Interview with Jiri Rydl from November 2002 (english)
Taktikzone:: Hi! To start off, please tell our readers a bit about yourself and your job at Altar Interactive.
J.R.: Hi, I am Jiri Rydl, Public Relation manager in ALTAR interactive. My job is to be prepared to answer any questions posed by the press or our fans.
Taktikzone:: Were you able to find a publisher for UFO: Aftermath in the meantime, maybe also for Germany?
J.R.: We are currently in negotiations and, I believe, close to signing a contract, but unfortunately I can’t tell you any more about it at the moment.
Taktikzone:: In the original X-Com games, many things were depending at random. The game became very non-linear but there was few space for a real plot. On which point do you focus?
J.R.: The storyline of UFO: Aftermath develops as players research new information and technologies. Some of these are crucial for survival. For instance, without biomass repulsion, your bases can’t last for long. Another example could be alien weapons or psi technology. If you don’t research them in the beginning, you will lose in the end. To win the game, you need to know more about aliens, find their weak spots, and determine the purpose of their attack. So there is a non-random plot that is revealed step by step.
On the other hand, the tactical missions are generated randomly. The mission briefing will tell you the estimated strength and kind of enemies, but, but you will never know for sure who will attack you, or how many. You know little about the terrain, number of buildings, or biomass power on the battlefield. And last, but not least, is up to player to decide which seven soldiers from the pool will be the best squad for the mission. This means that tactics differ for every mission, even for a player beating the game for the second or third time. So tactical part of game is nonlinear and it is up to the players and their skills, and its length will vary depending on the skill settings and their tactical abilities.
We let players choose their style of how to play and finish the game, but there must be some progress in it of course. That’s why we create new challenges and enemies to defeat throughout the game.
Taktikzone:: What can you tell us about the "alien threat", that seems to be the main topic in your game's story?
J.R.: Let me tell you more about your position at the beginning of the game: The day after tomorrow, a giant spacecraft approaches the Earth. Silent, it hovers ominously over the world, and begins to release great clouds of spores into the upper atmosphere. Rapidly multiplying, the spores soon darken the skies, and before long obscure the sun completely. In later days, this period will be known as the "Twilight".
Having reached critical mass in the skies, the spores begin to rain down, and over the course of several days, begin to clog the streets and bodies of water, smothering people in their homes, and burying animals in the wild. During the "Nightfall", as it would come to be called, most of the higher life forms on the earth were wiped out.
During the Twilight, all human responses were futile. Choosing caution over aggression, the governments of the world didn’t realize how quickly the end could come, and were buried alongside those that they governed. A few, however, did survive, sealed in underground bases with stocks of food and oxygen. After several weeks, the spores seemed to have disintegrated, decomposing and settling into the soil. The world seemed safe again, for a time. This is where you come in: you must gather together the remaining peoples of the planet, find out what has happened, and, if possible, get your revenge.
After a short time, player will recognize that it isn’t the aliens who are the most immediate threat, but the biomass and mutants. However, the aliens are behind all of it, so they must have some purpose for being on Earth, I suppose. The question, “What purpose?” is for player to answer.
Taktikzone:: You told us, that biomass and mutants are the most immediate threat and not the aliens. What is this biomass? An alien substance, which is infecting everything?
J.R.: I am sorry, but this is one of the most interesting secret in the game. I cant tell you more about biomass.
Taktikzone:: Are all the aliens in the world of UFO: Aftermath evil-minded towards mankind or will we meet friendly aliens, too?
J.R.: This question will have to remain unanswered :-].
Taktikzone:: If yes, will it be possible to recruit some of them into the player's squad?
J.R.: Again, no comment.
Taktikzone:: Realtime-combat with a kind of pause-function has established since Baldur's Gate with its Infinity-Engine. What are the particularities of your SAS-System?
J.R.: Tactical missions use our unique combat system, the Simultaneous Action System as we call it, which features all of the best elements of both turn based and real time combat systems. You give orders while the game is paused to avoid the frantic rush of a real time system. While paused, you can give your troops very detailed orders, taking as much time as you like. Once you are finished, you simply tell the game to start. Once the game is underway, you can pause the game at any point to update or change your orders, and the game will automatically pause when important events occur, so that you may modify your plans accordingly. Be sure to note that all of the combat happens at once, combining the finely grained tactics of a turn based game with the realism of a real time system.
There are two big differences between the Infinity Engine and SAS. The first is planning. You can plan more than one action for every squad member and then let the game run. The second is that squad members have no intelligence of their own. If any soldier spots an alien, the game will pause to allow the player to set new orders that are appropriate to the new situation.
Taktikzone:: Dont you think it can become bothering when the game pauses for every single event? How to you prevent the action from being interrupted?
J.R.: Its up to player what kind of action will pause the game. UFO:AM will provide comfortable tool for SAS configuration.
Taktikzone:: Will there be vehicles and things like that supporting us in combat?
J.R.: No, there will be no vehicles in the game.
Taktikzone:: Which role will the oceans play; will it be possible to build up bases there like in Terror from the Deep and will there be combat on or below the water?
J.R.: This game has nothing in common with TFTD except for the alien threat, thus you won’t be able to build bases in the ocean. Bases can be only built in territories under your control. Territory is equal to power in the game - the more you control, the better your interceptor coverage, the faster you can do research, and the more biomass you can repulse. You gain territory by engaging in tactical missions, where your squads must engage the aliens and mutants face to face. Once you control a territory, you can decide what type of base you want there, Research, Military, or Biomass repulsion. Each kind of base has a noticeable overall effect on the overall capabilities of your forces.
Taktikzone: :Will it be possible to instantly jump into the missions or is it necessary to shoot the aliens from the sky first?
J.R.: The latter is right. A successful interception generates a possible tactical mission. There will be several available tactical missions at any time, of different type - recovering a downed UFO, stemming enemy incursion, foray into enemy territory, protecting your base, etc. - and in different location. The missions you do not choose remain available for some time and then they are auto-resolved, but this does not necessarily mean that you will lose them.
Taktikzone:: Martin pronounces in the diaries that UFO is not only a game about tactics, but about people as well. What makes the soldiers that special?
J.R.: Each of your troops has a name, a portrait, and a set of statistics. Their skills are derived from these statistics, and each point that you allocate to any of these attributes will have a noticeable effect on that soldier’s skills. This way you can, with enough experience, easily make your troops into what you want them to be, either generalists or specialists. You can make snipers, medics, heavy weapons soldiers, or any mix of all of these skills and more. It is very important that you do so, in fact, as a group of random, average soldiers who are good at everything and excellent at nothing will get chewed up as the opponents become tougher. You need to create a solid team with a good group of interlocking skills to win.
Taktikzone:: Can you tell us more about the character system? What kind of skills will there be besides the usual weapon abilities?
J.R.: There will be 6 core statistics, from which the skill values are derived. These statistics are: Strength, Agility, Dexterity, Willpower, Intelligence, and Perception. Raising Willpower, for example, will make a soldier more resistant to alien PSI, raising his Strength will make him able to carry more, etc.
Taktikzone:: The 6 core statistics can be improved. Will we get experience points for every mission or are there other possibilities to get some? And can they be invested in other things too?
J.R.: Yes, there is other way. You can increase your soldiers statistic by training in the military base, but you cant use soldier in training for tactical missions, which could hurt.
Taktikzone:: In the X-Com-games there weren't any NPCs, besides the civilians who run away in some missions. Will there be "real" NPCs in UFO: Aftermath, to talk with or to get quests or equipment from? Will it be possible to recruit them for your squad then?
J.R.: Possibly :-].
Taktikzone:: A few days ago, the official website was relaunched and now the names of the developers and there tasks can be found there. Could you tell us a bit more about the "main guys" in the development team?
J.R.: It isn’t easy to name just a few, but there are several people I want you to introduce (in alphabetical order :-]):
Marek Blazek is responsible for the new look of the UFO:AM website, so if you like it, just drop him an email. Martin Klima is one of ALTAR interactive’s founders and now is negotiating with several publishers to land the best deal for our company. Radim Pech is lead graphic designer and animator, and his job is mainly to guide the graphics team from one milestone to another. Radim Krivanek is the UFO:AM project leader, so he knows best when the game will be ready, I think :-]. Tomas Hluchan is our lead programmer. If you don’t know how this or that works, just ask him. Our music person is Tomas Brejsek, and his music can could be heard in the Bonusweb video (see Press section of the UFO:AM website). The strange creatures in the game are the creations of our lead artist, Tomas Kucerovsky. And last but not least I would like to mention Vladimir Chvatil, our senior game designer, who created the SAS for UFO:AM and who’s the brains behind Original War.
Other team members can be found at http://www.ufo-aftermath.com/pages/team.html.
Taktikzone:: Finally, is there anything else you wish to say about UFO: Aftermath or about god and the world?
J.R.: Don’t forget to visit http://www.ufo-aftermath.com often for news and updates!