PAX 2012: Gearbox Multiplayer Producer Chris Brock Explains the Escape Plan In ‘Aliens: Colonial Marines’

Being a human in Aliens: Colonial Marines just got a little tougher with the inclusion of Escape Mode, a new asymmetrical, 4 v 4 multiplayer mode coming to the game when it’s released in February. In it, a team of Marines will have to make their escape from a level within 15 minutes while the opposing team of Xenomorphs hunt them down. This new mode will be playable all weekend at PAX Prime, if you’re interested in checking it out at the SEGA booth.

To get into the specifics of how this new mode would work, I recently spoke with Gearbox Multiplayer Producer Chris Brock who walked me through some of the developer’s vision for Escape Mode, building the perfect levels to escape from, and getting players excited about playing as the alien.

MTV Multiplayer: Could you talk to us a little about the origins of the Escape mode? How did the Gearbox team decide this absolutely needed to be in-game?

Chris Brock: When deciding what modes we wanted to create for Aliens: Colonial Marines, we deliberated over what types of experience would feel reminiscent of the films in terms of what the Marines’ motivations were. Something that really resonated with our team was the idea that the “objective” is just to make it from point A to point B while under siege from these killing machines.

Multiplayer: What were some of the key pillars of an alien-Marine encounter that you were looking to get into Escape mode?

Brock: There’s a few, but they all fall under the general guideline that Marines need to feel fear when confronted with Xenos. Marines have a highly variable level of vulnerability. Marines need to progress through an escape level quickly, but Xenos are faster than they are. Marines need to progress through poorly illuminated areas, but Xenos are more suited to that type of encounter.

That’s not to say that marines are defenseless; a marine team who can work together, covering all sides while remaining mobile is really tough to take down. Marines who work cohesively are very powerful; Marines who go off alone are doomed.

Multiplayer: Elaborate a bit on the structure of a typical match—the Colonial Marines have to make their escape through a level with the Xenomorphs after them. What was your team’s thinking when it came to creating environmental obstacles and making it a challenge for the Marine players and the Xeno players?

Brock: There’s different kinds of obstacles that could be considered “environmental.”

On the one hand, we have level-based scenarios. For example, you’re progressing through an abandoned Weyland-Yutani facility and you need to get to the other side of a huge blast door, but to do so, you need to detour and turn on the power.

We’ve got some other environmental obstacles that are more “natural occurrences” than anything we specifically task the player with. I alluded to it earlier, but there are times when your escape route will take you through an area with less than ideal lighting, at least for marines. Marines have a flashlight, but Xeno players can just see in the dark, and they’re hard to pick out in the darkness.

Xenos need to coordinate as well though. Well-coordinated marines can survive for a very long time. Xenos players need to work in tandem, wait in ambush, and then quick strike to create confusion and to take multiple players down at once.

Multiplayer: Along the same lines, what were some ways your team wanted to keep the levels (and therefore the players) moving?

Brock: Players need motivation to move, but it needs to work on several levels because not all players are motivated the same way. Perhaps they need to escape within a certain amount of time to avoid some sort of consequence. Or maybe they need to keep moving because they’re resource limited. Possibly they move as fast as they can because they’re rewarded somehow for doing so.

Multiplayer: I know I keep getting hung up on the level design, specifically as it relates to the Xenos and how that might affect play but are there going to be ducts and out-of-the-way bits where they might be able to lay in ambush?

Brock: Xenos just wouldn’t be Xenos without “comin’ in through the walls”

Multiplayer: How will spawning work?

Brock: We’re still going back and forth on a few details, but it’s a bit different for the two sides. Xenos are practically infinite, so they should have basically limitless chances to take marines out. Marines have a far more finite amount of chances.

Multiplayer: To what extent were you looking at older games featuring the Xenomorphs as playable characters?

Brock: We’ve not only looked at every game we can think of that’s featured playable Xenomorphs, but we’ve looked at pretty much every asymmetrical multiplayer game we’ve been able to get our hands on. It’s been really important for us to understand that, at the core, “Marines vs. Xenomorphs” is one faction competing against a radically different faction.

Multiplayer: I always felt that in titles like some of the classic AvP games, the problem was often the learning curve of playing as the alien which typically amounted to having a class of character that many users were daunted by. To what extent was this a concern for your team?

Brock: It’s always a concern when you ask the player to do something that’s outside of their comfort zone. Something that we’ve always kept in our minds is that playing as a Xeno should not be the kind of thing where you need to play ten, or five, or even three games before you understand it. We want you to feel comfortable playing as a Xenomorph after one game.

Aliens: Colonial Marines will be coming to consoles and the PC on February 12th.

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