The Thing Q&A

We talk with Universal Interactive about its upcoming multiplatform title.

Universal Interactive's upcoming game based on John Carpenter's 1982 film The Thing is aiming to offer a different twist on the survival horror genre. The game is currently in development at London-based Computer Artworks, and it picks where the movie left off. We touched bases with the game's producer, Peter Wanat, and grilled him about dealing with shape-shifting aliens in cold weather on the PC, PlayStation 2, and Xbox.

Your companions will have exhibit varying levels of trust towards you, depending on your actions.

GameSpot: How long has the game been in development?

Peter Wanat: Two years.

GS: What were some of the inspirations for this game?

PW: John Carpenter's film is the single biggest inspiration for the game. The trust-fear dynamic was born out of the film and the simple fact that we needed to give the main character NPCs to interact with. That whole not knowing who is human and who is "the thing" was a big part of the movie and worked for the game really well. On the games side, we have to give credit to the great survival horror games--Resident Evil and the first Silent Hill--as well as some elements from the great action games like GTAIII and Max Payne. On the story side, we have so many influences there are at least a dozen odes to films in the game and the cutscenes. I wonder how many people will actually catch all of them.

GS: How large is the team working on it?

PW: The team is composed of about 25 people.

GS: What is the team's background?

PW: The team did Evolva on the PC and had a background in organic art, which Universal felt made them a good match for The Thing. I really don't think there was a better choice for the title.

You'll get to use a handful of different weapons, including a flamethrower.

GS: Will there be any differences between the PS2, Xbox, and PC versions?

PW: All three versions are going to be great gaming experiences.

GS: How has developing on multiple platforms been going?

PW: We have separate coders working on each version, and we share common assets, but for the most part, each version gets treated with as much programming love as the others--hence the reason the game is coming along so well on each platform.

GS: Is there a different team for each version?

PW: It's one team, but the coders for each version are separated to get the best out of each system.

GS: Has one platform led development?

PW: We really haven't approached the game that way. We wanted to make the best out of all the versions and have done so.

GS: How are you taking advantage of the various types of hardware the game is being released on?

PW: We have been making the most of the capabilities of each platform.

GS: What can you tell us about the story?

PW: It is a true sequel to John Carpenter's movie, but only as a game. It's about the team sent in to find out what the hell happened to the crew at Outpost 31. What they find turns out to be a whole lot more than anyone expected, and there will be lots of twists and turns for Captain Blake and his men right up to the ending.

Aliens can murder humans in a most grizzly manner. You've been warned.

GS: What can you tell us about the gameplay? Is it traditional survival horror gameplay? Will it be presented in a linear series of levels, or is it just one giant area similar to those found in the Resident Evil games?

PW: The gameplay is more action horror. We have built on all the elements of survival horror games in the past, but what we wanted to do was get away from the slow "plodding for hours" style of gameplay, which made us more likely to fall asleep than wet our pants from fear. So we made the shooting aspects more frenzied in order to really wake the player up. So we when we do slow the pace back down, your sense that any minute it might get hairy again really starts to mess with you.

GS: Can you explain how the NPCs come into play and how players will be able to interact with them?

PW: You are the leader of a search-and-rescue team sent in to find out what happened. Your team is like a cross between Rainbow Six and Mulder and Scully. You have a soldier, an engineer, and a medic. They all know their job and can do most of it with minimal direction from you. The soldier will fight if there is a threat to the team and the medic will heal anyone who gets hurt. You can direct the engineer to fix things that are broken (and there is a ton of stuff that doesn't work, so he is very helpful). They all behave as they should at the beginning, but then things change. They start getting scared, and you have to work to make sure they don't get too scared, or they'll freak out and completely lose it. As you get even further along in the game and start to figure out what happened, your team starts to learn about the thing--and they start losing trust in you since they don't know if you are or you aren't the thing! And that presents problems for the player because if your guys think you are the thing, then they will attack and kill you. They can do a host of other things to make it so you don't survive because they no longer think you are who you were. I know it gets shaky, but that's how it is in the original movie and that's how it is in the game.

The environments are quite well detailed, even the outdoor areas; particle effects, and touches of blur abound.

GS: Is the fear-trust meter still in the game? How important is that particular feature to the gameplay?

PW: Yes, we still have a meter, but you won't need it as much, since your guys will show you with physical and audio clues that they are unstable. Some of the things they say and do are so much fun you will have people playing the game and stopping to just watch their guys lose it onscreen. It's very entertaining.

GS: How will players be able to tell if NPCs have been infected by the thing?

PW: There is a blood test you can use, but you may think you know who is who. But without the blood test, is there any real way to be sure? I wouldn't trust anyone...

GS: How do players attack infected NPCs?

PW: The same way they attack uninfected NPC's ! [grins]

GS: What kind of weapons will they have at their disposal?

PW: A pistol, a machine gun, a taser, a shotgun, a sniper rifle, grenades, a grenade launcher, and a flamethrower.

GS: Will the game support Dolby 5.1 sound?

PW: Yes.

GS: How long will the game be?

PW: More than 25 hours, if you can handle it.

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