Reinvigorating a much-loved classic like Alien Breed is no easy task. After all, the market has changed exponentially since the original landed on the Amiga back in 1991. However, the digital distribution boom has brought retro back with a vengeance, so now is arguably the perfect time to launch a title like Alien Breed Evolution. We caught up with design manager John Dennis to find out more.
Why did you choose to revisit the Alien Breed series now?
"We've had a lot of emails about Alien Breed over the last few years. In fact, after Worms, it's easily the game we hear about most from Team17 fans. We'd actually been wanting to do an all-new version of the game for a number of years, but despite coming close several times, never managed to get a publisher to buy into the idea. With the success of Worms on XBLA and PSN, it became clear to us that we could bring the game to digital platforms ourselves without the need for [a] publisher, so that's what we've done. Circumstances have kind of conspired to finally allow us to reinvigorate the brand with a new title."
What was the biggest challenge in resurrecting the franchise?
"Actually getting it made! The biggest challenge has always been finding a publisher interested enough to make it. In the end we couldn't do that, but the arrival of viable digital channels such as PSN, Steam and XBLA have finally allowed us to overcome that challenge in a different way."
Did any of the developers from the original game work on the new title?
"Well, Rico Holmes, the artist who created the art for the original games was involved at the concept stage, and put in a good shift in steering the direction of the visuals, but he lives in Sweden, so he didn't stay for the duration of the project. We also contacted Allister Brimble, the guy who wrote the original theme tune, and asked if he'd remix it for us, which he did! The rest of the team didn't work on the originals, but they're a talented bunch of guys, and have done a great job on the game."
How has the market for this kind of title changed compared to days when the original was released?
"It's unrecognisable. Not only is the demographic of people playing games much broader now than it was when we released the original games, but even the way the games are delivered is different. It's an exciting time to be in the business of making video games!"
Why did you choose to issue the game as a trilogy?
"When we were thinking about bringing the game back, and the amount of stuff we wanted to do, it just seemed too large to fit in one digital release, and I dare say given the time we've spent making Alien Breed Evolution, probably wouldn't have recouped the money spent making it. So we ran the idea of having the game as three episodes by the nice people at Microsoft, and they liked it, so that's what we went with!"
How are the episodes linked together?
"Each episode is a standalone game that can be downloaded and played separately. There's a narrative arc that links the three episodes together, each episode ending on a cliff-hanger that's resolved at the start of the next episode. So if people download the first episode, we hope they'll want to find out how the story carries on in later episodes, but if people want to join the series late, that's okay, too... there's a 'previously on Alien Breed' sequence at the start of episodes two and three that recaps what's happened so far."
What does Alien Breed Evolution offer over other top-down action games?
"Well we hope it will stand up on its own merits. It looks great, it sounds great, it’s a great deal of fun to play and scary in about equal measure, and has the episodic thing which is pretty ground-breaking on console. I hope people will enjoy it for what it is as we've put a lot of love into the game."
Why do you think the original has remained a cult classic all these years?
"I'm not sure really why some games attain cult status and others don't. I think it helps that the original games were good games. We hope in ten years' time people are talking about Alien Breed Evolution as a cult classic!"
An official release date for Alien Breed Evolution is yet to be announced.
> Read our full hands-on preview here