Aliens Infestation Developer Diary – WayForward Explains All

Started by newbeing, Sep 08, 2011, 09:36:59 PM

Aliens Infestation Developer Diary – WayForward Explains All (Read 29,376 times)


QuoteAs part of an ongoing series, we are very honored to post the first Developer Diary from the good folks at WayForward, creators of the upcoming Aliens: Infestation. The first entry discusses the team at WayForward and their general philosophy, while offering insight into the Aliens world that they are building into. These developer diaries are shared between the SEGA blogs (you are here!) and the Gearbox community blog at We hope you enjoy the first entry!

Who is WayForward and What is Their Design Philosophy for Aliens: Infestation?
Adam Tierney of WayForward (Director):
Every now and then, we get an opportunity to work on a brand so ingrained in our youth, that shaped us so deeply as storytellers and game designers, that it is (quite literally, sometimes) a dream come true. For many of the people at our company, that game was Contra 4 on Nintendo DS. Reigniting the Contra series was an incredible opportunity that combined our company's love of classic gameplay mechanics and beautiful character animation, with a brand that many of us grew up loving. We had a blast making that game, and the fan response was incredible.

But for me personally, Aliens is a step beyond that. James Cameron's 1986 movie is arguably (and I WILL argue this) the greatest action film ever made, and holds up remarkably well to this day. Not just because of the horror (which is there) and the action (BOY is it there), but because of the incredible characters and world Cameron wove together. Everything felt like it extended beyond the boundaries of those two hours we saw.

So when we got the call from Sega and Gearbox about making a 2D pixel DS game based on Aliens, needless to say we were pretty ecstatic. And when I say based on Aliens, I mean BASED ON ALIENS. This isn't just an action title that happens to feature Xenomorphs. This is a game firmly set in the world and events established by James Cameron, and Ridley Scott before him. It's a game that pays homage to both of those films, without recycling from either, and continues where they left off.

It also came along at the perfect time for WayForward. Having just finished Contra 4 on the Nintendo DS, we were in the perfect mindset for another 2D action platformer. Contra 4 had been very well received by both critics and fans for its retro feel and tough-as-nails gameplay. But at the same time, Contra is a very reactionary series: run, something appears, kill it before it kills you. There are few subtleties in a world of shirtless mercenaries. And while the two brands certainly share the same intense action, we knew creating a game based on Aliens would require a deeper connection between the characters and their world.

So we took a long, hard look at what worked so well in the James Cameron film. And we found that it all essentially boils down to two things: love and loss. James Cameron's recipe for success was to write the most endearing, badass, memorable action heroes ever, and then kill them off one by one. Love and loss, that's what the film was built on, beyond all the fantastic action and inventive sci-fi visuals.

We realized a true Aliens game would only work if players got as invested in our characters as we were in Hicks, Vasquez, Apone, Bishop...yes, even Hudson. We had to make players love everything about our Marines: their weapons, their abilities, their appearance, their personalities, even their humor. So that when they died (and we're talking real, permanent death), it actually meant something. That's a pretty tall order for a game where the characters are only 40 pixels tall.

So right from the start, it was apparent that the heart of the game rested with our troops. And once we figured that out, we knew we were on the track to creating a really unique experience for players.

Onward to for part 2!
But wait, there's more! Head over to the Gearboxity blog and catch part 2 of the WayForward Developer Diary which touches on all things Gameplay from Cole Phillips (Lead Designer) and Jeff Pomegranate (Producer). Onward to Part 2!

QuoteSega and Gearbox are honored to take part in the first ever Developer Diaries from our fine friends at Way Forward, developers of the upcoming Aliens: Infestation.  Sega Blog and Gearboxity will be posting diaries in tandem and you can find part 2 of the first ever entry here on Gearboxity!  Be sure to catch the first part of this developer diary over at the Sega Blog and stay tuned in the coming weeks as we post more developer diaries regarding Aliens: Infestation!

Cole Philips (lead designer):

The origins of Aliens: Infestation starts with the original concepts for the Gearbox Aliens: Colonial Marines game. We were given an outline of their story, but I didn't want to simply re-tell their tale in 2D. I wanted to conceive a game that played in the cracks of their game. So I set out to write a companion piece, a story with events that were running concurrent with the events in their game; not just parallel, but also intersecting. In the end I felt we had a pretty cool Aliens story that stood really well on its own, but when played in conjunction with Colonial Marines, both games would enhance each other.

Early on, one of the things we really wanted to focus on was the lost ship Sulaco. We wanted the player to feel that the ship was almost a character itself. In our original outline, the entire game took place in the Sulaco. Later we expanded the game to other areas as well (such as the LV-426 colony). But the idea that you are trapped in this floating prison, evolving and deforming, still remains. I like the idea that the Sulaco is your world. As dangerous as it is, there is nowhere else to go.

  Another important aspect to our game is how the story is actually conveyed to the player. We wanted every Marine to have an individual personality and unique point of view, but didn't want them to all be cheesy stereotypes either. First off, they had to be Marines. We wanted them to always sound like Marines when they spoke, regardless of whether they were the brave hero or the scared new guy. I created bios for the 19 Marines and wrote the entire game's dialog from the point of view of one Marine, the archetypical hero John "Duke" Cameron. Then I re-wrote it all again (every line) from another Marine's view. Then another. And another... I gave our team bios and templates and they helped write the dialog for even more Marines.

In the end we produced 19 full dialog scripts. That's gotta be some kinda record, right? The result of all that work was a story that could be told from so many perspectives, changing based on who you were playing at any moment, that you could play the game 50 times and it would never quite be the same experience.

Jeff Pomegranate (producer):

Aliens: Infestation is one of my proudest achievements here at WayForward. It's essentially the game I've always wanted to be involved with. Everyone that helped develop the game were already huge fans of the series and were fully on board to create an action-packed world full of acid-filled enemies, dark corridors, and a jam-packed array of guns! From a fan's perspective, we wanted to follow James Cameron's leads, but also give players a refreshing new experience and I believe Aliens: Infestation definitely delivers.

Aliens was one of about 10 movies at my disposal while spending my 18th summer working on a fish processing barge in Alaska, and we watched it until we wore out the VHS tape (a VHS tape, for those unfamiliar, is a large cassette cartridge that people of yore watched movies on). A large part of enjoying the movie was the psychological fear that the enemies and environments instilled. Even after watching it 5 times a week for several months, we still had a room full of adult men screaming like little girls.

WayForward wanted to bring that same experience to gamers. Our artists and level designers were experts at creating tension through areas in the game that were dimly lit and/or had an eerie atmosphere. There are very few places in the game where the player is truly safe. We also wanted each of the many enemies to be uniquely terrifying so we designed them to have signature, intensely violent close encounters with the players that have the potential to result in instant death. This way the player has to be on guard at all times. The fact that you can lose a marine from your squad FOREVER, whom you've likely grown attached to due to their individual personality, makes players very cautious.

Finally, and as a further testament to the consideration of fan tribute, which WayForward went to great pains to achieve, we've sprinkled in a number of one-off moments that will surely strike a chord with Aliens fans. We have an APC driving level where the player must defend their vehicle from an onslaught of attacking enemies. This is a complete detraction from normal gameplay and required additional dedicated artists and programmers, but we feel it was well worth it. Fans will also recognize items and events from the movie utilized within the game, such as using a power loader to defeat a certain iconic boss. There's also a hidden, unlockable minigame that hearkens back to a very iconic scene from the film (just picture Bishop and a stylus, and you get the idea)

.All in all, WayForward is very happy with the finished game and we appreciate having the opportunity to develop it. We sincerely hope that everybody enjoys our labor of love.

Adam Tierney (director):

So now you know the game's origin story. Stay tuned for our next developer blog, where we get into the nuts and bolts of all the creatures, weapons, gadgets, and gameplay that Aliens: Infestation has to offer. Until then, stay frosty, Marine!



A bunch of screenshots got released as well:

Ash 937

The Dropship in the first pic looks very cool.  The Weyland-Yutani banner on the wall in one of the pics also made me smile.  It's obvious that WayForward has some fans of the franchise working for them.   


Just got word from Sega that the next entry is going to focus on the gameplay specifically and some of the mechanics.

Corporal Hicks

I'm really really looking forward to it. All the little things look right.


This looks awesome and the developer diaries are a neat look into the process too.


With Wayforward and Gearbox collaborating, and with the settings of both Infestation and Colonial Marines mirroring each other, I kind of figured the two games would be companion pieces for one another. I'm glad to see the developer diary confirms it. :)

My DS came in the mail yesterday, definitely looking forward to getting the game ASAP.


There is a Bishop knife game with the stylus.

That is just pure epic.

Ash 937

Any word on when we are going to get the answers to the Q&A?


Quote from: Ash 937 on Sep 12, 2011, 05:20:23 PM
Any word on when we are going to get the answers to the Q&A?

Nothing yet. Sega is looking into it tho.

Salt The Fries

I'm so stoked about this game! Finally a reason to save my DS from the dust :)


So this game is going to be like a side-story to Aliens: Colonial Marines?  Why do AVP games always come out on different consoles?  First it was the PSP, then the iPod, and now the 3DS.  I want all the AVP games just to come out on the same console for once.


Quote from: predxeno on Sep 13, 2011, 07:07:15 PM
So this game is going to be like a side-story to Aliens: Colonial Marines?  Why do AVP games always come out on different consoles?  First it was the PSP, then the iPod, and now the 3DS.  I want all the AVP games just to come out on the same console for once.
That would be nice.

The Aliens Infestation game is on the regular old DS though, not 3Ds.

Ash 937

Quote from: predxeno on Sep 13, 2011, 07:07:15 PM
So this game is going to be like a side-story to Aliens: Colonial Marines?  Why do AVP games always come out on different consoles?  First it was the PSP, then the iPod, and now the 3DS.  I want all the AVP games just to come out on the same console for once.

I for one couldn't be happier that these games are being released on the consoles they are announced for.  When Alien vs. Predator came out for the SNES, I owned a Sega Genesis.  When Alien trilogy came out for the PS1, I owned a 3DO.  When Alien Resurrection came out for the PS1, I owned a Dreamcast.  Now that I finally own both a DS and a 360, I am very pleased that these games are finally going to be released on consoles that I own.  It only took about 15 years for this to happen.  LOL.

Salt The Fries

Yes, it's gonna be a kind of a tie-in to the Colonial Marines! There's a 15-minute presentation and interview with one of the developers at Comic Con, coutresy of Gamespot, a lot of interesting info here:

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