Thursday, March 08, 2012


For those of you not aware of it, House of the Dead started out as an arcade game in the '90s. It's an on-rails shooter, where you use a light gun to shoot enemies, mostly zombies, with boss levels thrown in for good measure. It was developed by Japanese company SEGA and whether by design or due to translation issues, the original story is somewhat bizarre and the acting wooden.

Useless bit of trivia - SEGA started life as a US company called Service Games of America.

House of the Dead has had many incarnations in the arcade, on computers and on consoles, including spin-offs Typing of the Dead and Pinball of the Dead. One of the latest versions was House of the Dead: Overkill, developed by Headstrong Games, which gave the series a gritty reboot (aren't all reboots gritty these days?). Taking on the Grindhouse stylings of films such as Planet Terror, it was a gore-filled, F-Bomb laden journey through madness with an ending that at best is described as interesting and at worst disgusting. Having an 18 rating and the world record for most uses of the word 'fuck' in a game meant it was a bit of a black sheep on the family friendly Wii but regardless it was a  success.

Having spent far too much money in the arcades and too much time playing House of the Dead 2 on the Dreamcast, I was more than a little envious of those that worked on Overkill when I joined Headstrong. I loved the style and writing, particularly the B-movie film presentation. So when Headstrong were asked to remake it for the PS3 Move and I was asked to be Lead Designer, I jumped at the chance.

In many ways, being asked to update a successful game puts you on a hiding to nothing. If it isn't successful, the blame lies squarely on your shoulders. If it is, you're seen as having merely done a conversion, with all the hard work already done by the original team. So with that sort of pressure I wanted to ensure that not only was the game good but that it had enough differences and improvements to distinguish it from the Wii version and give us some ownership over it.

When working on a game like this, I like to do a lot of research and use as many influences as possible to get into the right mindset. Having played the original Overkill and House of the Dead arcade games was definitely a good start. Next, I started trawling through the game forums and reviews, seeing what elements were praised and which were criticised. From this, I could start making a wishlist of things that I wanted us to do.

As good a start as this was, I wasn't feeling I was in the Overkill mood, so further research was required.

So I bought a couple of books:

Some DVDs:

Some more DVDs:

A few more:

And this:

Actually, ignore that one. That was for another project.

Bought the T-Shirt:

And spent 2 days wandering the streets of Brighton looking like this:

And this:

It was at this point one friend suggested that I might be a little monomaniacal. After spending several days writing a rebuke, I'm pretty sure I proved him wrong.

Anyway, after all that research I was definitely getting into the zombie vibe needed for a game like Overkill and the hard work could commence. Naturally, it was only then that someone decided it might be a good idea to tell me that we weren't allowed to use the Z word and that our enemies were in fact mutants.

And as any horror expert knows, mutants are not the same as zombies.


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