Alien: Not Just ‘A Licensed Game’

By Alec Meer on May 16th, 2011 at 9:52 am.

They mostly make strategy games. Mostly.

Perhaps a little off RPS’ beaten track, but thought I’d link you to my interview with SEGA and Creative Assembly top brass for GamesIndustry.biz. For you, sir/madam/entity, its main point of interest is a few more implications as to what to expect from the newly-announced Alien game: “What we’re doing with that property takes us a little bit into a more interesting place, so we’re not knocking out a bog-standard space marine shooter”). Also of happy note, however, is how SEGA US and Europe boss Mike Hayes acknowledges that its two PC-centric studios, The Creative Assembly and Football Manager stalwarts Sports Interactive, now comprise “the jewel in the crown of SEGA.”

Which is all kinds of astonishing, in a way – this is a firm that created legendary consoles, owns Sonic, runs a huge arcade business in Japan. Yet the jewel in its crown is two British studios who make PC strategy and management games. No wonder it’s hoping that bottled lightning can be turned to action games with Alien. Whether it really can be is going to be fascinating to observe; both Total War and Football Manager have years of heritage and genre mastery behind them, as well as universal themes rather than fantastical ones.

Anyway, here’s probably the key phrase about Alien, from CA studio head Tim Heaton:

“We want to make something that’s quite different – we’re not just wanting to take the license and knock out a licensed game, we want to make something really special out of it. So we’ve spent three years since Viking working on the technology, really bespoke for this genre of game, for what we’re making, and it feels really, really strong now.”

More over here (free registration/login required, and don’t blame me for it), including a few more details on the project’s genesis – reassuringly, it was CA who talked SEGA into having them do it, rather than being ordered to from on high.

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24 Comments »

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  1. Hoaxfish says:

    Sega has always seemed to me to be the most proactive in terms of the PC market for a big console maker (now ex-).

    You could pick up stuff like Virtual-On and Virtua fighter for PC back when the Dreamcast was still being sold.

    Hell, I’m more interested in their stuff on PC, than I am in Microsoft’s… even though the later should clearly be king of the market since it’s their platform (if they only acted like it).

    Something like Spiral Knights certainly makes me happy they’re still around.

    • subedii says:

      Or the opposite. At the the times when MS don’t seem barely tolerant of the PC games market, they often seem to be actively working against it.

      I’m not annoyed about Alan Wake. Really. Nope, not at all.

  2. subedii says:

    To be honest, I just take that as an indicator of how far Sega have fallen.

    They used to compete head to head with Nintendo. These days, even the name “Sonic” just leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.

    That said, I can understand why they say that, the reason for their survival has a lot to do with those companies and the awesome franchises they put out. But much like with Relic taking on a 3rd person shooter, I’d love to see an awesome game, but I’m not quite so sure this is likely to succeed.

    Keeping hopes up etc.

  3. Premium User Badge

    sonofsanta says:

    reassuringly, it was CA who talked SEGA into having them do it, rather than being ordered to from on high.

    This alone makes me so happy. Sounds like they have an actual vision for the game, rather than just shoehorning a game around whatever 3 year old code they have lying around.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Lars Westergren says:

    Lots of PC lovin’ lately. As I posted in the RPS forums a couple of days ago:
    Sweet words of love from Capcom and Epic.
    http://www.capcom-unity.com/sven/blog/2011/05/10/pc_happenings
    http://www.gamestm.co.uk/interviews/epics-tim-sweeney-on-the-samaritan-tech-demo-next-gen-consoles-and-the-future-of-videogames/

    These guys talk about things relevant to the core PC player too. Whenever Microsoft announce they are going to support PC gaming, they only talk about things developers may be interested in – increased support for microtransactions, integration with social network sites, tighter integration with Microsoft services and especially xbox services out of the box. Actually, I don’t think most devs are interested in this either, it’s a sale pitch for CEOs.

    • subedii says:

      This is a trend we’re seeing with a few the major Japanese companies now for some reason. Capcom’s got a renwed interest in the PC market, Sega depends on it in some major ways, and even Square-Enix have been making inroads by publishing, of all things, niche RTS games.

      I think it’s just all part of them having to expand into the Western markets. It’s pretty well known that being Japan focussed just isn’t working for them anymore, and they’ve been developing more and more titles trying to cater specifically to the Western markets. And a part of that push has to be the PC games market, something that’s never really been developed for in Japan (apart from maybe Doujin games IIRC).

      EDIT: On the flipside, pretty much EVERYTHING we’ve seen out of Epic regarding the PC market in recent years has been smack-talk about how the system’s completely unviable outside of Facebook games. Maybe that’s changing, who knows. I just know that they whined constantly about how Unreal Trounament 3 was killed by the PC platform.

      And then when it was ported console-side and suffered badly there as well, pretty much shut up about UT3 altogether. :P

      Last I heard, Bulletstorm wasn’t the big seller they were hoping it would be either, so who knows what implications they’re going to take from that.

    • Premium User Badge

      Lars Westergren says:

      Good points subdeii. Yes, from what I’ve heard the Japanese market has moved towards small handheld games, including classic RPG remakes, at an alarming pace.

      Last year and this year the PC seems to have grabbed a large mindshare. Last time this happened, I think the next console generation was just a year away. Now, apart from the next Wii there are rumors the next Xbox and Playstation iterations are years away, possibly as much as 5 years. As Epic mentions, the new models would have to be pretty spectacular to make up for lost ground.

    • bill says:

      Mobile and smartphone games are so big in Japan right now that i think it’s going to be a pretty hard time for some of the traditional Japanese publishers. I think it’s going to kill the DS/PSP market, which was the big mainstream market in Japan. And home consoles here are stuck in a bit of a rut.

      The problem is that Japanese play almost exclusively JRPGs – and they work great on phone because you’re essentially playing a menu.

      The PC market in Japan is almost non-existent though (other than porn games), so it’s a pretty big leap for many of them. But sega has always released PC ports for some reason.

  5. President Weasel says:

    I can never be bothered registering for Gamesindustry.biz; although I am sure this is a cogent and well-written article, it is destined to remain forever unread (by me; others will read it in droves).

  6. negativedge says:

    maybe calling creative assembly the “jewel in the crown of Sega” is cool for some people, but for a guy that has played Sega games for nearly 25 years it is extremely depressing :(

    • President Weasel says:

      At least they’re still around and have a crown; Atari/Infogrames have a cardboard hat from Burger King, and some of the other big names from the olden days no longer even have a head.

    • BooleanBob says:

      Blue skies in wargames forever.

    • JFS says:

      @ President Weasel
      LOL. Just lol.

    • Rii says:

      Yeah. No offence to Creative Assembly, but if they really are one of the jewels in Sega’s crown, well, that’s just depressing.

    • Jimbo says:

      The only way this won’t suck is if it’s Total War: Aliens.

    • rivalin says:

      Yeah, when ten guys in a barn in deepest darkest rural Sussex (respect) are the jewel in your crown, it’s probably not cause for celebration.

  7. BreadBitten says:

    The one thing I expect from this project, regardless of genre or gameplay mechanics, is intelligence. Both the Alien franchise and developer Creative Assembly have intelligence steeped in their history, it would be nothing less than disappointing if this union didn’t yield something similar.

  8. tossrStu says:

    I really hope all the music sounds like this:

  9. Premium User Badge

    Chaz says:

    A crown made by Elizabeth Duke.

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    The Sombrero Kid says:

    I always had a weird feeling this game had the potential to disappoint, then i realised they mean “Viking: Battle for Asgard” when they say Viking & i remember the horror.

  11. AlligatorMachineGunMassacre says:

    I’ll remain somewhat hopeful about this. Games licensed from films seem to have a better track record when there’s some distance from the film and the game. They’re not all winners, but the chance of a real bowl-stainer drops quite a bit.

  12. UncleSmoothie says:

    CA wouldn’t do a shooter, would they? This is a strategy title in the Aliens universe, right? The thought titillates me.

    • Shadram says:

      You should un-tit yourself in preparation, or be disappointed. It’s going to be an action game, judging on what they’ve said so far, but in some kind of revolutionary way such that it’s no just a manshoot (or alienshoot, I guess).

      Ooh, ooh! I got it! Seeing as it’s “Alien” and not “Aliens”, which implies 1 Alien, maybe you play the Alien? Your job is to pick off the crew without being caught and sucked out of an airlock. Like Thief or Hitman, except you can walk up the walls and punch holes through people’s heads with your mouth-in-mouth. So like AvP’s Alien mode, only good.

  13. rawtheory says:

    All I know is the latest AvP game published by SEGA sucked maaaaaajor balls.