For many of our generation, Alien was one of those classic Sci-fi franchises that, whilst slightly before our time, was something handed down to us by our peers and defined our childhood. For Oxford-based Rebellion Studios, it marked their first commercial success, and allowed them to enter the videogames development world. Now, after an 11 year hiatus, they're back with an update of their very first game, Aliens Vs Predator. Strategy Informer talks to Senior Producer David Brickley about the game:
Strategy Informer: So, last interview of the day... how are you feeling?
David Brickley: Pretty good, yeah. It's always a pleasure just to talk to people who are as passionate, if not more so if that's possible, about Aliens Vs Predator... it's something that I've grown up with and something that I'm proud to be a part of, and to add a new dimension to.
Strategy Informer: Have you played any laser tag today?
David Brickley: *Laughs* No actually, although the thing that's killing me is that I'm a massive karting-fan, and here we are at a Go-Karting track (NOTE: With a laser quest facility too), so if I leave here without having driven that circuit, I'm going to be very unhappy.
Strategy Informer: Where does this game fit within the wider universe?
David Brickley: It's set thematically 30 years after the events of Alien 3, and what that allowed us to do was evolve the technology. Only subtly though, not radically because some things are just so iconic they must stay where they are. It also allowed us to stick with the larger and more original Aliens universe without having to tie in or tag onto the recent Earth-bound movies.
Strategy Informer: Current generation gaming is starting to see a shift to a more multiplayer-focused experience, in some cases ignoring the single-player element entirely. Did you consider taking AvP in this direction?
David Brickley: I think it's safe to say that yes it was a consideration. The original game certainly had a very long standing multiplayer following. It was a very inspirational game as well as it was the first game to have co-operative vs. AI, which has been imitated since in some of the biggest franchises around. It's absolutely the core of what we want to achieve. In terms of the single player, it has had a lot of investment in it, it's very rich in terms of narrative and cinematics and one of the things it does nicely is set you up for multiplayer - it teaches you some of the skills you need in hand-to-hand combat for the predator etc...
The reason we've bored you all to death today with talk is that, no it's not a simple game, but there's a lot to take in with three different species, each with their own control schemes. One thing I was telling someone earlier is that we're quite fortunate with this franchise. You can jump straight into the multiplayer if you want to, but if you like the franchise then you're going to enjoy dying anyway. There's something about being killed by a Predator or Alien that means you can forgive them, you know? If it were any other game I'd probably just get annoyed and quit playing. But we're lucky enough to have this hook that will keep people playing long enough in order to learn the subtleties of what is actually a pretty challenging game.
Strategy Informer: It's been 11 years since Rebellion last did an Alien Vs Predator title (bar the AvP: Requiem tie-in), what do you think is the most important aspect when approaching game development for a franchise like this?
David Brickley: Well, the movies that were an inspiration then have only got older. I think the funny thing is that their influence is still so far and wide... you look at Halo, or Gears of War, or any other game that uses Space Marines... it's all from the same source material. We're very privileged to be able to say that our space marines are the originals. Our starting point for the game is to stay truthful to some of these core aspects - if you watched a movie like Alien, what would you want to be? If we made the game for you, how would you want it to feel? The same goes for The Predator... you know when you do the vision mode for the first time, it feels really great - that's the starting point, to make the characters feel right. Once we've done that, we just build around it.
Strategy Informer: Was the development of Alien vs. Predator affected by the closure of Rebellion Derby?
David Brickley: The development was not affected by that no. The game is being produced exclusively by our oxford studio, from whence Rebellion came, we're an Oxford based company that was lucky enough to expand. But as you no doubt have seen there was an announcement regarding part of the company, but it hasn't affected development at all.
Strategy Informer: Can you reveal any future plans for the game in terms of DLC?
David Brickley: In terms of DLC, well, it's almost required these days that, if we're lucky enough to be a success, we have to start planning ahead and have the hooks in there that allows us to add content over time, so we've got that mechanism in there. What that content will be, we'd like to see how people respond to the game, and maybe build to those strengths. If people prefer a particular mode then we'll put effort into basically expanding that mode. So it's nice to have that infrastructure there - it'll be to our credit if people like the game enough in order to want more content. I mean there's already a lot of content there anyway - 3 single player campaigns, 7 multiplayer modes etc...
Strategy Informer: What was your favourite thing about the game?
David Brickley: I would say it was the variety... I can enjoy being scared as a marine in Survivor against the aliens, you know watching the xeno come at me from all sides, as much as I can enjoy stalking someone as a Predator from the trees. What my guys at the studio have done is really allow me to lose myself in these characters, and I think that gives us something very strong to build on because they are so iconic, so different. It's just that aspect of the three distinct sides to the whole experience, they make it impossible for me to pick one over the other. I adore survival-horror, I adore FPS, but you can't honestly play as the predator and come tell me this is an FPS Game, it's not. It's a game with an FPS component sure, but playing as the Predator adds a whole new dimension to the game, and I guess that's our good fortune that we have that to work with.
It's good of Brickley to acknowledge that it'll be hard to escape the influence of the recent Aliens Vs Predator films. This title has a lot to live up to, not in terms of the franchise, but in terms of the current state of gaming itself. If you want to read in-depth impressions about the game, check out our preview.