WP: Who has the honor to speak with us? State your name, rank, and occupation!
JG: Hello gents! I'm Jay Gordon, Producer at Aspyr Media in Austin, TX, where we publish and develop a wide variety of video games.
WP: Made Man was initially announced for U.S. release in early 2004 by Acclaim, who filed for bankruptcy and dissolved later that year. The game seemed to disappear, at least in the American press, until just recently, when it was announced that Aspyr would be publishing it in 2007. How did Acclaim's troubles affect development of Made Man, and how did the title end up at Aspyr?
JG: In speaking with our Publishing partners — Fund 4 Games (F4G) over in the UK — Made Man is the game that refused to die with Acclaim! The story of how the game was developed, rescued and then completed could fill a book, but the summary is that Made Man was being developed by one of Acclaim's internal teams based in Manchester, England. When the company became insolvent in 2004, the game nearly joined the long list of "great games that never were." However, the development team just would not let it die. They approached CEO Tim Gatland of F4G and, overwhelmed by their enthusiasm and energy, he decided to buy the rights to the partially completed game from the bankrupt company. After a few legal adventures and six months later, F4G ended up with a partially completed game and the core of a team to finish it. There were more than a few challenges to overcome, but the dedication of the team provided the "secret weapon" that compensated for these difficulties.
F4G decided that because they had the financial resources to fund the completion of the game, they would not adopt a conventional publishing route. Instead, they entered into a distribution deal with friends at Mastertronic in Europe, where the marketplace would be quite familiar to both parties. However, their collective knowledge of the North American market was pretty limited, so they pursued a conventional publishing arrangement here in the States — enter Aspyr Media! Tim and F4G were really pleased with the interest we showed in the title and our genuine enthusiasm for all things Mafia. We've all had a really good experience on this game, and both F4G and Aspyr very much look forward to collaborating again on future titles.
WP: How does Made Man differ from other organized crime games on the market? Is it an open-world game, or more of a structured, story-driven adventure?
JG: Made Man is definitely structured and story-driven, and therein lies the charm of this game. We follow Joey Verola through various episodes which chronologically — though often flashing back — document his path as he struggles to find a coveted cache of gold, settle an old score and ultimately prove worthy to become a Made Man. The story is so strong, the world so authentic and the lead character so compelling that Made Man need not rely on overblown gaming conventions. Many games in the genre reach for the lowest common denominator of over-the-top parody and the results can be a bit silly. Made Man does not seek to pacify the arcade flavor for "cartoonish" violence, and you have to remember that actual members of organized crime were consulted for the making of this title, and plots are based on real people and real events. This is the real thing adapted for the medium of video games, not a video game using organized crime as a license for gratuitous violence.
WP: Who is Joey Verola, and how does his story play out in the game?
JG: The narrative of the game, and Joey's life as it were, is told through the recollections of Joey himself as he drives around New York City with his inquisitive nephew. As he tells it, Joey was a neighborhood Italian kid from Brooklyn who went to Vietnam to serve his country. During combat, Joey saves the life of a fellow soldier, Jonny "Eggs" Biondo, who has connections back home with the Mafia. Upon return to the States, a very grateful "Eggs" introduces Joey to his uncle and local crime boss, Philly Lombardi. Taking a shine to Joey for saving his nephew, Philly offers Joey a few "jobs" to handle to make a few bucks. One thing leads to another, Joey realizes there's much more going on than just petty racketeering, and he quickly earns Philly's trust and becomes his number one soldier and hitman. If all goes well and Joey can stay alive carrying out Philly's directives, he just might be officially indoctrinated into the Mafia as a Made Man.
WP: Made Man tells a narrative that spans the 1960s to the 1980s, in environments such as New York and Vietnam. How does the game attempt to accurately portray these times and locations? Do the recurring characters age over the course of the game?
JG: Music is a powerful tool for conveying time and culture, and Made Man employs a variety of tracks to do just that. Whether crouching through the jungles of Vietnam to eerie psychedelic guitar riffs reminiscent of the late '60s, or shooting it out to Bachman Turner Overdrive during an arena rock concert in the '70s, music provides a constant but subtle reminder of age in Made Man. Needless to say, regional dialects unmistakably color the environments, be they rural North Carolina or Little Italy in Manhattan, and the respective clothing styles lend further credence to each time and place. And yes, as another subtle layer contributing to the fabric of time in Made Man, the discerning eye will notice changes to Joey's visage and hairstyle throughout the dynamic chronology.
WP: How many licensed music tracks will be featured in the game? Can you reveal any of them at this time? Will it be possible to add your own music to the game?
JG: There are five licensed tracks to accompany a variety of original and ambient sound: "An Eye For An Eye" – Unkle; "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" – Bachman Turner Overdrive; "Nowhere To Run" – Martha Reeves & the Vandellas; "Vernon Jackson" – The Brought Low; "Fu La Sorte dell'armi a' tuoi funesta" – Giuseppe Verdi from "Aida." It will not be possible to add music to the game, but you're welcome to play whatever you like in the background. Perhaps Sinatra would do nicely?
WP: What kind of insight did author David Fisher and former crime boss Bill Bonnano bring to the development of Made Man?
JG: This project was extremely lucky to have David Fisher on board. For more than two decades, David Fisher has been writing about an extraordinary variety of subjects, not the least of which covers his fascination with organized crime. The only reporter in history to be granted access to the famed FBI Crime Lab, David was supremely helpful providing storyline, character structure and a multitude of details regarding Mafia culture. Having interviewed actual hitmen in his day, David was able to truly inform the game's dialogue and spare gamers the trite and often ridiculous exaggerations usually seen with Mafia depictions. When you play Made Man and listen to Joey spin his tale, you're experiencing authenticity, and, from what we're told, allusions to actual people and events. As far as Mr. Bonnano goes, we could tell you, but we'd have to kill you. But seriously, David and Bill were key to making this game. Most other Mafia titles have been based on films, TV or books — so the game is an interpretation of the Mafia world that has already been re-interpreted in a different media. Made Man had the luxury of working with the real guys, the real characters (although we had to change the names!), the real places and real events. Some of the stories David and Bill tell are known to send shivers down the spine!
WP: How does the "Jump to Cover" mechanic work within the game?
JG: There is a special yellow reticule that appears on any surface where Joey can jump to and take cover from enemy fire. A cool, and very useful aspect of the mechanic is that you can jump to cover from a good distance away, thus simulating a realistic maneuver amidst a shootout. Some games require the player to literally contact a wall or object before crouching to safety, but Joey can take a running jump and dive-roll into a covered position as otherwise lethal bullets whistle overhead.
WP: Aspyr's press release for the game noted over 25 weapons; what are some of the weapons we can expect to see? When dual-wielding, can you mix weapons, or will it be two of the same weapon? What are some of your personal favorites?
JG: In Made Man, you can expect to wield automatic handguns, revolvers, shotguns, sub-machine guns, M-16 & AK-47 assault weapons, M-60s, sniper rifles, crowbars, baseball bats, grenades, pipe bombs ... and more. In order to simplify ammunition collection and clip count, the dual-wielding feature supports using two of the same weapons simultaneously. While dual-wielding depletes ammo stores faster, the damage meted out is quite lethal and satisfying to behold.
WP: Made Man was released in the UK a few months ago. Will there be any changes made to the gameplay or content before its American release?
JG: Nope, same game with just a few grammatical adjustments in screen text to "North Americanize" various terms.
WP: As a game that takes place within the world of organized crime, Made Man seems likely to contain extreme violence, strong language, and perhaps sexual content. In those respects, is Made Man any "worse" than other games on the market? Do you expect to encounter the kind of media uproar that has surrounded other controversial games in recent years?
JG: As you and our ESRB rating mention, Made Man contains violence and strong language inappropriate for Sunday dinner at Grandma's. There is one level containing very mild suggestion of sexual content, but nothing remotely graphic or visual, and thus far from the controversial episodes of past game releases — sorry to disappoint, no media uproar forthcoming. And, as gamers have varying tolerance/preference for violence and gore, it's hard to offer an objective opinion to rate those levels in the game. I'm happy to say the violence does not approach the "cartoonish" or overly gratuitous — once again, the David Fisher influence providing authenticity across the board.
WP: Made Man will be available for PS2 and PC only. Why is there no Xbox version? Was it ever planned?
JG: F4G developed an Xbox version as well; in fact, for a large part of development, it was the lead platform. However, after delays caused by demise of Acclaim, they just couldn't get the game out in time to make an Xbox release commercially viable. Quite simply, the cost of manufacturing reasonable amounts of Xbox stock could not be justified with no guarantees that retailers would continue to reserve shelf space for Xbox titles in 2007.
WP: Does Made Man have any sort of multiplayer support? If so, what types/modes, and if not, why not?
JG: Single-player only for now — it's Joey Verola's story, but it does leave a nice opening for Made Men, no?
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