Dead Island 2 Originally Had Eight-Player Co-Op

Dead Island 2 Originally Had Eight-Player Co-Op

Dead Island 2 was announced on June 10, 2014, beginning a near-decade-long saga of developer hot potato. I was 13 when it was first revealed, and I’m about to turn 23 the year it finally came out. Given that it switched hands three times and went through several different builds, there were understandably a lot of conflicting ideas that ended up on the cutting room floor, and one of those was a more extensive co-op system.

Dambuster Studio took over Dead Island 2 from Sumo Digital who in turn picked it up from Yager, and rather than sticking with the work that had been left behind, it chose to start from scratch. In a new Inside Story with IGN, the team revealed a few of these abandoned concepts, such as eight-player co-op (compared to the release’s three), California as a full map, and driveable vehicles.

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“We definitely had to evaluate what was there and go, ‘Which features do we want to have in the game?'” technical art director Dan Evans-Lawes said. “Certainly, there were some interesting ideas that we looked at from previous iterations that didn’t make it in primarily for scope reasons and trying to get the project done in a reasonable timeframe.”

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Playing with eight players was the initial goal of Spec Ops: The Line developer Yager, but such complex systems would have no doubt hindered a game that had already, infamously, been in development for quite some time. But it wasn’t always because of scope; for instance, vehicles clashed with the more intimate melee system that Dead Island 2 is now built around, so Dambuster didn’t bring them forward into its own version of the game.

“There was some vehicle stuff, driving cars, things like that, where it was interesting what we saw but in terms of the level design and keeping levels at the scale where the hand-to-hand combat works… you design a level differently if you have to drive around it”, Evans-Lawes said.

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dead island 2 sam b talking to survivor in mansion

Another idea floated by Dambuster was moving the setting to Catalina Island, likely to avoid the game bloating beyond a reasonable scope, but the team ultimately decided to stick with LA to keep that “Hollywood lens and picture postcard”. Developers before them, however, wanted to take that further.

“Originally, it was the whole of California, I think,” Evans-Lawes said. “Or at least there were gonna be bits in different areas from California. That had already been scaled down to LA – that was pretty much non-negotiable.”

In the end, Dead Island 2 stuck with LA and almost perfectly captured the vibe of the original, now iconic E3 teaser. And while roping in seven of your mates to slaughter zombies might sound fun, tightening the development helped to finally get the game out the door after nine long years.

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