Friday Oct 14, 2011
Aliens Infestation has been out for a few days now, but we’ve still got glorious content to share with you! Today’s exclusive trailer is a bit different format than what we’ve published so far. It starts slow and builds, much like the game, and includes some awesomeness for Aliens fans – Facehugging, chest bursting, power loaders, and a special secret at the very end! Enjoy…
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!
Tuesday Oct 11, 2011
Aliens Infestation, the newest from SEGA and WayForward is now available worldwide! Developed for the Nintendo DS, Aliens Infestation is a 2D sprite based side scroller that returns gamers to a familiar world within the Aliens franchise, where you’ll encounter chest bursting, face hugging, and mini-mouth face stabbing, among many other epic Aliens moments. It’s not all Colonial Marine death scenes though, there’s plenty of key finding, blowtorch using, smartgun blasting, power loader driving, and more!
The reviews have been coming in since the recent European launch of the game on September 30th. Lots of good stuff too, which we’ve combed over the net to deliver to you, saving you the painstaking googling – Read on!
Thursday Oct 06, 2011
Today is Thursday, but tomorrow is Friday and Friday is our big giveaway day with Free Stuff Friday. This week’s group of prizes are all related to a single theme – Aliens Infestation! The WayForward / Gearbox developed, SEGA published, Aliens amazing-ness that’s been getting a ton of high marks from around the web! It’s going to be a good one :)…
On the Block
This week we have six identical packs, each with one of the following prizes included. Good luck!
1. Aliens Infestation – the Nintendo DS Game! The game is completely region free and can be enjoyed across any Nintendo DS, or 3DS system.
2. Aliens Infestation Buttons – four buttons displaying different Colonial Marines meeting their end from various Alien life forms. Facehugger, chestburster, and full on Alien with mini-through-head-death. These were originally given away at our PAX 2011 booth and were quite the hit!
3. Aliens Infestation Animated Lenticular – This framed art piece features a fully animated Alien stalking and attacking a Colonial Marine. The animation is pulled directly from the in-game sprites and is, in essence, a moving picture in a static format. In the image above you can catch the last frame when the Marine is pushing the Alien back with a burst of gunfire from the Pulse Rifle. We’re really happy with how these turned out and cannot wait to get them out to 6 lucky winners! **Only 200 of these were created, they are extremely limited!**
How it Works
1. You must be following us on Twitter to be eligible. (If you don’t have a Twitter account, you can create one by going to http://www.twitter.com and click the green “get started — join!” button in the center of the page.)
2. At random times on Friday, we will announce the prize we are giving away, a word or phrase, and what number of response you need to be to win. Send us a direct message (DM) via Twitter and be that number to win the prize. (@ replies do not count as entries!)
We tweet “GIVEAWAY: Sonic T-shirt, size L. Be the 15th person to DM “Sonic Adventure” to win!”
You see this, and want to win it, so you send us a direct message that says “Sonic Adventure”. If you are the 15th person to do so, you are the winner!
Quotation marks do not matter, capitalization does not matter, but spelling does matter!
3. All followers are eligible to win all prizes, unless a restriction is noted. Restrictions are usually due to the prize being region-locked. For example, US games that won’t work on UK gaming systems. There may also be age restrictions due to the rating of the game.
4. We will announce the winner on our Twitter feed once eligibility is confirmed.
How to Send Direct Messages on Twitter
Due to a change in our account status with Twitter, you should be able to send us direct messages without us following you.
There are a few ways to send us a Direct Message on Twitter. The easiest way is to go to our Twitter page and select “message” under the “Actions” heading in the side bar. If you do not see “message”, this means that we are not following you. Please send a message to @sega to let us know, and we will follow you. When you click “message” you will be taken to a window where you can type a message and press send.
You may also select the “direct messages” tab from your Twitter homepage, and select SEGA from the drop-down menu at the top of the page. Again, if you don’t see our name there, it’s probably because we’re not following you. Let us know, and we’ll follow you.
There are also many Twitter clients that you can use instead of using the website. These include TweetDeck, Twitteriffic, Tweetie, and Twhirl. Each of these programs works differently, so you’ll want to figure out how to send a direct message on the program you use. If you want to send us a test message, we’ll let you know if we received it or not.
Wednesday Sep 28, 2011
Alien Infestation is nearly here, launching in European territories on September 30th and arriving in North America on October 11th! With only a few days a way, we’ve got another developer diary from the good folks at WayForward to help ease the pain of waiting. This week’s blog features the development of the characters, the Colonial Marines, the folks you’ll be guiding through the sidescroller Alien Infestation.
We’ve got a small preview of the blog here, with the full text appearing on AvPGalaxy.net, fansite for all things Aliens, Predator and an excellent reference for all things in between, enjoy!
To be Continued – Right Now!
If the above has you interested, you’ll want to catch the rest over at AvpGalaxy.net. Read up on the rest of the character’s developer diary and also check out individual character bios detailing backstory on a few of the marines you’ll be playing as!
Thursday Sep 22, 2011
What’s that? Fear? On a Nintendo DS? You’d better believe it and even if you don’t we have the good folks from WayForward tell you all about their project plans. In our second blog about Aliens Infestation, the team talks about how they crafted the experience and came up with new ways to frighten and disturb players. Read on!
Level Design and Crafting Fear
Adam Tierney (Director, WayForward):
So now that WayForward has signed on to develop the Aliens project with Gearbox and Sega…what next?
We’d initially pitched our publisher on a Metroidvania-style exploration game, which seemed to fit the license. For those that aren’t familiar with that term, it refers to the backtracking, lock-and-key nature of games like Metroid and Castlevania. Rather than rushing forward, the player is forced to search for specific objects, which allow them to bypassed previously-locked areas, and expand their game world section-by-section. The world of Aliens is filled with memorable gadgets and technology, so it was very easy to come up with locks and keys in this sense: welded doors, xeno-gunked passages, key cards, etc.
We knew early on that it was important to play up the ‘hidden passages’ aspect of the films, in order to give our creatures a believable method by which they could leap out of the floors and ceilings. So each of our game environments has two areas: the main floors, and the air ducts above and below those floors. Players essentially ‘warp’ between the two types of areas each time they step through a hatch in the ceiling or wall. By locking the players out of standard paths, and forcing them to hop into these confined, dark enclosures (often barely tall enough to crawl through), we limited the player’s options are (hopefully) created unsettling situations.
The other things those air ducts allowed us to do was connect the Xenomorphs’ world to our own. In most of our game environments, there are multiple alien Queen hives hidden in between floors, accessible only air ducts. Creating these nooks was a fantastic opportunity to play up the organic composition of those areas, in stark contrast to the more structured, angular environments of the human-built areas. In fact, we even split the art load between two different pixel artists (Mads and Telemachus), so that the two areas would feel very foreign to one another. These hives would play a critical role in the game, in regard to rescuing captured squad mates (but more on that later).
Another critical element was creating situations where the player would lack confidence, and fear what’s ahead of them. This proved to be one of the biggest challenges in a tiny, pixel art game on Nintendo DS. Could a 2D pixel game be scary? Was that even possible? We decided to focus on two areas of the game to foster our fear: visibility and resources.
Regarding visibility, we felt that if we could prevent players from seeing their adversaries, or seeing the full environment around them, it would make them apprehensive about moving forward (in spite of the pixel art style). This was accomplished first, and most directly, by occasionally turning the lights out. Many areas of the game are completely dark, and block the player from progressing until they’ve located a portable light source. Even then, the flashlight (once located) will only shine a thin beam forward, in the direction the character is currently facing. It does nothing to illuminate what’s behind or above the player, unless they turn to face in that direction (which then obscures what’s in front of them). By limiting visibility dramatically in these sections of the game, we were able to cultivate that uncertainty in players.
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. It’s not until the player passes the creature, that it slinks out of its hiding space, engaging them in combat. It was important to never cheat the player in this regard: you can always see highlights of the alien resting in its nook; they aren’t totally invisible. But because of the complexity of the environment’s art style, players can never be completely sure if something is there, without getting close and checking it out first-hand.
The other prominent xeno entrance is leaping out at players. Instead of having our xenos just standing around, waiting for the player to approach and attack them, they’re more often hidden in the floor and ceilings (just as in the films). If the player rushes through an area too quickly, the xeno will leap out, knocking them down and brutally attacking the player as a punishment for their impetuousness. Instead, the safe player must either proceed slowly and cautiously, so that they have (just) enough time to dodge when a xeno bursts out, or they must learn to perfectly time a dodge roll, in order to zip past the creature just as it bursts forth. Playing sloppy and failing to adequately take either approach will result in pretty quick death.
When the player gets the Motion Tracker, this heightens the fear even more, with the player now able to tell roughly where those aliens are hiding, and inching toward them very, very slowly with the anticipation that they’re going to jump out any second. Sometimes, giving the player more information can actually make them feel less confident.
The other area of the game we felt we could build fear, as mentioned, was in resources. Nothing’s frightening when you can unload unlimited Smart Gun ammo against your enemies. So with the exception of the single-shot pistol, every weapon in the game has a limited amount of ammo (even the pulse rifle). By forcing players to spend their clips cautiously, we’re able to milk the action. Rather than unloading wildly on a creature (and risk wasting a few shots), the player learns to fire in short bursts. Doing this, of course, takes longer to kill each enemy, and allows each enemy to get closer to the player than if they’d just held the firing button down continuously. In this sense, our enemies will force players to backpedal while firing (another important mechanic, detailed in the next section). So now rather than tearing through enemies, the player is blasting out conservative rounds, praying that they’re got enough ammo and (hallway space) to destroy the creature before it slices them to pieces.
Once we had the mechanics for these elements figured out amongst the team, we were able to proceed with confidence that our game (while pixel and handheld) would be intense. And ultimately, the formula for nailing each of these elements was right there in the original films.
Metroidvania or Lock and Key – Gameplay explained
Cole Phillips (lead designer):
As fans of the Metroid series know, the Alien films had an influence on many aspects of the game. From the pacing to the art style to even similarities in plot devices, Metroid has always given off that ‘Alien vibe’. When we were tasked to design a new 2D side scrolling Aliens game, I couldn’t believe it! I’ve wanted to make a game of this type for some time, and thought this would be a great opportunity for that.
We decided to combine the action shooter genre with ‘MetroidVania’ style lock-n-key progression. The Aliens universe proved to be an ideal candidate for the treatment, rich in weapons, gear, and enemy lore. Metroid always felt a little more real to me than most platforming games. We decided to add a sense of realism to our game by adding features more commonly found in tactical titles: Slower movement, limited ammo, magazine changes, taking cover, blind fire. I always appreciated the tempo of the Metroid games and thought the same approach could work well here.
Exploring was also a big part of the MetroidVania experience and we tried to provide that same feeling by really making a maze out of the guts of the Sulaco. It’s hard to look at the in-game map and not be reminded of the maps in Super Metroid.
Thursday Sep 08, 2011
As 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 Gearboxity.com. We hope you enjoy the first entry!
Who is WayForward and What is Their Design Philosophy for Aliens: Infestation?
Adam Tierney of WayForward (Director):
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 Gearboxity.com 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!
Friday Sep 02, 2011
Aliens Infestation is coming soon, launching in Europe on September 30th and in North America on October 11th. The game has been getting all kinds of praise from folks who get their hands on the game and today we have a trailer to show it off.
The first outing is a bit action packed, but wait there’s more … Aliens Infestation is a classic lock and key style game, some might call Metroidvania. Crafted by WayForward, one of the top 2D developers, you know it’s going to be a good one. Don’t just take my word for it, we had some recent coverage from both Comic-con and Penny Arcade Expo that you should read:
1up.com enjoyed their hands on and had this to say:
Gamefront enjoyed Infestation and created a list of seven reasons why you should pick this game up!
Destructoid awarded Aliens Infestation one of it’s top games of the PAX 2011 show, an award only 9 others received.
Lastly 4PlayerPodcast wrote up a preview that had us all laughing, even getting a spot on our wall of awesome, here’s a tease:
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