PAX East 2013: Q&A with Sebastian Reichert, Creative Producer of Dead Island: Riptide

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So what’s red hot popular these days? You guessed it: zombies. From movies to TV shows, and especially comics, there’s no avoiding them. The same goes for video games. Last year alone was the release of Telltale’s The Walking Dead adventure game, which was many people’s choice of game of 2012.

But last year also saw the release of Resident Evil 6, the latest installment of the franchise that helped to reignite the modern zombie movement. And which also wasn’t very good. We also just saw the release of yet another “Walking Dead” game, not by Telltale and also not very playable.

Is it perhaps time for zombie games to take a breather? That’s precisely what we asked Sebastian Ricker, Creative Producer of the upcoming Dead Island: Riptide, plus a few other things…

ComingSoon.net: Please tell us what Dead Island: Riptide is all about.
Reichert:
Riptide is a spinoff of the original Dead Island. One that continues the story exactly from the point in which the first game ended.

CS: So it’s not a sequel, but a spinoff?
Reichert:
Yes. The game begins after you’ve gotten off the chopper that saves everyone at the end of the first game. It has landed on a military ship and everyone is thrown into jail. But due to the zombie outbreak, and a storm, the ship crashes and everyone ends up back on the island.

CS: So it’s the same characters, and same setting… what’s different?
Reichert:
Well, there’s a new fifth playable character, who knows martial arts that we’re very excited about…

CS: And he fights alongside all the characters from the previous game?
Reichert:
Yes. Actually, players can import their save data, so players who say that they want to continue the experience with this character with these experience points and these skills can do so.

CS: But obviously, those who are fresh to the series can still dive right in, correct?
Reichert:
Of course. We wanted to make sure it’s not a problem to play the game, no matter what. The game accommodates players of all kinds. Say, in a multiplayer match, someone is level 5 and someone else is level 55. That’s not a problem; the game takes care of the balancing.

CS: Given the abundance of zombie games out there, what do you think helps Dead Island stand out from the rest of the pack?
Reichert:
The most dramatic change to the classic survival horror formula is how it presents such brutality in such a wonderful setting. It’s a beautiful holiday setting, one that would be awesome to visit, I’d love to go there! But that feeling of paradise has been completely corrupted and undone by the Infected. Gameplay-wise, we have close combat. Sometimes you must be nose to nose with zombies. It’s very visceral. But again, multiplayer is so easy. You don’t have to worry about people’s levels, there’s no waiting in lobbies, figuring out stats.

CS: Are there any changes or improvements since the first Dead Island?
Reichert:
Fans made it clear that they were not happy with the firearm system. There was never enough ammo, plus the weapons themselves did not have enough impact. So we’ve rebalanced everything across the board. The act of shooting zombies is far more satisfying. Plus there are plenty of other tweaks. The means of communicating has also been improved.

CS: Is it hard to make zombie games these days, given that there’s so much competition?
Reichert:
Actually, having zombies makes certain things easier. People know exactly what you’re talking about immediately, which is a huge advantage. If I had to sit and explain the setting for five minutes, you’d be bored. But if I just say ‘holiday island, zombies,’ you basically know everything. We’re also lucky that other games have automatically given Dead Island recognition and interest, like The Walking Dead. Everyone knows what a zombie is, and everyone loves zombies are, it’s awesome!

CS: Do you personally play other games with zombies, to see what everyone else is doing?
Reichert:
Of course! Everyone at the studio loves zombie games. I play Left 4 Dead a lot with my friends. It was a huge source of inspiration.

CS: Are there any other, non-zombie games that you’ve drawn from?
Reichert:
Yes, Borderlands. It showed how giving players the right weapons can make or break a game. Which again, helped to lead the way towards gunplay improvements in Riptide.

CS: Is there any fear of fatigue?
Reichert:
I’m sure there will be a point in which people go ‘okay, that’s enough for now’, but I don’t think that’s happening any time soon. Plus, people’s interest in zombies come and go when it comes to other mediums, but not video games. It holds a very special place. After all, Resident Evil is what help to bring back their popularity. There’s just something about the undead in the context of a video game. I still remember that scene in the very first Resident Evil, that first zombie you come across from behind. How he turns around and looks at the camera, at you! There’s just something, like a level of immediacy that zombies are all about, that just works so well in a video game.

Dead Island: Riptide comes out for the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 on April 23.

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