Alien has a long history with shooters, but not so much with RPGs. Obsidian tried to change that in the 2000s with Aliens: Crucible, an early Onyx engine game published by Sega described as “Mass Effect but more terrifying.” It was ultimately shelved with little explanation and subsequently forgotten until this past weekend, when Pentiment director Josh Sawyer talked about some of what he described as the “dysfunction” around the project.
“I got to work on an Aliens RPG for SEGA from 2006-2009. Obsidian didn’t have directors at that time, just leads who were all considered peers. It resulted in a lot of dysfunction when the leads didn’t agree on how to do something,” he explained.
There were a lot of cool ideas in the works, but you don’t ship ideas! The biggest lesson I learned from the experience is that if you don’t have playable levels, you don’t have much of a game (there are some exceptions, of course).
— Josh Sawyer (@jesawyer) April 16, 2023
In the thread that followed, Sawyer said that progress on Crucible was “slow,” and that Obsidian had “a lot of cool ideas in the works, but you don’t ship ideas.” One of those purported ideas, which has been described elsewhere, is that squadmates could get impregnated, whereupon you would have to decide whether to mercy kill them, put them in a sleep chamber and use them sparingly, or simply let them pop.
Ultimately, Sawyer’s biggest takeaway was that if you don’t have playable levels “you don’t have much of a game.” Thus, Obsidian moved on to Alpha Protocol, its secret agent RPG that retains a small but fervent fanbase to this day.
If you want to see some of Obsidian’s ideas in action, though, Sawyer does say there’s an alternative.
“I was happy to play Aliens: Fireteam Elite because the overall setup was similar: small team, 3rd person, with an emphasis on deployables and support actions. The similarities ended there, but it was nice to see the idea could actually be fun in practice. RIP, squad,” Sawyer wrote.
Sawyer also opened up about Aliens: Crucible in an interview for IGN Unfiltered back in 2018, where he talked more about his ideas behind the game while admitting that it was “too little, too late.”
As for Obsidian, the studio is now owned by Xbox, where it’s currently in the midst of developing Avowed and The Outer Worlds 2. Sawyer himself is coming off the success of Pentiment, which won Best Narrative at the 2023 Game Developer Choice Awards.
Kat Bailey is a Senior News Editor at IGN as well as co-host of Nintendo Voice Chat. Have a tip? Send her a DM at @the_katbot.