Q&A: Glenn Schofield explains new name of Dante's Inferno studio, his approach to new IPs, and why he wants his shop to be the new Capcom; 1.4 million Dead Spaces sold.
Though it's been the source of one of the more creative sci-fi horror games of the past few years, EA Redwood Shores has borne a workman-like title since its creation in 1982. But no longer. Today, Electronic Arts announced that its oldest studio is getting a brand-new name, logo, and identity. Rechristened Visceral Games, the shop will now focus on "creating intense action-oriented intellectual properties" like its two most recent creations, Dead Space and the forthcoming Dante's Inferno.
Now-Visceral Games is located on the same campus as EA's world headquarters, in Redwood City, California. That proved a hindrance to its name recognition, according to EA vice president and Visceral's general manager, Glen Schofield. "Over the last couple years doing interviews for Dead Space, Lord of the Rings, and [James] Bond and all, people kept asking, 'What is EA Redwood Shores? Is it the campus or your studio?' So we never really had a brand--we just had a confusing name, so people didn't really know who we were," he explained.
Schofield said that the selection of the studio's new name was specifically designed to generate an instant recognition along the lines of Valve Software. "Now when people hear 'Visceral,' they'll know that's the studio that made Dead Space," he said. The executive also hopes the new name will give the studio an individual identity on par with the other developers in EA's semi-autonomous "city-state" studio system, such as BioWare, Pandemic, or Maxis. "That's the intent," he explained.
Schofield was quick to underline the fact that just because Visceral is in the same building as EA management doesn't mean that it will be more beholden to it than other studios. "It's nice that I can go walk over and talk to [EA CEO] John Riccitiello if needed, but they've given me a lot of autonomy, and Dead Space has bought a lot of credibility."
The title's mention of viscera also evokes the intense blood and guts that made the game a favorite among critics. "It certainly gives us a focus," joked Schofield, before quickly adding that the studio would be open games not rated M for Mature. "You can make a Lord of the Rings game, which can be pretty visceral with swords, and have it be rated T for Teen."
NEW PROJECTS AND IPs
Such a project could be unveiled sooner rather than later. As part of today's announcement, EA revealed that in addition to Dante's Inferno and the Wii spin-off Dead Space: Extraction, Visceral has two unannounced projects in the pipe. When asked about whether or not the two games would be all-new IPs, he declined to comment. However, he did explain Visceral's internal attitude toward its existing catalog and new IPs.
"I'd like to think Dead Space and Dante's Inferno end up becoming major franchises that we could do every couple of years, like we're doing with Dead Space: Extraction. We've got a couple of new ideas we're tossing around, and they're new IPs. But I think if the right license came along--the right movie, the right book or whatever--we'd do that as well," mused Schofield.
"Making new IPs is expensive, and at some point, you're going to fail," he added. "So we're not just going to be 'The New IP House.' What we want to be is--I look at Capcom and they've been making new IPs and turning them into great franchises. I don't think they buy anything. Street Fighter, Resident Evil, Onimusha--they're all their own IP, and they've turned into major franchises. That's my goal here."
Schofield is satisfied that Dead Space is well on its way to becoming one such major franchise. He revealed that the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC game has sold about 1.4 million units worldwide, despite being released last October amid a worldwide financial panic.
"I'm happy with that, based on the economy," said Schofield. "Last year could've been one of the greatest launch years in the history of video games around October time, but it was a year where people bought less games than they normally would. Do I wish it sold more? Absolutely. But the critical acclaim and the number of awards--we're at 75 and counting now--have made [Dead Space] bigger than just the number of sales. If you look at used sales and rentals, we're looking at probably 3 or 4 million people who have played the game."
Such awareness and appreciation bodes well for any new entries in the Dead Space canon, such as the forthcoming Dead Space: Extraction. In fact, Schofield isn't worried that the more action-oriented first-person shooter's Wii exclusivity will hurt its chances, as it has for other recent M-for-Mature-rated games on the console such as Sega's Madworld.
"If you look back at Resident Evil Umbrella Chronicles and Resident Evil 4 for the Wii, those sold close to a million and over a million," he said. "Madworld--to me, personally it's an art piece, and after a while, I got really tired of the art look. For me, I just couldn't take the black and white. So I don't think it's a matter of there not being a market, because soon there will be 60 million Wiis out there."
Schofield also said that Visceral has borrowed some of EA's top Wii developers to work on Extraction, whose advanced graphics have earned praise from the Mario Factory itself. "Nintendo has told us that if it's not the top, it's one of one of the top five best-looking games on the Wii," beamed the studio chief. Schofield also said that his team--most of whom worked on the original Dead Space--have embraced the Wii's motion-sensing controls. Players must shake the Wii Remote and Nunchuk to free themselves from a necromorph's clutches or mix up a glowstick for illumination.
He expressed doubt that Dead Space would ever come to portable platforms despite the recently announced PSP edition of Dante's Inferno. "If we could, maybe. I think part of the problem is all the major physics and the dismemberment, and things like that," said Schofield. "I want to stay true to the vision of Dead Space, and that is about dismemberment, zero G, and stuff like that. We'd have to make some compromises that I am not willing to make yet."
As for Dante's Inferno, Schofield said that adapting a 14th-century work of literature, Dante's Inferno, into a 21st-century video game was a lot easier than one might expect. "The great thing about it is it's broken down into the nine circles of hell, which is perfect for a video game. It's got nine different locations, different major bosses at each one, each one has different look. ... After that, it's just a matter of adjusting the story, and that becomes a writing exercise. But we've got writers who are experienced, so it's not that big of a challenge. "
Of course, when it comes to bosses, Dante's Inferno will have a doozy--the devil himself. "One of the challenges for some of the bosses in this, and especially someone like Satan, is trying to figure out 'What does he look like?' There's been so many different looks to him, and we really wanted our own look."
To give a unique look to Satan and other Dante's Inferno bosses, Visceral hired artist Wayne Barlowe, who created the creature designs for Hellboy, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Galaxy Quest, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Now, his twisted vision will be seen in Dante's Inferno's creatures, including the three-headed guard dog of the underworld.
Gushed Schofield, "Wayne, man, he's out there! Cerberus is just ****ing nuts!"
Dead Space was truly one of the best games I´ve ever played. The game is simply brilliant! Gotta get the sequel as well. And the Dante´s Inferno trailer is one of the best and sickest trailers I´ve ever seen.
"As for Dante's Inferno, Schofield said that adapting a 14th-century work of literature, Dante's Inferno, into a 21st-century video game was a lot easier than one might expect." Yeah that much is true if you skim read the blur and then the first page of every chapter. I decided to read through this for A-Levels. I'm re-reading it now (2 years later) with the york notes. Its such a complicated piece of literature that most of us (not being religious) couldn't begin to understand it for what it is. If your going to compare this game to the book then don't, its an insult. Given the simplicity of mainstream gamers I have a feeling that other than the 9 gates of hell this game with have nothing in common with the book. Anybody seen dragon ball evolution? Some of you may be feeling like I do now if your a fan of DBZ.
wow, dead space looks creepy as heck! i cant wait to try dat one...tho, not too sure about dante's inferno, seems interesting being stuck in hell haha
It's funny how everyone is on Schofield's nuts even though their second new "IP" (Dante's Inferno) hasn't even launched yet. Dead Space is a great game but don't let this company rest on its laurels. They need to prove themselves, and Dante's Inferno is NOT looking that promising. If you've never played God of War I guess it looks like a decent action game but having played both those games, Dante's Inferno looks like a straight up clone. It could very well be on the track to supreme crapiness. I predict another titled hyped to all hell because of the studio behind it, yet when it's released it receives crap reviews from everyone. Be vigilant, gamers.
This is just great!!! now Visceral Studios will earn their pride rightfully....not only that, but Dead Space is a big hitter, and making sequels will be as much fun as it will be lucrative. As for Dante's Inferno, they better not re-make the traditional classic look of Satan lol, merely a red man with a long tail and big horns, looking at you and being like, "HAR HAR HAR NOW I WILL FEEEEED YOU TO MYYYY FLAAAAMEESSSS" lol!! damn straight they need something fresh, but hey, nothing too gigantic plz, make it with more individuality!!!
I think it's good that they broken away from EA becouse there so much better lol. Dead space was a life saver since silent hill failed so misrably. not sure how there new game will come along since alot of people are angry about it's loose conection with a serton novel with the same name *shrugs* looks good to me and it an't finshed yet!!!
I'm really excited to see the rest of the demonology in Dante's Inferno. If nothing else it looks like they are doing a great job with the atmosphere and environments in the 9 circles.
i enjoy much more silent hill but since they have been so bad recently dead space seems good, hope konami do something with this series that has been going down since the third part , the room was the begining of the end
If Dead Space on the Wii accomplishes what it's after, then that will be a nice change from some of the other B.S. wii titles.
dantes inferno looked great until they show the cerberus looks like stupid cartoon, nothing scary they should really work on that it looks stupid , other thant that it looks promising
Kudos on Dead Space. That was a great game. But I can't get over the fact that they're butchering my beloved Divine Comedy. So I'll skip that atrocity. Dante rescuing Beatrice... ha! It was the other way around.
this guys make a great job in dead space specialy becouse they focus on the experience of playing the game like no other survival horror i play before, the work of the sound was outstanding, the graphics were gorgeus,and the controls and gameplay just too good i just hope they came whit more good ideas on the gameplay, enviorment and atmosfere and they get to develope a really good story that this team already has start to construct here. and dont fall sleep in the glory. i juts want the next dead space i get to play surprice as much as the first one do (on ps3 and xbox of course ))))
Dead Space was amazing, cant wait for the inevitable sequel from these guys. I have high hopes for dantes inferno too.
Some how when i look at the logo i see Volition. Its not really the same since Volitions logo is a big V whit a face in the middle, this is a Skull whit a V in it. If it wouldnt say its Visceral when i would think its Volitions new logo. I like the logo though, its much better and more memorable then if it would be just text or something.
"Guided first person experience"?? Haha, whatever dude. I guess it sounds better than "on-rails shooter," even though that's exactly what it is (just with a couple more options). No matter how you dice it, you don't have the free-roaming capabilities of LAST year's game, and it means that there is an almost exact finite amount of playtime, too. Honestly, even with a co-op, I don't see how it can have much replay value. Have fun with it for a few hours, then back on the shelf indefinitely. Anyway, if Dante's Inferno has great gameplay and replay value, it should be awesome. Keeping my fingers crossed for it!
How are they going to make Dante into a franchise? Are they going to do the other two parts of the Divine Comedy? Can't imagine how THAT would work.
I have no problem with Dead Space going to the Wii because it's a great game and they're not just making the same game with the same controller and gameplay layout and not to mention the fact that it's FPS correct?, but a totally different one, so I'm excited because I have a Wii and all I have are Wii Play and Wii Sports....as for Dante....looks promising, but will want to see gameplay vids and the reviews before deciding to buy it.
I NEVER sign in to this website to make posts but this little fact seems to be escaping people. The Wii is the only next-gen counsle that is not hi-def, so the visuals in DS 2 are going to have to relay on some AWSOME work. I like Dead Space for the game play and the story and both of those keep me playing it even today but the graphics had me drooling, and everytime I put in another XBox 360 game and see the art work I cringe.
I thought Dead Space was too good to be a typical EA franchise...it was made by a guy who is so confident, he renamed his studio to remove the dreaded "EA"! He's got the right idea: get a good team together and KEEP them together; focus on new ideas, make sure you create the game you want to make, then take the time to get it right and make it fun. That's the way games should be made, and that's why you're seeing more and more developers spending a lot more time on their games. They finally realized it works.
Nice job... Focussing on what they do best and making new IPs! Ea are getting better, big time... BTW, like the name!
co op is good , co op era , dante is bad, in the book i mean, the game looks god of warly so it's fun
Glen Schofield looks like a UFC cage fighter. I'd be scared out of my mind if he was my boss and I was a programmer that was later for a deadline!
Great potential. Still waiting for some good gamplay pictures or videos. I like how confident Schofield is, it is the kind of confidence that brought Mirror's Edge down.
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