UFO: Extraterrestrials Interview

by on 15th Mar 2006

In 2002, a Czech company called Chaos Squad began work on the turn based strategy title UFO Extraterrestrials.
In 2005 the gamers at StrategyCore fired off dozens of questions at Chaos Squad's Managing Developer - Michal Dolezal.
Now, in 2006, we bring you the eagerly anticipated interview, complete with exclusive screenshots and more aliens than you can shake a plasma rifle at. Enjoy!

General Questions

Hi there, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do at Chaos Concept?
My name is Michal Dolezal and I come from the Czech Republic. Since January 2002 I've been producing the game UFO:Extraterrestrials and managing the team at Chaos Concept.

Who are the team members of Chaos Concept?
There are 5 programmers, a 2D graphic artist, three 3D graphic artists, a sketchmaker and a musician. They all are professionals in their fields.

What has inspired you when creating UFO:ET? Obviously there are familiar elements from previous squad-based tactical games, but have you gotten any ideas from movies or books in the sci-fi genre?
Yes. For example, I took inspiration from printed comics. Some of them are more than 20 years old but believe me, they are very, very good. For example "The Brains Rebellion" in which robots start to think independently. There is a culture of robots described in this comic although indirectly and it depends partly on the reader’s imagination, but in many aspects the robots resemble UFOs. Another example can be seen in the comic Galaxia in which the intergalactic spaceship Galaxia suffers a collision. All the crew die in hibernation sleep, but by chance two hearts still beat - biologist John’s and 1st pilot Peter’s.

Reading comics with strong sci-fi aspects help us to fall into the right state of mind or mood in which we think up new ideas or extend ideas that were already described in those comics, movies or books. For me sci-fi comics are a real heart matter.

Storyline

Can you give us a brief introduction to the back-story for UFO: Extraterrestrials?
The strory begins on the planet Esperanza which was colonized by the spaceship Magaleansh in 2023.

Many years of hard work and suffering have passed since the first colonists arrived but the colony has thrived successfully. The planet warmed by the three Suns has become a new home for the colonists, their new home filled with natural richness and beauty.

However, space monitoring devices at research centers around the planet registered a strong shower of various particles one day. Scientists analyzing this made an alarming deduction – there was a wormhole opened for a short time close to the planet Esperanza's system. Even more disturbing was the discovery that something got through and it was heading into the system.

 What are the similarities and differences between X-COM and UFO:ET's Geoscape and Battlescape screens?
Aliens can make air strikes on the bases of the Counter Alien Forces(CAF). During an airstrike, aliens can destroy CAF facilities and defences in contrast to XCOM. New features added to the battlescape fights are the implementation of various chemical ammunition that allow the player to gas particular areas.

A similarity to XCOM is that CAF interceptors can fight UFOs in the geoscape. Interceptors can be equipped with energy shields that provides active protection against UFO weapons.


Are there different skill levels to play at? Is the lowest skill level easy enough for players of X-COM to get better at, or is the AI so strong that the aliens always have an advantage?
Not yet, but difficulty levels are supposed to be in UFO:ET. Aliens take advantage from their top technologies that result in faster fighters, stronger weapons, sturdy soldiers, solid armour. The peaceful people of Esperanza didn’t invest in arms development and now, at the time of this alien threat they must promptly catch up.

As far as the AI is concerned, aliens will be able to cooperate amongst themselves, which will depend on what they see and what they hear. Aliens will be able to analyse whether to risk an open fight or retreat. On top of everything else, aliens will be able to lure the player’s soldiers.

Geoscape

Will there be base building (and building of individual base components) and research trees to explore?
Yes sure. I wouldn’t survive a second if I released UFO without basebuilding I guess :).There are various sections available for base construction: hangar, living wing, medical section, power section (which is the heart of CAF base), detection systems, laboratory, workshop, stores, autopsy section and various SAM sites.

Does your organisation get funded like in the X-COM series, or is it more of a fight-for-life scenario like in UFO:Aftermath?
The Counter Alien Forces (CAF) get funded by states. Only a state in which the CAF builds a base gives them money for defence. Aliens can attack CAF bases and can then occupy the state if they succeed in their attack. In this case CAF loses control and money.

Will the Geoscape have a fully rotating globe with crash sites/alien incursion sites marked on it?
Yes, the globe is fully rotating and all interceptors and UFOs are 3d models.

Do you get to shoot down UFO’s like in the X-COM games? If so, how is this handled in the game and is it more interactive than with the X-COM games? Or is shooting down UFO's a thing of the past because your ships can never catch up with the alien craft?
CAF interceptors can shoot down UFOs like in XCOM, but air battles are more interactive like in Starcraft for instance. UFOs are generally faster and more powerful then CAF interceptors but it is possible to shoot them down.

Is there a way to reverse-engineer alien objects into their constituent parts? For instance, most alien items/weapons in X-COM are made from alloys and Elerium-115. Is there a way to get UFO:ET engineers to "crack" the items to yield the starting materials such as alien alloys and fuel sources?
I can’t reveal too much now because things like this are a matter of research in the game, but generally UFOs use a special fuel substance. A very important thing is that aliens have a lack of this substance because at the time of alien invasion on Earth, humans fired a nuclear warhead and succeeded to shoot down the alien supply ship that carried the fuel substance for the alien invasion battleships. The lack of this alien fuel fortunately prevents the aliens' giant mothership from moving from Earth and attacking peoples on the planet Esperanza.

Whether the CAF will be able to prevent the alien mothership and alien invasion battleships and battlecruisers from getting to the planet Esperanza depends on the player’s ability and tactical thinking. Good luck!

Tactical

 Are any battles waged on good old Earth, or does the whole game revolve around the planet Esperanza? If so, how do missions on Esperanza differ from those on Earth?
One day CAF forces will set foot on the Earth but it will definitely not be an easy process. People on Esperanza do not entirely know what happened on Earth. How many aliens are there? How strong are the alien forces on Earth? Is there any resistance on Earth? Is there any safe place to land? Is it possible? Where are the alien headquarters? Are the alien headquarters even located on Earth? Where is the alien mothership? How strong are the guards on the alien mothership?

Answers to these and many other important questions will be found during the game. The source of knowledge is captured living aliens. The way make them talk and to understand their speech is known only by scientists and you!


From the screenshot section of your website it seems as though you have to constantly defend your base(s) against alien intrusion. Is this the primary mission type encountered, or is there an even mix of mission types that pop up?
It is definitely not only base defense. If the CAF fails protect their bases, the bases will be settled and guarded by aliens but you will have a chance to conquer them back, so the character of the mission is defensive and offensive. I mentioned only a slight difference, I agree, but there are various missions. The CAF for example protects hospitals and cities and helps to defend army bases, scientific laboratories, mines or underground bases. As far as environment is concerned, missions take place in deserts, cities, snow plains, mild and forested areas and underground.

X-COM has the following missions: UFO crash/landing sites, terror sites, alien base missions and base defence missions. Obviously, there many new types of missions implemented in UFO:ET. But exactly how many different mission types are we looking at?
About 5 new mission types. For instance defence of an intergalactic spaceship in case of attack. This fight takes place in the corridors and facilites of that spaceship. Other examples of different mission types are the protection of municipal hospitals, or helping an army garrison protect their defences for military bases. In contrast to the CAF the regular armies on planet Esperanza are poorly equipped.

There are also refineries located close to fields of minerals that need to be protected. The CAF has to get funding and some of the missions are well paid and might help the player to survive if he fails to protect some states. Also the police sometimes have problems defending their stations. I can’t forget to mention underground mines rich with minerals which are sites of great interest for the UFOs.

How are soldiers controlled in battle? Do you control 1 soldier and the rest play "follow the leader"? Do you move each soldier one-at-a-time like X-COM, or can you select multiple soldiers and have them move/attack in a group or assign them to squads?
The player moves each soldier one at a time like in the XCOM or Battle Isle series for instance. In my opinion UFO Enemy Unknown, Battle Isle series or even Civilization proves how good the turn based mode is. I want the player to concentrate on each soldier individually

How many alien races are there, and how tough are they to kill?
There are many races in UFO:ET. Robotic units with organic implants, organic units with robotic implants, predators able to influence human nerves and then rip a victim into pieces with their claws. There are about 15 alien races in total. Alien toughness is a question of fine tuning but I think that there will be an extra tough and armoured alien race present.

Are your soldiers always out-numbered and out-gunned, or can you bring a significant number of troops to catch the aliens off-guard?
The player will be able to outnumber the aliens if he researches bigger transport carriers. At the beginning the player can take only 6 soldiers into the mission or 2 soldiers and a combat vehicle - a tank for instance. The player will need appropriate weapons to catch the aliens.

What about psionic powers? Are they implemented in UFO:ET?
Yes in a way, but they have a more a protective role on the CAF side.

Can you take out a tall building by destroying it’s supports?
The player can take out the whole building by destroying all parts of it. So if the player tries to destroy supports he will also destroy upper parts of the building, which means that if he destroys all of the building supports then there won’t be any upper parts. Anyway buildings are quite wide and not tall in UFO:ET. If the player concentrates on destroying supports, he will probably get killed by aliens before he ever took the building out.

Can you dent/put a hole in a wall without destroying it completely (like in Silent Storm with bullets going through walls and windows).
The player is able to destroy part of the wall or the whole wall according to weapon he uses.

X-Com, and most other tactical squad based games have customarily employed a moderately advanced fog-of-war system which eliminates most pre-planning. Part of the fun is cautiously making your way through unknown territory and getting a feel for areas of advantage and disadvantage. None of the UFO:ET screenshots show this... will it be present in the game or will the full map be visible as soon as the mission is loaded? Either way, will your squad be able to see aliens that are hiding behind walls?
There is an advanced fog of war in UFO:ET like in Warcraft III for example, but it is switched off for screenshots. The player can see only what his soldiers can see. The place that the soldier leaves is covered by the fog of war again.

The soldier can’t see an alien behind any wall if the wall is tall enough and vice versa. This is one of the basic principles here in UFO:ET. Soldiers should take advantage of terrain to survive.

Other

In what ways is the Artificial Intelligence for UFO:ET different from the X-COM games?
Aliens will be able to cooperate among themselves and their cooperation will depend on what they see and what they hear. The aliens will be able to analyse whether to risk an open fight or retreat.

The aliens will also be able to guess. They’ll throw a grenade into a building if they think that there is somebody present or hidden inside. On top of everything else, aliens will try to lure the player’s soldiers into a trap.


Will the squad members actually speak, or scream when they’re hit by enemy weapons fire?
Squad members will speak. They’ll cry while dying but I’m not sure if they scream after a hit.

Is there plenty of atmospheric music being created for the game? Is it nice and eerie to set the atmosphere and does it pick up and become more like action music when battling the bad guys like in X-COM Apocalypse?
I liked the music in UFO: Enemy Unknown (XCOM: UFO Defence). The music in UFO:Extraterrestrials should fit in with the action taking place.

What kind of computer specifications will be needed as a minimum to run this game?
Pentium 1.5GHz, 256MB RAM and a standard graphic accelerator with 64MB RAM as a minimum.

Production Questions

How far through production are you currently?
The 3D engine including the new level editor was finalized at the end of 2005. The graphics were completely finalized 19th of Januarry 2006. Now the coders are working on the AI on the globe part of the game and in missions, which is the only thing that needs to be done as far as the game is concerned. However we are also working on promotional animations for UFO:Extraterrestrials.

Have you created any previous games?
Everybody here in Chaos concept has already worked on a game development but UFO:ET is the first game of the Chaos Concept developer team.

How will it be published?
UFO:ET will be available in shops.

Who will publish it?
Tri Synergy in North America.

Will it be a budget title or full price game?
Full price game.

Will there be a demo before the final release?
Yes.

Many thanks to Michal and the team at Chaos Squad for an interesting-sounding game and a great interview!
Thank you for your questions.

So, there you have it! Definitely one to watch out for if you're into turn-based, planet-wide, alien-blasting goodness!

A HUGE thanks to all the folks here at StrategyCore who submitted the questions.

 

Add Comment Comments

Pete\
16 Mar 2006 - 7:09pm
Pete
Will do Zombie.

Thanks to Slaughter for spreading the word at Evilavatar.com and Bluesnews.com :D
Zombie\
16 Mar 2006 - 4:34am
Zombie
I have been looking forward to this interview for a long time, and let me just say it was worth the wait! :D
Now if I could only hang in there till the demo is released...

Pete: the next time you talk to Mr. Dolezal please thank him again for taking the time to answer all our questions.  ;)

- Zombie
Azrael Strife\
16 Mar 2006 - 12:23am
Azrael Strife
This game is now starting to sound real good...

 

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Game Card

UFO: Extraterrestrials Box
Developer: Chaos Concept
Publisher: Tri Synergy
Released:2007

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