Alien Blackout is out today for iOS and Android and, judging from half or so that we played, it’s actually not the soulless cash grab you might expect. But not everyone is going to see it that way. Regardless of the unhappy crowd, we talked to Senior Producer at publisher D3 Go Josh Austin and Head of Communications from D3 Go Michael Cerven about that fact as well as how the game got started, the prospect of Alien Isolation 2, and more.
Game Revolution: You said the idea came from Alien Covenant. Can you elaborate on how?
Josh Austin: I was watching Alien Covenant and was at the part at the end where David is controlling the doors through the cameras [on the ship] and thought it would be a fun experience on the mobile platform. The whole idea of clicking on the different cameras and leading the alien in different places is where that comes from.
We had the opportunity to pursue an Alien title which is funny because I was watching Alien Covenant and I came up with the basic idea of it. And then [developer] Rival also had a similar idea so we put them together. Fox actually introduced us to work on the title because they had been talking to Rival too. Rival made a game for Thief of Thieves with Robert Kirkman [from The Walking Dead] and they got awards for that title and a good independent studio that [focuses on] quality over everything else.
We thought it would be a good fit so we went for it. [That scene in] Covenant had some similarities to other survival horror mobile games. Let’s try and find a way to make it our own and use the Alien brand to the most potential that we could to keep that fear and the feeling of the first movie.
GR: So how do you keep the fear for mobile?
JA: The idea that you’re in a certain place and there aren’t that many opportunities to do anything to stop this monster but you have your ways of messing with him. The sound is a huge part where you feel like you’re stuck and in a situation that’s horrible and the sound really drives it home when you’re in the vents. You can hear the alien run from one spot to another and you think it’s coming for you. We tried to capture all of that stuff to make it tense.
We also worked really hard on getting a sort of empathy towards or feeling for the NPCs so you had a connection with them. So the screaming from the vents [as they get killed] should traumatize you and make you start again and keep them alive. And also giving them little side stories and the VO we wrote also helps.
Basically, it was just trying to keep that feeling of the first movie where you get enough of the characters and you feel something for them but then this terrifying monster that’s unpredictable is another thing we focused on.
GR: Isolation was known for the unpredictable alien. Is the alien similarly dynamic?
JA: He is dynamic. He learns from what you do and also listens to what you do. He can be relentless and ruthless in this game and we thought that this was a great mechanic for this game. We had a few back and forths on if this game was a little too hard but we kept it this way because it is in an unpredictable killing machine so that’s what we tried to focus on was keeping it super difficult and hard to predict.
One time he might come down one area and another time he might come down a different area if you replay that same level. We tried to capture different ways of him interacting with the world from the get go. So when you play a level, it’s not going to play the same. And he also reacts to what you do.
Messing with the doors can trick and that’s just one thing you have at your disposal. Another thing is you can send your NPCs to hide if they have a red dot [on their icon]. There are a lot of different things you can try out to see what works for you. That was another great part of working on this title. We went to a big meeting with Fox and we were all talking about the game and a few people in the room had different playstyles that I thought was great to hear because that means you can make it your own. There’s not just one way to beat it and win.
GR: So how does this fit in to the canon? It fits between Alien and Aliens but where does it fall between Alien Isolation and the films?
JA: It’s not a direct sequel to Alien Isolation. From the franchise point of view, it’s not something we can totally answer. We just know that it’s between Alien and Aliens.
Michael Cerven: The only thing that is similar is that it is Amanda Ripley. It’s a small aspect of the entire story. It’s a piece of it. It doesn’t provide a complete story. Fox is working on various elements this year with the hashtag “#ReadPlayWatch.” This is just one part of the “Play.” They did announce that they did have another game in the pipeline for PCs and consoles.
JA: The franchise [people] told us they added to the canon but it’s not a direct sequel.
GR: OK because I was confused because Amanda meets the alien in Isolation and then she’s floating in space at the end of that game so I wasn’t sure where this game would fit in.
JA: So that’s basically where we fit in. It’s a side story and not a direct sequel.
MC: We might not answer that directly in our game per se. The bigger story that Fox puts out should be able to answer a few of the questions out there. Our game is not going to answer all of that.
GR: Well, you get where I’m coming from, right?
JA: Yes, we totally understand.
GR: Some people aren’t happy with games like this that are mobile spin-offs of popular console games. How do you respond to that ire?
JA: We’re super excited and happy about the game. We worked really hard on it and think it delivers a really great mobile experience. We’ve also been saying that this isn’t the only thing and I think that’s kind of what the backlash was; they thought this was the only thing.
There’s no microtransactions. It’s just a high-end, fun small mobile experience that tides you over to whatever is coming next. We proud of it and I think people will like it when it comes out. And it’s not the only thing that’s coming.
GR: I think people were disappointed that it didn’t come alongside Alien Isolation 2.
JA: Yeah. We don’t know anything about that one.
GR: If only…
MC: I think people should be excited about the game those guys are working on. They spent a lot of time on the [Alien MMO game] and are excited about revealing those details. I don’t know when they’ll reveal those details but hopefully soon. But we’re a separate experience to what those guys are doing. [Blackout] is just one little element to the Alien story. Between the game and all the other stuff Fox is working on, there’s going to a lot more information to learn about Amanda throughout the year.
GR: That’s vague enough to make me hope that there is an Alien Isolation 2 somewhere.