The producer of Crackdown, Phil Wilson, has been questioned about the game and Realtime Worlds’ future projects by Graeme Boyd of the Xbox Community Network. A big thanks to the Xbox Community Network and Graeme for supplying us with this insiders Q&A.
XCN: 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?
Phil Wilson: 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.
XCN: Do you think people are looking for just another GTA in a new city?
Phil Wilson: 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.
XCN: How do you feel about the Halo 3 Beta being attached to Crackdown?
Phil Wilson: 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.
XCN: Did you worry that the Halo 3 Beta will draw attention away from Crackdown?
Phil Wilson: 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.
XCN: Why is Crackdown different to other Xbox 360 games of its type, like Saints Row and The Godfather?
Phil Wilson: 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 the 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.
XCN: Why are there no controllable female characters in Crackdown?
Phil Wilson: 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…
XCN: How does the ‘jump in’ co-op multiplayer actually work?
Phil Wilson: 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.
XCN: What are some of the cool things you’ve seen people doing in co-op?
Phil Wilson: 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.
XCN: Do you have any plans to increase the number of players in co-op or introduce a competitive Xbox Live mode?
Phil Wilson: 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.