PODCAST FIVE: THE ALIENS
May 12, 2011
ELIZABETH: Welcome to the fifth episode of the Duke Nukem Forever podcast. I’m Elizabeth Tobey, and today I’m back with Chris DeSimone and Benjamin Wagley from Triptych Games as well as Chris Faylor from Gearbox Software and we’re talking about aliens – everything from Pigcops to the Alien Queen and beyond.
CHRIS D: Chris DeSimone, CG artist at Triptych Games.
BENJAMIN: Benjamin Wagley, I’m an animator for Triptych Games.
ELIZABETH: So in this episode of our podcast, we’re going to be talking about the aliens in Duke Nukem Forever which is quite a staple of the game. Let’s just start in general, who are the aliens? What’s their deal? Didn’t Duke already do this once before? Why are they back?
CHRIS D: There are all different kinds of aliens. Of course we have the classic Pigcop which is an EDF soldier who’s been transformed into this brutish pig-like creature. One thing we kind of did differently in Duke Nukem Forever with the Pigcop is that he actually will run on all fours which gives more of an animalistic character to him; not as human as you saw in the old Duke 3D. And we’ve got the old Assault Troopers which are of course from Duke 3D, but they have a bit more of a different look and feel to them: not as cartoony as the old Duke 3D game. A lot more realism has gone into the way they look and act. And then of course we have some really stellar boss alien creatures like Assault Commander, the Battlelord and the Cycloid Emperor.
CHRIS F: It’s been over a decade since we last saw the aliens, both the real world and in Duke’s world a lot has changed during those years and they reappear. Of course they come back. Duke thinks they want revenge, there’s some people out there that think they’re back to make their peace. Given the premise of the game, I think you can guess which way it falls. So they’re back, they want revenge and they’re getting their revenge by taking our women.
ELIZABETH: So the aliens, in many ways, look very reminiscent of the aliens in Duke 3D. Obviously there are some significant changes, but were the aliens always going to have that more direct evolution or was there a time when there was going to be drastically different aliens?
CHRIS D: I’m going to say and I’m just guessing here, that George [Broussard] definitely wanted that classic feel to them; but a little bit …more, maybe in how they act, in terms of the animations, maybe certain weapons upgraded. Because, you know, you obviously don’t want exactly the same thing because who wants to play the exact same game?
CHRIS D: I think it was kind of just a normal kind of evolution in terms of what character was going to do what, what kind of weapon they would have and I think as those elements started to take shape in the actual design of the game, we started to find out like what we were going to do with each enemy and how they were going to act and how they were going to combat Duke.
ELIZABETH: Obviously you are representatives of a very large team, a large history and many years of design, but how did you – that’s the royal you - come up with the designs for some of the aliens? I’ll name a couple that I have questions about but feel free to skip over them and talk about which ever ones strike your fancy. Like the Alien Queen or the Pregnator or the Pigcops, how did their design timeline go?
CHRIS D: Yeah it is kind of hard to comment on these when some of the design choices that were made I wasn’t around, but I do remember the Pigcops. They actually went through a couple of different phases and I know there were a lot of concepts made of them. They eventually picked the concepts made by Feng Zhu which definitely made the Pigcop a lot bulkier, and I would say kind of meaner looking and less like Porky Pig. Once they actually decided on a concept, there were actually, I want to say, 3 iterations of actual meshes that were made. Actually went through 3 different character artists.
BENJAMIN: Elaborating some on what De said, you can definitely tell the difference in Pigcops that were in Duke 3D versus the Pigcops you see Duke Nukem Forever. Not only just because the technology was a lot different but because overall the Pig Cops in Duke 3D are definitely more animalistic, they’re definitely scarier, more menacing characters than what you saw in Duke 3D. Now you had mentioned the Pregnator. I wasn’t there when it was designed, but I view it as you know when you watch Aliens and you see the face huggers or you see the face huggers in Half Life. There’s only really speculation on how the face hugger implant the alien seed. With the Pregnator, you’ll figure it out. The way the character design was, there’s not a whole lot left to the imagination on how they work with the big hairy nut sack on the back of them. And I’m not going to say how you’ll figure it out ‘cause I don’t want to give it away, but it will be memorable when you figure out how. It will definitely be a surprise.
CHRIS D: Yeah, I think we kind of went the opposite direction with the Pregnators in contrast to the Alien face hugger which is more like female genitalia. The Pregnators are more male genitalia.
BENJAMIN: Yeah, but even then the character itself, it is comical because it does have a big hairy nut sack on the back of it; but at the same time the character overall is still kind of menacing with really sharp claws that it walks on and a hard carapace on the back. It’s like an overall theme for the alien characters. They’re trying to be menacing but not scared to have a comical element to them.
ELIZABETH: Are there any real distinguishing features or actions or weapons of any of the aliens either overall or particular models, classes in general?
CHRIS F: I want to chime in and say, Octabrain.
ELIZABETH: Oh right, good one.
CHRIS F: The first time you see one you say, “Oh look a floating enemy I’m going to throw a pipe bomb at it.” And you watch that pipe bomb come right back at you. So there’s definitely some surprise there. And the other thing I love about the Octabrain is in Duke 3D, the Octabrain was the most terrifying enemy in the world. It would scream and rush at you and you knew that you were dead. This time you’ve got a little bit more of a fighting chance, but they’re still really big jerks.
CHRIS D: They are and to this day, I hate fighting more than one at a time because they’re brutal.
CHRIS F: That scream. I’m hearing it in my head right now. It chills me to the bone.
CHRIS D: Yeah, every time I wind up flying and there’s more than one attacking, I’m constantly running backwards.
CHRIS F: Yes. That’s one of the….not to say the hardest section of the game---but one of the ones I had to try over and over again to try and figure out was a section with multiple Octabrains at the same time.
BENJAMIN: And they add a really good element to the game, because in some cases you’re fighting the boss and you also have the Octabrains. And when they show up, you can’t also fight the boss the same way, just because of the reason you gave. If you have a projectile to kill the boss, they show up, the Octabrains will spit it right back at you, so you can’t focus on the boss with one weapon while they’re there. They add an interesting twist where you have to switch strategy when they’re there.
CHRIS F: Well I think it’s really interesting that there actually is a strategy and it does depend on each enemy. You can go in guns a-blazing and pray for the best and usually it’ll work out; it might not be the most efficient, you might not survive the first few time, but you can get through it …just maybe, guns a-blazing. But each enemy has a weapon or technique that works really well against it. Okay, to be fair, the first fight against the Cycloid Emperor is hold down the trigger button and blast him as much as you can. But everything after that is not just fire---there’s a puzzle element to it almost.
BENJAMIN: Right. I don’t think there’s any boss that you can fight in the game, including the first one where you can just stay in one position and just…
ELIZABETH: For sure.
BENJAMIN: Now with the first boss, you’re right—you have one weapon and you pretty much hold down the trigger and look for more ammo but even if you stay in the same position, you’re going to get knocked down. And you’re right that different boss fights you have different strategies. You can’t use the same weapons, one, because not all the weapons are available and two, different boss fights have different weapons that are better for them.
CHRIS D: We purposely made the opening sequence relatively easy because we don’t want you to die.
ELIZABETH: So for our final question before we wrap this one up, do guys have any favorite aliens, or weapons or perhaps ways to deal with an alien?
CHRIS D: My favorite has always been the Cycloid Emperor. The character artist that actually made him is Randy Forsyth and he did a phenomenal job on that character. I want an action figure of that guy; I really think he looks cool.
BENJAMIN: As far as the weapons go, I would probably say the Enforcer Gun is my favorite. It wraps kind of; you know you have your RPG in there but it’s also….like with the RPG you have to hold the reticule over the character for it to become heat seeking. But with the Enforcer Gun it’s pretty much fire and forget. As far as character goes, the best boss would probably be tied between the Alien Queen and the Cycloid Emperor. The Battlelord was cool and he was really cool to animate…but the Cycloid was…well it was probably a tie too as to which one was more visually appealing. Like the Alien Queen, they actually made a decision to make her bigger to look more menacing. They had to change the map around to accommodate that but it was definitely a lot bigger. But she’s got 3 boobies and how can you go wrong there?
CHRIS F: I think one last question about the Alien Queen, Chris you talked about this and it’s a wonderful appropriate topic. How large is the Alien Queen, relative to Duke? I mean is there any specific part of her body equivalent to one Duke?
CHRIS D: I would say that her nipple is almost as big as one Duke. That’s how giant those boobs are. We really wanted them to stand out.
CHRIS F: And I think that went people play, they will definitely see that they do. Without giving anything away, they are actually tied to game play. They are not just window dressing, so to speak.
ELIZABETH: And with that, I think that wraps up this podcast. Thank you guys so much for being here.
ELIZABETH: And so ends the fifth episode of the Duke Nukem Forever podcast series. Stay tuned for our next episode where we’ll talk about multiplayer.