Here's why Alien: Isolation's third-person mode was scrapped

When the developers at Creative Assembly started working on Alien: Isolation, they knew exactly what sorts of feelings they wanted to evoke in players: terror, isolation, and dread. Speaking at GDC 2015, creative director Alistair Hope discussed the many trials and tribulations the studio went through to get this response, and the importance of building a believable world where all the elements work together.

One of the biggest choices the team faced was whether to go with a third-person or first-person perspective. Initially, they decided on third-person - the survival horror standard, as seen in Silent Hill, Dead Space, Resident Evil, and others. But it just didn't feel right for Alien. Hope actually showed a brief demo of the game running in third-person to demonstrate this point. The demo showed protagonist Amanda Ripley ducking around and behind some boxes while hiding from the Alien. The way she moved was reminiscent of how characters move through cover in Mass Effect 3, or even the Gears of War series. The action seemed fluid enough, but it completely shattered the sense of immersion that's so crucial to Alien: Isolation.

As Hope explained, in third-person "the gameplay balance shifted to controlling an avatar through a play space," adding needless layers of complexity that distracted from the game's intricate - and terrifying - world. "You're not experiencing the world directly [in third-person]," Hope said. "You're looking at the character who is holding the motion tracker, not the motion tracker itself." The Alien was no longer hunting you, it was hunting Amanda Ripley, the avatar running around on the screen.

After spending so much time making sure the lighting, sound, and lo-fi, sci-fi designs all worked in harmony to convey a believable world, the team wanted to ensure players were experiencing it up-close-and-personal. As Hope concluded, "The third-person camera made [Alien: Isolation] feel like an Alien game, which was cool, but the first-person camera made it feel like Alien."

Maxwell McGee
Maxwell grew up on a sleepy creekbank deep in the South. His love for video games has taken him all the way to the West Coast and beyond.