Dead Island – interview with Sebastian Reichert

We recently got the opportunity to fire off a whole load of questions to Deep Silver, the publishers behind Techland’s upcoming island zombie splat-fest, Dead Island. The game’s producer, Sebastian Reichert, took the time to speak to us about the amazing debut trailer (which was developed by Axis Animation), the game’s RPG elements and the best bits of human anatomy to chew on if you were to become a zombie.

NAG Online: How much of a role did Techland play in the development of the Dead Island announcement trailer? Was Axis Animation given carte blanche to create something purposefully impactful?

Sebastian Reichert: Deep Silver created the concept behind the trailer. Of course, there were several iterations that went back and forth between Axis and ourselves, and a lot of creative discussions until we had the final concept. Deep Silver and Axis were also in close contact with Anton Borkel as he was the vision holder of the trailer. All in all, it was a great teamwork experience between the two companies. We also made sure that Techland could feedback on the trailer in different stages of the creation!

NAG Online: The announcement trailer for Dead Island caused quite a stir amongst gamers and the media. It has been called one of the best game trailers in recent memory. Were you expecting such a positive response?

SR: We were expecting that this trailer would be received as something special among the gamers. But what happened was beyond all expectations!

NAG Online: Dead Island will be making use of your Chrome Engine 5. Are there any particular new engine features that you’re excited about?

SR: Sorry, can’t comment on that!

NAG Online: Previews for Dead Island have said that the announcement trailer was designed to set the tone of the game. How do you plan to convey that tone through gameplay mechanics and design?

SR: The gameplay and design are evolving around brutal survival. You will grab anything you can get to fight for survival, you’ll fight for the ones you care [about] and you have to endure pretty heavy stuff to get off this cursed island. So, in the end, there’s a pretty direct relation to the theme of the trailer.

NAG Online: “Zombie fatigue” is surely a phrase that the development team has heard before. What will set Dead Island apart from the mass of other zombie games?

SR: As shown in our trailer we take the zombie outbreak very seriously. In this serious setting we put everything in that will making the gameplay a rewarding experience. Build up your weapons, improve them, explore the island, develop your player character and become stronger to match the growing danger on the island.

NAG Online: We already know that there will be four characters to choose from and that each will have unique abilities. Can you elaborate on what we can expect from each character?

SR: You can expect certain “typical” classes but should also be aware that they will play uniquely compared to other games. Our tank class for example (Sam B) is a typical tank that can take loads of damage and will distract the enemies. Still, you won’t face the problem that he cannot take out a bigger opponent but the experience will be different. We will also make sure that every player has his own way of play, no matter if alone or in a group.

We cannot reveal more about the other classes in detail at this point in time.

NAG Online: There have been comparisons drawn between Dead Island and Gearbox’s Borderlands. In the latter, it was the numerous weapon drops that kept people playing. What hook will you be using to make sure people continue to pummel the hell out of the undead?

SR: The unique mix of getting a weapon and taking care of the weapon by improving it in different ways will definitely be a very strong focus in our game. This will be expanded by the skill tree, so we can absolutely understand the comparison to Borderlands. In our game the focus will stay on the survival aspect. You may be forced to fight with a branch instead of the knife you specialized in as your main weapon, [which might] need some repairs first. Furthermore you will find additional story elements in the game like newspapers from past that will allow you to get more info about the whole situation.

NAG Online: Dead Island is an open world game. Can we expect day and night cycles, changing weather effects, things like that?

SR: Yes. The weather will change as the story progresses. Nobody wants to escape from an island by boat while a storm is brewing.

NAG Online: There will be RPG elements incorporated into the game. How much character customisation and development can we expect to see?

SR: Massive skill trees will ensure that you develop the character the way you like it. For the most hardcore player you can even get all of those nice skills to create your uber-character. This system will also be used to expand the fighting system with additional features.

NAG Online: Zombies are found throughout pop culture. Which games, comics or movies have been specific influences while developing Dead Island?

SR: We love all kind of zombie stuff. Walking Dead, Dawn of the Dead, 28 Days Later, Night of the Living Dead, Tokyo Gore Police, Versus, Lost… guess the list is endless.

We hope a lot of our fans will recognize those origins as soon as they are confronted with them.

NAG Online: Anything you’d like to talk about specifically?

SR: It’s been great and very rewarding to receive all of the media and public attention since the reveal of Dead Island as a Deep Silver game, after we worked with Techland on the game “in silence.”

NAG Online: Give us one titbit nobody else has asked about…

SR: see my next answer. 🙂

NAG Online: If you were a zombie, what part would you bite first and why?

SR: Breasts! Do I really have to explain why? Some habits remain even after turning. 🙂 🙂

NAG Online: How well prepared is the Dead Island development team for an actual zombie apocalypse (i.e. have you learnt anything useful while developing the game)?

SR: With all the ideas for possible modifications of the weapons in game, we are pretty sure we are all well prepared. In the development of our stamina system we got aware of the disadvantages of huge weapons like fire-axes. The only thing that might kill us could be the fact that we are not resistant to the bites of the zombies. Our heroes can at least take some hits…

We’d like to thank Sebastian Reichert and the rest of the team at Deep Silver for taking the time to speak to us. We have an extra-fresh Dead Island preview coming up in the May edition of NAG so be sure to pick up a copy when it hits the shelves!