Alien: Isolation has been out for several months now and is considered a solid contender for game of the year by many. If you are one of the fans who has already beaten the main game, chances are you were left with many new questions about Creative Assembly’s Alien title. AvPGalaxy recently spoke with Alien: Isolation‘s Lead Game Designer, Gary Napper, to ask some of these burning questions.
AvPGalaxy – Thank you for doing this interview. First off, what was it like around the Creative Assembly office when the reviews started to come out – especially when IGN and Gamespot took the complete opposite stance to the majority of other critics; and fans?
Gary Napper – Our first review scores were hugely positive and this was a great result and was shown to the team in a Friday afternoon meeting. It was met with large applause and smiles! I think relief too. What interested us about the less overwhelmingly positive ones were the fan reactions to them! There were hundreds of comments supporting us and the game we made and this was heart-warming for us. We all put so much effort in to deliver this vision of the alien that it was great to see people react in such a positive way.
AvPGalaxy – Shortly after release, fans found a way to enable Oculus Rift support for Alien: Isolation. Is this something you’re still interested in supporting officially at some point?
Gary Napper – Support for Oculus VR was never more than a studio experiment. We have no plans as yet but love seeing the ambition of the Oculus Rift community.
AvPGalaxy – The post-release life of the game seems to revolve around the Survivor game mode. Many fans are clamouring for more story driven DLC such as mini-campaigns. Why did you decide to go down the Survivor route? Was the possibility of story driven mini-campaigns ever discussed?
Gary Napper – Survivor Mode was born naturally on the team. Over the course of the game’s development, many of us would brag about our ability to deal with the Alien, make it through an area without being spotted or even without using the tracker! This quickly became a talking point and when we were at an event, someone completed the demo without using the tracker. We thought about it and made a few maps to test the idea of a Survivor Mode and it quickly became a team favourite.
AvPGalaxy – The game currently features three difficulty modes. However details on what differentiates them are hazy. Could you please elaborate on what are the exact differences between each difficulty mode?
Gary Napper – CLASSIFED – WY EYES ONLY…. But as you guys are cool… I can give you a bit of detail… The Alien is based around several systems that can adapt and change according to what the player does. He is also driven from senses and awareness levels. The easier the game is, the longer he takes to spot you, the slower he learns and the less aggressive he is. Of course, on hard, he is super smart and deadly! Little things like damage dealt by androids and humans are also tweaked for each level.
AvPGalaxy – Mentions of an expert difficulty mode named “Remorseless” can be found in the game’s files. Is this something that was left out or are you still considering the addition of further difficulty modes?
Gary Napper – You’re in luck because we’ve only just announced Nightmare and Novice Mode in our latest game update. We’ve seen feedback from the community for a while now, some asking for a harder mode than they’d already experienced because they want an even tougher challenge and some asking for a chance to have more opportunities of getting to explore Sevastopol without necessarily encountering death at every turn.
Nightmare Mode should satisfy the really hardcore players. We’ve ramped up the Alien AI, you’ll have an unreliable, slightly broken motion tracker and the synthetics and other survivors are more aggressive. Novice Mode should give others the chance of having a less terrifying experience. The Alien is slower to learn from players, he’s more easily distracted by other things. There’s more resources to help you survive and other survivors and synthetics won’t be as hostile. Hopefully, there will be something for everyone to try out!
AvPGalaxy – The inclusion of the Alien hive was a surprise to quite a lot of us! However, in the narrative it wasn’t explained how the hive or multiple Aliens came to be. Was it ever discussed within the team how the hive came about? Queen? Eggmorphing?
Gary Napper – We wanted to imply that a Queen was on board but it didn’t feel like facing off against a boss Alien Queen was very… “Alien”. We were caught in a riddle of, “If we show an Alien Queen, the player will expect to fight her” and “If we don’t show her, people will ask where the eggs come from”. In the end we figured it was best to preserve the suspense and mystery by not explicitly showing her.
AvPGalaxy – Eagle-eyed gamers have already caught easter eggs such as references to Blade Runner, Halloween (1979), Jonesy or even a Twitter account for the game’s character Mike Tanaka. Are there any more of these that fans haven’t found yet? Any secret rooms or other such easter eggs?
Gary Napper – There are quite a few hidden bits and bobs in the environment yes. My favourite ones are the posters and brands named after team members! For Example, “Koorlander Gold” cigarettes are named after one of our producers, Paul Koorlander.
AvPGalaxy – The end of the game is left very open for a sequel. There’s quite a lot of fan speculation about what really happened. Did Amanda get infected in the hive, did she die in space? How much thought has Creative Assembly put into continuing Amanda’s story after the events in Alien: Isolation?
Gary Napper – The plot for a sequel is a daily topic in the studio sometimes. People have their own ideas for where it should go, our writers have some solid concepts and yes, we do have a great opportunity to continue her story. I personally think that Amanda did not get infected in the hive, as when she wakes, the closest egg remains closed…
AvPGalaxy – Would you be following the same formula you established in Alien: Isolation for a potential sequel or would you do to Alien: Isolation as ALIENS did to ALIEN and twist up the gameplay? Is a more action action orientated, authentic ALIENS experience something Creative Assembly would be interested in?
Gary Napper – I think the action oriented “Aliens” style game is very different from what Isolation is. If we made a sequel I would like to stick to the same terrifying single Alien approach but do more with the environment and interactivity within it.
AvPGalaxy – SEGA and Creative Assembly are known for supporting and promoting user-generated content with the Total War series. Are there any current plans to add similar mod support to Alien: Isolation?
Gary Napper – As Alien is such a crafted narrative experience, it is tough to open that up to people to play with. Another factor is that we use a different tool set to build our game than the Total War team and that somewhat limits our UGC support. We have had people request a “Free roam” mode where they can move around the station without any enemies! That is flattering to our team that people just want to see the visuals, but also, without the Alien and the other enemies, the station would lose some of its mystery and life.
AvPGalaxy – Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Before we sign off, is there anything you would like to tell our readers?
Gary Napper – We would like to thank everyone for the support and kind comments about our game. The entire team put in so much effort and passion into making the most authentic Alien game we could that it has really paid off to see so many people enjoy it and, most importantly, ’Get‘ what we were aiming for. Thank you all and remember: “You always know, a Working Joe!”