Dead Nation: Postmortem – Part 2 | Housemarque

Dead Nation: Postmortem - Part 2

2012 Housemarque

The other day we started to republish an interesting Dead Nation feature Game Developers printed first in their March 2011 issue. If you missed the first part, check it out here!

WHAT WENT RIGHT [CONTINUES FROM PART 1]

4 /// Engine and Technology. Our in-house Housemarque engine has never let us down, and with the PlayStation 3, we’re able to draw even more power from it. There’s no point for us to even consider any other engine solutions. Dead Nation with fully dynamic lighting and shadows is a good example of what we can draw from the PlayStation 3. Although we had a really solid engine that we used for Super Stardust HD, we were able to squeeze even more out of our proprietary tech and added significant enhancements to performance during development.

Our toolsets are also very quick (and familiar), and they allow us to tweak and build levels in real time, instantly seeing changes without crossing our fingers and hoping for the best. The improvements we made to our tools as the project went along greatly helped development run smoothly.

5 /// Audio and atmosphere. Considering our co-operation with AriTunes in the past with Super Stardust HD, he was our top choice for implementing audio design and music for dead nation. With his expertise and skill, we were able to really liven up the visual atmosphere we had built. Full surround sound really makes people squirm in their chairs as they mow down zombie hordes.

WHAT WENT WRONG

1 /// Timing of release. As the Dead Nation project progressed from napkin notes, to proper project papers, to code, and finally to a running product on the PlayStation 3, zombie games grew and rose from their graves like mushrooms. When the Dead Nation project started, we hadn’t heard from zombie games for ages! By the time Dead Nation was going gold, we were already battling against hordes of zombie games, both large and small.

Even though ours was the first zombie twin stick shooter released during 2010 on the PlayStation Network, and the third zombie-themed top-down shooter in total, reviewers were getting tired of zombies in video games. Because of the theme of the game, some overlooked its more unique aspects, and seemed not to dig deep enough to find out what made Dead Nation different from the others. Oddly enough, Dead Nation was sometimes compared against full-priced zombie games instead of other downloadable games.

On the other hand, timing was both good and bad for us, due to the amount of active zombie activity both in and outside of games. Even though some were getting tired of the whole zombie genre, the success of the newly launched The Walking Dead TV series helped to reignite interest in our shuffling pals. We were also lucky that there weren’t any comparable titles released on the PSN during the past 12 months or so before our game finally came out.

2 /// Estimation of the scale of the project. We underestimated the scale of the project, especially as it grew iteration by iteration toward a larger, longer, and more complex game. At the beginning of production, the game was supposed to have more survival elements with a greater emphasis on looting and procedurally generated levels for exploration. Eventually, we were able to create a more ambitious and complex title with more features than we originally had hoped to include in the game.

We stuck with the original idea for a fairly long time, testing the creation of procedurally generated levels, but found that we wouldn’t be able to complete the development of the level generation system within our schedule or resources. Even though the system had taken us quite a long time and a lot of effort to implement, we decided to scrap it in favor of ten individually designed, tuned, and polished levels.

Originally our upgrades were more geared toward a simpler item drop-based system, but after multiple iterations, we made a move toward a monetary upgrade system. The new system allowed players to make more choices with their hard-earned game currency, and made room for an upgrade path to suit individual playing styles.

…And this is the end of Part 2. Still want to know more about Dead Nation? Come back in a few days (or get notified) for the conclusion of our epic development journey into the zombie apocalypse.


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