I remember when Aliens vs Predator
came out in 1999, and the critical acclaim that it had in spite of, or perhaps because of, the license you had and the creative freedom that you were given with it. Did that success pose any challenges with how you wanted to present 2010's Aliens vs Predator
? Were you still handed that creative freedom?
I think one of the toughest things is taking two supposedly invincible characters and trying to make it anything like a challenge. That was probably the thing that was on our minds the most. In those original movies – Danny Glover and Arnie aside – the Predators were practically invincible, but playing as or against an invincible Predator isn't going to be all that entertaining.
So what we had to get into our heads was the basics of each character. The Predator is a hunter, and we wanted to evolve the story that he is honourable – that was a good thing to build on, because that then throws up the question of how you go about combat. There should be an element that says 'You're going to look for the toughest enemy you can with the most overwhelming odds, and triumph'.
That gives you a basis for presenting the player with a challenge, because it's not a movie anymore. It is a game, and you want the player to kind of get involved in the character – use the visors and discover the weapons so they can really feel like they're the Predator – and then give them a challenge they can't pass up whilst in that mentality.
We also had some interesting discussions with FOX about what we could do that was off-canon. And the whole debate about what is considered canon and what isn't is a funny one. It's something that I touched on before, about how things that we created all of sudden became canon. In the 1999 game we created a Predator visor so you could see Aliens. It was then used in the following film – it's crazy to think that a random idea that a programmer had for a game all of a sudden becomes canon.
So we felt that the two mediums should benefit each other in that regard – the example I gave just then is a very concrete example of how the films and games can complement one another, but generally we go to FOX and say how we feel about how best to represent the franchise in game form, and they listen to us and take everything on board. It's a really good relationship. The people at FOX are very open to suggestions that would help make the game a better interactive experience.
Finally, downloadable content. These days, it seems a given that any studio working on a game with an online multiplayer will have some extra things lined up. Do you guys have anything on the way or are you taking a 'wait and see' approach, listening to your community and taking comments on board beforehand?
There is some specific DLC that will come out at some point after the game's release date. Some of it will be things that we didn't have time to fit in – you know what these things are like to do at such a high quality, things can sometimes take a back seat. So we've spent some time after the initial game's deadline to finish those off and offer those. In that sense, it's great that modern consoles actually have an ability to add to the original game.
Other stuff we've got planned is just stuff we wanted in there, but ultimately you're right – we want to see what players have to say about the game once it goes live and we want to be able to adapt to that and offer new things that might make the game better. I mean, we have ideas right now, but we're going to see what the community says and take it from there.
The whole nature of DLC has its plus points as you say, but it's also a little bit controversial with gamers. There's the view that if studios are making downloadable content – particularly if they're doing so before the game's even out yet – that it should just be an extra on the disc. Do you have any comments on the matter to give some developer insight as to why pre-release DLC can occur?
Yeah. It's quite simple to explain, but I do think players are entirely right – if the content is on the disc already there's absolutely no justification for studios to offer DLC which is essentially an unlock key or something. But I guess what doesn't come across to some people is that when a game hits the shelves, it's probably been wrapped up for four or five months in any true sense.
The time between finishing the game and retail is usually spent on debugging – you can spend months and months just fixing errors and glitches to ensure the product is finished and ready for release. Then when you factor in the console approval and the manufacturing process, you're talking about a substantial part of the game's overall development time.
While all of that stuff is going on, it tends to free up resources at the studio, so they can make items that can be added on as DLC afterwards. I think people outside of that process assume that the development of a game and its DLC are executed in parallel, and that's really not the case.
I can understand why that's hard to appreciate though, and people are right to question when they see things like that. But it definitely doesn't apply to this game, we simply saw an opportunity inbetween finishing the game and actually putting it on the shelves to build on what we've already completed, so hopefully players can enjoy it more.
Thank you for your time.
My pleasure, thank you.