RE The original game, Mafi a: The City of Lost Heaven was very well received by both critics and gamers alike. Is there anything you’ve specifi cally tried to improve on or change drastically? Or are you sticking to a winning formula?
DG At its core, Mafia II has the same core values that made the fi rst game so great. The epic cinematic gangster experiences are the centrepiece of the game much like it was in Mafi a 1. When you start to really look at each component of Mafia II you will find that we’ve reworked and fi ne-tuned a lot in the game – the gunplay, driving, melee, setting, etc. We know we need to deliver a gaming experience that performs to the expectations and quality level of today’s video games, and a lot has changed since the original Mafi a was released.
RE The Mafia/gangster genre is one that has been countlessly imagined and referenced in multiple mediums. How do you see the game’s relationship to the genre? Is it meant to sit comfortably amongst other canonical works, pay homage, or stand out on its own?
DG While you may be able to draw some comparisons to other games, we think that Mafi a II offers a unique experience that is not offered by many others, if not any other title.The Mafi a, as a subject matter, is a pretty underexplored subject in video games when you compare it to the countless fi lms, television series and books that are available. There really only have been Mafi a and Godfather. That being said, the unabiding focus on cinematic storytelling within an open world has not been seen to the level of quality that exists in Mafi a II. This combined with the high quality of all the game’s core mechanics makes Mafi a II really stand out from the crowd.
RE Considering this, how important did you see the idea of accuracy and authenticity to the period/genre during Mafi a II’s development?
DG It’s a good question and the answer is that it was very important to the team. Our period setting is important in creating an immersive and believable story. However, we didn’t want to let it become a millstone to the development team. Our quest for authenticity couldn’t affect our ability to deliver a fun, quality game. The team did a lot of research to ensure things were period authentic and that the ‘40s and ‘50s vibe always remained constant at all points of the game. That said, if there was something cool that was slightly outside the period we bent the rules just a bit to add it, again providing it fi t the vibe of the experience we were trying to achieve.
RE Interestingly, the game’s cutscenes are said to be created by the game engine itself rather than being pre-rendered. Is this intended to create a more immersive experience?
DG That is correct. Our engine displays the cutscenes at run-time. The Illusion Engine is something the team has built from the ground up, and streaming cutscenes and a large open world is something we knew we wanted to bring to gamers. One of the coolest functions of the engine is that it allows us to dynamically change different aspects within these great looking cutscenes depending on what the player does in the game, whether it is the player’s clothes or the car that is being driven at the time. These unique choices will all be refl ected within that cutscene, which of course helps the player feel closer to the story experience.
RE The original was noted for a strict adherence to realism in terms of physics and damage, but also temporal constraints. What do you think of the role that realism or a lack thereof plays in gaming?
DG I really think it’s important that developers fi nd the right balance. As much as it’s great to have a perfect simulation, sometimes real life is just not that much fun. Imagine playing a game where I’d have to regularly take my character to the bathroom or otherwise he would pee his pants… I can do without that sort of realism, personally. Joking aside and speaking specifi cally about Mafi a II, the driving is a great example of where we applied this thought process of fi nding the right balance. Mafi a 1 had a truly great and realistic driving model and, in listening to people who played the game, it was something that really divided many people; they either loved it or hated it. This time around we actually decided to support both types for the player. We have a simulation mode for those people that want a more realistic driving experience and we have a more arcadebased mode that fans of other games will probably be more familiar with. As a developer you have to be careful; some elements of a game perfectly suit realism, some things not so much.
RE What role has Nvidia’s PhysX engine had in the creation of Mafi a II’s realistic effects?
DG Nvidia’s PhysX plays a large role in Mafi a II on all three platforms of the game. Lots of different systems and elements of the game utilise it and the best thing for us from a development perspective is that it’s a scalable system, allowing us to ramp things up on the more powerful platforms. From a game design/directorial perspective we wanted the player to get involved in a gun fight and have the experience be very visceral and intense; things like seeing the wood and concrete splinter off into small pieces as they are being hit with bullets or having the tyres get punctured in car chases and having glass shatter as objects hit it. All of these things couldn’t have been done without PhysX.
RE In terms of story and plot, are there any links between Mafi a II and the original?
DG Not really. The game takes place 15 years after the fi rst game, and if you remember everyone either was killed or went to jail, so there’s not a lot there to go back to. We do have some subtle nods to the fi rst story that I am sure the fans will love when they come across them.
RE The total game map area is said to be 10 square miles. What is the importance of giving players a large environment to explore and roam around?
DG What’s important is that the player feels that the world/environment is big enough to contain the story and the immersion of the experience. If the player is continually feeling like they are hitting the edge of the world, then exploration, quite quickly, is going to translate into boredom.
RE Considering the popularity of the sandboxstyle game in recent years, how does Mafi a II distinguish itself from others?
DG The game has very little in the way of sandbox elements; these were not important or necessary to deliver in the primary gaming experience. We are fi rmly focused on creating a cinematic experience that places the gamer in the centre of an epic Martin Scorsese-type tale, which we think is very appealing.
RE How do you go about creating the right balance between in-depth storytelling and player-controlled action?
DG We embraced creating a linear experience for the game to be honest; we felt that doing so allows us to have a much tighter control of different elements within the game. Things such as the story’s pacing, characters, mood and atmosphere create a much more dramatic and overall more profound narrative experience.