If there is one title on the mind of turn and squadbased junkies it's probably UFO: Aftermath. The game developed by ALTAR Interactive looks like a new version of the old classic UFO: Enemy Unknown, but looks can be deceiving and ALTAR has got more in store for us gamers than a simple remake. We spoke with Martin Klima, CEO, and Jiri Rydl, public relations manager, from ALTAR interactive about the game.

The Interview Gamer.nl: Are you guys not getting irritated by the fact that everyone is comparing UFO: Aftermath with the old classic UFO Enemy Unknown?

Martin Klima: In the chat I said that we could only hope that the people will still compare us favorably with these popular games once people have actually had a chance to play. We are lucky enough to get a lot of support from our fans, or rather from the fans of those older games. Thanks to that, even though certainly is not the most eagerly awaited game of the next year, it is an eagerly awaited game. And to us, our responsibility to the people who are waiting for far outweighs the responsibility to any old game. We do not want to compete, we do not want the players to say: "Aftermath is better than Apocalypse because of …" or "Unlike in TFTD, in Aftermath you can…" We simply want the players to say: "Aftermath is a good game."

Gamer.nl: Do you think that there is still a broad audience for turnbased games?

Martin Klima: Don't confuse the absolute and relative numbers; while in absolute numbers the market for PC games grows, in relative numbers it loses to consoles. Something very similar can be said about turn-based games. We believe that in absolute numbers there actually are more people around now who would like to play them. The problem is that the games cost more and more to develop and the publishers are not content with numbers that used to be good not so long ago.

Gamer.nl: How is the development of Aftermath coming along?

Martin Klima: We are now in talks with a big independent company in UK with regards to the publishing agreement about UFO:AM. Obviously, working without a secure contract with a publisher is not as smooth, but we believe we are still on track for Q1 release next year.

Gamer.nl: Can you tell us something about the story of the game?

Jiri Rydl: 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.

Gamer.nl: What kind of soundtrack can we expect?

Jiri Rydl: Creepy, dark and unnatural. I would compare it to Signs movie score maybe, but it's just my opinion :-].

Gamer.nl: The gameplay will be the big selling point of Aftermath, how does the gameplay evolve during the game?

Martin Klima: The gameplay evolves as your technology evolves; new technologies give you new weapons which in turn give you more options. But we are not going to say it will make a completely new game. In fact, some of the weapons you use in the beginning may well be the most useful ones even in the end, but the new weapons may give you an ability to face tasks that were impossible before.

Gamer.nl: How linear will the game be? Can you play for an unlimited amount of years or do you have to get rid of the aliens by a certain date?

Martin Klima: The simple and true answer is: "You can take your time and finish the game when you see fit." However, if we want to be honest, we also have to point out the other side of coin. By giving more freedom to the players, we, as designers, forsake the ability to twist the plot any way we like. While in Original War, our previous project, we had tightly scripted missions, personal likes and dislikes, love, hate and betrayal, in UFO: Aftermath we will not be able to go into this level of detail. There will be story, there will be unexpected twists, but it will necessarily be more broadly sketched. The game relies more on the emergent situations – you are in command of your men and of all of the important resources left to humanity. Your enemies are many and, for most of the game, they are stronger than you. It will be up to you to outsmart them and to cleverly evolve your characters. We hope and believe that the events that will occur in this way will be no less interesting than pre-scripted ones, exactly because of their utter unexpectedness.

Gamer.nl: How would you rate the replayability?

Jiri Rydl: Three difficulty levels, variable battlegrounds, tens of weapons to defeat tens of mutants and aliens, research tree with different branches and countless tactic possibilities should make UFO: Aftermath attractive even for player, who finishes the game for first time.

Gamer.nl: How did you came up with the aliens in the game? Did you encountered them yourself or did you do some research?

Martin Klima: One of our goals is to make the aliens that look different. So besides using the "proved" archetype of the "Greys" for the real aliens, we have various mutants (we call them Transgenants) and these should look as different from each other as possible. As for where they come from; most of them were born in the sick mind of Tomas, our Lead Artist.

Gamer.nl: Will there be something like a demo or an intro to show before the game is released?

Jiri Rydl: We plan to release a playable demo together with the full game, maybe a few weeks sooner.

Gamer.nl: If the game sells well, would you consider an expansion?

Jiri Rydl: Well, if the game sells well, we would like to add things we don't have time for in this moment. For instance we plan to release modding tools for players who want to fight with re-designed squadies, create new aliens and weapons etc. We are also asked about multiplayer, or skirmish, which is not so important for the singleplayer game, but people wish it. Firstly we would like to work on addon; Aftermath 2 is more about good story. We have enough ideas for plenty of different games we want to realize :-].

Gamer.nl: UFO: Aftermath will be three games in one. A management game, squad based action and a kind of god game, can you describe these different facets from the game?

Jiri Rydl: I wouldn't say UFO: Aftermath are three games in one, just strategic over the globe and tactical fight against aliens, but I believe you can feel like a god by playing it :-].

In the strategic, or as you call it management portion of the game, you must manage your bases, interceptions, and squads. Also important is the “biomass” – a slimy, tangled mass creeping slowly across the whole of the world. 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.

Most of your game time will be spent in tactical missions, fighting on the ground against aliens and mutants for the control of territories. Tactical missions use our unique combat system, 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. Each tactical mission takes place on its own, uniquely generated battlefield. We don't use templates, so each of our fully three dimensional game fields is totally different, so that you aren't stuck feeling like you're playing the same mission over and over, allowing for maximum replayability.

Gamer.nl: Will there be any gameplay movies soon?

Jiri Rydl: It's partly question for our publisher, but I want to release one or two movies even this year.

Gamer.nl: Did you already find a publisher for America or Europe?

Jiri Rydl: Yes, we did, but the negotiation takes more time than we expected. We should be able to answer this question very soon I hope.

Gamer.nl: Don't you get tired of all these interviews ?

Jiri Rydl: Yes, we are :-]. To say the truth, interviews are the exciting part of my work. I really like to chat with fans, explain our point of view and talk to journalist. There is only one problem – the lack of time. Everyone in our company is concentrated on the game development and they don't have time to help me with creating exclusive materials, so that is the reason you don't see any new screenshots here :-].

News update on UFO: Aftermath

It seems that Altar is also working on a RPG game, but details are still scarce. Depending on the contract deal and publisher, Altar would like to push the game back to the second quarter of 2003. But this is something which is not certain yet.

Well that sums it up for now. I really want to thank Jiri for all the effort he has made!

On the next page you'll find some screenshots of UFO: Aftermath