"We added lighting, display geometry and importantly sound. Once that was all hooked up, the whole room of senior management of the dev team jumped out of their seats"
"We were taking an absolutely new approach, so we were learning as we went," Hope says. "In terms of the level design, one of the important things for us was that this was a game about player choice. We wanted to step back as much as possible and as often as possible."
"The key was to create a space where the player and the systems could just work themselves out. The environments we came up with had to accommodate multiple routes for both the Alien and the player."
"One of the big key learning points for us early on was the fact that the Alien AI was behaving as designed and doing the things we thought would make sense, but the experience wasn't really there – it was actually quite flat."
"The game was playing as expected but what we realised was that we were developing in a standard way – using stripped down white box or grey box environments – but we then realised the AI alone wasn't enough. We added lighting, display geometry and importantly sound. Once that was all hooked up, the whole room of senior management of the dev team jumped out of their seats."
According to Hope, Alien Isolation is very much a product that is more than the sum total of its parts. The random AI is only a small portion of the game's knife-edge appeal. In order for the experience to scare players, every production element and mechanic needed to be balanced and developed in tandem to ensure the game remains terrifying throughout.
"Nothing could be developed in isolation and every aspect needed to work together to bring the full impact," Hope says. "From that point on we only bothered to review builds that brought everything together or we wouldn't know if we were moving in the right direction."
Everything the player does in the environment has the potential to bring the Alien rushing in its direction. In effect, the Alien AI works in tandem with the player's movements to create an atmosphere of crushing dread. But hope says that the AI's not just reacting to sounds processed as data. The Alien has internal workings that allow it to think on its feet.
"It is effectively listening to the world around it, but our Alien isn't just black and white. It can suspect – it can think – that it's heard something," he says. "It's not completely binary. It has degrees of response to the world around it."
Alien Isolation works because its AI is able to react, adapt and learn. To paraphrase Ash from the original film, we could lie to you about your chances… but you have our sympathies.
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