Thursday Oct 13, 2011
Today we have our final Aliens Infestation blog from the Wayforward development team. This weeks’ topic is all about the challenging, and unique, death mechanics in the game. Just like in the movies, a Colonial Marine can meet his end at moment’s notice… Our final blog is a two parter, with part 1 below and part 2 featured on the Gearboxity community site.
Death and Rescue
Adam Tierney (Director, Wayforward):
One of the really standout features of the game is the notion of true death. Unlike most action games, where death means (at worst) a brief wait to respawn, or getting kicked back to the previous checkpoint, we decided that this game would feature a true death mechanic, rarely seen in modern games (and most notably in Nintendo’s Fire Emblem series). As mentioned previously, James Cameron’s formula for success in the 1986 film was essentially:
1) Make the viewer become attached to a group of memorable, funny, endearing badasses
Doing this crafted a tremendously-impactful experience for the viewer, and made them root that much harder for Ripley and Bishop during the film’s climactic battle. Following suit, we knew we could create a group of memorable Marines by giving them individual names, faces, dialogue, and backstories. But that wouldn’t really mean anything if players could hold onto their favorite characters indefinitely. We needed to make it tough so that players would have to really WORK at keeping their favorite Marines alive. And ultimately, we the developers don’t WANT them to be kept alive, because the game is structured to encourage losing Marines and recruiting new ones to replace them. That’s right, gamers: the developers are trying to kill your favorite soldiers. Bwahahahaha…
Players start the game with four initial marines: Cameron (the hero), Whistler (the hopeless new recruit), Paulson (the walking mountain), and Johnston (our tough-as-nails chick – our ‘Vasquez’). After the opening story sequence, the player selects who to begin playing as, and can swap control to any of the other marines inside one of the game’s Save Rooms. Players begin the game with a xeno-free, slow build intro, navigating the ship, picking off minor enemies, and generally just getting acquainted to the setting (as in the films).
Then the carnage begins. As the player’s character takes damage, their HP Meter will drain (which can be replenished by grabbing health packs). Outside of Save Rooms (which aren’t plentiful), there’s no way to switch between Marines. So if your character is on the verge of death, you’d better find some health packs or start playing very cautiously to keep them out of the grave.
When the HP Meter is drained, that character is dead (sort of). Say goodbye, because you’re never going to see their portrait, or hear their voice again. You even get a big, fat, red X over their portrait in the Marines Roster, and their status is changed from “Active” to “Deceased”. Once they’ve died, their radio screen cuts to static (as in the film), and the player is asked to select from their remaining soldiers. This is potentially a very tough choice; you want to select the characters you enjoy playing as, but at the same time you know that using them could result in losing them. So there’s an interesting ‘play vs. save’ dynamic that we noticed as people played the game. We purposefully made the first Queen battle a rough one, to get players used to the idea that it’s okay to lose a Marine or two. Sure, it’s possible that players will kill her without losing a life. But more commonly, they’re gonna lose a few good men in battling that initial beast.
If that character dies, you select the next one, on and on until your last Marine dies and it’s Game Over, Man! At this point, you’re returned to your last Save Point, with whatever Marines were alive at that moment. And this created an interesting dilemma for us: if losing all lives brings back your dead marines, what’s to keep players from just powering off their system and hopping back to when their favorite characters were alive? Aside from the obvious (a loss of any progress made since the last save), the answer was in the ‘tease’ of new soldiers.
Head over for Part 2 on Gearboxity!
Go go go! The final part of the final developer diary is just a click away – do it now! Also be sure to head to our flickr page for updated images and full resolution marine bios. We hope you’ve enjoyed these blogs and now we want to hear back from you! Tell us your Aliens Infestation experiences in the comments below!
Posted by Clumsyorchid in Aliens: Infestation on 11:44:00AM Oct 13, 2011
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