Interview: 'Aliens: Colonial Marines' Design Director on the Legacy, 'Prometheus' and Making a Modern Game

Interview: 'Aliens: Colonial Marines' Design Director on the Legacy, 'Prometheus' and Making a Modern Game

Was it always the plan to be adding to the Alien canon or did that come in partway through development, where they saw what was being made and decided that it needed to be added to the lore officially?

It was from the beginning. That was one of the reasons everybody was really—you know, beyond being excited at the idea of being able to work within the Aliens franchise, the idea of being able to make it canon just made it that much more exciting. And that was always, from the beginning, the idea, that we would be adding to the canon. It would be something that was official. So that was really exciting.

Is it a tough balancing act trying to add your own flavor while paying tribute to the originals?

I think normally that could be the case within a franchise, but with the Aliens franchise, the franchise itself was so awesome of a game, you know? It's like, the film was just a really great game [laughing] so the notion that you get to continue with that and leverage it, you see it more as a benefit than a crutch, you know, something that you have to—a burden to bear. So being able to reach in and leverage those elements and stay true to the franchise and the elements of the franchise actually made it an easier game to make, you know? Because there was already a lot of really, really cool framework and a lot of really cool groundwork done that we could just run with and add on top of. It's a great, great franchise to work with from that perspective.

I read that you were given access to Prometheus and the script and Ridley Scott himself before that movie came out. Are there any connections between Colonial Marines and Prometheus?

There really isn't any connection with Prometheus. It's definitely hugely different time frames. But in our game, we do go to the derelict ship, you know, the one that we think we saw in Prometheus. Definitely the one that we saw in Alien and Aliens. And we get to go explore that. We get to go inside and see what's inside one of those things. So that's pretty exciting.

So even you guys aren't sure whether that was actually the same ship?

Right [laughing]. Yeah, we're not even privy to that knowledge.

Prometheus was sort of divisive, because in my opinion, parts of it didn't make a whole lot of sense, I think because it wanted to be its own thing while also playing on the nostalgia and mystery from the originals. How do you make sure that doesn't happen with the game?

For us, it was a matter of sticking to the tenets of what the original films were about, you know? And trying to continue onward with those kinds of elements. So if we could tell new stories, but in a familiar way. And one of the things you mentioned in Prometheus—when I saw Prometheus in the theaters, I thought it was—I was torn. I liked it, I thought it was pretty cool, but then there were some elements that I didn't quite get. This is so anecdotal—I don't know why I'm going into this—but I grabbed the four-disc Blu-ray when it came out, because I'm, you know, a nerd that way. And when you go through and you watch the deleted scenes on that thing, oh my god! [laughing] There's some cool stuff, and it actually makes that movie—some of the things that might be a little bit questionable make a little bit more sense.

So the game has been in development for seven years. Are you worried about it feeling dated? Like a seven-year-old game?

Um, not really. I mean, no [laughing]. I guess I'll just leave it there. No.

That was one of the complaints that some people leveled against another of Gearbox's titles, Duke Nukem Forever, was that while everyone was happy to be playing it, some of the remnants of older versions of the game were still present, and it showed. That's not a worry for you?

I don't think so. I mean, it definitely is a challenge that you run into with a project that has a long dev cycle. But we've done a lot to make sure that it's relevant and it's up to date and it is what we want it to be presented to the fans. So I think we're going to be okay.

Do you think maybe it just lends it an old school feel?

I think it's a balance, you know? I think there's a lot of features in it that people are going to really like and recognize as, you know, common elements to "modern shooters," if you will, if you want to phrase it that way.

Like the weapon upgrade system?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, there's some character growth and some unlocks and, you know, progression elements to it that are pretty cool. And then, you know, there's a strong backbone of straight-up first person shooter awesomeness [laughing], you know? You get to be a Colonial Marine. You get to go through the spaces from the films, you know, and you get to shoot Xenos. And that's pretty fun.

Thanks again John!

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