E3 2014: Interview with Dead Island 2 game director Bernd Diemer

Dead Island 2 Screenshot - Bernd

The first day of E3 was too nice to us.

Early in the day we had a chance to get a glimpse of Deep Silver and Yager Development's upcoming open-world zombie game, Dead Island 2. We saw a lengthy behind-doors, hands-off demo of an early build of the game, which showed off the sunny-but-deadly world of zombie-infested California.

However, we also had the privilege to sit down with Dead Island 2 game director Bernd Diemer to talk about the game and its reveal at Sony's press conference Monday. 

Be sure to let us know in the comments below what you think about what Diemer had to say, and what your initial thoughts on Dead Island 2 are.

GameZone: We heard a lot about the game being in California, taking place throughout the west-coast state, in our hands-off preview. Compared to the first game, can you give a size comparison?

Bernd Diemer: “I actually can't. I don’t know how big the levels of the first game were, and making a comparison is kind of difficult when it comes to size. The area is kind of like our European naive ideal version of California where the hero is at the Hollywood sign and then somebody says, ‘Quick to the beach!’, and then you’re at the beach in less than three hours.

“It’s quite big. It’s so big that we actually ran into a limit of the Unreal 4 Engine, which we didn’t even know existed…EPIC (Games) as well. Without getting too technical, which I’m not because then I would fuck it up and our technical director would kill me, there’s a limit of half a million of a certain type of object you can have in a level and we were past that. If you come past that it results in random errors like you falling through ground. We were past that, so we scratched our heads and talked to EPIC and said, ‘Yeah, we’ve got a fix for that.’

“So, we’re that big.”

GZ: During our hands-off presentation you said that you weren’t going for a dark and depressing look like the first two games had. What’s the concept of shifting themes towards a more “cool and kickass” look you told us with Dead Island 2?

BD: “I didn’t work on the first game, but I was a huge fan. I really liked playing it, and for me it also came out of nowhere. The first thing I saw was the amazing trailer and I thought, ‘Holy shit, whatever that game is I will play it.’ And then I played it and found out that actually it’s not like the trailer, but what it had was these hilarious and funny situations of me hitting a zombie with a paddle and he was flying through the air. I thought, ‘Well this is actually cool. How can that not be fun?’

“This is something where we decided this is what we want. We want right from the start that you get this cool playground, which is not slapstick pie in your face. It’s still gory and serious either way, but only in a way that the people playing it find it. It’s not Adam Sandler doing funny voices. It’s kind of like Zombieland; it’s funny because it’s so absurd or quirky or even funny, but its not that the people are comedians.”

Dead Island 2

GZ: With the game in California, and then you not having worked on the first game, how much is this its own game?

BD: “It’s the same universe. We carry all the heritage because why shouldn’t we? It’s awesome. There’s no need to shoot it or reinvent the wheel.

“What we really liked is that — we sat at our table when we started talking about Dead Island 2 — how awesome is that we get to work on Dead Island 2. It’s really awesome. We sat around and we said, ‘So what can we do? How can we improve that?’ One thing is that we decided to not have it on a fantasy island. The island of Banoi, which is somewhere, so yeah there are zombies on island but what do I care?

We said, ‘No, no. We have to put it right in the center of civilization, so lets go to California.’ Because when zombies appear in California, you cannot ignore it — you need to do something. That’s one of the things we thought we’d do slightly different to the first game. We have three locations that you’ll recognize.”

GZ: How was it having your big trailer be one of the first things shown at Sony’s press conference?

BD: “I didn’t know they would have it like the first fucking thing at the show. We were sitting here (Los Angeles Convention Center) because we were still on the show floor because Yager has a second prototype we’re showing off and they were still setting up PC’s, and then it was too late to go over there and we didn’t have enough tickets for all our guys anyways so we decided to stay here. One of the security guys was so nice to turn on a TV downstairs — one of those Twitch things they have in the lobby because everything was closed already — because we said, ‘Ah, please turn it on because we need to watch it because of our game.’

“It started with a, ‘Hey we’re about to start in five minutes,’ and I thought I might as well run up for a couple of beers because we’re third party, we’ll probably be right at the end when they go like, ‘And here’s some other cool games we have: trailer, trailer, trailer, trailer.' Thank god I didn’t (get beer) because I sit down and the first thing that Adam said was, ‘And here’s zombies next…’

“We knew they would announce it. We knew they would show the trailer, but I didn’t expect that. I was blown away.”

Dead Island 2 Trailer

GZ: The combat in Dead Island 2 seems more fluid compared to the other series’ titles. Is that something you guys have focused on?

BD: “It’s a little bit more contextual without being quick time-y. It’s not really like a combo system, like X-X-Y-A-B and then the head flies off, there’s this natural flow in combat where it’s much more fluid.

GZ: Can you clarify just what you guys are doing with seamless multiplayer in Dead Island 2? In terms of having one to eight players in your game, are those players ever-changing or always the same people?

BD: “It is persistent, but not like World of Warcraft persistent. What we’re doing in a nutshell is building the world’s smallest MMO. The world is persistent for eight players as long as they’re in the same play session.”

“You can play alone, but as soon you’re online, other people will start appearing in your game — friends first, and then people who are similar to your play style, and on and on and on.” 

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Tate Steinlage I write words about video games and sports. Hope you like them.
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