GR: We get a Starship Troopers vibe from some of the designs, and a District 9 feel from others. Is that intentional?
GF: We’re borrowing pretty heavily from UFO culture in general, and I think a lot of movies come to that material to draw inspiration. That’s good! It gives people a starting point to understand what you’re showing them. The little gray alien is supposed to be kind of weedy, but maybe psychically dangerous, and the bug-like alien is always bad news if it gets too close. We can use what people already know from the pop culture to help them understand parts of our game.
Flying saucers have been in a ton of science fiction movies and books and shows. Just think of all the movies where flying saucers are the alien ships – from The Day the Earth Stood Still up through Mars Attacks or Independence Day – and you can see that a lot of creative people know how to tap into that. If you see a UFO out there, then that’s probably a bad sign for humans.
We did have some technical constraints that we were operating under for XCOM: EU, and the rounded shapes of the UFOs were a bit tricky to implement in the game. Our designers figured out how to implement them really well within the game itself, so we ended up with round UFOs that still work well with the underlying geometry of our game. That’s one of those great points of game development that makes both the artists and the engineers happy.