Aliens: Fireteam Elite seems a bit of a generic co-op shooter, but it’s not without its merits. Cold Iron Studios stand behind the game, which is a great license to a team’s first title. Granted, the developer is made up of seasoned talents who have worked on franchises like Star Trek, Dungeon and Dragons Dragon, and Marvel, but the latter never got off the ground.
Senior Gaming Editor Michael Leri spoke to Craig Zinkievich, CEO of Cold Iron Studios, about the game, how it approached adapting multiple franchises, and the decision to go for one Extraterrestrials Game instead of one extraterrestrial Game and its theory for the four main films in the series.
I know this game went through some radical changes when it was introduced to Fox as it wasn’t originally an Aliens game. Can you say something about what the original game was? And how similar is it to what you ultimately achieved?
Craig Zinkievich: It wasn’t as much for Fox as … I think it was. The Extraterrestrials Game is brand new, from scratch. I think Fox rated Cold Iron Studios and our team and our pedigree and the systems and our ability to make fantastic shooter action gameplay based on what we were working on before. But we didn’t say all at once: “Let’s just knock this thing over” Extraterrestrials. ”
I think everyone would be just overjoyed to work on one Extraterrestrials Game. We just cleared the table and started over and asked ourselves, “How does this experience have to be? What do we want in the Extraterrestrials Universe? ”And that was Aliens: Fireteam Elite.
You build on the technology your company develops and the expertise you have. But in terms of design and artwork and everything else, we just lit it all up and started from scratch.
Fireteam Elite seems to be more of a collaborative proposition than a story-driven one. Why did you want to go this route?
We’re big fans of both action and PvE games. We’re also huge fans of the co-op survival shooter genre. It’s just a great genre. When we started 21st Century Fox [we thought] what kind of game do we want in the extraterrestrial Universe? Alien: Isolation did a great job extraterrestrial, Ridley Scott horror movie atmosphere where you get chased by that one monster time and time again.
We really wanted a bombastic [James] Cameron-like action film Extraterrestrials Fantasy that we absolutely wanted to play and experience in the universe. You immediately start thinking about the moments when it says, “Oh my god, they’re in the room.” And then they just burst in. This is the co-op survival shooter. It’s not necessarily a story. This is just over-the-top action.
Yes, it sounds more like up-and-coming storytelling of what happens between you and your friends through a written, authored narrative.
Obviously, the game has its story and the four campaigns, all of which are linked to tell that story of LV-895. But it’s great, and you got it just right, to have this emerging narrative that says, “Do you remember when this happened?” And making sure this can be toggled over and over again is the core to making a really cool game.
This is one of the reasons the Challenge Cards are what if? Scenarios. How about if everything was a burster? What if we only had handguns? You can play all of these narratives at will.
Each time you play through the spawns will vary. There is coincidence in this and in some of the goals. There are heuristics and software and logic that work behind the scenes to watch what the players are doing to make sure there is constant pressure and people are moving forward.
Is that so if xenomorphs are always stalking in some form?
Sometimes they come from behind, but sometimes they jump right over you, or ambush you, or just make it a little harder to move forward.
Why go the alien route instead of the alien route?
We really wanted to develop the fantasy of being a colonial marine with hordes of aliens walking towards you with a job to do. And you feel like you’re a total badass and you think you’ve taken care of everything, but then suddenly everything goes wrong. We quickly realized that we as gamers in the Extraterrestrials Universe and thought it was the core and we said, “Yeah, let’s do that and make it a reality.”
They’ve all worked on other licensed real estate like Star Trek and even the unfortunate Marvel Marvel Universe Online. What are your approaches to adapting licenses in video games?
I am incredibly happy to be able to work on it Star Trek Online, Never winter nights by doing Dungeons and dragons Universe and a little bit of Marvel and now Extraterrestrials. All of these are franchises and universes that are very close to my heart and of which I am a superfan.
That’s the thing I’ve been very lucky at, but I also think that one of the basic things in order to translate a franchise well is to make sure you’re making a game that you want to play in this universe. That is what drove all of these projects. That is what drives the team here Aliens: Task Force Elite: We try to make the game that we as hardcore gamers and super fans of Extraterrestrials Universe, want to play. They start there when you approach a franchise. This wouldn’t work if it weren’t for a franchise I’ve been really looking forward to, but I’ve been very fortunate to work on one that I really love.
Perhaps if you are doing a Care Bears shooter a lack of passion could show up.
Hey, hey, I might have a closet full Care Bears…
I think it’s also the licensor who has a big, huge license. You need to make sure and find developers who are passionate and enthusiastic about their universes.
What do you think of the way Xenomorphs are usually customized for video games? In the movies, they’re mostly pretty unstoppable, or at least extremely depressing, but often cannon fodder in video games.
I think there were quite a few xenomorphs shot by M41s in the Extraterrestrials Movie. If you go in unprepared, a single runner will come out Alien 3 would be able to take out a whole group of people. But you play as a colonial navy. You’ve encountered Xenomorphs for a couple of decades up until 2202 when Aliens: Task Force Elite takes place. You have weapons ready for Xenomorphs.
But they are still no weaklings. They’ll still throw numbers at you if they can’t just reach you with singletons. It’s about who you play and as a colonial marines you get your M41 and smartgun and a little bit of hope that will take you a little further.
And there are a number of different Xenomorphs in the game too. The runners, the little ones, as hordes are easier to defeat on the lower levels of difficulty if you consider the hardware of the colonial marines. But then the bigger ones – the drones, warriors, and Praetorians – these won’t be weaklings no matter what, so you have to be careful.
Why do you think it’s so hard to make a good aliens game? How do you think you would say Fireteam Elite breaks the curse of the alien games, if you will?
All franchises, when licensed, have ups and downs. Really, it goes back to what I said about how to do a franchise game well. We are fans of the franchise. We are fans of this genre of video games. We’re lucky enough to develop a game that we really want to play.
For us, that’s all we can do. Cold Iron Studios is filled with the market with this game, filled with people who chew to their hearts’ content to play Extraterrestrials Co-op survival shooter with RPG elements on top. So if we can do something that we’re happy with, that’s the best we can do there.
I know both of them are classics for different reasons, but where do you personally fall on the alien or alien side of things?
For years and years and years I’ve had my theory. People ask me what is my favorite extraterrestrial Film is and I go into this tirade. I don’t actually have a favorite film because – from my point of view, I’m a fan – they are all different film genres.
extraterrestrial is a great horror film. It’s beautiful and amazing and Ridley Scott did a great job there.
And then Cameron comes into the same universe and makes this really exciting, really visceral action movie where it’s an escape action movie that’s over the top.
And then Alien 3 comes and I see this more as a drama than a horror or action film, even though it has these elements. It still has xenomorphs and they’re still scary.
And then resurrection is like the art film of the four. You can see it when you start looking at it. There is the director [Jean-Pierre Jeunet] comes from.
Nobody can ever nail me down. They are different genres of films. I love them all, and they all work great in their own genres.
It’s cool because that Extraterrestrials Franchise is a lot more complicated. It’s not always the same movie or the same genre. The question of what your favorite is is a really good one, especially for this franchise.
Alien 3 may have been disappointing to some on the first watch, but it gets better when you look at it through a different lens.
I think, if Alien 3 came out, many people expected Extraterrestrials Plus one. More xenomorphs, more over-the-top firepower. And that’s the fantasy we’re trying to convey Aliens: Fireteam Elite: the next film about the colonial navy. Alien 3 stands on its own when viewed as something entirely different.