GamersInfo.net: For those not familiar with the UFO series, can you tell us a bit about the title and how it you differentiate yourself from the crowd?
Jiri Rydl: UFO: Aftershock is small-squad tactics game about fighting an alien threat. In general, we can say there is no similar new game around these days with a deep sci-fi plot, wide variety of weapons and a combination of tactical warfare with planetary strategy. I am sure I will talk about Aftershock's features more in the rest of this interview.
GamersInfo.net: Are there any multiplayer elements to the game?
Jiri Rydl: No, there are not. This is a single player game only.
GamersInfo.net: UFO: Aftershock being the second in the series; what lessons did the first game teach you that have helped in the development of the second? For those familiar with the first, what parts are carried over and what is gone?
Jiri Rydl: We learned a lot about storytelling. There were players of UFO: Aftermath who didn't quite understand what was going on, what the story was all about. In Aftershock, we've given the player all the possible info about strategic resources, available troops and their equipment, the situation on the battlefield, and the story of course.
Jiri Rydl: You have to fight against a stronger enemy from the beginning and the best way to win is to learn their tactics. That could be done primarily through research, thus you have to build some laboratories in your base and start to find out your enemy is and what his weaknesses are. After successful research, you can in some cases start manufacturing new weapons or equipment, but you need to gather some resources for it. Now it's time for expanding to neighbouring territories either by power or diplomacy. Reaching more resources means faster research and development and better equipment to your soldiers to fight the alien. During all of this you can expect to be interrupted by mutant attacks!
If you get into trouble you have to choose the best men and women from among your troops, equip them with weapons, medikits, night vision, grenades or whatever would be useful and send them into action. You lead them through the enemy fire for an alien artifact, for a live specimen or for securing resources. After a successful battle, your troops may gain enough experience to advance to the next level and improve in one of the several areas. They can also be trained in various specializations. It means you can have a man with several above average skills or an exceptionally good sniper, grenadier or medic with other skills under average.
GamersInfo.net: Often in games that blur genres, the concern is they will be too foreign and overwhelm the players. Are you concerned with this and what steps have been taken to ensure that players ease into the game?
Jiri Rydl: We will introduce the player into the game by steps. You start as a leader of small human group trying to find out what is happening on Earth and why the alien experiment suddenly stopped. You start the first research, win the first battle and meet the first Earth's inhabitants. After some time you start development of new weapons and equipment, meet more powerful enemies, establish diplomatic contacts, learn about psionics and cultists and finally start to understand what is going on.
Jiri Rydl: Yes, that's one of the important parts of every mission. You can shoot your way through different kinds of garbage; you can destroy small objects like cradles or barrels, blow up vehicles or make holes into walls for ambush. Another important enhancement of tactical possibilities are multilevel buildings which offer a nice view for your skilled snipers or become a deadly trap for enemies should you blow the whole block to pieces.
Jiri Rydl: There are several factions in Aftershock and you can contact them either on the battlefield or through diplomacy. If you choose peaceful dealings with your nearest neighbour, you can reach his resources, hire his men into your troops, or in some cases build another base in his territory. Of course every agreement means commitment on both sides and you may be called upon for help in case of alien attack.
Jiri Rydl: Aftershock takes place in year 2054. Fifty years ago, something terrible happened and the surface of the Earth became uninhabitable. The remnants of humankind escaped to an immense flying island, the Laputa. However, a revolt against increasingly rigid and corrupt human leadership of the island escalated into a conflict that eventually destroyed it. The survivors of the survivors flee once again. Can they reclaim the Earth from the unknown forces now holding her in their grasp?
GamersInfo.net: Your website says that your soldiers have no AI, and that they act only when you order them to, with the tagline "you are the AI". This sounds interesting, but what kind of challenges does it present and why do you feel this is a positive, rather than a negative thing?
Jiri Rydl: You are right; that is, it's only you who is in charge of your soldiers and that's why everything depends upon your skills. There are no fools going into the trap without your direct order, there are no soldiers running out of ammo trying to hit a faraway target, there aren't any medics trying to heal enemies - everything is under your control and it's just you, through your men, who is responsible for either victory or defeat.
Jiri Rydl: You start with small piece of a secret, for instance an alien weapon, strange artefact or mystery of mutation and you of course want to know what's behind it, how to handle it or what's needed to manufacture something similar or even better. That's why you build laboratories in your bases; and, with more and more complex secrets you spend more and more time and resources for decoding them. After reaching the breaking point you can start using some alien technology or even copy it and use it together with already known technology to develop new deadly weapons. That's why you build factories inside your bases.
GamersInfo.net: UI and presentation are two of the hardest, but important things to do well in a game. What have you done to ensure players will be able to concentrate solely on having fun and not getting lost in UI, especially in such a complex game?
Jiri Rydl: That's true and we spend an awfully significant amount of time to make the user interface well arranged. For instance, there are more then ten different states of a soldier - paralysed, poisoned, panicked, etc. We made special icons to differentiate these states at first sight. Another piece of important info is how far you can see, what you can shoot at or how much damage you can make. Thanks to this info you can make better tactical decisions on the battlefield.
Jiri Rydl: Of course our goal is to create another legend! But it's long and hard way to go and I don't think we even could start to go this way without continuous support of X-COM fans which help us with every aspect of Aftershock. We are very grateful for every opinion that helps us to make the game both innovative and interesting to play.
GamersInfo.net: In a heavily story-based game, players often worry that they'll play it once and be done. How long do you envision a single run through the story taking a player and what incentive is there for them to play that part of the game over again?
Jiri Rydl: The story is pretty interesting and complicated and is much better the second time around - like a good, complex movie. Another reason is tactical combat. There are a large number of weapons in Aftershock and you probably won't be able to research everything in the first game. The next time you can choose different equipment, different soldier specializations and a different style of play - for instance don't make alliances, but rule alone with strong hand. Tactical mission offer many different tactics and you can play them again and again just to try different way to reach the mission goal.
We assume that one game should take around 30 hours of gameplay.
Jiri Rydl: We want Aftershock make open enough to see a new mod every half year! But more seriously - we want to release modding tools for changing almost anything in the game from soldiers and mutants skins to new weapons and effects.
GamersInfo.net: When is the game expected to release, and will there be any opportunity for interested fans to get a hand in the development by testing the title?
Jiri Rydl: We are shooting for the third quarter of 2005. Unfortunately, we need to communicate with our testers so often; we can't offer players a public beta of Aftershock. But, as I said we listen to them carefully at our official forums at http://www.ufo-aftershock.com/.