The original Aliens films are considered to be some of the best science fiction movies in existence. Decades later, the franchise retains it foothold in popular culture with the Alien Vs. Predator films, and to some extent, Prometheus. The original trilogy has also been represented in numerous games over the years, with Texas based Gearbox Software currently trying its hand with Aliens: Colonial Marines for publisher Sega.
We caught up with Gearbox Software lead level designer, Graeme Timmins, to talk about how the game was put together.
Why a licensed video game with Aliens: Colonial Marines?
Gearbox Software lead level designer, Graeme Timmins (GT): Gearbox has always enjoyed working on IPs that our not our own. We love having the opportunity to work with important franchises. The Aliens world has always been a personal favourite of ours. Modern day FPSs can still trace their roots back to that iconic film. When Sega contacted us with the chance to work with the Aliens IP, we jumped at the chance. It’s a personal favourite for everyone here at Gearbox.
Why set the game after Alien 3?
GT: It was so important from the get go that this game fit into the existing story of the Alien universe. Whether you personally enjoyed the film or not, Alien 3 is part of the lore and it needs to be respected in that way. From a story perspective Aliens: Colonial Marines is a canonical continuation of Aliens, though.
Where does the game’s story fit into the overall Aliens timeline?
GT: Players assume the role of Corporal Winter, a Colonial Marine on board the USCM Sephora. The Sephora is sent to investigate the distress call from the Sulaco that was sent out in Aliens. The ship has mysteriously returned to LV-426 and isn’t responding to communication requests. It takes the Sephora 17 weeks to get there by which time Alien 3 has already happened chronologically, but our characters obviously aren’t aware of that. Through the story, players get to meet up with a great new cast of characters and get to experience that great atmosphere and world of the films.
Gearbox meet with Ridley Scott to see the script for Prometheus, but how about Alien 3 director David Fincher?
GT: No, this story was written by Gearbox’s own Mikey Neumann with coordination with Fox [Entertainment Group].
How will Aliens: Colonial Marines be different from other Alien games?
GT: This game is really all about the Marines from beginning to end. Instead of trying to tell a story from multiple perspectives, Aliens: Colonial Marines is focused solely on the experience of a new team of Marines trying to figure out what they’ve gotten into. It’s much more like the film in that respect.
What was the main source of inspiration for the Gearbox team?
GT: Fox gave us unprecedented access to all kinds of great reference content. They supplied us with tons of concept art that was used for the sets from the films, as well as photography from the sets themselves.
What aspect of the game is shaping up to be the most interesting?
GT: When we had started the project we focused on a great co-op campaign. Over the course of the project we had the itch to go all the way and add multiplayer to the game. The asymmetrical design of multiplayer posed lots of tough questions for our team. The dynamics are just so different between the Xeno and Marine teams, asymmetrical design is just not something you see often anymore. In the end, we’re very satisfied how the multiplayer experience turned out. It really captures the team aspect that the movie portrayed so well.
Anything memorable come out from testing?
GT: Our QA team was all about the details on this project. We got a bug one day that really threw me for a loop. A tester had come across a calendar mesh in Hadley’s Hope. Based on the story and the timing in which all the events happen between the movies and game, he figured out that it was off by a couple of years. My first response was, “You’ve got to be kidding me! Who would take the time to do that?!” He was right though, so we sent the bug to art to make sure it was corrected.
Any interest in porting the game to the PlayStation Vita?
GT: Gearbox loves working with all kinds of platforms. We want to engage our audience as much as possible. Right now there aren’t any plans, but that’s not to say we wouldn’t be open to that opportunity if it were to arise.
After Aliens: Colonial Marines, what's next for Gearbox?
GT: Right now we are focused on continuing our support for Aliens: Colonial Marines and Borderlands 2.
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