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Dead Space 2: How it was made

The story behind Visceral Games' second stab at horror...

There's a four-note tune that's forever fading in and out of Dead Space 2. An eerie little melody that'll lodge itself in your head and refuse to leave. Its notes? D-E-A-D.

"That was born out of the second recording session," laughs composer Jason Graves. "I asked the audio director, 'Would it be really cheesy if I did something that was D-E-A-D?' He said he thought it would be brilliant."

Ever since our exclusive worldwide reveal of Dead Space 2 back in late 2009 we've chatted to executive producer Steve Papoutsis on a tri-monthly basis for what's essentially been a year of Making Of features disguised as previews.

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So with the philosophies of Dead Space 2's development well and truly covered in previous issues we sat down with composer Jason Graves for a new take on the horror game of the generation.

"We had four different recording sessions," continues Graves. "Most games have one. The way a normal game works is: I compose the music, I have a computer play it, I play it for the game company and they say, 'That sounds good, let's record it with an orchestra.' Usually it takes two or three months.

I spent eighteen months on Dead Space 2 because of all the unconventional sounds needed. I had to have source recordings with an orchestra playing lots of crazy stuff which I then took back to my studio to cut up and piece together."

STRING THEORY
Safe in the knowledge that Graves understood the project - he won a BAFTA for the original's score, after all - EA happily afforded him the time and the freedom to create something special for Dead Space 2's music.

"In the first game the music changed somewhat," Graves admits. "Originally it was very 'sci-fi action music'; that's what EA asked for but it didn't really work. It was like a Will Smith sci-fi movie: very heroic. EA came back and said it needed to be downright terrifying, to which I replied, 'I can be terrifying!'.

For Dead Space 2 there were no guidelines whatsoever, so all of the pressure was coming from me. But the game was different and that inspired my music choices. When Visceral started talking about Isaac's mental issues and his dead girlfriend popping up I was like, 'STRING QUARTET!'" Graves tapped into his classical training to bring something quite new to gaming.

Classical music from the first half of the twentieth century was hugely influential, with Graves adding unnerving pitch bends to capture Isaac's dementia through 'seasick sound' and 'antimusic music'.

"These composers were playing all this experimental music with lots of effects; especially in the forties and fifties. I cobbled together puzzle pieces from all the techniques they used and stirred them up in a pot for Dead Space.

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If you listen to Krzysztof Penderecki's Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima, it's all strings and it's very Dead Space 2. "What is it that really scares you? It's the unknown. It's the shark fin that makes you wonder how big the shark is under the water.

It's the shadow under your bed. I tried to musically interpret the unknown. I took everything that's conventional about music: regular time, pretty notes, pauses and turned it all on its head. There's no regular time in Dead Space: it's all bouncing around. There are really no chords. In fact, there's a lot of notation that's not even traditional. A lot of players are just told to play the highest note they possibly can, really really loud."

BOUGHT THE FARM
Few would deny Graves another BAFTA nod, but Dead Space 2 is more than music alone, which is why we then turned our attentions to art director Ian Milham.

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