Dead Space 2's puzzles were originally much tougher, but were "nerfed" later in development to accommodate struggling testers, Visceral Games' combat and control designer Brian Bartram has revealed.
"Oh, definitely," Bartram told an EA.com interviewer when asked whether scaling down during development is "a common issue". "You should have seen some of the levels and puzzles in Dead Space 2.
"Some players would love for us to have kept them harder, longer, and more complicated. But when two or three people in a 10 person playtesting session just can't get past it, we have to "nerf" it. But that's just a playtesting example."
Dead Space 2 released in January 2011 to high acclaim, including an OXM 9/10. We called it a "a brave and often remarkable sequel".
"Games are frequently a type of benevolent struggle between Design and Production," Bartram went on. "Design wants a giant game with all kinds of cool stuff in it. Production wants a game that will actually ship. When they compromise, things have to be cut away, reduced, and scoped down.
"But this process should ideally distil a game to its core - the real foundation of a game," he insisted. "For game mechanics, these become the known "pillars" of the game - the three to five mechanics that will be used frequently and which are often mixed together to form the bulk of the game's experience.
He gave a further example from his work on an unspecified Transformers game for PSP. "During the production phase on this Transformers project, I built an incredible gameplay experience (at least in my junior designer mind), but once we started adding in all the art and cinematics and animations, my level was overtaxing the PSP's hardware and my vision had to be scaled back. And back... and back some more. The final experience was a shadow of my original intention.
"When that same game got to the playtesting phase, I watched gamers play a toned-down version of the level I'd originally imagined. Playtesting inevitably uncovers parts of the design that just don't connect with all players, and adjustments need to be made to prevent progress blocks."
What did you think of Dead Space 2's puzzles? And do you think 'when in doubt, cut it out' is a good rule of thumb for developers?
According to rumours, Dead Space 3 takes place on an icy planet and features the second game's Ellie Langford. EA is reportedly unhappy with the franchise's sales, and is (also reportedly) making a Dead Space FPS in a bid to power-up profits.