FutureFive NZ - Interview: Sunset Overdrive Developer Marcus Smith

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Interview: Sunset Overdrive Developer Marcus Smith

Game Console's Damian Seeto had an opportunity to speak with Marcus Smith who is the Creative Director for Insomniac Games' Sunset Overdrive.

Smith was in New Zealand this past weekend to promote Sunset Overdrive at Digital Nationz. Much like many other visitors, Smith loved the scenery of the country, although he sadly didn't have time to visit for too long. He did however have enough time to speak more about Sunset Overdrive and what it will offer gamers.

First of all, what made Sunset Overdrive Xbox One exclusive?

Insomniac Games is an independent studio, and we've never been owned by anyone. Even though we've worked with Sony exclusively. Ted Price (the owner) said we need to think pragmatically on how to make it in this world. A lot of other small developers have been gobbled up by other companies or gone out of business. For us it was a feeling of diversifying and kind of see what it was like working with other partners. We had an opportunity to work with Microsoft and it was a good business decision. We still work with Sony though as we are currently working on a new Ratchet game, while Fuse was a game we did with EA. It just made sense from a business standpoint to keep the doors open.

In terms of Sunset Overdrive, how did you do things differently compared to your previous games?

The big thing that makes it different is that we are in the era of the 3rd person shooter with a cover mechanic. Gears of War did it tremendously as it was a great experience. For us it was how to break away from the cover mechanic and move to a sort of "Tony Hawk with guns". The Tony Hawk games were all about finding the space within the world to interact with. We built a game that is like "anime-parkour". You can run on walls forever and run around corners. Doing combat this way made it crazy and super fun. It's pretty much the DNA of Ratchet. Ratchet never took itself too seriously, but still had a lot of opportunity for people to get better at it. Even though it's a kid's game, it brought a lot of us to Insomniac Games. Sunset Overdrive is a game Insomniac Games is born to make as it doesn't take itself too seriously.

How important was it for Insomniac Games to allow players to create their own characters?

Super important. From day one, we knew we were going to have a multiplayer component and the last thing we wanted to do is make the game about a certain character. If we had a multiplayer where everyone is playing as Nathan Drake or Master Chief, that'll be weird so we allowed people to be their own character. Being who you want to be is a huge thing that we wanted to have. We just wanted people to dress the way they wanted to dress.


Can you explain more about the wacky weapons we will see in the game?

Insomniac is known for unique weaponry and Sunset Overdrive is no exception. A lot of people bring interesting ideas to the table. The TN-Teddy is one we've shown a lot which is a teddy bear strapped in dynamite. High-fidelity is a weapon that shoots out records. We've also got one of my favourites which is the Acid-Sprinkler. It's your usual lawn sprinkler, but it shoots out acid. When enemies are near, you can poison them. There is a lot of strategic use of weapons in the game. We have mutants, robots and humans as different enemy factions, and each weapon has different effects for each one.

You already mentioned Tony Hawk style of gameplay, can you add more to that?

We said at the beginning that this game is just going to be all about fun. Video games are fun as you cannot do things you can do in real life. We had this mantra in the office that "fun trumps realism". Whenever someone said you cannot run on walls, we just said "so what?".

I think you already answered my next question which is how you guys are trying to be different with unique gameplay and bright artwork...

Well, I'll add to that with the bright artwork. We wanted to create a world that brings people in that's vibrant and exciting. Sega games from the late '90s such as Crazy Taxi and Jet Set Radio, were super fun because they didn't have a dark and depressing environment.

Sunset Overdrive Explosion

Is their any type of co-op or multiplayer?

We have a co-op experience called "Chaos Squad". It's eight players which players have different objectives that they have to do. You might have to go out and clean a factory or something like that. After that, players will have to vote what they want to do as their next activity. At the end of all the objectives, you go on to do "Night Defense". This is where you defend your home base from the mutant hordes. Depending on which objectives you've selected, it'll be either harder with big rewards, or easier but little reward.

What made you decide to make Sunset Overdrive a third-person game over first-person?

It's really about the fact that this game is all about interacting with the environment. You have to know where the player is. Spacial awareness on a third-person level cannot be beat because you know where the character's feet are and etc. The Tony Hawk inspiration also helped make this game third-person. It's not like our Resistance games which were first-person as you had a limited view. Sunset Overdrive had to be third-person as you are doing more things that just shooting all of the time.

Lastly, what makes your game fun and why should people play it?

I think the attitude of the game is fun as it doesn't take itself too seriously and it's also upbeat. I loved The Last of Us, but there were times I would go home but I couldn't play it as it was too dark and sad. Sunset Overdrive is not like this as you can come home from work and just play it and just be happy having fun.

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