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Aliens Infestation Developer Diary 2 Released

The second developer diary for Aliens: Infestation has been published today. As previously announced here, this entry focusses on the gameplay and some of the game mechanics. You can read the full thing at the Sega blogs.

Our xeno spawn systems helped elevate that unease even further. Basically, the two primary ways that xenos can appear in this game are: slinking out of the shadows, or popping out from the floors/ceilings. The first approach is a subtle, uneasy entrance. A xeno is wedged into the architecture (as it was in the final scene of Ridley Scott’s alien). The player knows it’s there…or do they? The hidden xeno will remain lodged in the wall, completely still, illustrated in a way that matches the sci-fi art style of the environment.

In addition to this, nine new screenshots from Infestation have been uploaded online. Click here to see them. Thanks to Sega PR for the news.

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  1. ikarop
    One more entry. But not the last one!

    QuoteOur detailed looks behind-the-scenes of Aliens Infestation continue below as WayForward director Adam Tierney discusses the weapons, gadgets and mobility of the Colonial Marines:

    The next step toward creating an immersive experience was in crafting a well-developed character that was  capable of physically behaving like a USCM soldier. If we were asking players to get scared, play strategically, and go out of their way to protect their tiny Marine's life, then that Marine couldn't move around like 8-bit Mario (no offense - Mario games are incredible). The characters needed more depth, in their abilities and mobility, to get players deeply invested in them, and also to make them feel more 'real' as they were butchered by frenzied aliens.

    So just what can these tiny soldiers do? Here's a list of the basics:

        Crouch walk
        Backpedal walk
        Backpedal run
        Backpedal crouch walk
        Fire during ANY of the above actions
        Fire in seven angles
        Lock body position to fire freely without having to move
        Catch platforms from a leap (Prince of Persia style)
        Climb up into hatches and onto boxes
        Take cover behind objects
        Climb onto objects from a cover position
        Blind fire over an object from a cover position
        Dodge forward with a roll

    And this is before we get to the gadgets and firearms. Which is to say, these guys can do quite a bit more than just run left and right. Early on, the idea was to take the standard mobility from a pixel action game like Contra 4, and blend in gameplay elements from modern FPS titles, such as Modern Warfare and Gears of War. Our thinking was that players would enjoying this title the same time they're playing those game, so the more similarities they could find in character control, the more epic these tiny soldiers would feel.

    Of course, this wasn't all for show. The added mobility complemented the level layouts we were creating (which took pages from Super Metroid, Prince of Persia, and Flashback), and the aggressive nature of the enemies, which forced players to battle while retreating and navigating, rather than reliably rushing at their adversaries head-on.

    We knew that these extra touches would help make each soldier feel important. It's hard to feel any sense of loss when Mario falls into a pit. But when Ico, stumbling as he trips his way up a stone ladder, collapses from being attacked, it's devastating. Through complex mobility, we sought to create more believable individuals, so that when they died (real death), the impact was that much greater.

    When it came to weapons, we didn't have to think too hard: just give the players everything they'd seen and loved in the films. There are so many iconic weapons in James Cameron's film, we knew that (in spite of the challenge) it was important to include all of them. Players begin the game with a single-shot pistol and the unmistakable M41 Pulse Rifle, free to switch between them at will. The pistol is the player's constant backup weapon: it's weak, it requires manual firing, but it never runs out of ammo. By the end of development, it actually turned out to be one of my favorite weapons, because of how quickly you can get shots off. The Pulse Rifle operates (and sounds) exactly as you'd expect it to. Its shots can be held to fire continuously, but it (like most weapons) has finite ammo, so conservation is required for survival. Fun fact: there's a 1-pixel red ammo count readout in every frame of animation of this weapon.

    Beyond those two weapons, we have the massive M56 Smart Gun, which tears through enemies with incredible strength (but eats up ammo like nobody's business). There's a shotgun (handy for 'close encounters'), which features tactical reloading: the Marine reloads shell-by-shell, which allows the player to interrupt the reload process at any moment to fire prematurely, at the expense of having a full clip. Again, this is where modern FPS games informed our combat systems. And lastly, there's the flamethrower, which bakes and burns apart enemies, and doubles as one of the game's "keys" by melting the Giger-esque goop off certain doors to allow passage.

    Secondary weapons include traditional, hand-thrown grenades, which can be used to cause mass damage and blow the hatches off air ducts. Launched grenades have the same effect, but fire straight ahead, so that the player doesn't need to anticipate their grenade's arc, bounce, and detonation time. The last 'weapon' of sorts is the unmistakable Power Loader. Found in the Sulaco's hangars, this mechanical exoskeleton can be hopped into by players to attack enemies without taking damage yourself. Once the Loader has been worn down enough, the player is thrown from it as it explodes. It's a fun diversion that essentially works the same as the titular Metal Slug tank in that game series.

    On the gadgets side, one of the first things the player earns is the welder. This can be used to unweld doors that block the player's path (another lock and key). Interestingly, though, it can also be used to weld or re-weld any standard door in the game. This plays a tactical role, as most bipedal enemies are able to open up doors in their pursuit of the player. By welding a door behind the marine, players are able to temporarily cut off their pursuers. Of course, this can bite them in the butt, if they suddenly find themselves pursued by enemies from the other side, and need to get back through there.

    The aforementioned flashlight allows players to pass through dark environments, and heightens the game's fear factor tremendously. Xenos are already hard enough to anticipate and dodge in the game, without having your line of sight limited to only what's immediately in front of you.

    The barely-seen UA-571C Sentry Guns make an appearance in the game (both in assistance, and resistance, to the player). There seems to be a real cult following around this particular piece of technology, since it was seen so briefly in the film, so we were glad to be able to pull it into the game in a more substantial way.

    But of course by far, the most iconic piece of technology in the game is the Motion Tracker. In fact, my bringing it up in this article probably has you hearing those unforgettable blip and bing SFX in your head. The Motion Tracker is a perfect example of how not everything from the source material can be recreated exactly, and still function ideally. In the game, players download maps of each area they're exploring, and slowly fill these maps in room-by-room. Upon finding the Motion Tracker, the player can (optionally) use the device to inform them of any movement in the immediate vicinity.

    Right off the bat, we got a fantastic little Motion Tracker interface from our HUD artist (Noe Tsuji). Coupled with the classic SFX, and the device felt entirely authentic. Unfortunately, it wasn't very useful. Our initial inclination was to copy its functionality exactly from the film, so it beeped and caused blips to appear whenever the player approached an enemy (hidden or visible). The problem is that this wasn't a very precise indication, especially in a DS action game, where there's ALWAYS something just ahead waiting to kill you. The gadget simply didn't work that well, but we knew that fans needed to have this gadget in this game.

    So what we came up with instead, was to combine the map with the Motion Tracker. As the tracker made its pulses and played its blips and beeps, tiny icons would appear near the player's current location on the map, indicating where there was movement (typically, a hiding xenomorph). The player has their own blip on the map, and this created a very unique, tense dynamic, where the player momentarily shifts their focus from their character down to the map, slowly inching their dot toward the enemy dot, careful not to rush in, and ready to fire the instant a xeno leapt out.

    The implementation of the Motion Tracker is one of the things I'm most proud of in this game, because it doesn't recreate the exact functionality from the film, but it absolutely captures the spirit of the device. Like the film's Marines, players will be shifting their attention back and forth between the top screen gameplay and the Motion Tracker readout, with the knowledge that focusing on either one at the wrong moment can result in injury and death. That sense of apprehension and tense gameplay is what we're hoping will help this title stand out as a truly unique handheld experience.
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