Interview with Martin Klima: Director, Alatar Interactive
Paul Whipp: Executive Producer, Virgin Interactive

Interview by: Bryan Pizzuti

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 influence Aftermath?"

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 UFO: Aftermath?

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 playing.

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 this project?

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 here)

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