Alien gets Creative - Sega's Surprise

INTERVIEW: The minds behind Total War discuss their Alien project

Creative Assembly is making a new Alien title - and that, right now, is about all we know. The Total War developer's reluctance to spill the beans somewhat clashes with the pomp and circumstance of yesterday's reveal, thrown at luxurious new Sussex premises with two studio heavyweights, a Sega executive and Ed Vaizley, the UK's Minister for Culture, in attendance.

The building's clean white deco and plush leather sofas convey little sense of oily, angular extra-terrestrial horrors just waiting to pounce. Nothing seems to be coming out of the goddamn walls. In fact, the most gruesome object we lay eyes on is a tower of violently coloured fairy cakes. But for the stylised image of a Xenomorph egg on a nearby wallscreen, we could be at a Krispy Kreme convention.

Here's a short list of the things Creative Assembly can't tell you about the new Alien title: which platforms it will appear on, when it'll release, which genre it belongs to, which of the films (if any) it will reference, whether it'll be available in stores or via digital download, whether it'll make use of motion sensitive peripherals like Kinect, what it looks like, whether Ridley Scott, James Cameron or other Alien figureheads are involved, what exactly distinguishes it from Gearbox's long-awaited Colonial Marines shooter (also to be published by Sega), and whether the facehuggers will be green or pink.

Creative Assembly can't even say for sure that the game will appear this generation - the team is being "super-pragmatic" about host hardware, according to studio director Tim Heaton. "We're as aware as anybody of what's coming in next generation consoles," he adds, pre-empting our inevitable follow-up question. Oh Heaton, how you tease.

Leaked concept art for Obsidian Entertainment's canned Alien RPG

We can, at least, state with reasonable confidence that Creative Assembly's latest won't be a real-time strategy title, which may come as a relief to those who sampled the distinctly sub-average Alien versus Predator: Extinction on Xbox. The "bare bones" of the development team are veterans of the Total War: Spartan and Viking projects, action-driven spin-offs with a light dusting of squad command that, in Heaton's words, "never really realised their potential".

"We developed a demo and pitched it to Sega in about six weeks," says Heaton, discussing the new game's conception. "I don't think Sega really knew what we were up to. And it came off the back of thinking about the licenses that Sega had, which ones excited us, and which we could really get our teeth into." Spring-loaded inner jaws reference presumably intended.

The publisher "got" the idea straight away, we're told, and agreed to a recruitment drive that will see Creative Assembly's robust 160-head workforce swell to 200 in a year's time. "We're very careful about our recruitment - we looked worldwide for experienced talented staff," Heaton comments. "And we've gone through a prototyping phase and we're really happy with that, really happy with the team. It's gelling at the moment. So we're ready to start talking in a very preliminary way about what we're up to."

A job ad for Creative Assembly's new title

You could argue that Creative Assembly, best known for transforming history's bloodier paragraphs into top-down macro-fests, is the last studio we want plumbing the dripping, sepia-fogged labyrinths of the Alien franchise. Heaton and his colleagues take a bold tack here: James Cameron and Ridley Scott's "fantastically rich","culturally relevant" universe exists to serve Creative Assembly, not the the other way around.

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