With the imminent release of the latest Aliens vs Predator game, we sat down with lead producer David Brickley to talk aboutthe next instalment in the venerable franchise.
These two franchises, both independently and together, have a long history. How big a challenge was it to come up with a story that was as original as it was engaging?
Well Rebellion is well placed as publisher of 2000AD to draw on a wealth of writing talent who couldn’t wait to get stuck into the franchise again after so long away. The key goal was to try and tailor then narrative to suit the species – for the Marine, who’s experience is survival/horror, it had to be as non intrusive as possible so minimal dialogue designed to set the scene and enhance the atmosphere, whereas with the Predator, the Elders of his species help provide background but the story arc was far more complex since he moves from being the Hunter to .. well that would be telling. But it meant we could structure the dialogue in a different way owing to the emotional experiences that contrast those species.
If you would, describe the process of writing a videogame story. Is there much toing-and-froing between departments?
In the beginning it’s summarised as part of a pitch so you want a nice catchy setting that helps people visualise the scenarios and motivations. Over time you adjust the narrative to allow it to bookend the various chapters and missions, allowing you to plan the various cinematics that begin and end each level. Finally, you lock down the dialogue – that’s the trickiest bit since polish demands constant re-evaluation to achieve the right pacing, covering everything from what AI might say to convey a sense of realism to mid mission objective dialogue which may change drastically if you decide you have to make changes to how a level flows.
How does writing for videogames compare with writing for other media? Is it more restrictive, particularly with a franchise such as this where some of the rules are already set in stone?
No, not restrictive – it has to be more fluid, since many aspects of it need to be written independently of a single point in the flow. For example with a movie a writer may come up with a great line which works once but that same line might become frustrating if you hear an AI utter it for the 100th time. It requires a more compartmentalised and contextualised approach.