We at hardCOREware had the opportunity to speak with Martin Klima, the director
of ALTAR interactive, and Paul Whipp, Executive Producer at Virgin Interactive
about their upcoming release UFO: Aftermath, which is scheduled for release in
late 2002 at the present time. UFO: Aftermath's concept started with a game
titled The Dreamland Chronicles: Freedom Ridge, and was being developed by
Mythos. Julian Gollop, the creator of the original X-COM series, was closely
involved with the project, and it was intended to have the same basic ideas as
the original X-COM games. However, Mythos had to cancel the project, and the
idea itself slept for awhile, until ALTAR and Virgin Interactive dusted it off
and decided to see what they could do with it.
HCW: Do you know what caused the cancellation of
Freedom Ridge (Now UFO: Aftermath) back in 2001?
Paul Whipp: The game was beset with difficulties because it was over
ambitious and attempted to make use of third party physics and 3D engines before
those engines were ready for use in a game. As a result the game went
substantially over budget. When reviewed internally, it was realised that the
early decisions on the engines were untenable and the budget would have to be
substantially increased again in order to complete the project. At that stage
the co-publishers Virgin and Bethesda decided to withdraw their support.
HCW: Mythos had worked on Freedom Ridge/Aftermath for
over a year, and billed it as containing cutting edge 3D graphics in a
turn-based X-COM style setting. Has any part of this goal changed since ALTAR
interactive has taken over the project?
PW: We took inspiration from the original work done on Freedom Ridge by
Mythos but Altar has not taken over the project. Altar is creating a new game in
Aftermath. Aftermath is similar to Julian Gollop’s X-COM games in that it will
be a challenging strategy game where the combat is resolved using small squads
of troops. It is inspired by his earlier games but not derived from them.
Martin Klima: I would like to stress that UFO: Aftermath is going to be a
very different game from the one Dreamland Chronicles: Freedom Ridge would have
been. For one thing we are not using any of the middleware engines Mythos were
using, as a result we use none of their original code and very little of their
art assets. On the other hand our team are real hardcore strategy gamers and
working on a title that is even remotely connected to the great past
achievements of the genre is both exhilarating and fraught with awesome
responsibility. We definitely want to deliver a cutting edge game, and this
includes graphics as well as game mechanisms. In this respect, we could say our
goals remain the same.
HCW: When reading some of the previews for this game,
it seems closer to Jagged Alliance 2 rather than X-COM. How much influence did
hybrid RPG/Turn-based strategy games such as the Jagged Alliance series or Odium
MK: Our own previous game, Original War, stressed the RPG aspects of the
genre, and given our RPG background, we definitely want to make individual
characters matter in the game. Having said that, there are important differences
between games like JA and Aftermath. There is a global strategy game in
Aftermath, which can generate missions anywhere on the planet.
HCW: Recently, turn-based strategy games have really
fallen by the wayside in favor of real-time games such as ALTAR's recently
released Original War. With the public's embracement of real-time strategy games
over turn-based engines, is there a large market left for turn based games like
MK: We want to reinvigorate the turn-based genre with UFO: Aftermath. We are
adopting a new approach of "simultaneous turns" that -- in our opinion -- melds
the total control and predictability of turn-based games with the fluency and
sense of immersion of RTS. We hope that other people will follow us and that the
turn-based genre will get the attention it deserves.
There is a popular misconception that turn-based games are too hardcore
because most of the hardcore accurate war-games like those from Avalon Hill are
turn based but this is really a misconception. Turn-based games can be as easy
and fun to play as any other. With a good interface, with pronounced and
dramatic choices, with cutting-edge graphics and technology; they may be a
welcome alternative to the endless stream of ‘me too’ FPS and RTS games.
PW: Some great recent games such as Baldur’s Gate and the Final Fantasy
series draw strongly on the turn based style of gameplay. The appealing and
involving gameplay in Aftermath will ensure us of a ready market.
HCW: Some of the early previews for this game included
some first-person views for aiming and control. What was the main reason for
including such a view? Was it to possibly attract some first-person shooter fans
to the game?
PW: Aftermath is a new game. It will not be using FPS style views that Julian
wanted to use in Freedom Ridge. The viewpoint will be predominantly isometric
and we will allow the player the ability to zoom and rotate this view while
HCW: Julian Gollop, the creator of the X-Com series,
had worked on this game since it's inception as "The Dreamland Chronicles:
Freedom Ridge." Was there any particular reason why he is no longer working on
PW: After the problems with Mythos and Freedom Ridge, Julian wanted to focus
on smaller development teams and efforts. He is currently working on the
excellent Laser Squad Nemesis which you can check out (right
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