Jinkies: Alien’s ‘Meaningful And Terrifying’ AI Encounters

By Nathan Grayson on March 14th, 2014 at 9:00 am.

Hey so I am probably going to kill you maybe

I was skeptical at first, but Alien: Isolation is shaping up to be quite the thing. Or at least, the idea of it is. It’s just you and this perfect embodiment of predatory hunger, all mouth, claw, and other mouth. Some, say the game’s developers, will try and confront it, but most will quickly learn that most life-expectancy-enhancing of all emotions: white-hot terror. So you’ll run and hide and escape and evade. Survive. But how will all of this work? How do you design an alien that thinks for itself and slinks around in your shadow at just the right time? Go below for a video demonstration from Creative Assembly.

CA certainly seems to be on the right track, and I very much like the idea of unpredictable encounters that don’t necessarily happen every five minutes or so. Games of cat-and-mouse are less about the moment when the cat is front-and-center, prepared to pounce, and more about when it’s not. Tension and dread stand to be Alien: Isolation’s greatest weapons, and it seems like CA really understands that.

Of course, conceiving an AI capable of that sort of subtlety and fully realizing it are two entirely different things. On the upside, the venerable Sir Brendan of Caldwell emerged from the spookiest ship ride since that one scene in Willy Wonka feeling cautiously optimistic. But meticulously pre-prepared demos are less-than-optimal measuring sticks for this sort of thing. Hopefully we get to see/play more sooner rather than later.

Alien: Isolation will be out late this year. I, personally, cannot wait to cry, hide in a locker for 30 minutes, and then immediately get murdered. If nothing else, that still sounds exponentially better than the grisly, torturous fate that was Aliens: Colonial Marines.

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32 Comments »

  1. natendi says:

    I’m wondering how the story will be if the Alien is going to make random appearances. I’m assuming there will be scripted events but will you be investigating the ship, trying to find a way to kill the Alien etc while trying to evade it?

    Pretty excited for this game!

    • Premium User Badge DarkLiberator says:

      My guess that it’ll be like Amnesia, monster makes a few scripted appearances and some sections he will be free roaming.

      Of course, this is speculation, we won’t actually know till game release.

      • Turkey says:

        I’ve yet to see videogame AI sophisticated enough to pull off what they’re talking about, so I’m guessing a lot of randomized scripted events too.

        • Niko says:

          Because action games usually don’t require sophisticated AI. Enemies’ purpose is to die in a satisfying way or to scare you effectively (in horror games).

        • cfehunter says:

          In theory they can do all of what they’ve suggested in the video and more by utilising a neural net.

          How they choose to react to sensory data to and how long they spend training it will be paramount to avoiding “artificial stupidity” but it can be done.

          However, if they have scripted events in the game, at all, then the entire thing completely falls over. It’ll create safe zones before and after scripted events where the alien has to stop hunting you in order to play peek-a-boo through a window or jump out of a closet and that will completely kill the tension.

  2. GenBanks says:

    I think my survival instinct is too strong, I tend to get so overwhelmed by the white hot terror that I quit and play something else. Doesn’t stop me feeling tempted to start playing in the first place though…

    • Cleave says:

      I didn’t even manage to see a baddie in Outlast, got too scared and quit. Steam says I’ve been playing it for 12 minutes..

      • Premium User Badge Sinomatic says:

        Installed Amnesia even though I had absolutely no intention of playing it. Why? I have no idea.

  3. CookPassBabtridge says:

    At last. Someone finally agreeing with me that the boat scene with Gene Wilder was f♡♡♡ing terrifying

    • natendi says:

      Haha, yeah I think there is a part where an image of a snake crawling across a mans face appears next to the boat while Gene Wilder is screaming, pretty disturbing!

  4. Lemming says:

    In other news, the Satellite Reign developers just released some pre-alpha footage of their game and it looks like a modern Syndicate! I am happy enough that it’s almost distracting me from the wisdom tooth that seems intent to make my mouth explode in a shower of pain and enamel.

    • secuda says:

      Cant really trust anything Alien related beta right now. Not after Aliens colonial marines.

  5. GamesInquirer says:

    I wanna see more of routinegame.com…

  6. Stupoider says:

    Uh oh, Creative Assembly in charge of AI. “This is a game where you’ll never feel safe” they’ve got that right.

    • frightlever says:

      +1

      Applauds.

    • AshRolls says:

      Yup this game will live or die on how well the developers can implement the AI. The alien needs to be unpredictable, emergent, interesting, clever and dynamic. It does not need to spend twenty minutes doing nothing outside of the front of the city gates whilst being bombarded by arrows.

    • Zenicetus says:

      Not to worry, CA has developed a brilliant fall-back routine. When the Alien can’t manage to threaten the player in a believable way, it will start throwing torches instead. The game will then hinge on how quickly you can find the fireproof spacesuit.

  7. Premium User Badge Chaz says:

    Now that someones doing a good true to the movie Alien game, can we please have similar treatment done for a Blade Runner game?

    • Premium User Badge phuzz says:

      I heard the game of Blade Runner turned out quite good? Not played it myself.

    • loloquaker says:

      The old Point & Click Blade Runner game was truly excellent, imho.

      • nindustrial says:

        Absolutely. Though I do agree with OP that a really nice, updated treatment of Blade Runner would be fantastic. Wouldn’t even have to be a strict adventure game style; maybe even something more hybrid, sort of like LA Noir (the concept at least, leaving aside varying opinions on execution).

    • Jekhar says:

      Hell yeah! I can’t wait to blast this Haujobb scum with my four man Bladerunner squad. Clearing street after street, making progress one convenient chest high wall at a time. Make sure you don’t leave the misson area, the chief won’t like it! What’s that? Tyrell Corp is under attack? Get in those spinner, now fitted with a nice big gun for an exciting turret segment! … okay, i’ll stop now.

  8. Heliocentric says:

    Dark Souls invasions are probably the scariest thing in gaming at the moment(after walking around an empty multiplayer server and getting attacked by someone you didn’t realise joined).

    I’ve lost faith in single player horror, hell is other people, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  9. ruins72 says:

    Oh god those eye sockets inside it’s head…they’re staring at meeeee.

    for those of you who never knew their head is kinda see-through. they have no eyeballs but they have sockets.

  10. Turkey says:

    If they wanted to make an actual scary game based on Alien, they should have you be alone and weaponless on a space station with a facehugger.

    • Mittens89 says:

      Maybe they will chuck a facehugger in? I do hope so. Id rather have facehuggers than grunts/marines as mentioned in previous articles.

  11. SillyWizard says:

    Hmm. I hope they don’t follow through with animating “smooth, continuous movement” for the xenomorph. Part of why he was so terrifying in the original is that he would occasionally stand stock-still, blending in with his environment.

    Idle-animations for monsters in video games is about the least-scary thing you can do.

    • Premium User Badge PikaBot says:

      When they said that, they were talking about convincingly animating this huge Alien as it maneuvers around the ship’s tight confines. When the Alien is moving, I should indeed hope that it’s moving smoothly and continuously.

    • Darth Grabass says:

      Even people who have only watched Alien once know that the one of the xenomorph’s abilities is to remain stock still and blend in with the mechanical environment. I doubt this detail was lost on the game designers.

  12. Muzman says:

    Amnesia is a good namecheck but that had set pieces of a sort and discrete areas. One recent game that has the sort of tension they describe was actually Miasmata.
    The AI wasn’t amazing, nor the animation in that case. But even if you didn’t get a whiff of the beast for hours on end you are always thinking “What am I going to do if it comes now? … … OK what about now?”. Every few meters requires a new plan.
    Then if you’re venturing into new territory where you don’t know where you might be able to run to… erk

    Its a special kind of stress you don’t get all that often.

  13. StartRunning says:

    Oh, I do so love the eighties VCR filter they use :3

  14. cfehunter says:

    I really hope they do something to make it so that death has a meaning in this game. The trap that amnesia fell into was that there was no penalty for death so after the first time you die (I died near the end of the prison) a lot of the fear and tension is lost.
    Personally I just started bunny hopping down corridors at that point…