UK Forum Manager
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UK Forum Manager
Q: Is the story still set in Chicago? What’s the name of the new hero?
A: I Am Alive' s story is set in a fictional US city named Haventon. The game experience's tone and logic are definitely adult, serious and realistic, but the interest of this experience doesn't rely on the "postcard effect" (i.e. putting you in a destroyed version of iconic landmarks of a real city). Haventon is a metaphor of a modern western city, as the whole game is a metaphor of the human condition after civilization has collapsed.
The hero's name is not stated in the game. In this world, many elements of the previous life, the life before the Event, have become obsolete. Things like bank account, social status, e-mail address, all that stuff is out... Even his name which mostly has a social function (used by others to call him), has become a trivial detail, now that he spends most of his time alone and has lost track of all his relatives.
Q: What lead to the decision to start over from scratch? And why did the Chicago’s earthquake scenario disappear in the process?
A: Things have changed a lot since that old "earthquake" trailer was released. We will develop later why these changes happened. When our team at Ubisoft Shanghai team was handed the project, which was previously developed in France, we took quite a bit of time to play it over and over, trying to figure out how to realize the player's expectations and solve a very difficult equation.
Indeed the very special topic of the game is not necessarily compatible with traditional "fun" action game mechanics and calls for something more contemplative: no war, no big weapons, no monsters that require tons of bullets to be taken down, lots of loneliness, etc...
I think a big part of what generated the initial interest was the question that naturally comes to mind :"how they gonna turn this into a game?!".
We learned a lot from that first game. But after a short time, we came to the conclusion that it would be more efficient to restart from scratch with another engine and data set that were more close to what we needed.
About the earthquakes in Chicago...With the new direction and tone of the game, earthquakes and disasters are not something that we want to showcase as fun or exciting. They are terrible tragedies. In the real world, they last a couple minutes at most, in which you can mostly try to shelter yourself and pray to not get buried alive. However, in IAA's world, minor tremors and aftershocks keep happening recurrently, they act more as an atmospheric features, like spasms from a wounded Earth.
Q: How deep is the surviving aspect of the game? For instance, will you have to eat, drink & sleep to survive?
A: Eating and drinking are important to restore your character's stamina and health. Sleeping is not included in the game as the whole story you are playing happens roughly over the course of a full day.
Searching and using food and medicine is critical to survive, but it remains an action-adventure game, which means the inventory menu is simple and straightforward and we didn't want the player to spend much time in it browsing through several pages and managing many parameters like in some RPG's.
Q: What will determine the amount of resources – ammo, goods, etc… – available in the game? Are there multiple levels of difficulty?
A: Yes, there are 2 difficulty modes, normal and survivor. They influence the number of resources and “retries” present in the game, along with a few parameters of the aggressive characters.
The retry system is a key element in the difficulty management. In the game, when you die, you restart from the check point which is usually pretty close to where you died.
If you run out of retries, you restart the level from beginning, which brings increasing tension and care as you move closer to the end of the level. You can get extra retries by rescuing victims or finding the few camcorders scattered in the game.
In Normal mode there is auto-refill of your retries. You be automatically refilled to at least 3 retries each time you enter a new level or if you die and restart from beginning. If you have more than 3 already you keep your retry amount as it is.
In Survivor mode, this auto-refill is not there, so you need to search for items and rescue victims more desperately. This makes for a more long-term management of your progression. Perfectionists will like to improve their performance in the level to save more items and retries to secure the full completion of the game.
Q: How heavily did Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" inspire you when you were developing the story?
A: We were looking at the post-apocalyptic genre as a whole. There is lots of very interesting literature, quite a few movies and comic books that feature this type of setting. They develop the thematic of human survival after civilization, and the return to some form of dark age.
There were many inspiring elements to develop into ideas for the game’s system and story-telling. Reading those books or watching those movies, often gives new perspectives on elements of our life that we take for granted now, some of them actually taking thousands of years of cumulated knowledge and work to achieve.
There are recurring principles such as extreme scarcity of food and medicine, generalized mistrust between isolated survivors or communities, and the difficulty of remaining “human” within this context, that we thought very appropriate to build a unique survival game experience.
The Road was depicting this in a beautiful and terrifying manner, but we didn’t want to be as depressing. In the Road, the earth and whole of humanity have been agonizing for many years and all hope is long gone.
In our case, only a year has passed and despite the current situation is pretty tough, there is still a lot of mystery and a possible hope away from the dust.
Q: Will there be any kind of multiplayer mode – whether co-op or competitive?
A: I Am Alive is an offline single player experience. It’s just you and the game!
Q: Will the storyline explain at some point the cause of the downfall of society?
A: There are a few hints of what happened to the world, but they are all given from the protagonist’s point of view. They will tell you what they saw from their own perspective. The mystery is an important part of the experience, and trying to figure out by yourself the nature of the Event and the subsequent incidents based on what you see and what others tell you.
Q: Will it be possible to switch in first person view during shooting phases?
A: Third person is our main camera for all exploration and platforming, but when aiming and using weapons you switch to first person. We wanted to keep this realistic, immersive feel of looking straight into your opponent’s eyes, and losing the comfort of seeing everything happening around you, somehow exposing yourself more.
Q: Is the game an open world – like AC series – or each mission has a dedicated location?
A: The game is not an open world, and the main story and objectives unfold in a linear fashion.
From the streets of downtown Haventon, you will access different key areas, such as a ruined shopping mall, the construction site of an unfinished skyscraper, the underground subway tunnels, a hotel occupied by gangs and several other locations.
Though your overall progress will be linear, we included many side areas containing specific elements and mini-scenarios to make sure all players won’t have the exact same experience and to make sure the player gets the feeling of discovering things by their own choice.
Q: Why did the game take five years to develop and finally is only an online store downloadable?
A: When you hear about games that take five years or more to develop, it often means that the game went through several development cycles. That’s what happened with this project. The game was initially developed in France, but then it was brought to our Shanghai studio to be finished. We were really excited by the promise of the game, but the reality was... it was a huge development job to reach the original mandate and meet the high expectations from the press and gamers. I believe the biggest challenge with this project is to design exciting game mechanics to support the intended experience: a human-centric survival adventure with realistic tones, a post-apocalyptic landscape and very few survivors. These are far from the usual action-adventure game standards. We loved the concept of I Am Alive and we had a good momentum going, so we fought to make this it happen, and we came up with the idea of a digital game for Xbox LIVE Arcade and PlayStation Network. The change in format let us focus on the very essence and uniqueness of the original concept - a gritty, tough and believable tale of survival in a world that has fallen apart.
Sounds awesome, lets have it already.
I think the jump to Conviction's engine was a smart one. 3rd person, good climbing, FP shooting etc, can't wait.
for the night is dark and full of terrors
This is some really insightful info. Thanks for this.