UFO Aftermath Chat Log - 19/09/02

on 18th Sep 2002

The following question and answer session took place in the unofficial chatroom on the 19th of September 2002. Martin Klima and Jiri Rydl were present from ALTAR Interactive, as were a number of fans and visitors.

The following 50-something questions have been grouped into categories, and there si a list of credits at the bottom of the page for you all to browse through!


About ALTAR


Mazdek:
I was told that ALTAR is an acronym, but when I asked, no one knew what it stood for. So, uh, what does ALTAR mean?

ALTAR:
It is a sort of silly and furthermore it only makes sense in Czech. Originally it was a name of the publishing house that made "Dragon's Lair", the Czech most popular pen-and-paper fantasy RPG. We, ALTAR interactive, are a sort of Offspring Company. Roughly translated it means "The Altruistic League of the Creators of an Alternative Reality", or ALCAR for short.


Olav:
The ALTAR team consists of about 20 people? How many programmers and so on?

ALTAR:
Actually little bit more. 8 programmers, 10 artists, 1 level designer, 1 sound engineer, 1 game designer, project manager, 1 PR, a couple of managers and a web designer. Last time we counted it was almost 30 people.

Olav:
The Aftermath site could use some work. What will happen to it in the future?

ALTAR:
We are working on the website all the time. The amount of information is growing and so is the website. We will add some new features like news subscriber, creature models, gun models, soldiers models, Aftermath background story, new screenshots from new scenes, better material for fansites (fansite kit, exclusive videos, shots and more), and some surprises we like to keep secret.


Olav:
You mentioned a new project in the forum a while ago. It was in connection with E3 I believe. Can you reveal the nature of this project?

ALTAR:
It is an RPG. We now have a tech demo and we are pitching it to the publishers. It is very ambitious project and we hope we will be able to tell more about it, but we are afraid it will not be before next year.



Graphical


Snow:
Can we get a big batch of new screenshots?

ALTAR:
You can found some new screens at ufo-aftermath.com right now. We know they are from E3 demo, but there are 4 new from strategic screen and one mutant model.

ArsII:
I was looking at the screenshots and thought, "This game is really brown." Will there be more colour variation in the tactical missions than what we've seen so far?

ALTAR:
This is a very contentious question even inside our team. There are people here who say the game looks too grey and brown. However our Lead Artist keeps telling them that this is not how the game is going to look like in the end. The look of the game should communicate the bleakness and despair, but it should not be repetitive. You can only appreciate the bleakness when it is in contrast with some occasional brighter colour patch.


Wormfist:
Will there be ingame cutscenes, movies to show certain evolving of time/technology?

ALTAR:
No, there will not be cutscenes, except for the intro and outro movie. The evolution of technology/story/time is only told through your research; for each new technology there will be nice picture of two and explanatory text.


Kahnn:
How will the interception screen be? Will the player be able to interact with the interception procedure, will it be carried on with an image or a single occurrence display?

ALTAR:
The opinions within out team are scattered here at the moment. There definitely will be an in-game video of the dog-fight, but it will not be interactive. It will be similar to "ninja-assassination-attempts" in Shogun: Total War, but with the advantage that in UFO:AFTERMATH you can skip them.


Kahnn:
Will there be better ships to be researched in order to achieve a better level of interception and if so can we customize it as we can with alien/earth weapons?

ALTAR:
Yes, there are technologies like "better radars" or "better weapons", but you will not be able to customize individual crafts; when you research one of these technologies, stats of all your aircrafts will improve.


Kahnn:
Will these new crafts change the appearance in the dog-fight video?

ALTAR:
Yes, they will.


Joran, Gamers.nl:
How did you come up with the aliens in the game? Did you encounter them yourself or did you do some research?

ALTAR:
One of our goals is to make the aliens that look different. So besides using the "proved" archetype of the "Greys" for the real aliens, we have various mutants (we call them Transgenants) and these should look as different from each other as possible. As for where they come from; most of them were born in the sick mind of Tomas, our Lead Artist.


hx^ggmania:
What the current system requirements are for UFO: Aftermath?

ALTAR:
Minimum is 500MHz with GF1.



Gameplay


hx^ggmania:
How difficult will it be for someone new to this genre to get into the game, how many hours will newcomers spend with tutorial? Can you specify a learning curve for those who never played any X-Com game?

ALTAR:
This may well change, but we believe a complete newcomer (but a player who already played some computer games) will pick up the basics of the game in 30-60 minutes. We try to create a very intuitive interface and also limit the amount of options in the beginning.


sqwirl:
Is the combat system going to be easy for a newcomer to the genre to learn?

ALTAR:
This is the whole point of the system. We want to create a system that feels intuitive, to both newcomers and seasoned players and obviously, for newcomers this is even more important.


ShredZ:
It's been said that more and more gamers prefer to out-smart their AI opponents instead of out-right killing them - In what ways will you be able to out-smart them and how big a role will stealth play?

ALTAR:
The trick really is not to make the enemy super-smart; the trick is to make him stupid cleverly. I mean to say that we will try to make the enemy AI lifelike, that is, we will have enemies that will not always do the best thing for them. So playing against such enemies should feel like playing against a human opponent. We will see how we manage to succeed in this; it is not an easy problem.


Joran, Gamer.nl:
Do you think that there is still a broad audience for turn-based games?

ALTAR:
Don't confuse the absolute and relative numbers; while in absolute numbers the market for PC games grows, but in relative numbers it loses to consoles. Something very similar can be said about turn-based games. We believe that in absolute numbers there actually are more people around now who would like to play them. The problem is that the games cost more-and-more to develop and the publishers are not content with numbers that used to be good not so long ago.


Silencer:
With each base being more focused than the previous games, do we still get to place individual base structures and if so, will the tactical layout change accordingly when the base is attacked.

ALTAR:
No, you will not place individual base structures. However in tactical mission, the base layout will correspond to the current specialization. We have several predefined templates for each type of base and this template will be more-or-less randomly filled according to the age of base and other parameters.
So the two missions inside say a research base will not look exactly the same, but you will probably see the same equipment and rooms.


sqwirl:
Will there be difficulty levels and if so what will the difference between playing on an easy difficulty level and playing on a hard difficulty level?

ALTAR:
There will indeed be difficulty levels. When playing on easy level, the alien aggressiveness will be small and it will be practically impossible to lose the strategic game. On hard setting it will be easy to lose.


Joran, Gamers.nl:
Can you play for an unlimited amount of years or do you have to get rid of the aliens by a certain date?

ALTAR:
There is no fixed deadline and you can keep playing as long as you want.


Silencer:
Are there any NPC characters in the game? Perhaps friendly aliens you can recruit or civilian survivors that you must try to protect?

ALTAR:
No comment.


Joran, Gamers.nl:
The gameplay will be the big selling point of Aftermath. How does the gameplay evolve during the game?

ALTAR:
The gameplay evolves as your technology evolves; new technologies give you new weapons which in turn give you more options, but we are not going to say it will make a completely new game. In fact, some of the weapons you use in the beginning may well be the most useful ones even in the end, but the new weapons may give you an ability to face tasks that were impossible before.


ArsII:
Will there be Easter Eggs?

ALTAR:
Almost certain, depends on how long the crunch period is going to be.


Silencer:
The original games had a few different combat scenarios such as downed/landed UFO's, terror attacks on cities, and base battles. Could you tell us a little about the combat scenarios UFO:AFTERMATH will have?

ALTAR:
Broadly speaking, there is a set of possible objectives: recon, contain alien foray, downed/landed UFO, rescue ejected pilot, etc. The mission generator picks up one at random, depending on the location of the mission, phase of the game, etc.


Silencer:
Would the aliens attack your bases if they discovered them (will they discover your bases at all)? If so, then how will it be defended if it is mostly a research base (or something non military)?

ALTAR:
Yes, the aliens can attack your base and if you lose, the base is lost as well. Defending the research base will be in principle similar to defending any other base, but the probability the aliens will attack a military base is much smaller than for the other types of bases.



Game Elements


Megatron:
What does the biomass do and how can you keep it away?

ALTAR:
Biomass creeps over the surface of the Earth, replacing all Earth fauna and we mean completely replace. To keep it away, you will be fighting tactical missions in or near it; this will slow it down a bit. But eventually you will have to develop technologies that will turn your bases into giant "biomass repulsors".


mattias:
How big a role will the biomass have in UFO:AFTERMATH? Will it be a
direct threat?

ALTAR:
Sure, the biomass is the ultimate alien weapon. And your ultimate goal is to eradicate it completely. Even a research base will be able to repulse biomass up to a point; a lone research base at the frontier can easily be swallowed by it.


Kahnn:
How will the biomass react to biomass repulsion bases; what precisely will be the trade off between building a research facility or a biomass repulsion centre for an instance (if that can be asked at this stage of development)?

ALTAR:
Even though you select specialization of your bases (e.g. research or manufacturing), every base works in all areas. That is, even a repulsion base adds something to research.


mattias:
Are there fear or panic effects in UFO:AFTERMATH and if so, will all or just certain aliens/mutants/humans be affected?

ALTAR:
Actually not; our reasoning is that as you are in command of the cream of the Earth soldiers, it is highly unlikely that one of them would start to panic in the middle of combat. On the other hand aliens or some mutants might be scared away and run.


mattias:
Why is it that humans can't reproduce alien technology after researching it?

ALTAR:
They can reproduce it, up to a point. Instead of producing the exact replicas of alien weapons, they try to merge it with their existing technologies. Sometimes hybrid weapons may be more effective, sometimes less effective than the original alien weapons.


sqwirl:
When you go to research new technologies, will you have to stick to a technology tree or will you be able to research things depending on how you like to play the game? For example, would it be possible to research more powerful weapons before you have to research something else unrelated to weaponry? Otherwise said, does the research tree restrict you from getting to certain levels in various things before advancing, regardless of their impact on advanced weaponry?

ALTAR:
Well, the research tree is a tree; you have some amount of choice, i.e. there are several different technologies you can choose from, but you cannot just research anything you want. There will be some almost unrelated areas you can research independently but obviously you cannot research advanced laser guns without researching laser guns first.


Hellbound:
Will the mission objectives be shown when we roll over a mission that just popped in the geosphere? So we can choose from the several at our disposal?

ALTAR:
Yes, there will be several missions on the geosphere and for each you will see the mission type (objectives), terrain, estimated enemy strength, estimated impact on strategic situation, etc. You will then choose which one you want to play.


mattias:
Will there be some sort of alien containment, where you can research alien species and interrogate them?

ALTAR:
You don't have to build alien containment, just as you are not building other facilities. And yes, some researches are aimed squarely at aliens. We don't think it is a good idea to tell more about it now.



Development


Joran/Gamers.nl:
How is the development of Aftermath going?

ALTAR:
This is closely related to the previous question about the publisher. Obviously, working without a secure contract with a publisher is not as smooth, but we believe we are still on track for Q1 release next year.


j.f, doupe.cz:
Do you plan to release a playable demo?

ALTAR:
Yes, it is in the milestone schedule. But it will be released almost simultaneously with the final game.


Kahnn:
When will be next development diaries be released and why have they stopped to come out recently

ALTAR:
Yesterday we sent the next instalment of dev-diary to GameSpy. The delay is again due to the problems with publisher. Next instalment will be its way to GameSpy in a week or so, so we hope you can read it next week. After that we will publish it on our website.


Silencer:
You have said that you are trying to provide some user-end development options so that players can change their soldier models for example. How much of this is true and how many areas of the game are you going to allow people to change; can we edit a file to change agent names for example or add call signs, change weapon names? How much can we change if we wanted to?

ALTAR:
It will be possible to change soldier's call signs directly in the game. There will be tools for editing stats, names, frequencies, etc. and we can release them almost immediately after the game ships. We strongly want to support an option of importing part of skins of your characters to personalize their faces.
And if possible, we will eventually release tools for importing your own models. There is an interesting option in using GMax for this, as it is a cutting edge modelling tool for free. But these are really only thoughts now, nothing fixed.


Silencer:
What format is the music in and can we swap in our own files (so that we don't pee our pants at 3am because an alien pops up while the creepy music is playing)?

ALTAR:
Why would you be playing the game if not to wet your pants at 3 am? The music will be in mp3. But they will be packed in one file. However it would be easy for us to release tools to outpack them. And we could also allow the player to specify another location the program should look at for mp3 files to play.


Kahnn:
Since the random terrain building system you use allows for a unique experience with every tactical mission (and how ALTAR plans to emphasize on these missions). How do you feel about the possibility of adding small configurable tactical missions to play in LANS/Internet with the possibility of setting technology level (weapon levels, alien weapons or things of that sort being available or not), terrain type, day or night, more or less bio…

ALTAR:
It would be easy to add a skirmish mode when you would be able to do just that; set a technology level, number of opponents, type of terrain and play a single tactical mission, without context. Do you mean that you should be able to create a custom (not random generated one) map for a mission and send it to your friends? This would be cool, wouldn't it?


Megatron A:
Will the terrain be totally destroyable, like if you fired a rocket at a building it would collapse, like in past XCOM titles? How versatile will this be and how much default variety will there be.

ALTAR A:
We have to make difference between destructible terrain and destructible objects; Terrain is the basic geometry of the surface, something we could call "ground". This is not destructible; you cannot make craters and hide in them, you cannot blast a tunnel in a mountain slope etc. An object on the other hand is anything above the ground; trees, buildings, lamp-posts, telegraph poles, hotdog trolleys, etc. Objects will be destructible.
However, it will be only possible to destruct roofed structures as a whole, i.e. you will not be able to blast a hole in the wall of a roofed building.


Megatron B:
Like a house, if you shoot it with lots of small arms fire will it just explode at once or will only powerful weapons like rockets affect it?

ALTAR B:
Yes, the damage is cumulative and eventually, the building will collapse, but really small firearms cannot damage strong buildings at all.


Wormfirst:
Earlier, ALTAR told they were not going to implement multiplayer options. Has anything changes to those plans?

ALTAR:
Multiplayer is out of question for the time being


Mazdek:
Biomass seems a lot like Zerg creep, from StarCraft. Was that idea an influence in your design?

ALTAR:
Not really, though we cannot deny we are all very familiar with Zerg creep.
The idea we started with was: there should be something on the geosphere that would be clearly visible and indicative of the player's progress. It is such a waste to have such a nice big globe and don't show any anything on it besides the location of bases, missions and crafts. That's how the idea of biomass was born.


Bobby2:
Have the ALTAR developers played Project E5 and if so is the combat in it similar to how UFO:AFTERMATH will be?

ALTAR:
I only came across Project E5 couple of months ago (when the combat system in UFO:AFTERMATH was fairly developed) and we were really surprised how similar it looks. The difference is that in UFO:AFTERMATH you can plan your actions in advance plus it has a very sophisticated system that handles the conflicts in plans and various unforeseen situation that can occur. On the other hand, PE5 now offers more options (crawling, kneeling, rolling, etc.)


RexExitium:
What has been your biggest influence in designing UFO: Aftermath, especially with the post apocalyptic scenario and all that and what are the main differences and similarities (in gameplay) between Original War and UFO:AFTERMATH (except the ufo setting)? How much is the gameplay of UFO:AFTERMATH influenced by Original War?

ALTAR:
It is clear we were influenced by the old UFO games. We also like the games that try to mix RPG with strategy, like Jagged Alliance. In terms of settings, we do not recall any single major influence. It is a blend of all post-apocalyptic movies we have seen. Original World is a real-time strategy so the similarities will be slim. The only one that comes to my mind is the ability to pause the game in OW and queue orders for all units. This might be seen as a sort of precursor system for the SAS in UFO:AFTERMATH.


hx^ggmania:
What are some of your favourite aspects of UFO: Aftermath?

ALTAR:
I think we most like the fact that it is two games in one; you have a strategy on a grand scale and you have tactical missions, both spiced with RPG elements. So it gives you an opportunity to create the story any way you see fit (Almost any way, of course, it is only a computer game, after all).



X-COM Related


Joran, Gamer.nl:
Is ALTAR not getting irritated by the fact that everyone is comparing UFO: Aftermath with the old classic UFO Enemy Unknown?

ALTAR:
We sincerely hope they will keep comparing us, when UFO:AFTERMATH is finally released.


[ANW]Loki:
Now that the XCOM series is dead many of the fans are turning to UFO:AFTERMATH. Do you think they will be satisfied with it?

ALTAR:
We do hope so, we think UFO:AFTERMATH will be a very satisfactory game to the fans of old XCOM games as it shares the same theme as well as similar approach to this theme.

RexExitium:
How do you think UFO:AFTERMATH will fare in the wake of disasters like X-Com Enforcer and X-Com Interceptor? Undoubtedly, those two games have nothing to do with UFO:AFTERMATH, but many gamers familiar with those two titles may undoubtedly feel as if the two titles had some influence over UFO:AFTERMATH.

ALTAR:
Do you really think the gamers will feel this way?


PUBLIC: Well the ufo/XCOM name is rather big; don't you guys ever feel as if it is a huge standard to meet, or to set yourself apart from?
ALTAR:
These two games are some time off, are they not? And obviously, they never used the word "UFO" as any part of their name, did they? Being compared to X-COM/UFO is daunting at some times. As we said, we can only hope people will keep comparing us to it when the game is out.


Silencer:
The original games created random names that ended up sounding like funny multinational euro mixes (i.e. Gunkel Garfunkel); will this feature those silly names too?

ALTAR:
No, we must differentiate between the stuff we like for its inherent qualities and the things we like because of sentimentality. We had very good system of generating geographically correct names in Original War and we will use similar system in UFO:AFTERMATH. Moreover we have the excellent suggestion of using nicks from UFO:AFTERMATH forum for the names of our soldiers.



Publishing & Localisation


Pete:
Who is to be the publisher of UFO Aftermath now?

ALTAR:
We are in talking with a big independent company in UK right now. We hope we will be able to reveal more before the end of September.


Megatron:
Ratings will the game be?

 ALTAR:
It is too early at this moment to give a good answer. However, there will be no extreme graphic violence and no extensively foul language. So we think rating 11+ in Europe and similar in US.


sqwirl:
What are your expectations for the UFO series do you think you will be making any more after this one?

ALTAR:
It would be great if we have the possibility to do more, but this is always the publisher's call.


Bimbo:
Will the game be localized in different languages, like in German for example?

ALTAR:
Basically, this is the publisher's choice, but we are pretty sure it will be. Europe is an important market and the publisher will be able to sell many more copies when the game is localized. We are certainly developing it in such a way the localization is quite easy.


friede:
Who will publish UFO:AFTERMATH in Germany and what about a German localisation of UFO:AFTERMATH?

ALTAR:
We are pretty sure the UFO:AFTERMATH will be localised into German; Germany being the prime European market for strategy games. The identity of the European publisher and local distributors is however still shrouded in mystery. We still think the German version of Original War was the best one we had; the voiceovers were much better than the English.


j.f, doupe.cz:
What can you tell us about the Czech version?

ALTAR:
We have the distribution rights for Czech and Slovak Republics. There definitely will be fully localized Czech version, including voiceovers.


j.f, doupe.cz:
The Czech version will be released first?

ALTAR:
No, certainly not; the English version is the primary version we work on. The localization to Czech is only marginally easier than localization to, say, French.



Credits


First of all, thank you Martin Klima and Jiri Rydl for making the official chat possible. And thank you ALTAR Interactive for making UFO: AFTERMATH
Second, thank you Wormster (Wormfirst) for making this great document from the chat log.
Third, thank you to all the voices that attended the chat and posted the questions. This could not have been done without you.
And last, but not least, thank you to everyone that attended. You asked many great questions, and made 2.5 hours disappear way to quickly.

Game Card

UFO Aftermath Box
UFO Aftermath
ALTAR Interactive
Tri Synergy
2003


Screenshot

Databank Details

UFO Series

Purchasing Options

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