EA never called Dead Space “too scary,” but the misleading headlines are the story of the day
The story is going around like wild fire this morning: EA focused-tested Dead Space, and it was too scary! They have to fix this to reach a bigger audience! The easy headline about the game being “too scary” and that's why co-op was added is being repeated by any number of video game blogs, and fans are upset that what they loved about the Dead Space series is being taken away. it's a valid complaint about a series that is supposed to be based on horror. Here's the problem: no one at EA ever said the game was too scary. That headline seems to have been fabricated by the author of the original story, and is being repeated by everyone else like a game of Telephone. This isn't bad game design, it's bad reporting.
Here's what EA said
This is the actual quote from EA's Laura Miele that is being used as a basis for this story. “We were doing research coming out of Dead Space 1 and 2 and we’re really proud of those products. We received feedback to understand how we can take the game out to even more consumers,” Miele said. “We were hearing feedback that they love the thriller game, but it was pretty scary, and the obvious next step was that they wanted to play with someone. So we introduced co-op into the game.” So far, so good. People like that it was scary, but they wanted to play with someone else so they had company. Like watching a horror movie with a friend. So Dead Space 3 is going to be less scary, right? Actually, Miele said exactly the opposite. “The horror of Dead Space is still all there. It’s still true to its roots and no less scary, but people felt far more comfortable playing it with someone else than they did doing it on their own.” She continued and said that playing something scary with a friend is more inviting for some people, which is a good argument. I know friends who quit playing Left 4 Dead single-player and will only play with friends. “Personally, I would rather go to scary movie with my husband rather than sit at home with the lights out watching one on my own,” Miele said. “We’re looking for that to reach out to consumers that perhaps were not open to Dead Space 1 and 2.” So the real story is that, according to Laura Miele, Dead Space 3 is going to be just as scary as the first two games, but co-op has been added so you can play with a friend if you're easily scared by playing by yourself. This is the misleading headline for the story: “EA research said Dead Space 1&2 were too scary.” That headline is in no way supported by EA's actual information about the game, but sadly that's the headline that's being repeated by every other outlet re-writing the story. Same are even putting the words “too scary” in quotes, as if someone involved with the game said those words. Also, playing with a friend doesn't make the game “less scary,” it's just fun to be frightened with someone else in the room.
Why this is important
It's hard to get developers to open up and speak to the press, and punishing them when they do by making up sensational headlines that become the story instead of explaining what was said will only make companies less willing to let the press into the development process. We complain that it's hard for developers to speak candidly, but when we twist their words and blast out a distorted version of what they actually said, they have good reasons not to trust the press. It's important to stand up when this happens and explain why stories like this are both misleading and actively destructive. That's especially true in this case, when EA spent a significant amount of time and money making co-op that fits with the theme of Dead Space. You can play the entire game in single-player mode, as always, and you'll still get the full sense of horror and isolation you had in the previous games. There is no character that follows you around, and no AI companion to annoy you. When another player joins, the game actually introduces an existing character in the game world who then fights next to you. To make this seamless process possible, the developer had to write and design two very similar, but still different, versions of the game to retain the scares and isolation you feel if you play alone. This is the right way to do co-op in a horror game, and it's also the expensive way; entire scenes can play out differently depending on the mode you're playing in order to keep that sense of tension. EA is going out of its way to give gamers the version of Dead Space 3 they want to play, whether alone or with a friend, and people are criticizing the company based on a made up headline. I've played both single-player and co-op sections of the game, and I'm a diehard Dead Space fan, and I can tell you they both work very well. I've talked to developers working on Dead Space 3, and it was stressed to me that horror will be important to the game's design, and the co-op was deliberately designed and added in such a way that the core feeling of isolation that makes the series so special has been maintained. Nothing was shoe-horned in as a response to market data, and no one has argued that the game was “too scary.” It's possible that there is a recording somewhere of Miele saying that the games were too scary and they know this from “research,” and if that's the case I'll formally apologize, shave my head, and eat my hat, but none of the quotes being endlessly repeated under that headline support the gist of the story. I've also purchased the digital version of this month's MCV Magazine in order to read the entire interview, and at no point did EA suggest the game was too scary. There is a hint that there may be more action in this version of the game, but I've also been told that action scenes are often shown to the press due to the fact that horror and scares are very difficult to demo in small chunks. We'll have to wait and see on that detail, no one has played enough of the game to accurately describe the balance. Miele said that the games are scary, the games should be scary, the games will continue to be scary, and now gamers can play with a friend, but the core single-player has been maintained at EA's cost in terms of both development time and money. They're doing the right thing, and we're beating them up due to a poorly worded headline that is being recycled from outlet to outlet without much thought. Stories spread quickly, and many writers don't spend the time to verify the quotes or to make sure the headline is supported by the story. It's okay to be skeptical of Dead Space 3, but not because EA thought the game was “too scary.”