Alien Breed Evolution: interview

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Steven G squeaked with delight when we told him we’d wangled an interview with Team 17’s design manager John Dennis. He rattled off a load of questions about Alien Breed Evolution, and only let the rest of the team suggest questions after being threatened with one of the many laser rifles we keep in the CG offices.

CG: Why limit co-op to two players? Will this be available online and off?

JD: Two players works *really* well. We’ve created three bespoke missions specifically for multiplayer per episode: the multiplayer game is a bit more frantic than the single player mode (which is more of a tense affair), so we wanted to create environments that were really well suited to that difference in play style. The multiplayer game still ties in to the narrative of the single player game though: you play as two guys whose mission it is to find the player character from the single player game. I’ve spent quite a bit of time enjoying the multiplayer, and I can tell you it’s pretty good fun. Scratch that… it’s *really* good fun!

And yes, you can either play it on the same console with a friend, or partner up over Live or PlayStation Network and play online.

CG: If online, will co-op support voice chat?

JD: Oh absolutely! It’s a vital element if the players are to co-operate effectively online.

CG: Is it a remake of or sequel to the original alien breed games?

JD: It’s a sequel to those original games. I think we’re conscious of the need to satisfy old fans, but to be honest it’s a long time ago now (18 years since the original games) and I think anyone who played the original will totally love the new direction, it’s got a lot of nods to the original and people even think the computer voice is the same (it isn’t). To do the game justice, it really needed re-developing with the strengths of the XBLA platform in mind. As a result, we’ve done our best to make the game look beautiful, and with online multiplayer and microphone support, it makes the most of Microsoft’s Live service. For those players who remember the original game, it’s pretty faithful to the feel of the original, so I don’t think anyone who’s an old fan will be disappointed.

CG: Will it have linear levels like the first two games or open ended ones?

JD: The level structure of the game is linear (i.e. the player completes level one, then level two), but the levels are so large, there’s plenty of room for non-linear exploration. There are five levels in single player which translates to about 5-7 hours of gameplay. Finishing the levels in Story Mode unlocks them for Free Play Mode, in which you can replay them with the aim of setting high scores on Live Arcade leader-boards.

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CG: The originals had very distinctive soundtracks and effects. Are you keeping anything for Evolution?

JD: Well, all the sounds are new for this game, but they’re all in keeping with the feel of the original games. We did actually contact Allister Brimble (who wrote the original theme score) and asked him if he’d remix it for”Alien Breed Evolution”. which he did! So that’s a big nod to the past.

CG: Will the originals be unlockable, or are you considering releasing the originals on the Virtual console and XBL/PSN as well?

JD: No the originals won’t feature in “Alien Breed Evolution”, and at the moment, we’ve no plans to bring them back. We felt like we owed it to our game to produce our own modern remake and “Evolution” is the product of that.

CG: How far apart from one another will the three episodes be released?

JD: We’re not quite sure when the three will be released or how far apart. We haven’t got the release dates from Microsoft, so I’m afraid I can’t help you out on that one.

CG: Why is the game episodic? What’s the benefit?

JD: When we were thinking about bringing the game back, and the amount of stuff we wanted to do, it just seemed to large to fit in one digital release, and I daresay given the time we’ve spent making “Alien Breed Evolution”, probably wouldn’t have recouped the money spent making it. So we ran the
idea of having the game as three episodes by the nice people at Microsoft, and they liked it, so that’s what we went with!

Each episode is a stand-alone game that can be downloaded and played separately. There’s a narrative arc that links the three episodes together, each episode ending on a cliff-hanger that’s resolved at the start of the next episode. So if people download the first episode, we hope they’ll want to find out how the story carries on in later episodes, but if people want to join the series late, that’s ok too… there’s a “previously on Alien Breed” sequence at the start of episodes two and three that recaps what’s happened so far.

Each episode has a unique selection of weapons, environments and aliens, as well as it’s own set-piece battles and boss encounters, so each one has quite a different flavour. They’re all pretty tense affairs though. It still makes me nervous playing the game on “Elite” difficulty, and I’ve been working on the game since the start!

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CG: How do you plan to distinguish yourselves from the rest of the crowded twin-stick shooter genre?

JD: We hope the game will stand up on it’s own merits. There are other twin-stick shooters, but “Alien Breed Evolution” isn’t just a straight-ahead shooter. it’s also got a survival horror element to it. Ammunition and health packs are always in fairly short supply. We’ve also really concentrated on atmospheric audio: we’ve tried to use audio to induce the same nervy, tense feeling in the player that the original titles did. The ship is full of creaking metal noises, the sound of gas leaking from fracturedpipes, and distant explosions. The game also has an intelligent music system that ramps up the more aliens you’re fighting, so with no aliens, there’s no music, with only a few aliens, you get a low-level battle soundtrack, but when you’re really up against it, the music really ramps up. I think it’s one of my favourite features of the game… it really works and really adds to the tension.

And then there’s the aliens! There’s loads of different types, each one designed to challenge you in a certain way, some that rush you, some that keep a distance and shoot, others that heal other aliens. they’re all designed to make sure that you can’t settle down into one dominant strategy: you’ve always got to be thinking about what you’re doing and worrying about what’s just round the corner. The whole game is designed to make you feel tense and on edge. We hope people will like it. we’ve put a lot of love into it.

CG: What do you think today’s technology can do for reviving old classics like you have done with Alien Breed?

JD: Well we’ve seen a few old classics come back recently haven’t we, what with “Bionic Commando” and “Monkey Island”. I think digital platforms have been great at introducing those great games to a whole new audience. The cheaper price point and instant digital delivery have provided a space in which people are prepared to pay for them. I think it would have been highly unlikely that those games would have been made if traditional retail had been the only way of purchasing them.

CG: Do you have any plans to resurrect anything else from your back catalogue in a similar way?

JD: We’ve got a few ideas but nothing concrete at the moment, so watch this space!

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Written by Steven G

Steven Gurevitz is the CEO of 2002 Studios Media LTD and a founder of gaming accessory company Asiiya. 2002 Studios started off as a music production company, but produces a range of content from videos to videogames. The company specialises in localizing content for global brands. He also owns the Urban Sound Label, a small niche e-label. He is a freelance music tech writer, having co-written the Music Technology Workbook and is a regular contributor and co-owner CriticalGamer.co.uk. He enjoys FPS, Third person 'free world', narrative driven and portable gaming. He is a freelance music tech writer, having co-written the Music Technology Workbook and is a regular contributor to CriticalGamer.co.uk.

One comment

  1. They should do an updated version of the greatest horizontal shooters of it’s day, that being project X!

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