Walking in Giger’s Steps – Alien Blackout Interview

Apr 28, 2019
Action

We dive into the twisted inner-workings of Alien: Blackout’s horror with the project’s lead writer JD Sorvari on how to craft a horror game where any character can die.

Appolicious: How did Alien: Blackout come into being? What gave birth to such an ambitious pitch as a AAA-quality mobile Alien game?

JD Sorvari: It was a fruitful collision of ideas between developer, publisher and IP holder. Each one had been considering different parts of the equation, which then came together in what is now Alien: Blackout.

Appolicious: Please, describe your role(s) on the project and what that entails.

JD: As the lead writer, I wrote more or less everything for the game, from the background and plot to the characters and dialogue. Of course I had some help from the other narratively inclined members of Rival Games and Theory Interactive as well. Also, I was involved in creating the original pitch and was a part of that whole process.

Appolicious: What’s the secret to maintaining tension and atmosphere in a mobile?

JD: We got a great boost from our combination of music and audio effects, which I feel really drive home the atmosphere. The fact that you know the Alien is always present, but you can’t see it, is nerve-wracking and creates general tension the entire time. The constant management of multiple crew members and also not being able to see where they are at through a camera at all times is really unsettling. Also blips… you come to know the sound of them and when you hear one, your heart jumps and you know you have to scramble to avoid the Xenomorph!

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Appolicious: The decision to let crew members die was a bold one. How did you go about balancing that, and accommodating characters being potentially dead during the story?

JD: From a story point of view, it just took a bit of preliminary planning. All the dialogue was written so that different people could interject at different points, depending on who was still breathing, and separate dialogue was written for “last crew member standing” situations. None of the characters were created as “expendable”, as I wanted the players to be able to pick their own favorites from the crew. The real balancing work had to be done in level design though.

Appolicious: What is it about Amanda Ripley that you think resonates so much with fans of the Alien franchise?

JD: She carries on the same spirit that Ellen Ripley has. She can be strong, but she doesn’t have to resort to traditionally macho posturing to do it. She can also be vulnerable, and she displays a humanity that is sometimes neglected especially in video game characters.

Appolicious: What’s your personal favorite aspect and/or moment from Alien: Blackout?

JD: I just love how right it feels. I’ve been a fan of Alien for decades, and just looking at the level map with the dots moving around gives me chills and makes me smile at the same time.

Be sure to keep an eye out for our upcoming review of Alien: Blackout.

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Elijah Beahm

Elijah is a man who can't stop talking about games, geeky things, and to the chagrin of his colleagues, horrible puns. He's been working as a game journalist for several years now, and in addition to Appolicious, His other work can be found at GameCritics.com, I Need Diverse Games, and The Unabridged Gamer on YouTube. When not reviewing games, you'll probably find him ranting on Twitter, writing, or replaying Dead Space 2 for the zillionth time.

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