Sucker Punch are inFamous
inFamous is nearly with us, Sucker Punch's PS3 exclusive action title set to take on the heavyweights of the genre in this important new release; the beginning of what could be a whole new series. We sat down with producer Brian Fleming for a few words on this major new game - set for a summer debut.
The shift from Sly Cooper/Raccoon to inFamous seems quite a leap for Sucker Punch. How did this happen?
We'd worked for six straight years on the Sly Cooper universe. When we finished Sly 3, we knew we were interested in jumping to PS3, and that we wanted to create a new universe of characters. We also felt like we wanted to do a project which was more appropriate for the early half of a console lifecycle - when the market tends to skew older, and less stylized. We're huge super hero fans, and always felt a super hero story that was born as a video game could be spectacular - and inFamous is the result!
The game opens with the destruction of Empire City. This is the kind of event you might expect to come later in a more traditional plot. What is the role of story in the game, and what can you tell us about the adventure we'll be embarking upon in inFamous?
The decision to start the game with the explosion - it literally is triggered by the player pressing "Start" - was the result of our belief that the "becoming" story of a super hero is often the most interesting. We wanted to start our story at the instant the game begins, and have the player experience the entire breadth of Cole's growth from a guy who's barely able to shoot lighting out of his hands all the way to the end of the game where Cole has complete mastery of his powers and large parts of the environment. The story of the game is the story of Cole's inner struggle as he discovers and develops into the hero or villain of Empire City...
The superhero theme is very fashionable at the moment. Do you worry that the constant procession of movies, and TV shows like Heroes, risk turning people off the subject?
I worry 100x more about what we're doing than what everyone else is doing. We can really only affect our own behavior and worrying about everyone else just wastes energy. We'd been working on inFamous a while (maybe a year?) when Heroes hit the airwaves, and most of us found it really affirming, not worrisome.
How do you let players 'feel' what it is like to be a superhero?
If we did our jobs well, then a lot of things in inFamous will make you feel this way - because giving players the feeling of becoming a hero was our guiding principle for the title. We always felt one of the very human parts of the game would be seeing what people would do if given powers. Would they be heroes, or would they be assassins? How can we make those choices have consequences? We also wanted to explore the secondary effects of heroic and villainous actions - maybe it's small things like people placing you on a pedestal, or rising up against you. In all these ways we wanted people to feel heroic or villainous.
What is the role of the city; the world in the game? How interactive and 'open' is the landscape presented to the player?
The city plays a huge role in inFamous. It's most obviously the setting for the events of the game, it's also completely climbable and explorable by Cole -- to a degree rarely seen in video games. The city is not just interactive to the player, it's interactive to his powers. Metals conduct, the power grid is simulated and can be a great help to Cole if it's functioning. And the city itself changes to reflect choices you make. If you vanquish the gangs from a section of the city, not only will the citizens cheer you, but they'll start to clean up that part of town, and even put up some "hero" posters of Cole.
What does the PS3 allow you to do that might have been technically impossible, previously?
First is the amount of animation blending we're doing. Now of course Cole gets his share -- we're regularly blending 10 or more animations onto him, movement, head look, balance, "cycle-breakers", etc. But that's just Cole, there's only one of him. What about a scene with 25 peds and 10 enemies, all in a battle? Well all of them are blending a pile of animations too - and adjusting them all to their unique skeleton proportions live. Second is our visibility system that helps our rendering system determine which of the zillions of things it might need to draw, that it actually should draw. We do the entire system in real-time without any pre-computed portions, which means iteration for building the game is very efficient, and as a bonus any building could explode or disappear and the visibility system doesn't blink an eye.
The game is described as an action-adventure; but the player's actions carry an impact, and there are decisions to make along the way. Are there RPG elements at play?
Certainly there's an RPG element to the game, though as with everything action is the driver of the experience. This takes me back to your "feel like a super hero" question - we wanted your decisions to matter and have impacts.
Many of Cole's powers are linked to his karma, so the powers will upgrade differently as an Evil player than they will as Good - there's a ton to explore and try!
How do you build atmosphere in the game, adding to the cinematic feel we're anticipating?
We really wanted to blend the graphic nature of comics into our video-game-super-hero experience, and so a good deal of the atmosphere comes from those cut-scenes. In the game world, the designers, environments and characters teams spent a lot of time thinking about how to give a sense of despair and destruction to the city in a believable way. A lot of early experiments failed, but in the end a combination of grime, destruction, and lots of subtle animation work on the pedestrians helps Empire City feel like a city under quarantine.
How does combat in the game work?
There's both melee and ranged combat. The controls are generally quite simple, and there's no button assignments to make or powers chooser to wade through. There's base powers like melee and lightning bolts that shoot from Cole's hands. Then there's heavier powers, like shockwaves and even full lightning strikes. The heavier powers can drain Cole's energy reserves, but fear not, find a nearby source of electricity and recharge. They're everywhere!
Is there Sixaxis support planned?
Yep. You can direct your lightning strikes by tilting away!
Do you view inFamous as a long term project, with a story arc planned beyond the action we'll play out in the new game?
Absolutely. We're really pleased with how inFamous has turned out and are looking forward to telling more stories!
Thanks for your time!