As already noted a few days ago, a team of (currently) five people is working on a game called UFO: Alien Invasion. The project was inspired by the X-COM series and promises to deliver a turn-based experience similar to the original titles, driven by a modified version of the Quake 2 engine. Want to know more? Read on as Herby, coder on UFO: AI, answers a number of questions on gameplay, port plans, the engine and the multiplayer part among other topics.
Q: First of all, who is working in UFO: Alien Invasion? What's your background? Have you worked on games/mods before?
Herby: The project was founded by SparX, Rastaman_bey and me (Herby). None of us is a professional artist or software developer. We started this project, just for the fun of it. The webdesign was made by Ww3 later on. Currently some more people are offering their help, and the team might grow quite a bit.
UFO: AI isn't our first project. We developed a Quake 3 Total Conversion called "Afterwards", a team based first person shooter in a post-apocalyptic setting.
Q: Since when is UFO: Alien Invasion in development?
Herby: Since spring 2003.
Q: As for the engine, were there other options you had considered before you decided to use the Quake 2 one? Or did you want to do 'something' with the Quake 2 engine and came up with the UFO: AI idea afterwards?
Herby: No, the idea was first. We thought about doing our own engine, but that would have been too much coding work. So we decided to use the Quake 2 Engine, because it's totally free and you've got access to the whole engine, not just parts of it. This engine is a solid basis, which made the start a whole lot easier, although a lot had to be changed.
Q: What tweaks and modifications have you applied to it?
Herby: In UFO: AI the perspective is totally different from Quake 2. You're able to change your point of view and toggle between floors to overlook the battlefield optimally. Furthermore the way time passes is different, we changed it from real-time to turn-based. This changes the netcode and reduces the bandwith required significantly.
UFO: AI is highly script oriented. Many major aspects of the game can be changed, just by editing text files. All the weapons, items and menu layouts are stored as scripts. Even the totally new particle engine is script based. That way it's very easy to modify the whole game.
We've also modernized the texturing and lighting, and enhanced the animation system to fit our and your needs.
Q: Will there be destructible terrain or objects?
Herby: You'll be able to destroy some objects, but not the whole terrain. The Quake 2 engine is done for mostly static environments. Simulating collapsing buildings is no easy task, believe me. ;)
What are the hardware requirements of the UFO: AI going to be like?
Herby: A Pentium II-400 with a GeForce 1 graphics card or something equivalent should be enough to enjoy this game!
Q: Now for the gameplay: Alien Invasion is said to be "heavily inspired/influenced" by the X-COM series. Which gameplay elements of the classic can be found in UFO: Alien Invasion? Which did you leave out or change? Are there aspects that cannot be found in the original games (other than the multiplayer modes, of course)?
Herby: In my opinion, the most important element of the classic X-COM is its intense round-based combat. You'll find all of it in UFO: AI too. Every squad member has his own personality, his own look and you can even give them names. They also gain in experience and power over time. You also need to research alien technology in order to succeed in saving the world. However, we don't now exactly how and to what extent base management will be implemented. We're still discussing on that subject, because management shouldn't be too tedious.
A thing you won't see in UFO: AI is ship combat. Hunting UFOs isn't your job anymore. You've got plenty of other things to do. :)
Q: What kind of locations are you creating? Will there be settings like multi-level buildings?
Herby: You'll see lots of different locations, like villages from all over the world, huge buildings, harbors, mosques, airports, winter landscapes, mining sites... And of course alien bases and UFO landing and crash sites.
This involves lots of multi-level buildings. We've limited the number of floors to eight. But believe me, you'd get lost, if you'd have more. ;)
Q: About how many weapons and other items are there going to be in the final game?
Herby: More than 40 less than 128. :) As you can see, we can't give any precise number yet. But we are working on a big variety of weapons, both of human and alien origin - even hybrids. The further you advance in the game, the more powerful your equipment will become, due to your research. But even a high-tech weapon will have its own strengths and weaknesses.
Q: How's the multiplayer part going to work? 'Instant matches' without technology research or campaign-style?
Herby: Mostly instant matches, where you assemble and equip a team for a single battle. You can even team up for matches with up to 6 players.
We thought about campaign style too. This could be extremely interesting and would require very dedicated players, because a campaign game would last quite a while. Fight for world domination with your friends!
Q: Since UFO:AI is taking advantage of OpenGL: are there any plans to port the game onto Linux or MacOS X later on?
Herby: We will do a Linux port! A MacOS X port isn't in the works, because we neither have any experience nor a testing environment for this one. But we would help anyone, who's willing to do a Mac port.
Thanks for taking the time to answer the questions!
Head over to the UFO: Alien Invasion website for more information on gameplay basics and screenshots. (Or if you feel like handling the Mac OS X port. ;) )