A harsh preview of Alien: Isolation

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matt
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A harsh preview of Alien: Isolation

Post by matt » Mon Mar 24, 2014 11:32 am

RPS previewed Alien: Isolation, and they had plenty of bad things to say about the game. :( I was excited about it, but their preview is worrisome:
In the demo, each time I was spotted resulted in immediate death. No chance to escape, or to hide after being seen. Death. You lose. Good day, sir.

Tension gone, replaced only with frustration. I wasn’t the only one — I spoke to another journalist who flat-out quit the demo, he was so tired of dying in the last bit.
And some other bad news:
And I haven’t even mentioned the fact that there is, despite initial expectations, combat in the game. You can’t kill the alien, but you will have to fight an assortment of robots and other dumb bullshit because of course this is a video game and video games have to have combat. We didn’t see any of that in the demo, but I swung my wrench around a bunch. Felt wrenchy.
In my experience, press is usually very hesitant to write negative things about preview builds unless it is REALLY bad, so I think this bodes poorly for the game... :cry:
-Matt Gilgenbach
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Grabthehoopka
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Re: A harsh preview of Alien: Isolation

Post by Grabthehoopka » Mon Mar 24, 2014 3:42 pm

Gosh dang. I was telling myself to be skeptical with the gameplay trailers, but was still excited despite myself. I'm glad that it still looks as good, but all the developer talk sounded like they really, really knew what they were doing with this one.

I'm going to hold my breath and hope that either they did a terrible rush job with the show floor demo that doesn't accurately reflect the final product (not likely), or this generates enough bad press for them to re-evaluate the game (although that's not likely either). The only time I can recall that really working was Borderlands 1, which underwent a huuuuuuuge overhaul in the story and art style 3/4s of the way through production that basically made them re-make most of the assets from scratch, and it was a miracle that they were able to get the game in as complete a state as it is in time. But even then, the former lead art designer was fired when this happened and she swore off of working in the video game industry ever again. So, there's that.

But anyways, I have to imagine that when the producers ask the higher-ups that they want to make huge changes to the game and might need more time and money, it does not make them happy. I don't know how many millions of dollars has been invested in this project so far, but it has to be a lot. Would it be cheaper and easier to just focus on PR, downplay the negative press, and try to keep the preorders intact, or would the net profit be better in the long run if they trusted the devs, bit the money bullet, and delayed it to try and improve the game?

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matt
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Re: A harsh preview of Alien: Isolation

Post by matt » Mon Mar 24, 2014 4:18 pm

I think it is tough to rethink major portions of the game after so much time/money have been invested in. While giving games the time to be successful is usually worthwhile (assuming the team has the skills to deliver on what they set out to), it can be hard for a publisher to write a much larger check. Sega has to worry about yearly earnings, projections, forecasts, investors, etc, etc. Take Two is really the only publisher that has the balls to delay a game until it is really good and well polished.

Maybe it's a question of balancing and/or that reporter just didn't dig it, but I also read this:
As I try and fail to outsmart the alien a second and a third time, I can't help but think about the huge risk they're taking. In an age where most survival-horror games have become action games, Alien: Isolation has no guns and seemingly very little combat at all. And in an age where most games err on the side of giving too much information, Creative Assembly has very specifically chosen to hold things back from the player.

It's impossible to tell from a 20-minute demo if that risk is going to pay off or if it's just going to be frustrating.
If you are worried a game is going to be frustrated from a 20 minute demo, then that seems... bad....
-Matt Gilgenbach
Lead Frightener at Infinitap Games

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gagaplex
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Re: A harsh preview of Alien: Isolation

Post by gagaplex » Mon Mar 24, 2014 11:05 pm

Sigh. That does sound bad. I guess I could be okay with the hard difficulty depending just how it works (I enjoy STALKER, The Binding of Isaac etc. after all), assuming there's just some trick to survival we didn't know about... but the reversal of the approach to combat seriously puts me off. The original trailer appears to have been very misleading then. Apparently, so was this demo, if they didn't get to actually fight the robots but have confirmation that they'll appear in the actual game.

More bad news: Remember when I posted about This War Of Mine? Well, The Escapist did an update based on a demo they played at GDC:

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/article ... rious-Game

While the devs manage to tell their vision of the game well, the actual gameplay so far seems disappointing.

"The game just doesn't seem very fun. The combat appears crude and rudimentary, and the crafting or strategy game aspect hasn't been fleshed out to be anything more than busywork. The real-time mode coupled with long amounts of in-game time needed to complete tasks could be interesting, but right now it feels like a Facebook game instead of a robust simulation. Miechowski promised me that there was a lot more to the game than what I was being shown, but you've got to display the best parts of your game at an event like GDC. It's especially important with a game that has such a serious topic.

I also don't think the really important issues in a war-torn city have been represented very well. You have a stronghold or base just given to you at the start of the game, and Miechowski said that there's really no reason to leave it. What happens if it's attacked? Wouldn't you want to move to a new location to avoid future danger? How are inevitable social groups like violent gangs represented in the game's world? What about the sex trade? What about rape? Or child abuse? How do soldiers from one side treat civilians of the predominant race of the other? What about religion? I was only given a short glimpse into the This War of Mine, but I was disappointed that so many repercussions of war and the breakdown of society weren't really being considered by the designers."

I guess it's a bit early to "give up" on these titles, but these are not exactly good news about the path they seem to be taking.

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matt
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Re: A harsh preview of Alien: Isolation

Post by matt » Tue Mar 25, 2014 10:11 am

It is really hard to create something new and fresh without infinite time and money... We have been VERY careful on Neverending Nightmares to pick the aspects we want to innovate on, and then focus on those. Will the enemy AI in our game win any awards? No. Definitely not. The advantage is that I've been making similar enemy behaviors for a lot of my career, so I know how to do it. :) Trying to make an intelligent competitive agent that is both fair and smart is extremely difficult. I suspect in the games that have it where you like it, they just cheat.

It's possible that they showed too early for "This War of Mine", but usually you know if it's too early or not as the developer and then decide NOT to show it. I think I have some builds in June or July of Neverending Nightmares and they are terrible. hahaha
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JPrice
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Re: A harsh preview of Alien: Isolation

Post by JPrice » Tue Mar 25, 2014 10:44 am

Ahhhhh it's a shame to hear that about Alien: Isolation!
Looked like it could have a great Alien's game with all the emphasis on environment traversal over combat, sucks to hear that it's frustrating.

I feel like that's a hard balance to get to work however. There seems to be a fine line between scaring a player into feeling tense & helpless and just frustrating them with the lack of mechanics or poor execution of said mechanics. In a game where you're only given one real viable option to progress then I suppose it's important to make sure that you get the mechanics that surround that option as polished and functional as possible. It's why tacked on stealth sections in games are usually universally hated hahaha

Still sucks to hear that Alien: Isolation is getting a bad rap from the get go, then again maybe it is only a small vocal minority who have these issues. I don't know as I probably won't look into it much, I have other horror games that I'm looking forward to much more *achem* :D
"Always look on the bright side of life"
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matt
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Re: A harsh preview of Alien: Isolation

Post by matt » Tue Mar 25, 2014 2:51 pm

There seems to be a fine line between scaring a player into feeling tense & helpless and just frustrating them with the lack of mechanics or poor execution of said mechanics.
That is very true! I was disappointed to see people struggling with my setups at GDC from the "Lost Child" level. I thought with the maybe exception of the chase, they might even be too easy, but I'm not sure that's the case anymore...

I think our game is a long way from frustrating though. Even if Alien: Isolation turns out great, Neverending Nightmares is going to be way better. :)
-Matt Gilgenbach
Lead Frightener at Infinitap Games

Grabthehoopka
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Re: A harsh preview of Alien: Isolation

Post by Grabthehoopka » Tue Mar 25, 2014 9:28 pm

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/ ... f-Virality
(he's usually not this vitriolic, GDC just apparently touched a nerve)

All this, coupled with the apparently horrifyingly cold, greedy, and cynical some of the panels were, and this is all adding up to make me very sad.

But on the other hand...all this stuff had to have made Neverending Nightmares look better by comparison, right?

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matt
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Re: A harsh preview of Alien: Isolation

Post by matt » Wed Mar 26, 2014 7:17 pm

If other games turn out poorly, then I do think that makes Neverending Nightmares by comparison. :) I spend some time here and there advising on kickstarters and various game design tips. Hmm... Maybe I should stop because they are the competition. :-P

F2P is a weird, weird, thing. I am ashamed to say that during and after Retro/Grade, I worked on a F2P game - Dino Park (Android) and National Geographic's Dino Land (iOS). It's the same basic game, but the iOS version is much more polished. The monetization (particularly on the iOS version) is terrible. When I originally designed it, I wanted to create a game that was enjoyable for free, but you could pay as much as you want for it. That in and of itself doesn't seem too evil. Unfortunately, a producer game in and made it a terrible money grab, which I felt pretty sick about. You reach a paywall like 30 seconds in the game. His argument was that you are either going to pay for the game or you aren't, and we might as well filter out users that aren't going to pay. I don't really think that's how F2P works... The free players help build awareness, and it's usually a small percentage that actually pays the bills.

While the game turned out terrible, there are some upsides. We used the money we made from that to fund Neverending Nightmares up until the kickstarter. The tech was nice, and it's what we built Neverending Nightmares off of. The animaion system is probably the coolest bit of tech that we carried over.

I'm not sure F2P definitely equates to evil. Valve had a really interesting talk at Steam Dev Days about how the monetize TF2 and DotA, and it works quite well for them. The problem is that I imagine you need to foot the bill for the backend on a huge number of users, which I'm sure makes sense if you have a hugely popular game, but if you are tiny, it might be daunting to run a backend for all those free users. (I don't think we ever had any users for Dino Park/Land, so we didn't have to worry about that. haha)

My buddy Rob Jagnow is doing a very interesting F2P game Extrasolar that seems reasonable about monetization. Personally, I don't think I'd ever want to work in F2P again. I don't want to think about monetization when making the game, which I think you are pretty much stuck with no matter what when working in F2P.

*EDIT* Bringing the conversation back to Alien: Isolation it looks like they are currently showing the game at EGX Rezzed. Any UK backers attending who can report back what it was like? :) It's possible they may show at PAX Prime, but I probably won't have time to check it out since I'll be busy showing Neverending Nightmares.
-Matt Gilgenbach
Lead Frightener at Infinitap Games

Harry Sunderland
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Re: A harsh preview of Alien: Isolation

Post by Harry Sunderland » Wed Apr 02, 2014 2:30 pm

I loved that scene in Alien where Ripley was hitting robots with a wrench. :roll:

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