Destroy All Humans! – the series and the first game – holds a special place in the hearts of many, and with its irreverent humour and chaotic action, has always been a great example of the trends in the games industry back during the mid-2000s. While the franchise was once thought dead, THQ Nordic and developers Black Forest Games have recent brought it back with a faithful remake of the first game, and the results have been positive. It’s selling well, critics generally like it, and audiences are having a ton of fun with it- all of which is to say, hopefully there will be more Destroy All Humans! content to enjoy in the future.
In the here and now though, we recently had the chance to send some of our questions about the game following its launch to its developers. These questions were answered by creative director Jean-Marc Haessig and technical director Johan Conradie, while some were answered directly by the folks at THQ Nordic. You can read our conversation below.
"A strong point in Destroy All Humans is the chemistry between Crypto and Pox. Their voices are iconic and the dialogue is hilarious. It is the strongest memory for players of the original game. Therefore, it was a no-brainer for us to keep the dialogue, the story, and the humor intact."
It’s been some time since we last saw a Destroy All Humans game. What led to the decision to bring the franchise back now?
THQN: Destroy All Humans! was one of the great THQ IPs and it is our goal to revitalize many of them. We started with Darksiders and had great success, as well as for example Titan Quest, Red Faction, and most recently SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom. And Destroy All Humans! has always been a fan-favorite, we saw a lot of happy people when we ported the original game to the PlayStation 4 a while ago so it was easy to decide to send Crypto-137 out again and take a giant step on mankind.
Destroy All Humans! is a pretty faithful remake, even making it clear the moment you boot it up that it has retained the dialogue and humour of the original. What led to that decision? Were there ever times during development when you considered changing some elements?
Haessig: A strong point in Destroy All Humans is the chemistry between Crypto and Pox. Their voices are iconic and the dialogue is hilarious. It is the strongest memory for players of the original game. Therefore, it was a no-brainer for us to keep the dialogue, the story, and the humor intact. Our vision was to remake the game in the way players remembered it, overlooking some of the technical limitations that original game developers had been facing. To achieve this the game is not a 1:1 recreation as we modernized the gameplay and comfort features to what players expect today. There is only one instance, where we, both THQ Nordic and us, decided to remove two lines of dialogue in the second mission. But apart from that we kept the story untouched, and even added mind reads that were in the source material, but never made it into the game.
With a remake for a game this old, what sort of an approach did you take to things like controls or certain mechanics, and deciding whether or not they’d be a right fit for the evolving tastes of current audiences? Was it a case of trying to remain as faithful to the original game as possible?
Haessig: Gameplay evolved a lot during the past 15 years since the original Destroy All Humans was first released. Our approach was to first play the games – the whole series – and then look closely at the mechanics of the original game, and how they compared to the sequels. Where Pandemic improved on certain controls or mechanics, we kept those to stay as close as possible to the series. In other areas we look at what players would expect from modern games and adjusted the game there. Be it quality-of-life features like save-points and the focus-mode, or a more reactive environment.
Our Mission designers examined each mission. With that knowledge, they started to rework the mission beats to improve the general flow of the game. Another team focused on Crypto’s movement. Their goal was to make the combat, with all of Crypto’s abilities, as dynamic as it should be and enable players to use weapons and abilities at the same time.
At the end of the day it was always a careful deliberation on what to keep, where to include improvements from the sequels, and what to create anew. One prime example would be the S.K.A.T.E. feature. Originally it was a jetpack bug where Crypto just slid over the ground without gaining any altitude. But the team fell in love and decided to improve and polish it. The result is one of the most liked features in the game.
"Gameplay evolved a lot during the past 15 years since the original Destroy All Humans was first released. Our approach was to first play the games – the whole series – and then look closely at the mechanics of the original game, and how they compared to the sequels."
The Lost Mission of Area 42 is one of the game’s most notable new additions, and especially interesting for fans of the original who never got to play it. Can you talk to us about the process of bringing that mission to life, and what led to the decision to include it in the remake where it had been cut out from the original release?
Haessig: When we sighted the source material, we found a lot of unused audio files and designs from a shelved mission. That kickstarted our creative juices and inspired us to restore this mission in Area 42 that did not make it into the original game.
In a way it is our homage to the original development team. We know well the myriad of circumstances of game development resulting in something getting “cut”. So, we took this brilliant opportunity to “uncut” that.
Are there any plans to add more content to the game by way of post-launch support?
Haessig: No, aside from fixing bugs and issues players may be encountering, the game is wrapped up.
I’m sure this isn’t a question that you might be ready to answer openly yet, but I’ve gotta ask- did you view the development of this remake as practice for brand new entries in the series down the road?
THQN: We are very happy with the release of Destroy All Humans! and will evaluate any possibilities for the future. You didn’t expect a more specific answer, did you?
Do you have any plans to bring Destroy All Humans! to the Switch?
THQN: We are very happy with the release of Destroy All Humans! on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 and will evaluate any possibilities for the future.
Given that next-gen consoles are right around the corner, have you given any thought to next-gen ports for the game?
Haessig: Currently we are working on after release maintenance of the game. A next-gen port of Destroy All Humans! is not planned.
What are your thoughts on the PS5’s custom 3D audio engine Tempest? How much of a difference do you think tech like this will make to how immersive games can be?
Conradie: I think there is a lot of room for improvement in audio immersion in games. Technology like this is always interesting because it allows developers to push the envelope, and I am very curious to see what people end up doing with it.
Since the reveal of the PS5 and Xbox Series X’s specs, a lot of comparisons have been made between the GPU speeds of the two consoles’ GPUs, with the PS5 at 10.28 TFLOPS and the Xbox Series X at 12 TFLOPS- but how much of an impact on development do you think that difference will have?
Conradie: It is not really anything new to have consoles with different performance profiles. In the end we either make features work on the weaker platform or make the feature scalable so that it works equally well for both.
"When we sighted the source material, we found a lot of unused audio files and designs from a shelved mission. That kickstarted our creative juices and inspired us to restore this mission in Area 42 that did not make it into the original game."
The PS5 features an incredibly fast SSD with 5.5GB/s raw bandwidth. This is faster than anything that is available out there. How can developers take advantage of this and what will it result to, and how does this compare to Series X’s 2.4GB/s raw bandwith?
Conradie: Having this level of IO performance is a fantastic upgrade to what we have been working with up to now. You’ll see a revolution in next-gen games where loading time either is minimal or outright removed. Even the lower IO performance on the Xbox Series X is already a fantastic upgrade.
There is a difference in Zen 2 CPU. The Xbox series X features 8x Zen 2 Cores at 3.8GHz, whereas the PS5 features 8x Zen 2 Cores at 3.5GHz. Your thoughts on this difference?
Conradie: Similar as before, that means that the PS5 will be the benchmark platform for CPU optimization where the goal would be to get the same end-result performance on both platforms.
What are your thoughts on the Xbox One X’s Velocity architecture and how will it make development easier on it?
Conradie: Ultimately it comes down to having to spend less time “making it work” and giving us more time to “make it more awesome” instead. Not having to worry about things like loading times also gives us more freedom regarding game content variety.
Do you think the Xbox Series X will out-power most gaming PCs for years to come?
Conradie: In the end I think that developers will release games that try to take advantage of each platform’s strengths and try to provide an experience that’s comparable across all platforms. We’ll very likely see some first-party titles take advantage of unique features to really show off the platform.
How are you ensuring that your engines/framework/tools are up and running for PS5 and Xbox Series X?
Conradie: In our case, as we’re using the Unreal Engine, we’re able to jump onto the new generation pretty early to make sure that it runs smoothly during production. So basically, our strategy is to have our games fully playable as early as possible and maintain parity across all platforms during development.