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PSLS Talks Alienation and Development With Housemarque

With Housemarque scoring yet another homerun with Alienation, PlayStation LifeStyle chats with the Finland-based studio on Alienation DLC, developing on PlayStation platforms and the future.

Speaking on behalf of Housemarque is Tommaso De Benetti, who also divulges that Housemarque is “looking” into PlayStation VR, though there’s nothing to announce just yet. Check out the full interview with Housemarque below.

PlayStation LifeStyle (PSLS): Having seen reviews, it seems that Alienation has been received positively overall. But some of the criticisms it got are based around lack of clarity on what to do. What do the devs have to say to that? Could they have done anything better or will they address this?

Tomasso De Benetti (TDB): I’m not sure I know to what criticism you’re exactly referring to, but of course one could always do things better. It usually boils down to what can be accomplished in the time we’re given. There are things we are aware of and some could have used more polish, but that’s the case for every game. We’re definitely reading all the feedback that comes our way trying to figure out what’s the priority of things to address. 

PSLS: Are there plans in place for DLC in the vein of the Road of Devastation add-on for Dead Nation?

TDB: We have a lot of ideas, but there’s nothing we can announce as of now. 

PSLS: With the game clearly being inspired by loot based games like The Division and Destiny, are there similar plans for post launch support and other limited time or live events to keep players coming back and playing?

TDB: That is something that is definitely being discussed internally, so it would be cool to do. We’re weighing our options, let’s put it that way. 

PSLS: In your own words, what do you think defines a Housemarque game as different from any other?

TDB: I think we’re always trying to make games where gameplay is king. “Easy to pick up and hard to master” has been a motto that we’ve been using for years even among us. I don’t think any game we made or are planning to make “plays itself,” you’re always gonna need to put some effort and focus if you want to get the best out of it. 

PSLS: What has the experience of working with Sony and the PlayStation 4 been like? 

TDB: We’ve been partners for a long time and many projects have been possible because of this collaboration. I believe PlayStation fans are starting to be familiar with our games and they know we always deliver solid titles. We’re trying really hard to make content that PlayStation owners can be proud of. As for the platform itself, it’s a big step up from the previous generation and I’d say it’s a pleasure to work with. 

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PSLS: Each of the class’ exosuits seems very androgynous so as to not give away the gender of the pilot inside. Was this an intentional decision to make all players feel welcome slaughtering the Xenos?

TDB: Technically speaking the Bio Specialist has a female voice and the model has feminine proportions. There was no precise intention there, we just imagined two classes could be represented by males and one by female, but as you say their appearance is androgynous enough that you can basically decide what’s the gender under the armour. The main reason why one can’t really pick a gender is because there’s no impact on the gameplay there is one on models and animations, and we need to be a bit careful how we allocate resources. As of now we have only 1.5 animators in the whole company (one full time, one part time). 

PSLS: Alienation features a mix of pre-built levels and procedurally generated ones (specifically in the alien ships). Does your development mindset need to change when mixing those two elements into the game to make them feel cohesive?

TDB: We tried a few new things with Alienation. It was clear that for a game based on loot, we simply wouldn’t be able to author all the content, so we needed a solution to offer fresh challenges towards the endgame. Procedurally based levels are the right solution for that, but they’re tricky to pull off. I think the reaction so far has been great…so I guess we did it? If you’re not able to tell which parts of the game are procedurally generated and which parts are not I think we did it right…and I myself can’t always tell it. 

PSLS: What did you learn from Dead Nation and Resogun that helped you to make Alienation a better game?

TDB: I’d say Alienation shares the sense of being overwhelmed with Dead Nation, and that was something we wanted to recapture. It’s pretty cool when you make it just by the skin of your teeth. With Resogun I guess we learned that people really like blowing things up in tiny pieces and that’s why we doubled down on explosions 🙂

PSLS: What do you hope to learn as a studio from Alienation to apply to MatterFall later this year, and whatever Housemarque’s got on the horizon beyond that?

TDB: Overall we want to learn how people deal with online co-op, PvP, loot and which aspects make all these elements competitive. This doesn’t necessarily imply anything for MatterFall or other projects, but I think we’re learning a great deal. 

PSLS: Speaking of what’s on the horizon, Housemarque has always seemed to support Sony in their various projects (PS3, PS4, Vita, 3D support, etc.). Is VR something that we might see Housemarque get involved in?

TDB: We were on the public list of developers tinkering around with PlayStation VR. We’re looking at it, and trying to understand what would make sense for the kind of games we’re good at making. For some things it could be a good fit, for some less. So it’s more of a learning process at the moment. When we find the right project for it we’ll let you guys know 🙂


We’d like to thank Housemarque for taking the time out to answer our questions. Alienation is out now exclusively on the PS4.

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