Post Script

Cre­ative lead, con­sole team, The Cre­ative Assem­bly

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FAl Hope, ine art grad­u­ate Al Hope has spent the past 18 years mak­ing games at The Cre­ative Assem­bly. When he joined in ’96, he was the eighth em­ployee of a company that has grown to around 300 staff and be­come fa­mous for its To­tal War PC se­ries. As cre­ative lead for the stu­dio’s more re­cently founded con­sole team, Hope guided the de­vel­op­ment of Alien: Iso­la­tion. What was it like hav­ing ac­cess to the film ar­chives? It was re­ally spe­cial to get our hands on that ma­te­rial. When we started, we thought we’d just have the movie to base ev­ery­thing on, and to be given ac­cess to kind of the full pro­duc­tion ar­chive was un­be­liev­able. [20th Cen­tury Fox] did an amaz­ing job of ar­chiv­ing the ma­te­rial back from the ’70s. It gave us new in­sight into how that world was orig­i­nally cre­ated, ev­ery­thing from blue­prints of the set de­sign to close-up prop photographs and even con­ti­nu­ity Po­laroids of the cast. [Plus, we had] lots of photographs of the set from an­gles that you just don’t get to see in the movie. I was also for­tu­nate enough to visit the ar­chive, which is deep un­der­ground un­der­neath Fox Stu­dios, and sift through card­board boxes of orig­i­nal Ron Cobb art­work as well, which was just… Well, that was a very spe­cial day. The game’s sense of place is un­ri­valled, es­pe­cially the way ev­ery cor­ri­dor seems to light up dif­fer­ently. We’ve got some re­ally tal­ented guys, and we brought peo­ple in from the film in­dus­try and post­pro­duc­tion to help us light it. And I guess we had amaz­ing in­spi­ra­tion from the movie again, which is just beau­ti­ful to look at. It was a great bench­mark for us. That was one of the rea­sons we de­cided to cre­ate our own en­gine. We knew what we wanted to cre­ate, and build­ing an en­gine specif­i­cally to al­low us to light the world so beau­ti­fully was re­ally im­por­tant to us. The alien is im­pec­ca­ble through­out, but leav­ing so much up to AI pro­cesses must have been tough. In or­der to cre­ate the ex­pe­ri­ence we wanted, to re­ally make you feel like you were en­coun­ter­ing Ri­d­ley Scott’s orig­i­nal alien for the first time, we re­alised we couldn’t chore­o­graph ev­ery sin­gle mo­ment of the game and it would have to be run­ning un­der its own senses. And that was the real chal­lenge. It’s taken a mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary team a long time – almost the length of the project — to just build and re­fine and it­er­ate that creature. I think we’re re­ally happy with where we got to. Has the alien ever done any­thing that sur­prised you dur­ing de­vel­op­ment? The thing that we find most sur­pris­ing is the fact that we can play it now and, for me es­pe­cially, my heart will be pump­ing away, and I have to play it just the same as any­one else. I have to con­cen­trate mo­ment to mo­ment on how best to sur­vive and what my next move is. I think that’s amaz­ing. Like I said, we’ve been work­ing on it for a long time – we played the game ev­ery day – and it’s still re­ally ef­fec­tive for us. We’ll jump and yelp, you know? We get caught out and we should be able to ninja our way through! The game is un­com­pro­mis­ing, even on Easy. Are you wor­ried some play­ers will find it over­whelm­ing? I think there’s an au­di­ence out there who’ll re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate a chal­leng­ing game and that’s in there for them. But I also think that, with the lev­els of dif­fi­culty, you can find a sweet spot for where your [pre­ferred] chal­lenge sits. At the same time, we were never go­ing to make this ‘easy easy’, be­cause I think that would re­ally un­der­mine what we were try­ing to achieve in the first place. We couldn’t make the alien easy to sim­ply grease paths, be­cause that would just de­stroy the at­mos­phere and cred­i­bil­ity. The game is hands-off when it comes to ex­plain­ing its var­i­ous sys­tems, though. Was that de­lib­er­ate? We wanted some­thing that felt re­ally in­stinc­tive, like you were hav­ing to use your wits mo­ment to mo­ment. We want you to feel un­der­pow­ered and un­der­pre­pared – there’s no magic min­imap, there’s no radar. The mo­tion tracker is about as close as it gets to that, and it’s a re­ally im­per­fect de­vice that only gives a cer­tain amount of in­for­ma­tion. We don’t put any­thing in the world, holo­grams or what­ever, that alert you to peo­ple’s senses. You have to look, lis­ten and re­spond in quite a real-world way, I sup­pose, and that felt right. We ab­so­lutely ex­per­i­mented with all sorts of dif­fer­ent op­tions, but we just kept com­ing back to where we ended up be­cause it felt like the most in­tu­itive way of do­ing things. That ex­tends ev­ery­where, in­clud­ing the con­trols – like the fact that when you want to duck un­der a ta­ble you don’t have a but­ton press to get un­der a ta­ble, you just push. Play­ing Iso­la­tion un­der­lined for us just how much in­spi­ra­tion Dead Space took from the Alien films. Yeah. I mean, you can see the film’s in­flu­ence ev­ery­where. I of­ten say that my favourite Alien game was Su­per Metroid, be­cause I think it was heav­ily in­flu­enced by the film. But I think that was the fun thing for us, be­cause we were the first peo­ple to go, ‘Wow, we’ve got the li­cence to ac­tu­ally run with this. We’re not rip­ping it off or just be­ing su­per in­spired by it — we re­ally can go deep and push it.’ That was re­ally ex­cit­ing, and ac­tu­ally a big deal for us.

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