Many developers have tried to use H.R Giger’s iconic ‘Xenomorph’ to create successful game a franchise, but few have succeeded. Monolith and Rebellion are arguably behind the best attempts thus far, thanks to the acclaimed Aliens versus Predator series, but Gearbox are taking a more story-centric route with Aliens: Colonial Marines – bridging the canonical gap between Aliens and Aliens 3. Can the studio behind Borderlands and Brothers in Arms take the ever-popular Xenos in an all new direction or is the co-op shooter all about maintaining the status quo. We sat down with the game’s senior producer Brian Burleson to find out…
GamerZines: It’s always a pleasure to see Colonial Marines in action as it seems to deliver on that promise of offering everything that’s cool about the Aliens franchise. I guess, the problem you guys always have is that you’re ‘aping’ concepts which have been done to death in the FPS genre at this point..
Brian Burleson (senior producer, Gearbox): I wouldn’t say aping, as we’re actually doing Aliens as it has always been.
GamerZines: That’s true, but it could be seen as retreading familiar ground…
Brian Burleson: The perception could be. It’s funny, when we were working on Brothers in Arms, we did some focus testing on weapons. We were trying to make them as authentic as possible; we went out to the battlefield, we shot Thompsons, we shot ‘Grease Guns’, we shot all these relics and recorded audio for them and took video to understand how they kicked, figured out the force and all this other stuff. We made these things so damn authentic – we sat back and we were proud. Yet in the focus testers’ hands, the feedback we got was, ‘These don’t feel real’. And we were like, “What do you mean?” We had done the math, we had done the simulation – these were real, yet they were like, “Nope.” So we asked them what feels real and they said, “Halo feels real.”
We wondered what they meant, but then we thought about it and, their opinion was taking into account what they considered the standard was. It’s what they experienced last, or what defined they’re initial experience, which governs what feels real to them. For a time Doom felt real because nobody else had experienced anything different. Hell for a little while, GoldenEye felt real! Play GoldenEye today and it doesn’t feel right at all. There’s an evolution as controls always change, and that’s the same for people’s perceptions on what is authentic, what is real, what is aping – it just depends on the generation of people playing. So yeah that feeling of, “Oh Colonial Space Marines, we’ve seen that type of game before!” Well, where do you think everyone copied it from…
GamerZines: The thing that really excites us about Colonial Marines is that you guys gained access to all the material there wasn’t enough time to explore in the ‘Aliens’ film, like Syd Mead’s un-unused concept art for instance. The other side of that coin is that you’re adding things which will inadvertently become part of this universe, like the ‘Bull Alien’ for instance. What other new things are you adding?
Brian Burleson: Not as much as you’d think. We want to do a couple of things with the game; we definitely want to make sure it feels as authentic as possible in the best way possible. Making sure the characters, the ships, the Pulse Rifle, the Xenos, all feel real to those that imagine them – that’s really important to us – but at the same time we want to make sure that if we’re adding anything to it, it belongs within those ideas. There’s a lot of unanswered questions between Aliens and Alien 3, so we’re going in there and trying to fill out all that stuff. Sometimes we aren’t answering those questions directly, but we’ll give you more puzzle pieces to figure out what’s really going on. It’s never fun to just give people the answers, why would we do that? That isn’t how you entertain people.
GamerZines: Absolutely you don’t want to end that speculation on what’s going on.
Brian Burleson: Exactly there’s no Midi-chlorians here! There’s something to the mystery that’s pretty fascinating. When we add things, we only add things that people find interesting and feel compelled to learn more about. Telling somebody what happens is the worst kind of information; we want to have a dialogue with the player. When they’re playing the game, we want to challenge them so they feel compelled to overcome that challenge. Things we add are definitely more in that vein than just, ‘Heck Yeah, let’s add that’.
Tags: Aliens Colonial Marines
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