With Crackdown only a week away from its release, today we sit down once again with the developers of the game in this exclusive to XCN, a Q&A with Phil Wilson, Producer of Crackdown at Realtime Worlds. So prop up your tired working-week feet and have a read through our second Crackdown Q&A, where we talk about GTA, Halo3 Beta, its future and vehicle juggeling…puzzled? Read on to find out.
Crackdown is often compared to GTA, especially because Dave Jones is the lead at Realtime Worlds. How do you think that is affecting people’s expectations of Crackdown?
With Dave Jones acting as the Creative Director of Crackdown it was very important for us to inform people of his rich heritage in the games industry. It’s important for us to tell people about that so they understand our heritage, but it’s a double-edged sword in that some people are expecting us to be delivering another of these GTA wannabes. That’s pretty far from the truth, and that’s why it’s great for us to be talking about the game and showing it off so people can see it’s providing a very different type of experience.
Do you think people are looking for just another GTA in a new city?
I’m as guilty as anyone else of hearing about a city-based game and assuming that it’s just going to be like GTA. That’s a natural response in videogames at the moment. But there is room for other types of games in the sandbox city genre, and we’re already seeing that people are enjoying the difference that Crackdown provides.
How do you feel about the Halo 3 Beta being attached to Crackdown?
That was an interesting one for us. It makes sense for Microsoft to do the Beta this way, and obviously with Halo 3 being a Mature rated title it did limit the types of games they could do this with. To be honest, if this is going to be happening I’m delighted that it’s happening with Crackdown. It’s obviously going to put more copies of Crackdown in people’s hands and while we would hope that people are buying Crackdown for Crackdown, we’re confident that if people buy it for the Halo 3 Beta they’ll still have a great experience with our game. So it’s all good.
Did you worry that the Halo 3 Beta will draw attention away from Crackdown?
We did have some concern that the Halo 3 Beta would draw attention away from Crackdown, but it’s extremely hard to launch a new game, a new series, at the best of times. It’s definitely helping us with that. So while a lot of people will be looking at Crackdown because of the Halo 3 Beta, there will be many more people looking at it on its own merits. We’ve made a unique game with a unique look, and in order to garner as much attention as possible for a game that really deserves it the Halo 3 Beta was a great move for us.
Why is Crackdown different to other Xbox 360 games of its type, like Saints Row and The Godfather?
I’ve mentioned other GTA-style games already, but when you look at games like Saints Row and The Godfather the main difference we have is that Crackdown is a completely free-form game. Those other games gave you a level of freedom within an environment, but there was still a linear progression through the game. You had to do this and that to get there. In Crackdown it’s really up to you. You can level up your character any way you want. You can take on any of the Gang bosses from the very start of the game. Even when you get down to t he level of the individual missions there are so many ways you can approach them depending on your skills and abilities. We’re finding that as we see people play the game they’re approaching missions in ways we didn’t anticipate, which really shows how the game lets you create the kind of experience you want. Those are the kind of experiences you want to share with your mates, and we’re hoping that a really strong community grows up around Crackdown as a result of that.
Why are there no controllable female characters in Crackdown?
Unbelievably I’ve never been asked that before, but I always expected the question! The main reference point for the main character in the game that you can see on the box and in most of the screenshots we’ve put out – the big African-American character – was Blade. He’s big, strong and stylish. Initially when we were working on that character we were also working on a female character who was more inspired by Trinity from The Matrix. Again, very powerful and very stylish, but there was a lot more grace to her movement. We got really far down the line with her, but to be honest we ran into two issues. The first was our visual level progression. With a male character it’s very easy to bulk them up and make them look bigger and stronger, beyond Arnie and into the Hulk. But if you do the same visual process with a female character she suddenly loses what makes her different to the male character and becomes quite unattractive as an avatar. We could have found a way around that I think, but the bigger issue is that Crackdown is a huge game that lets you do so many things. The amount of character action work that went into the game was therefore enormous and we had to nail every movement, there was no question about that. So, unfortunately, we had to let the female character get shelved, but I’m not too upset about it because of the quality we managed to achieve with the male characters. I do miss that female character though. She was really cool. I’d love to see her into a sequel…
How does the ‘jump in’ co-op multiplayer actually work?
It really is as simple as it sounds. As long as you have your game set-up to accept co-op requests someone can drop in at any time and ask if they can join your game. Or you can do the same with anyone else. Once you’ve got someone in your game they can help you out or just go off and do completely their own thing in the other end of Pacific City. And they can leave whenever they want.
What are some of the cool things you’ve seen people doing in co-op?
I have seen so many cool things! We recently posted a video online that shows off the co-op play. I was just recording two guys playing the game and within the first half-hour lots of cool stuff happened. To start with one was driving and one was working his way across the rooftops, and then they hooked up on the freeway. The guy in the car jumped off the freeway and the other guy slams onto his roof, and then they both shot off to take down the local Kingpin. Coordinating attacks like that brings so much more to the experience. Then there are the races you can do – racing to the top of the Agency Tower is fun on your own, but when you’re racing your friend and trying to knock him off it’s brilliant.
Do you have any plans to increase the number of players in co-op or introduce a competitive Xbox Live mode?
Well, the co-op mode is competitive in that it keeps a score if you start attacking each other. Playing a one-on-one deathmatch in a city like Crackdown’s is definitely a unique experience. In terms of increasing the number of players in the game, something we definitely didn’t want to do with Crackdown was get away from what the unique experience of the game is by bolting on some kind of Unreal Tournament multiplayer mode. Having said that, in the future we’d really like to have more players in the competitive and cooperative modes.
There are some really interesting Achievements in Crackdown. What’s your particular favourite?
It kind of feels like Achievements were made for Crackdown. We’re huge fans of the whole Achievement system and we’ve looked at how lots of games use them. Some give them out like sweeties while others do a pretty good job, and we really wanted to make our Achievements interesting and enjoyable for people to chase. A couple of good examples involve the Agency Tower. There is an Achievement for getting to the top of the Tower. It’s ridiculously high, like half-a-mile high. It’s the highest point in the game and when you get up there you’re rewarded with this amazing view and you can see all the cars and people far off in the distance. It’s a pretty unique experience. But then you need to find a way down! We added a little pool of water at the base of the Tower and if you can jump off and nail that pool you get another Achievement!
But my particular favourite is getting the maximum number of headshots possible in a 60 second period. I can’t even remember what we called it in the end. But we have a great targeting system once you’ve powered up your firearms skill that lets you target enemies and flip to particular body parts. Taking down a bunch of guys running towards you with headshots is a very empowering experience…
Which other Xbox 360 games inspired the way you use Achievements in Crackdown?
I find that it’s quite rare that Achievements are done well in Xbox 360 games. You find that a lot of games give them away as you progress through the game and then they create a few ludicrous ‘find all of these and we’ll give you a couple of points’ Achievements. Those take forever and they’re not the most fun things in the world. Crackdown’s Achievements, on the other hand, are all fun challenges that exist in the game world already, outside of the main storyline. They make total sense within the Crackdown world and – importantly – they’re great fun.
So what’s your personal best for juggling a vehicle or enemy in the air?
I love juggling vehicles, but I can’t remember what my personal best is! Once you find the homing rocket launcher and you have the strength to throw a vehicle in the air you can have lots of fun with that. You can do the same with people as well, which is an interesting experience. But I like to get my vehicle airborne by driving it. As you improve your driving skill in the game the Agency vehicles evolve to reflect that skill, and when you’re a four-star Agent driving the Agency SUV it becomes this huge monster truck. You also get an ability bonus with the souped-up vehicles, and in the case of the Agency SUV you can suck down the suspension and release it to jump. That’s when you can do some ludicrously long jumps. There’s a stretch of water between the Los Muertos district and the Agency Island which is about half a mile wide, and using the Agency SUV and a moveable ramp truck you can clear that. In the same way that there were lots of Warthog videos when halo came out, we expect people to be uploading videos of them doing ridiculous stunts in Crackdown.
Do you have any other challenges for Crackdown players to take on?
In terms of challenges for the community, I’d be impressed if anyone can complete the game from start to finish in Psychotic difficulty level. It is possible, and everyone at Realtime Worlds seems to have done it, but it is a real challenge and it definitely changes the way you play the game so it’s quite a unique experience in itself. Another challenge is to try and take on the toughest boss in the game – the Shai-Gen – as soon as you start. It is possible but you’ll have to fight up floor after floor of the skyscraper, you’ll need to have ninja skills, and you’ll need to level-up as you go! One last challenge is for people who are still playing the demo: The skill-leveling is turned up in the demo, so I know it’s possible to get a four-star Agent before the demo times out. I’ll be well impressed if everyone manages to do that.
We’ve heard that there are only 900 GamerPoints available in the final game – what’s happened to the other 100?
Yeah, we’ve held back on the GamerPoints a little, we’ve only given out 900 with the main game. The other 100 are reserved for downloadable content. We’re working on that right now and we’ve got some fantastic ideas about how we’d like to augment the game and add new modes. I’d like to talk more about that now, but I can’t! How will the other 100 points be unlocked? We’re working on ways to distribute them evenly through the DLC, but we haven’t finalised that yet.
Will that DLC contain new maps, new characters, maybe female characters?
I’m on strict instructions not to say anything other then the DLC is definitely coming! I wish I could say more, but you’ll have to keep your eyes on CrackdownOnCrime.com for more info!
So what’s in the future for Realtime Worlds? Crackdown 2? Or a whole new game?
Well, it’s been a real hard slog making Crackdown. We’ve loved it, but it’s been very hard work. Still, it makes it all the sweeter that we’re so proud of the game we’ve created and we definitely don’t want to leave the Crackdown universe. We’re going to enjoy making the DLC in the meantime but in the future this team is definitely keen on a sequel and that would make perfect sense. As for Realtime Worlds in general, we’ve already announced APTB which is a massively multiplayer game we’re developing with Webzen. There are also lots of other projects we’ll be announcing soon, but the Crackdown team really wants to get out there and make more of this gameworld we’ve created.
Thank you for your time Phil