Dead Island 2, the zombie RPG that passed through so many hands someone forgot it in the development oven for over a decade, is finally coming out on April 21. This is a week earlier than anticipated, which we love to see. What’s funny, though, is that developer Dambuster Studios is out here saying the game’s development hell gave the studio “quite a lot of goodwill in the end.”
In case you forgot, Dead Island 2 was announced at E3 2014, with work reportedly starting sometime in 2012. Dying Light studio Techland was originally set to spearhead the project but wanted to focus on Dying Light instead. This led publisher Deep Silver to shop around for a developer to helm Dead Island 2 until Spec Ops: The Line creators Yager Development stepped up to the plate. Yager toiled away on Dead Island 2 for a few years, with the game making a couple appearances at conventions after being announced in 2014. Unfortunately, Yager didn’t stick. Deep Silver dropped the studio in July 2015, leaving Dead Island 2 lifeless until Hood: Outlaws & Legends studio Sumo Digital took over development in March 2016. Again, like Yager, Sumo didn’t stay long. Deep Silver shifted development hands one more time, this time putting the game in the lap of Homefront: The Revolution creator Dambuster Studios. If you lost track, this means Dead Island 2 has been worked on by at least four different studios throughout its over a decade of development.
Development hell resulted in some goodwill
Now, Dambuster Studios is asserting a VGC interview that after all this reshuffling and restarting, Dead Island 2's development hell wasn’t all that bad.
“It definitely concerned us at the start,” technical director Dan Evans-Lawes said. “I remember when we took the project on, I was thinking ‘Is this a poisoned chalice,’ you know what I mean? I think, though, that once we announced the game, people were interested because they knew it had been in ‘development hell’ for however long, and I think people were expecting it to be terrible, and so we were pleasantly surprised when it wasn’t. And I kind of feel like it’s actually given us quite a lot of goodwill in the end. But that’s obviously reliant on people liking the game. But as long as they do, which I think they will, then I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all.”
Dead Island 2 was a total restart for Dambuster
With going through so many hands, you’d be correct to assume that Dead Island 2 was restarted once Dambuster Studios got a hold of it. It was, though not everything was scrapped. Some stuff, such as the Los Angeles location, stayed intact. Most of everything else, however, was rebuilt from the ground up.
“It was basically a complete restart,” Evans-Lawes said. “Obviously there were some things that had been communicated out already, the [Los Angeles] setting and things like that, and when we looked at it the setting was something that we definitely did want to keep. We felt that it as an opportunity to have a really crazy, diverse cast of characters, and also it’s a very iconic location, so obviously we wanted to keep that. Other than that, it was totally from scratch.”
Kotaku reached out to Deep Silver for comment.
In a way, Dead Island 2 could be considered a normally developed game under typical circumstances. I mean, Dambuster Studios apparently started working on the game in August 2019, not long before the global pandemic impacted development on a plethora of games. Despite the challenges that come with development, especially under the effects of a widespread health crisis, Dead Island 2, under Dambuster Studios, has only been in the oven for almost four years. That’s not a bad timeline. It’s just wild for Dambuster Studios to insinuate that development hell has, in a roundabout sort of way, helped them. You know, if the game ends up being any good.
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