Wednesday, October 12, 2011

An Interview with WayForward - Aliens: Infestation

Another day, another interview. My teammate Jon and I would like welcome to our friends at WayForward and thank them for talking with us here at Pocket Console. Today's topic? Aliens: Infestation.

We've been eyeing Aliens: Infestation since it was announced and are curious about the game's development history. Is Infestation tied to the upcoming Aliens: Colonial Marines or this older 2009 trailer in any way?

Jeff Pomegranate (Producer): It's tied to both, actually. Gearbox was the lead developer who got us involved in doing the handheld game early on, and that was a great benefit. That trailer is simply some early footage set to our credits song.

Does Aliens: Infestation feature any direct ties to the movies? How were they an influence over the game's development?

Cole Phillips (Lead Designer): I'm not sure if Infestation is to be considered canonical, but it certainly ties into the movies for sure. Much of the game takes place aboard the Sulaco, the spaceship that took Ripley, Hicks, and company to LV-426 in ALIENS. We all know what happened to them; Infestation continues the story of the Sulaco. We also take a trip back to the derelict ship's landing site from Ridley Scott's film.

What kind of cross-studio communication has there been between WayForward and Gearbox concerning the sharing of concepts within the franchise?

Jeff: We worked very closely with Gearbox during pre-production, as well as throughout development, in order to maintain some continuity between our projects. They're a great bunch over there and the collaboration was both effortless and fruitful.

Infestation draws a lot of comparisons to Super Metroid. I, for one, mean that as a huge compliment. What were some of the inspirations for the game's creation, game related or otherwise?

Cole: Metroid was of course an inspiration... The Castlevania games... Maybe less obvious, Resident Evil. I think personally Blackthorne inspired me a bit. Yeah, Blackthorne! We also wanted to include features being used in the modern 3D shooters we were playing like Gears of War and Halo. That's why we have a cover system complete with blind fire!

What challenges have you faced in creating a game that many might easily pigeon hole into the "Metroidvania" genre?

Cole: I can't think of a better place to be pigeon holed! That said, the exploration aspects of Infestation may be "Metroidesque", but that's where the similarities end. Our combat system is very different from other side scrolling shooters. Its slower. More precise. The ammo is limited. The enemies are harder to kill. There's a sense of fear and loss in our game that you normally wouldn't associate with a 2D shooter. It's pretty cool!

Infestation is by no means a clone, offering multiple playable characters throughout. What steps have been taken to make sure the game has a strong narrative despite having over twenty characters to follow?

Jeff: There are 20 characters with distinct personalities, but they all follow the same basic narrative, and it's a narrative we knew was strong because it's based on one of the greatest and most iconic action movies of all time. The unique dialog keeps things interesting, but as far as the overarching story, we were standing on the shoulders of giants there.

Cole: Jeff's right. It's a lot easier to make an awesome story experience when you have such great material to start with! Writing the dialog was a very long process. I wrote the first version of the story through the eyes of John Cameron, as I saw him as the archetypical hero. After that the rest were easier... Still very time consuming... but easier. I enlisted the writing talents of Jeff Pomegranate, Adam Tierney, and Mark Bozon to help me get through the 20 stories we needed to complete the game. We all stuck to the basic story outline and just focused on making each Marine an individual that the player would care about.

What gameplay aspects were core to the design of Infestation? Was it originally conceived in the form we see currently or did it start as a completely different style of game?

Cole: I think we were approached for Aliens because we had received rave reviews for Contra 4. We knew it was going to be a 2D side scrolling shooter, but decided pretty early on that we didn't want to just re-skin Contra. In a way, the map of the Sulaco helped guide the design process. After it was finished, we knew it was going to be more than a run-n-gun game. It helped plot out the quest structure. As time went on, we made the game slower, the enemies stronger, and put a larger emphasis on exploration and story.

What design aspect did the development team really want to include in the game, but were not able to do so? Why?

Jeff: Hm. I'm positive we didn't get everything into the game that we wanted to, we never do, but nothing's coming to mind. I think we achieved everything we set out to do content-wise.

Cole: We originally talked about flooded areas in the game. That would have been really cool! There were a couple of cool ideas like that we let go of, either for lack of time or lack of enthusiasm. Some ideas were probably too big for the game, some not worth the effort or diversion of resources. I think that's a common thing. In the end its best to just focus on the great ideas... let the cream rise.

Thank you very much for your time.

Jeff: Thanks to you for desiring our time, and thanks to all of the Aliens fans who have been so supportive, we sincerely appreciate it.

Cole: Totally. My pleasure. I had a great time making this game, working with these guys, creating a kick ass experience. I hope everyone has a great time with it! Cya!

Again, Jon and I would like to thank the team at WayForward for answering our questions as well as the folks at Sega for helping to coordinate this interview. Aliens: Infestation is out now, so if this sparked any interest for you, Amazon awaits.


  1. Great read there! Glad to see someone is talking this game up a bit. It definitely deserves more press than it's been getting.

  2. It does seem really awesome, though I'm afraid I've yet to pick it up. It is on my list.

  3. It's on my list of "purchased and will finish it eventually." Seems fairly short though as I have started it.