UFO Aftermath Follow-Up Interview

by on 3rd Jun 2002

Interviewer: Pete
Interviewee: Jiri Rydl and Martin Klima

Endeavouring to tie up some loose ends with regards to areas of the game that had been covered that I thought were a little sketchy, I pushed the boat  out somewhat and compiled a fairly large list of questions for the guys at  ALTAR.
They go deeper into some areas that have been discussed in previous interviews, and talk a little about some of the screenshots that have been released from  the game. You may therefore find that you'll be less confused if you read  through a few other interviews, or  at the very least look at the screenshots in the gallery that I've linked to below before continuing to read this interview further.

What follows is an interview between myself (Pete) and Martin Klima and Jiri Rydl of ALTAR Interactive.

Pete: Right... since you guys have done dozens of interviews, I'll try and  steer away from some of the repetitive questions. You've recently released  some screenshots of the game, and they've sparked all kinds of interesting  questions. I'll try to ask a few of them here.

General Stuff:

Pete: Firstly, there's the dreaded who are you and what do you do at Altar that we have to do EVERY time.

Martin Klima: I am Martin Klima (M.K.), one of Aftermath's designers and a director at ALTAR Interactive.

Jiri Rydl: I am Jiri Rydl (J.R.), public relations manager for ALTAR Interactive.

Pete: From the screenshots, we can clearly see the detail in the game, and why the recommended system specifications are so high. Are  they likely to change much from what you originally suggested now that you've  had a bit more user feedback, or are we still in P500 territory with this  game?

Personally, I think those specifications are about right, and are in keeping with a lot of the games coming out right now. With that in mind, I would've  thought that a lot of people will either have fast enough machines or will  be upgrading sometime in the near future.

J.R.: The minimum specifications require a Pentium III 500 MHz or similar processor, 64 MB RAM, GeForce compatible video card with  16 MB video RAM, and DirectX 7 or Open GL Support. The specifications for  top performance are a Pentium III 1 GHz, 256 MB RAM, and GeForce 3 with 64  MB RAM. I have an AMD Duron 800 MHz, 128 MB RAM, GeForce 2 and Sound Blaster  Live! at home, so I'll have to upgrade next year :-). But it's a computer  over a year old and I think it's getting obsolete these days. If you want  to play new games with every graphical and/or sound feature, you need a really  fast machine.

M.K.: The speed of the processor is not a burning issue, the video memory is. So while we hope to stay true to our promise of just a 16MB card, you  really should have at least 32MB if you want to enjoy the game with good performance.  

Pete: There were reports that a lot of screenshots from the original Dreamland concept were so highly detailed because they were  mock-up versions on high-end machines, rather than in-game shots. Are the  screenshots you're released of the same quality, or will they be lower? (Or  higher!)

J.R.: The screenshots, released at E3, are from the E3 (partly) playable demo. It means we designed one area with small UFO, several  enemies, four soldiers, and one bus :-). The soldiers and aliens can shoot,  walk, etc., you can plan your actions and see what happens, but itis not the  real game. It's not even an alpha version yet! After having a real playable  demo, you will be among the first to play it and find the bugs for us. So  I think the answer is that the game graphics should be much more interesting  and higher in quality! And yes, the version the screenshots are from is running  on an ordinary computer, closer to the lower end of the specs than the higher  end.

Pete: As you've probably guessed, we're all itching to see the game in action. Will there be a video demo so we can see a bit of  the action, or maybe an actual playable demo released in the near future to  keep us hyped up and possibly get an even wider audience interested?

J.R.: As I said in the previous question, the demo is not for a larger audience, it is not even for the press even. It was presented  at E3 to show how the game will look and what we have done. The video from  this demo should be released in a few weeks, I hope. The playable demo should  be available at the end of the year or maybe later in January/February 2003,  when the game ships.

Pete: The game's got a very distinctive visual style in general and in it's different departments such as the global view and the  combat - was it inspired by anything in particular?

M.K.: Obviously, most of us played games like Jagged Alliance and the earlier X-COMs, so a lot of our inspiration comes from these  games. As with any game, you try to take and improve the good things that  were done, and add your own where you feel there are some new opportunities.

Pete: What's the response been like from your time at E3? Are people being wowed by your demo, or are they being a bit skeptical  and paying it down as Just another strategy game...

M.K.: We were only talking to publishers and distributors at E3, so their response is naturally skewed. We generally had a very positive  response, even though I can't resist quoting a representative of a certain big publisher: It's a PC game and too cerebral… nothing for us.

Pete: The possibility of a sequel has been mentioned on one or two occasions, with a suggestion of perhaps cooperative multiplayer  or some other such mode incorporated into it. I know that until this game  is released, it's all hypothetical, but could you expand on what we might  expect to find should such a sequel appear on the horizon?

J.R.: Let's pretend we are selling a huge amount of copies of Aftermath copies all over the world :-). Our publisher is very happy  and the fans are eagerly waiting for something more. They want more weapons,  enemies, better spaceships, and a multiplayer mode, of course. Because of  the story, I don't think it is good idea to develop Aftermath 2. Even  the name sounds kind of weird :-). But I can imagine that we might be talking  about some add-ons with new soldiers, mutants, and some kind of prepared (as  opposed to random-generated) levels for skirmish or multiplayer. Some aliens  vs. soldiers modes could also be fun. We could prepare mod contests for the  best-designed squad or the worst looking mutant, or even the best multiplayer  area. But lets face the reality; it is all sci-fi right now :-).

Pete: In terms of cutscenes and full-motion videos, what can we expect to see? Will there be much in the way of intro movies and 'win  or lose' movies, or are you perhaps leaning more toward short animations using  the in-game engine that seems so popular these days?

J.R.: The intro looks fine, I must say :-). And it's made in the good old way - it's not part of the game, just a short video to  show you what happened to the Earth.

M.K.: Beside the intro and outro, there will be no FMVs in the game. There will be in-game videos for the intercept missions, using our engine. We also  planned more videos of this sort for e.g. research but for the constraints  of budget and schedule we had to drop them.

Global View Questions:

Pete: There's been a bit of talk about the interception of alien craft being fairly automatic. How is this system going to be implemented?  Do we get a choice of which craft to go after, or will the game automatically  go after every UFO that flies into player-controlled airspace and shoot it  down?

M.K.: This question is not yet settled. As you actually do not risk anything, there is little reason why you should not want to launch  a pursuit, but as the fans are constantly commenting on the lack of control  overair combat, we might include some strategic decisions there.

The important thing to realise is that you make the decision about air combat when you set up your military bases (these are the only ones that can launch  aircraft) - the more you have the better chance you get you will shoot down  a UFO when it appears. If you neglect this, you increase the risk of a UFO  penetrating into your territory where it may, for example, launch an attack  at one of your bases in a few days.

Pete: In terms of training and development, what can we expect to see? What areas can the soldiers improve in for example, and will  they be able to learn how to use the alien's psionic powers and weapons?

M.K.: Your men gain experience points through combat and using their skills. When you reach a certain threshold, you can allocate  an attribute point to one of six attributes and this in turn may increase  one or more skills.

Combat Questions:

Pete: Will there be multiple heights on a single map? For example, will your men be able to run over bridges and other objects that  span gaps?

M.K.: The different parts of the map have different heights and height gives you longer range of sight and other advantages. However,  each spot can only have one height level, so e.g. if you can go over bridge,  you cannot go under it.

Pete: That leads onto my next question - Is it possible for the landscape underneath a unit (either human or alien) to be destroyed,  and if so, how have you handled the sudden lack of ground beneath them? I  know that in the X-COM games, your units seemed to float down until they reached  a solid surface, so have you come up with a more realistic solution?

M.K.: You cannot destroy the terrain, you can only destroy environment (such as walls, trees, etc.). There will actually be very few  environments you can walk over or into - should these be destroyed, the unit  will just fall down (as if it was knocked over by a grenade).

Pete: We can clearly see what can only be assumed to be a scout ship in some of the pictures. Has that one crash-landed, as there  appears to be debris behind it, or had is just landed in an area filled with  debris?

J.R.: I think it this is more about the laziness of our designers :-). Because it was for E3 purposes only, we didn't have  the time and/or the patience for the little details. The spaceship isn't  hurt (it is biological, so I use hurt instead of damaged) and is just parked  near the bus. Maybe aliens wanted to take a ride :-). It is more for showing  what the small alien ship looks like. But it is a good question I must say.  In the finished game you will certainly see crashed sites with destroyed buildings  or just landed ships big enough to enter them, and more important you will  recognize which situation is occurring.

Pete: Will we see more sizes of UFO in the combat missions and will we be able to explore inside them?

J.R.: Oops, I already revealed it in the last question. So the answer is yes. You should see some screenshots of the larger alien  spacecraft on the website in the near future.

Pete: There's been a lot of talk about the weapons the player will have to start with, such as rifles and machine guns, but will  we have a chance to use grenades and flares for nighttime missions? Will there  indeed be any nighttime missions? Also, will there be other items such as  medical packs or maybe even night-vision goggles?

J.R.: Yes, there will be night-time missions and it's very important whether it is the day or night for your tactics.

M.K.: Generally, there will be equipment for locating the enemy. When you get some hint of an enemy presence (such as sound, smell, or by using such  equipment), you will see a marker for the estimated position of the enemy.

Pete: How often will the player be able to save the game inside the tactical mission? Will this be set to the beginning or end of a  turn, or will the player be able to save it any time they want?

J.R.: The player will be able to save anytime. That said, it's not all about the last movement - the good tactics start at the  beginning of every mission, so you don't have to be worried about atmosphere.  We're trying to avoid the whole "save and load, rinse and repeat"  type of gameplay that a lot of these games lend themselves towards. Maybe  we will implement some "superhero" level of difficulty level, where  you will not be able to save during the missions, but we are not sure about  that.

Pete: How bloody will this game be? In the past, similar games have seen bullets just hit opponents and they'll drop like flies. Can  we expect something similar so it's still okay for younger players, or will  we see blood everywhere and limbs flying left, right and centre?

J.R.: I think that we are going for something in the middle. But we don't need to scatter a victim of a rocket attack over  a whole area just to feel better.

Pete: Will there be any vehicles involved in the combat missions? We've seen such things as mini-tanks and such that we've seen in  similar games, or are we really talking strictly squad-based tactics in tight  situations where such things would get in the way?

M.K.: No. There are going to be no vehicles or tanks. There might be some power-suits, though.

Pete: You obviously have to get from A to B in the game, and I assume that there's some sort of aircraft that takes you to the combat  sites. Will the craft be your starting point on the map, or will it remain  off-screen whilst your men are randomly spread throughout the level?

M.K: There is a Chinook chopper that will take you to the mission site from your nearest military base. Its landing spot is then  your starting place for the mission.

Pete: Each unit has their own colour for their movement path it appears, and this is done neatly on the map so as not to interfere  with the game from what I can see. This has been shown from a few different  angles, which leads onto the question that's been bugging me for a while now.

The map is supposed to be rotatable and the units are clearly 3-dimensional. The interface has been described as being Isometric, which automatically clicks  in my brain as being like the old X-COM games. Will this rotatable display  be completely rotatable, or do we have to choose from a few different viewpoints?  Also, will there be zoom functions and changeable vertical angles?

J.R.: Yes, you can rotate, swivel and zoom the camera. You cannot, however, lower it under a certain angle, meaning that you will  not really be able to get a first-person view. It's a strategy game,  after all.

Pete: A few different modes of movement have been mentioned, including: running, jumping, crouching and crawling as far as I can remember.  Did I miss any there such as rolling or climbing, or did I pretty much cover  it?

M.K.: I am sorry, but these modes of movement were certainly not mentioned by us. At present, you can either walk (makes less noise, and  is better for spotting enemiesy), or run (faster, but makes lot of noise and  lowers perception). You will also kneel when taking aimed shots.

Pete: Terrain plays an important part in any strategy
game. Will the units have more difficulty and expend more time picking their
way through rubble than they would pounding flat-out down an empty, but well-paved

J.R.: Heavy loads slow you down, and the same thing happens when you are trying to go over the heavy terrain. Because  you don't have many movement points, choose wisely where to go. If you  are slower thean the enemy, it could be better not to use a rocket launcher  or to choose a better path without exposing your soldiers to an alien attack.  

Pete: Will there be sounds coming from all around out of our speakers as we've come to expect in modern games, lulling us into a  false sense of security when all goes quiet and then making us jump in terror  as an unearthly scream emanates from the left-hand speaker?

M.K.: Do you mean 3D sound or adaptive sound? Actually we will be using both, so yes, you can expect the same as you do from modern  games.

Pete: Are there likely to be any civilian units running around the maps? I know there's not supposed to be a lot left alive on the  earth, but will we see any non-combatants or is it strictly between them and  us?

M.K.: There actually might be some lone survivors from time to time that you can see in a mission. However, it should be noted that  most of the time you will not be fighting the real aliens but  horrible transgenetic mutants instead. These monsters are the results of the  enemy attack and their hideous genetic experiments, but they still retain  a touch of their past earthly form - which makes them all the more repulsive.

Pete: Will the units talk to each other at any point, or are you rather restricted by time and cash for something like that to be  implemented?

M.K.: You mean, like if the units are going to chatter away? Well, the units are going to talk to you a lot, giving you information  about their situation and conditions. However, they are not going to discuss  their situation among themselves.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions guys! No doubt this will provide much to talk about over at the forums for a few months.


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