Dead Nation: Postmortem – Part 3 | Housemarque

Dead Nation: Postmortem - Part 3

2012 Housemarque

Did you miss the first two parts of this feature, published originally in the March 2011 issue of Game Developer? Find them here and here.

WHAT WENT WRONG [CONTINUES FROM PART 2]

3 /// Too much content for a downloadable game. In hindsight, our levels should have been smaller in scale. After all, we had a fairly small team for the game we were making, but we still wanted to make a title that would take hours to play through, with lots of replayability. As gameplay changed toward a more tactical direction, and as we increased emphasis on necessitated use of different items and weapons, we realized too late that we should have made the levels shorter and used the saved time to create even more variation and unique gameplay moments within the game.

As the amount of content required per level increased exponentially, we decided to outsource some of the level assets. Luckily, the whole outsourcing process was very straightforward and eased up some of the production pressure toward the end of the project. Sony helped us find some really good outsourcing companies—Pearl Digital Entertainment and Virtuos—and they proved to be very resourceful and experienced.

4 /// Tutorial should have been better. Probably the biggest feature we didn’t polish enough was a proper tutorial section. We managed to cram in a lightweight system with simple overlay text, which suggested to players what they should do to progress forward in the beginning of the game. It was relatively easy to ignore tutorial messages, and this made Dead Nation a bit hard to get into for some players.

Unfortunately, the importance of the weapon upgrade system and use of items wasn’t emphasized enough. One of the key aspects
of the game is crowd control of a vast number of zombies, so a player who doesn’t fully use all available options will find the game much more difficult than it was designed to be. When players realize how to properly use items and the environment to their advantage, the game rewards them with deeply satisfying gameplay moments and feelings of accomplishment.

5 /// Alpha to Master candidate chaos. Although we passed Alpha with relative ease, we were stuck in Beta much longer than anticipated, and were unable to progress to Master Candidate submission due to a couple of missing non-critical features and assets. We also got stuck in the Master submission phase for quite a long time due to localization bugs and the large number of languages the game needed to support.

The online co-op mode was really the only major feature that gave us a hard time. Originally we were planning on only including offline co-op, as online would require much more time to do properly, but in the end, we felt we needed to get online co-op in for the launch.

CONCLUSIONS

We’re pleased with what we were able to achieve with Dead Nation, and hope to continue updating and adding new features alongside the downloadable content.
At the moment of this writing, we can’t know for sure how Dead Nation will fare on the PlayStation Network in the long run, but we’re really pleased with the initial reception. Thanks to all our fans, and thank you for reading the Dead Nation postmortem.

Looking back, our closing words at the time feel now a bit mellow: Dead Nation turned out to be a massive success for Housemarque, and the game still manages to excite a passionate community of hardcore players. But that, of course, it’s really your achievement… not ours!


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