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Obsidian's Aliens RPG was canned because of dysfunction and slow progress, Josh Sawyer reveals

In space no one can hear your witty dialogue options

A close up of the alien in Alien Isolation
Image credit: Sega

Pentiment director and long-time Obsidian developer Josh Sawyer has shed some light on the Aliens RPG that was in production at the studio and sadly cancelled by publisher Sega. Looking back at cancelled games is always a fun "what if" exercise, especially in this case. Obsidian’s role-playing chops in an Aliens game? Were our charisma stats going to protect us from the ever-murderous Xenomorphs?

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“I got to work on an Aliens RPG for SEGA from 2006-2009,” Sawyer wrote on Twitter. “Obsidian didn’t have directors at that time, just leads who were all considered peers. It resulted in a lot of dysfunction when the leads didn’t agree on how to do something,” he explained.

That dysfunction led to slow progress on the Aliens RPG, “especially when it came to creating workable game levels.” Sawyer also said that the game had “cool ideas… but you don’t ship ideas!” and that he's learned that if you “don’t have playable levels, you don’t have much of a game.”

Obsidian were working on the espionage RPG Alpha Protocol at the same time, also for Sega, and Sawyer says the publisher “shelved Aliens in favour of AP,” since “AP was just much farther along.” Alpha Protocol did pass the finish line and received a positive review from RPS, but it’s since been removed from storefronts, sadly.

What would the Aliens RPG have actually looked like, though? Sawyer says the “overall setup” between Obsidian’s game and co-op shooter Aliens: Fireteam Elite “was similar.” He points to the game’s smaller squad, third-person perspective, and “emphasis on deployables and support actions” as proof that those ideas “could actually be fun in practice,” although the similarities ended there. He also posted some of the RPG’s characters with a mournful “RIP, squad.”

All’s well that ends well, I guess, since Sawyer went on to direct Fallout: New Vegas, which he says was “the first Obsidian game to have a director from the start.”

While most of the footage has been burned from the internets, there’s still some concept art from the cancelled game floating around out there. In fact, our headline image from this article shows off one of the remixed Xenomorphs that would have been featured. The bulky design would have surely made hardcore fans salty, but hey, it’s an RPG. You need canon fodder aliens, human-sized aliens, tanky aliens, maybe even flying ones. Those are the rules.

Obsidian has always produced gems, even when it was for IP that they didn’t own - whether it was South Park, Fallout, or Star Wars - so, it would have been nice to see them play around with space horror, or the horror space. For now, we can only close our eyes and fantasise about what could have been.

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