Despite causing a lot of controversy with grotesque busts, Dead Island Riptide is still just a game, and one that’s not really easy to define either. It’s not an expansion, as those aren’t really a ‘thing’ anymore for multi-platform games, it’s not really a spin-off, as it’s heavily connected to the original game, but it’s not a sequel either, as everything is still pretty the much the same, just tweaked or enhanced in certain places. We decided go talk to Creative Producer Alex Toplansky to find out what the hell is going on:
Strategy Informer: How do you guys view Riptide Internally?? It’s not really a sequeal, nor is it a standalone expansion or anything… doesn’t seem to fit neatly into any definition.
Alex Toplansky: This is a big question – I think the most important thing is that we never went into this thinking “oh, can we do DLC” or anything like that. We always came at it with the viewpoint that there’s a lot more we want to do, a lot more we want to show people, but we don’t want to start reinventing the wheel. You know? We weren’t like “oh let’s re-do the combat system!” or anything like that, which is something you’d do for a sequel I think. So we wanted to make it clear to players that they are getting more of the core gameplay that they enjoyed in the first game. I think that if we’d decided to go in this sequel direction it would have confused people a bit as to what was going on with that.
But we did want to add a lot of original stuff, like we really wanted to add another island, and we wanted to continue the story that was laid down with these four characters. We wanted to show that this is still connected to the original experience. By the time we were done with the game… I think when we started there was about ¾ of the amount of content the original had [in Riptide], but by the time we were finished, we had a game that had just as much content as the original game. So it’s definitely not an ‘expansion’, but I think it would have misleading to say It was a sequel.
Strategy Informer: How much of Riptide was you guys reacting to fan feedback, and how much was it trying to do things you couldn’t do in the original game?
Alex Toplansky: We wanted to make sure that we really focused on the feedback that helped us find where the fun is in the game. One of things that we learned from people is that running around, finding all these creative ways to kill zombies, is more fun than these big convoluted plots or stories. So many people told us how they just liked driving around in a truck and slamming into zombies. So we decided we had to go more over-the-top with this kind of stuff, we have to be more about pure entertainment. I think as humans we’re fascinated by the concept of altering physics and altering the mechanics of how things fly across a room etc… So we wanted to satisfy this desire. John, for example, our new character, his power kick ability is pure “wow, I can’t believe how far that zombie just travelled”. It’s the sandbox stuff. John’s Fury skill was actually inspired by a fan video – Fist of the Dead Star. We saw a lot of things like that that inspired us.
At the same time – it’s important that we don’t just go through the list that our fans created and just tick things off. Being in the entertainment business is partly about creating a sense of surprise, a sense of mystery, and doing the unexpected. I think we’ve managed to balance the fan feedback nicely with some of the things that are more out of the box.
Strategy Informer: You mentioned how firearms are slightly more prolific in the game – it’s not such a big deal to find out and actually have a full clip of ammo. Don’t you think you’ve taken away the point a bit there? Have you cheapened the experience slightly?
Alex Toplansky: That’s a very interesting question. So on the one hand you have the survival experience that you want to create, which doesn’t necessarily need firearms, but at the same time you’ve got this interesting situation in Riptide where, as we always say, the waters are rising now – both for humanity, and the water itself. But with this idea is that the stakes are rising too, so people need to be more prepared. So we felt that beefing up the firearms gameplay is just keeping up with the threat that’s rising alongside it. We will always remember that this is a melee orientated game, but it would be nice for Firearms to always be an viable option. We’re not turning this into a shooter, but we want it be a possible solution, instead of a “once-in-a-game” kind of deal.
Strategy Informer: You mentioned how your fans really wanted you to focus more on the customization and finding inventive ways to kill zombies. Do you see then plot in Dead Island becoming less of a thing? Much like how fans are now less concerned with Conner’s storyline in Assassin’s Creed? To the point where it appears he’s not even in the fourth game…
Alex Toplansky: I think that’s a very insightful way to come at the topic – but I think this is one area where I think I’d bring up again how we want to surprise the audience, as well as give them what they want. I think we want to give players to just run around and kill zombies, that’s great. But when you’re creating a universe, you’re creating multitudes of different perspectives from which to view this universe from. So far, we’ve shown the view of these hedonistic party goers, where everything was chaotic and out of control, and you saw their side of things. But then you have the trailer that was released for the original game, which was a completely different version of things, which was a more personal and emotional perspective.
In Riptide, we see the perspective of John Morgan and his world, even though you can choose to play as any of the five characters. We’re seeing a lot of things coloured by his perception, which is the military/larger view perspective on how this virus is unfolding. Of course there are many many other angles we can use to view these events. I wish I could go into more details with you on that, but I can’t really talk about what we have planned for the future. Suffice to say though we do want to do more with the story, and we’re not going to get rid of it.
Strategy Informer: The beginning ‘prologue’ sequence of the game has the player battling to get off an Australian Military Frigate that’s been battered by storms and infested with zombies. I think it says something about your view of the Australian military if they let their ship get taken over THAT easily…
Alex Toplansky: Haha! That’s a very good point. Dead Island takes a lot of action movie liberties with the way that things work. IT’s fun to play around with ideas like nukes and other crazy things. I think in this area we’ve definitely gone more over the top, had a lot more fun with it. I think that while we could have focused more on the extreme realism, you know “There are no more boats in sight, there is only the jungle!”, but we may have ended up with a more Apocalypse Now type experience. But we wanted to to keep the action going, keep things moving, so yeah, why not, an Australian Frigate gets taken out by Zombies. By the way, had it been an American Frigate, it still would have gone down just the same. We’re not playing favourites.
Strategy Informer: You mentioned how you guys have streamlined the inventory system a little bit, yet when I look at it it still seems to follow almost ‘old-school’ PC style of thinking. Very micro-management very, losts of loot that you don’t always know what to do with…
Alex Toplansky: One of things we wanted to do is create longevity in the game, and give it a way to have some mystery and discovery many many hours in. I mean there a lot of guided elements still, especially early on in the game. People will make it very easy for you to understand how to make a certain kind of weapon, stuff like that. But as you go along, it’s fun – especially as an endgame player – to be sitting there and going “So, what do I do with a zippo lighter and hose?” and that’s what we want to do, keep it open, and let people really tell their own stories, like “Man, I can’t believe I figured out what Oleander was for. The game really opened up for me”. That’s really cool stuff to have that moment of discovery yourself and own that. So there is that element that’s maybe more hardcore in the endgame, but when you’re 30-40 hours , its that little thing that pushes you to find out more and to try new combinations.
A short but sweet interview on Riptide and what it has to offer. This is definitely going to be a case of “more-of-the-same”, just with slightly improved mechanics and different themes, so make sure you know what you’re buying into if you decide to pick this up. Dead Island: Riptide is due out on April 23rd in North America, and April 26th in Europe.