Following the release of Alien: Blackout, we talk with lead writer Mike Sorvari, of Rival Games, about the latest installment in the Alien game franchise.
The announcement of Alien: Blackout was met with some unfair criticism earlier this month as it was revealed to be a mobile game. But following its release last week, Alien: Blackout has received some pretty glowing reviews, proving the initial detractors wrong and teaching us a valuable lesson that you should never judge a game by its platforms.
Set between the events of the films Alien and Aliens, Blackout puts players in the boots of Amanda Ripley, daughter of the famed Ellen Ripley and the main protagonist in 2014’s hit survival-horror game Alien: Isolation. Trapped aboard a crippled Weyland-Yutani space station, players must utilize the station’s emergency systems – in gameplay reminiscent of Five Nights at Freddy’s – to help guide the remaining survivors to safety from a blood-thirsty Xenomorph.
While we’re just now working on our review of the game, we previously reached out to FoxNext Games, D3 Go!, and Rival Games about the latest video game entry in the Alien universe. Speaking to Mika “JD” Sorvari, Lead Writer at Rival Games, we discussed the appeal of mobile devices as the primary platform for Alien: Blackout along with what the game brings to the overall narrative of the franchise and what it was like to develop a game with Amanda Ripley as the star.
App Trigger: What was the reasoning behind developing Alien: Blackout as a mobile game? What benefits does the platform offer?
Mika “JD” Sorvari, Lead Writer at Rival Games: Mobile is a platform full of unrealized potential. With phones and tablets growing more powerful every year, it would be foolish to leave them to the casual market. Core gamers can also have satisfying mobile experiences, and Blackout is here to prove that.
Also, D3 Go! is a mobile publisher, who took a brave chance in partnering with us for a non-casual game like this.
AT: What, for you, makes the character of Amanda Ripley so intriguing as the star of the game?
Sorvari: This is the daughter of Ellen Ripley we’re talking about here. If that doesn’t answer the question, then it’s worth adding that she is a strong, driven character who continues to maintain her humanity in the face of monstrous things, human and otherwise.
AT: Is there a focus on story in the game and if so, how much emphasis did you put on exploring the Alien universe?
Sorvari: The Alien universe was the starting point that informed the story as well as all of our design choices. The story of the game is a universal one, with disparate individuals working together to survive against a lethal threat. It is there to support the tense action and not to distract from it, so it isn’t as expansive as some of our other work, but it should prove interesting to fans of Alien, new and old alike.
AT: Given the rich history and lore of the Alien franchise, how much freedom did you have in expanding upon the universe?
Sorvari: While anyone would jump at the chance to leave their mark on this universe, our goal was to place a new piece into the greater puzzle, that would fit in seamlessly with the existing structure. For that, we didn’t require so much freedom as we did support from the franchise, and this we received.
AT: What was your favorite part about working on an Alien game?
Sorvari: To be actively involved and interacting with a universe we’ve been fans of for decades now. I don’t think anyone could have imagined doing this back in the day when all we had was a fuzzy VHS-copy of Alien and rumors that somewhere over the sea they’re making a sequel.
AT: Part of what made Alien and Aliens so terrifying was the unpredictability of the Xenomorph(s). To what lengths did you go to in order to recreate that sense of terror in the game?
Sorvari: This was essential to us. The line between unpredictability and randomness is a tricky one, especially when you’re talking game design, but I believe we found that sweet spot that honors the perfect organism.
AT: Alien: Blackout‘s gameplay has been compared to Five Nights at Freddy’s. What made you go with this sort of approach towards gameplay?
Sorvari: Five Nights at Freddy’s was one of our early sources of inspiration while we were figuring out the design, as it is a pretty scary game after all. Nothing is scarier than Alien, though, and it was the original movie and the elements that it provided that guided us primarily in our development process.
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AT: Can players expect any easter eggs or nods to the film tucked away in the environment of Alien: Blackout?
Sorvari: The entire game is a respectful nod to Alien, so in that sense, there is an abundance of familiar elements to be spotted. Some may take sharper eyes than others though.
AT: Following the initial announcement, there were reports of how some were upset that Alien: Blackout was being developed as a mobile game. What’s one thing you would say to these initial detractors to turn them into believers?
Sorvari: Play it. It’s already been called a “mobile game for people who hate mobile games” because it was made by embracing values that core gamers will recognize from the realm of PC gaming. The screen may be smaller, but it’s the full package. Just give it a spin.