We recently interviewed Fox Interactive producer Gary Sheinwald to find out more about Alien Resurrection, the upcoming movie-licensed PlayStation shooter. Argonaut (Croc: Legend of Gobbos, Star Fox) Studios is developing the game for Fox. Here's what Sheinwald had to say.
Videogames.com: How much of the gameplay would you say is shooting, and how much is puzzle solving?Gary Sheinwald: The game is a mixture of third-person action/shooting - combating the aliens, "bad" humans, and so on - and puzzle/exploration. Although it is an oversimplification, I would say that the game is approximately 70-75 percent action and 25-30 percent puzzle/problem solving. That doesn't mean that some of the time you're blasting away with a pulse rifle and then you're sitting in a corner with a Rubik's Cube - you're under constant threat from the Aliens, while you are working to complete the necessary tasks on each level.
vg.c: How much of the game is based on the film, and how much is new? Are there any other film tie-ins that might not be apparent at first?GS: The environment of the game is very much based on the look of the film. Fortunately, the film was made right here on the 20th Century Fox lot, so during preproduction and filming we had all-areas access to everything and anything we wanted (well, almost - they wouldn't let me keep any of the weapons). During the design stage, we met regularly with Nigel Phelps, the movie's production designer, and he gave us all the design drawings for the Auriga, the Betty, the weapons, characters, and so on. One useful spin-off of this is that the stuff that was designed but didn't make it to the filming stage, or was left on the cutting-room floor - other parts of the ship, for example - were incorporated into the level maps of the game.
As for the plot, we based it around the movie, but of course making it a good game is more important than being 100 percent true to the movie.... How dull would it be if you knew exactly what was going to happen next?! So for example, in the movie Ripley 8 discovers Dr Wren's Lab, which has the other failed attempts at cloning Ripley... and she torches it to put her other selves out of their misery. In the game, we have seven different labs dispersed throughout the ship (and throughout the levels), and one of the tasks in the game is to find and destroy your clones.
Some other tie-ins include the voice talent - we use quite a lot of the cast of the movie in the game, wherever their busy schedules would allow. The most important one to us is the voice of Father, the ship's computer... played by Steven Gilborn. In the movie he has around a dozen lines... in the game, he has around three hundred - he is essentially the "voice of the game." Another cool advantage of being a film studio is the sound effects... Normally a developer has to create them from scratch or pull them off a videotape or laser disc, DVD these days maybe, of the movie, filter out the ambient sound, and try to isolate the sound samples they need. In the case of Alien Resurrection, we asked the Fox Sound Department if we could possibly have access to the sound effects from the movie... maybe in a format that would be convenient to us. Their reply was, "Is a Jaz disk of 44.1KHz AIFF files OK for you?" - and we got every sound effect from the film in pure digital format. Not only that, but Leslie Shatz, the movie's Sound Designer, even went over to London and visited Argonaut Software.
vg.c: How many different kinds of aliens are in the game?GS: If you mean aesthetically, we are true to the movie here. We follow the alien life cycle, so there are eggs, face huggers, chest bursters, the regular fully grown "drone" aliens, the Newborn, and the Alien Queen. If you mean gameplay behavior-wise, then the aliens have different behavior patterns and tasks depending upon the situation.
vg.c: I understand that you'll be able to play as several different characters. What are the differences between them? Is it up to you when you switch between them? Do you have to switch between them over the course of the game?GS: Since the movie was very much an ensemble cast, we made the decision at the beginning to have different player characters in the game. The characters are linked to the levels, so you switch characters as you play through the game. The main reason for this was that it enabled us to design the levels precisely for the differing attributes and abilities of each of the characters. Having to design the levels suitable for any character would have made them more generic and less intricate. The five characters are Ripley 8, Call, DiStephano, Christie, and Johner. There are many varying attributes between the player characters - here are a few: Ripley 8, being part alien, is stronger, and more agile than a normal human. She can also sense the presence of aliens (kind of like a "spidey sense"). Call is an android. She can jack into the computer workstations on the ship and access its databases. Christie has guns attached to her arms surgically, and so on. Additionally, Vreiss is available at varying stages of the game as a "power-up." He can hook up to the player character, strapped on their back in the Kawlang Maneuver from the movie... giving you simultaneous forwards and backwards shooting ability.
vg.c: Third-person shooting can be tough to pull off. How are you going to solve perspective problems that have plagued similar games? Do you control the camera? Can you switch to a first-person cam?GS: You don't control the camera. We have what we call an "intelligent rail cam" system - basically the camera always knows where to be and what to do within the map. It intelligently cuts to the correct viewpoint so that it should never get stuck behind a wall or other obstacle. This also makes it much more cinematic. We are playing around with a first-person cam option when crawling through the ventilation system, but depending upon how this plays, it may or may not make it into the final game.
vg.c: Has the engine gone through a lot of changes?GS: The engine has gone through one very significant change... the game started out as a top-down viewpoint game... When the movie was in preproduction, the Auriga, the ship on which the movie and game takes place, was like a skyscraper in space - a tall structure with many floors. Argonaut built this great demo on the PC with multilevel parallaxing so you could see down through the ship. Alien acid would be able to drip down from level to level through the metal floor, and you'd be able to fall through the holes. However, as the movie neared the filming stage and while the game was being designed, the Auriga was redesigned as a much more vertical ship, and that, combined with technical advances in what we thought the 3D engine could achieve, were a couple of reasons why we changed to the third-person shooter engine that we have today. Although we liked some of the elements of the original concept, the current direction was definitely the right choice.
Alien Resurrection is due out this spring for the PlayStation. For more info and shots, be sure to check out our preview.