Interview With Housemarque on Alienation: Destruction/Explosion, Dark Souls Series Inspiration, 1080p/60FPS Target & More
One of the most pleasing reveal at PlayStation GamesCom 2014 press conference was a first glimpse at Alienation, a brand new title from the Dead Nation creator Housemarque. The developer showcased a spectacular looking teaser trailer, but it also raised plenty of questions.
Questions that Housemarque fans wanted answered. So, Gamepur recently got it touch with Tommaso De Benetti, Community Manager, Housemarque to know some more details about Alienation and what PlayStation 4 gamers can expect to see.
Gamepur: Housemarque's love for "Destruction/Explosion" is know to each and everyone of us, we got a good glimpse of it in Resogun. So, how are you people refining that art form in Alienation?
Tommaso De Benetti: Housemarque is a developer with... a "childlike" approach to gaming. Imagine a kid on the beach, building a beautiful sand castle. He painstakingly carves bridges and towers and pits, and when he's done, he stands up and kicks everything down with a laugh on his face. The kid name is Housemarque.
That's why you often see things blowing up in our games. It's just fun. Alienation makes no exception, and we built it from the beginning knowing that on PS4 we could destroy things in a more spectacular way. It's almost like every time we get to use some extra power, we go for the "let's-blow-things-up-more-spectacularly" option. That said, I wouldn't call Housemarque the Michael Bay of gaming – for us gameplay always comes first.
Gamepur: In an interview to PS Blog, Mikael Haveri openly admitted that for Alienation, Housemarque borrowed inspiration from some of the greatest games ever. Can you just list out those games, and how does Housemarque plans to re-invent those things in their own way in Alienation?
Tommaso De Benetti: The interview mentioned the Souls series, and we're looking at that for the revolutionary way it approached multiplayer interaction. We can't give many more details on what it means for Alienation, because we are still experimenting with it trying to figure out what's more fun. You'll hear more about it in the future. One thing we don't want to do, is allow players to suck out the fun for others, so we'll make sure to make trolling very hard.
We're also looking at other games, we're all players after all. Some are old classics, some are more modern scifi titles. I'll give you a precise list when the game is done, for the moment we are discussing ideas from a lot of sources – and hey, many are actually Housemarque's original ideas!
Gamepur: From Dead Nation launched on PlayStation 3 to Resogun and now Alienation, Housemarque has come a long way, can you explain us how have you evolved in these four years.
Tommaso De Benetti: Generally speaking we've grown as a company. Not only in number, but also in expertise among the employees. For example, when I came to the company two years ago, we really didn't have reliable channels to discuss with the fans. Now we have very active social media, a forum, and we definitely give way more interviews than in the past. We see that as an important step: community is and will be crucial in the future.
Gamepur: PlayStation Community's response to Resogun "Ship Editor" was amazing, it went viral just like Photo Mode for TLOU: Remastered and Infamous: Second Son. Do you guys have some similar feature planned for Alienation?
Tommaso De Benetti: That's something we are considering for all our future projects. The response from the community has been amazing and it has helped the game sales, so that's a very positive factor. But we're comparatively still a small company, so the core game comes first.
Gamepur: Is your team using a brand new Engine for Alienation?
Tommaso De Benetti: Yes. Alienation is heavily crammed with in-house tech. We have new tech for particle effects, for environmental destruction, fluids, physic based lightning rendering... all you would expect from a modern commercial engine, but custom made to fit our style.
Gamepur: Housemarque seems to have up the ante with Alienation, the game features destructible environments, brand new tech for liquids and rendering materials, insane particle effects. What are the development challenges that the team are facing due to slow clock speed of PS4 CPU?
Tommaso De Benetti: Making the game both readable and smooth despite all that goes on on screen, especially during multiplayer. If we turn every effect up to 11 it looks crazy but the game becomes practically unplayable. So we'll have to strike a good balance there.
Gamepur: Is 1080p and 60FPS is again the target of Housemarque for Alienation?
Tommaso De Benetti: That is something we will look into during the optimization phase. What I can say is that the pace of the game is very different from the one in Resogun, and navigating the environment is a slower process than boosting around a cylinder, so we'll take that into account when we'll have to decide how to use the resources at our disposal.
Gamepur: Does the Resolution/FPS figure matters to developers or its their initial target to offer "amazing gameplay experience" and then decisions on Resolution/FPS figure are taken?
Tommaso De Benetti: We try to get the best of both worlds when possible, but sometime we face dilemmas such as: "If we want to make this level destructible, it can't run at 60fps", or "if we want this amount of particles, we can make it run at 60, but if we want twice the amount, we need to run it at 30". So at the end of the day one needs to consider what's best for gameplay. Does it benefit more from a higher framerate or from that specific feature? If we remove the feature, is the gameplay still intact? Is it still fun?
Gamepur: The words of De Benetti still echoes in my ears. At the time of Resogun development, De Benetti stated: "Games Aren't Xbox One’s Priority, PS4 More Attractive for True Gamers." Nine months have passed since the launch of Xbox One, and Microsoft have made some startling changes to original Xbox One policies and decisions. So, what's the opinion of Housemarque now on Xbox One, can we expect their games on Xbox One or is "Controversial Parity Clause Still An Issue"?
Tommaso De Benetti: I'm glad I made a statement that will echo through eternity ^__^ But seriously, I can only speak for myself. I'm a gamer, I end up buying all platforms. At the moment I don't own an Xbox One mostly because, as crazy as it sounds, it's not officially out in Finland yet. Microsoft has been changing its strategies quite radically since the announcement, and while I can appreciate that as a member of the audience, Housemarque at the moment feels comfortable with its current arrangements. Playstation is a good place for us.