PILLARS OF ETERNITY DIRECTOR GIVES DETAILS ON CANCELED ALIENS RPG – IGN UNFILTERED
“I think a lot of people couldn’t even comprehend it, which seems crazy to me,” says project director Josh Sawyer.
In early 2009, Sega announced that it was pulling the plug on a role-playing game based on Ridley Scott’s Aliens franchise. The game was being helmed by Fallout: New Vegas and Pillars of Eternity developer Obsidian Entertainment, which laid off more than 20 employees shortly after the cancellation. In an exclusive interview for IGN Unfiltered, Obsidian mainstay Josh Sawyer (director on Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire and Fallout: New Vegas) has shared new details regarding the game and the reasons for its demise.
Pre-alpha footage of the game leaked back in early 2013, featuring a four-man squad searching through a dilapidated facility before being swarmed by the titular aliens. There’s also a bit of footage of the character creation menu. A 2010 report by Joystiq quotes Obsidian studio head Feargus Urquhart as saying “Oh, if you had come in and played any of the last builds we were working on, you would have said it was a finished game.”
“It did not play like a finished game,” says Sawyer, who came on as a lead designer for the game before eventually moving to project director. “There were a lot of problems with area development. We had some animation problems we were working through. There was a lot of cool stuff in it, but ultimately we weren’t building our areas at a fast enough pace and there were just some lingering problems.”
According to Sawyer, the footage that leaked back in 2013 was from a build of the game that was “one or two” milestones prior to the build Obsidian had when the game was canceled, something that Sawyer says saddened him.
“It was too little, too late honestly,” Sawyer says. “Even though I was really disappointed it got canceled, I get why it was canceled. I wasn’t like, ‘Whoa, where did this come from?’”
Part of the struggle in getting an Aliens role-playing game off the ground also included marketing the idea to players or executives who might not have thought the franchise would lend itself well to a more open-ended experience of an RPG rather than another genre.
“When it was announced that we were working on an Aliens role-playing game, I think a lot of people couldn’t even comprehend it, which seems crazy to me,” Sawyer says. “I can’t remember when we started working on it relative to Mass Effect, but sci-fi games as RPGs were not necessarily a super big thing outside of Mass Effect.”
For Sawyer, part of the Aliens franchise’s draw was its focus on the humans struggling to survive an encounter with the deadly xenomorph creatures, such as the original Nostromo crew of Alien or the ragtag space marines of the Aliens film.
“It’s about more than just Ripley. It’s about Ripley in the midst of a group of people and her emerging as this de facto leader, this person who has to help pull them through,” Sawyer says. “It’s about how people either fall apart or they rise up. Those are beautiful character arcs. For me, in a role-playing game, those are the great key relationships you can build. That’s what I wanted to emphasize in the Aliens game we were making.”
According to Sawyer, Obsidian’s hierarchy didn’t include project directors at the time, instead vying for discipline leads and one executive producer. Sawyer moved into a director role at the tail end of the project after it was clear that the team needed a person in charge of enforcing more difficult decisions. This would hopefully halt the indecision between sections of the team plaguing development.
“Obviously no one likes being overruled, but if our goal is to have a vision and direction to go in, [directors are] something we need,” Sawyer says.
For more details on the canceled Alien role-playing game, as well as a look behind the development of Fallout: New Vegas and future plans for Pillars of Eternity, make sure to check out the full episode of IGN Unfiltered tomorrow.
Edited by Infinitron, 25 June 2018 - 01:29 PM.