Dead Rising 2: Case Zero has been a resounding success, breaking Xbox Live Arcade sales records - and all along it was just half of a two-part Capcom experiment.
While Case Zero was a prologue to the events of Dead Rising 2, Case West is an epilogue. It's another paid-for piece of episodic content featuring the return of much-missed photographer Frank West, the star of the original Dead Rising.
Because the two episodes are Xbox Live Arcade exclusive, though, PS3 owners are wondering what they've done to offend Capcom. We asked co-producer Shinsaku Ohara what was behind the decision, and whether PS3 gamers who buy Dead Rising 2 shouldn't feel short-changed. Developer Blue Castle Games' Rob Barrett was also there to give us a few more details on the episode's setting and structure.
Eurogamer: There's a feeling among PS3 owners that they're being denied the beginning and the end of the Dead Rising 2. What would you say to that?
Shinsaku Ohara: I think Inafune said today that we're sorry that it seems like you're getting a little bit less of the Dead Rising 2 universe, but you'll still be able to enjoy the full game. You'll just miss a little bit of extra. We haven't completely alienated PS3 gamers because Dead Rising 2 is a standalone boxed product.
Eurogamer: The game is complete without Case Zero and Case West, then?
Rob Barrett: The game was completely designed to be a self-contained and enjoyable experience, beginning to end, regardless of the prologue and the epilogue.
Eurogamer: Inafune has called Case Zero an 'experiment'. Do you consider it a successful one?
Shinsaku Ohara: It was a challenge for us. We didn't know if people would be upset by the concept of a paid demo – I don't like that term, though, because it's a game, not a demo – but for people who haven't played Dead Rising, this is an easy way for them to pick it up. Rather than giving them a mediocre portion of the main game for free, we gave them a prologue.
Eurogamer: What's the setup for Case West? When is it set? Is it an alternate version of the story?
Rob Barrett: It picks up right after the main game. Chuck still hasn't cleared his name. He's got this capacity to set up this partnership with Frank West – we'll leave the specifics of that until the game comes out – but just like the prologue, it's unique content.
We've certainly enjoyed this model of getting early content out to players, because it gives us the opportunity to experiment with new weapons and a new setting and to expand upon what we've already built. But it's standalone content.
Eurogamer: Case Zero could be considered an introduction to Dead Rising 2 – so how do you see Case West?
Rob Barrett: We expand upon what's there. It's unique storytelling and a unique setting, it is completely new. As with the prologue, it's a bit more challenging but far more interesting for us to create a standalone experience as opposed to trying to extract a demo from a game.
Then you're trying to figure out what not to include; here we can include everything. It's unique, and it's fun to develop from that point of view.
Eurogamer: Now that Frank West is back, is the photography gameplay also back?
Rob Barrett: It's back. It's part of Frank. So when Frank comes back, so does the photography.
Eurogamer: That'll please people. What was it that made Frank West so appealing in the first place?
Rob Barrett: He's a quirky guy. He's flawed. He's not your standard hero character. He comes with all of his bumps exposed. He's a different-looking guy – he didn't step off the cover of GQ – and I think people really identify with him, his personality as well.
Eurogamer: Is that what you went for with Chuck?
Rob Barrett: We tried to capture something similar. Chuck is maybe a bit better-looking, but I read one review that said that the two products together had provided the two ugliest lead characters in games. Frank sort of cast the mould as the everyman and we really tried to nail that with Chuck as well. He's the same way, he's a flawed hero character.
Eurogamer: Will we be switching between the characters, then?
Rob Barrett: In single player, Frank will back Chuck up as an AI friend.
Eurogamer: The implication there is that we'll be able to control Frank in co-op.
Rob Barrett: In co-op, it's highly likely that you'll get behind Frank again, yes.
Eurogamer: Why was the decision made to make these two episodes exclusive to Xbox Live?
Shinsaku Ohara: Dead Rising was our very first Xbox 360 title and Microsoft supported the title all the way. At the beginning we didn't know that this new IP would be a success, but the fans on the console really assisted in making it into one. So it's like a present, something that we gave back to the original Dead Rising fans.
Eurogamer: Is this episodic structure something you see being adopted more widely by Capcom?
Shinsaku Ohara: It was definitely an experiment, but there's been a good degree of success. We nailed it. Maybe other publishers and developers will look at this and think it's a good way to make money. It may work for some games, from Capcom's point of view, but not all of them.
If other people start to do the same thing with their games, I think we'll do something else. We've pave the road, but we would probably be looking for another road, something else different to do for the fans.
Eurogamer: You've talked a lot about maintaining the 'Capcom DNA' when working with other developers. What does 'Capcom DNA' mean to you?
Rob Barrett: It's hard to put into words, but right off the bat when we were working on Dead Rising 2 we knew that there was a flavour to a Capcom game, a kind of intangible quality that makes Capcom fans so rabid and crazy about the products. There's a quirkiness to it.
Shinsaku Ohara: I think the fans know what Capcom DNA is. It's hard even for us to describe, but when you play Dead Rising 2, it feels like a Capcom game. That's Capcom DNA. It's a mixture of a lot of things – responsiveness, story, character driven plot, everything working together.
Some developers and publishers just give the IP over to the developer, and it's made and published, but it doesn't feel like the publisher's game. That, for us, is not what we're shooting for. Any developer that we work with, it has to feel like a Capcom game. I don't want to give specific examples of games that don't feel like the publishers' games, but I think you know what I mean.
Eurogamer: Dead Rising was so interesting because it was Western horror viewed through a Japanese cultural filter. How has Blue Castle preserved that weirdness?
Rob Barrett: We just immerse ourselves into a crazy maelstrom of ideas. They're all colliding, all different people's viewpoints, and we just dive straight in. Everyone on the team has an absurd sense of humour, and that plays out in the game.
It's unique as well – there aren't many games out there that are funny, and we have this ass-kicking lead character that so many other games have, but there he's not running around in a tutu. It's quirky. That's the key.
Dead Rising 2: Case West is an Xbox Live Arcade exclusive. A release date is yet to be announced.