Fascinating insight from the studio to coincide with today’s sci-fi horror launch
Hi everyone. My name is Simon Ridge and I’m an animator on Alien: Isolation, which launches today on PS3 and PS4. My main focus while working on this game has been animating the Alien and helping to bring this character to life, and I’m here today with my colleague Tobias to give you some insight into how we went about it.
At the beginning of every task in animation, I always start by researching, gathering influences and surrounding myself with everything I can to do with that character.
On Alien: Isolation we had an abundance of reference material; this helped massively in developing a good idea of the psyche of the Alien and the world it inhabits and acted as a good grounding point if we ever strayed too far. 20th Century Fox kindly gave us brilliant information from their archives, which also really helped.
When it came to creating a style of movement and physicality for the Alien, I had to look a bit further than just the films and artwork.
During early tests for locomotion cycles we found that if one direct influence was noticeable, it instantly felt wrong, it just wasn’t the ‘Alien’. If the arms or body swayed too much, it looked too human; too much tippy toe, it would look like Nosferatu and too much plodding made it feel like a T-Rex.
People’s interpretation of what they felt looked ‘right’ for the Alien varied widely and so, what worked best was to take inspiration from lots of areas and mould them together.
Our Alien needed to feel as creepy, almost unnervingly awkward as possible when moving at a slower pace (akin to Bolaji Bodejo’s – the actor who was under the alien costume – early screen tests) but still have the ability to go smoothly from this to lightning fast at any point.
You’ll see when you play the game, that when he’s moving slower, the Alien is higher up, his weight slightly back, the hands forward in an uncomfortable manner. As the Alien moves faster, it goes lower down, its arms are back and into a more streamlined shape, ready to pounce at you. When exiting vents it needs to feel and look like a smooth unfurling, the imagery from H.R Giger’s Necronomicon in the back your mind. We’ve worked hard to achieve that and I really hope it shows through!
It was imperative that this Alien never looked rushed or flustered, completely calm and in control of the situation, this is THE Xenomorph!
Animating the Alien
Hi, I’m Tobias Kleanthous and I’m the animation programmer on Alien: Isolation. My main responsibilities on the project have been working on the technology for animation and the bridge between the lower-levels of AI and animation.
Providing the foundations to achieve the levels of flexibility and fidelity we really wanted to achieve with the Alien has been a great challenge for all of us. Our greatest ambitions were to deliver an authentic feeling creature that felt close to what we felt we saw in the first film.
It was very important to everyone in the team that we could make the creature both oppressively gargantuan and fast; he’s a relentless and methodical hunter, a threat that’s always going to be there and that you can’t escape from.
The Alien has a high degree of freedom of movement aboard Sevastopol, from slow movements to sprinting around corners at speeds that Ripley could only imagine, to climbing into the vents ready to jump out and grab you when you least expect it! Nowhere is safe – remember that!
As the Alien’s AI is heavily systemic and unscripted, we invested a lot of time in developing technology that allowed us to move him round with as few constraints as possible.
For his general movement, we blended large numbers of animations in 3D to dynamically synthesise movement accurately in game, whilst preserving the artistic intent of the animators.
We have many layers of animations and poses which we can dynamically alter to ensure consistency of presentation and better accuracy. For example, the AI relies on the Alien actually physically looking at something in order to detect it. So, we made sure that he could move many parts of his body, independently of others, in this case, to look where he thinks you may be hiding!
I really hope we’ve brought him alive to all the players and gamers out there, as much as he’s come alive for us. We’re incredibly proud about what we’ve been a part of and really excited to finally let the Alien loose on the public!