on using environment as you ally. For example you can put a zombie into the pool and then put an electric wire into it. That's how it works. It depends on each player’s creativity and how he uses it.
If you could take one element from the game in its current form that you’re most pleased with, what would it be and why?
Adrian Ciszewski: The damage system is something that we are most proud of. We managed to make an exceptionally faithful visualization of injuries based on the multi layer body model which shows skin, muscles and bones. Inflicted injuries are varied and depend on the weapon held by the player and the part of the body he hits. For example if you fight with a crowbar your hits will damage all layers, with a machete you can cut thin but deep wounds and if you fight with a club after a hit you will see true deformation of the opponent’s body. It's combined with characters physics. For example if you shoot off zombie’s legs he will crawl. There will also be lots of effective finishers. I think this feature will expand survival horror genre to a totally new level of realism.
Many developers complain about having to create a demo prior to release as it steals valuable development time. How do Techland feel about this and can we expect a demo on Xbox Live/PC at some point before the game hits the shelves?
Adrian Ciszewski: There will be a playable demo before final release but we can't give any specific date. Dead Island is still in an early production stage.
I’m really interested in the way you tout the behaviour of NPC’s and how their reactions are affected by decisions we make in-game. Can you give us an example of how this works?
Adrian Ciszewski: Player’s every action has its consequences. There are some factions on the island that fight against each other. They fight for food, water and other things because as I said before they have their own goals. You can decide to help one of them to get something extra. It might be a weapon or some vehicle. If you help them other groups will be hostile to you. It’s interconnected with the internal problems of each group such as food or water shortage. Quests of that type are generated dynamically. The player can affect the needs of individuals by stealing or destroying their supplies. The game gives total freedom of selecting the side quests so even if the player skipped some mission he can return and complete them anytime.
George Romero obviously springs to mind every time the word, ‘Zombie’ is mentioned. Have his films influenced you at all? If so, what elements have you taken from him that you really feel has made a difference to the gameplay?
Adrian Ciszewski: No doubt about it. We are fans of George Romero’s movies, they are a true inspiration for us. We want to be accurate so we’re still facing the dilemma if zombies should be slow or fast and so on. We are also inspired by modern movies like Zack Snyder's “Dawn of the Dead” remake and Danny Boyle's “28 Days Later”. Those filmmakers gave some fresh breath to the zombie genre which is great. I'm sure that Romero's and Boyle's fans will be pleased with what they see in Dead Island.
How difficult is it to program an open world environment as opposed to the comfortable linearity of corridors and rooms? What are the challenges the team faces in this respect?
Adrian Ciszewski: It is very difficult because we must think of every player’s move. In Dead Island it's up to him where and when he wants to go. The open vast world of the island gives such an opportunity. We managed to design a huge, realistically looking tropical island with roads infrastructure, marinas, pool bars and so on. There will be a lot of different environment settings, interiors and outdoors with challenging landscapes and totally free roam form. It is challenging but such a form gives the player a lot more fun than a simple linear gameplay and that is most important to us.