WP: Who has the honor to speak with us? State your name, rank, and occupation!
I'm Hunter Smith, the executive producer on The Godfather II.
WP: When going online with The Godfather II, you have it highly integrated with the single-player in terms of characters in your family. Why not just make it a separate mode? What prompted you to have it so that you could move money and characters back and forth?
HS: One of the things we really wanted to do is think about the heart of our IP, which is about being in the world of organized crime. The focus in the single-player experience is about how you, as a Don in the organized crime world, bring people into your organized crime family. Then we thought about what we wanted to do in multiplayer, and we really wanted to figure out how to do something that is unique, takes advantage of our organized crime world, and allows us to, for you as a player, to leverage what you did in the single-player mode to build up these guys, and take them online in multiplayer and play as each one of them. It became important to us as players that the modes felt like they were connected. It doesn't have to be that relevant, it's not a burden to you as a player, it's an advantage to be able to play both single-player and multiplayer, both from the perspective that the money and honors that I win over here affect my single-player game, and the things that I do in single-player can enhance my multiplayer game. That's really the idea because we know a lot of people are fans of both. If you're fans of both, we thought of how you could take advantage of that, leverage the opportunities of playing the modes that feel really different and unique, that is going to build off the same core gameplay functionality, but allow you to play against other humans, which really is what becomes different about playing single-player versus multiplayer.
WP: What about balance issues? If you can spend all this time in single-player buffing up your characters and then go online, how do you make sure that it stays fun for the person who just bought the game and wants to try it out online, that he's not just getting owned by the hardcore players?
HS: We have levels so you can set up matches, and matches will have certain levels of people who will play inside of it. You could say soldiers only, no underbosses or capos, who are basically going to be guys who've spent a lot more time with the game, so you can set up newbie-oriented matches if that's what you and your friends want to play, or you could also play just private matches or public matches.
WP: Let's talk briefly about the different game types. There are four different game types in online multiplayer, one of which is deathmatch, but there are three that are specific to The Godfather II. Can you run through those really quickly?
HS: The three modes that are in multiplayer are Firestarter, Safecracker and Demolitions. The idea behind each one of them, really, is to take the kind of modes that we are all familiar with and we know that play well. One of our core conceits was, we're going to go to the multiplayer space, focus on what's interesting about organized crime, but also focus on ideas that we know people like. One of the things that we see a lot in games right now is that people will come out with 15 new modes and 12 new maps, and we also know that it's really hard to do any of those things right, so we focused our time on saying, "Let's take our special abilities that are oriented around our crew members, play them online, and let's get a couple of modes that we think will be pretty easy to understand, that have both offensive and defensive scoring opportunities around them, and kind of organically change to play as an individual or play as a team.
The first mode is Firestarter, and the idea is that you're an arsonist and can score points by putting things on fire. The scoring opportunities are located in different spots throughout the map, and each of the bigger scoring opportunities are more vulnerable, so the team play experience really makes a difference in how you play that. Some of them are only accessible if you have more than one specialty, so if it's behind a fence and only the Engineer ability can cut through that fence, you either need to play with a teammate who's got that Engineer ability or you need to take one of your more advanced guys online, who has multiple abilities.
As you score in that mode, you get a multiplier, so each time you score as a firestarter, your multiplier will increase. You'll actually see flames around your feet as you're running through the world, and what happens is organically, the guys on your team see you as having an 8x or 10x multiplier, you're playing as a team to win, so you try to get the most amount of points as quickly as possible. So you start to play defensively and protect that guy. The other team sees that the guy has a big flame around him; they know that if he scores quickly, he's going to get a 10x multiplier, so they go after him. Organically, in the middle of the game, even if you're not using VoIP and talking to each other, you're all going to start playing differently and start playing like a team. We tried to put that in each of the modes.
Safecracker mode is really about finding safes and basically taking them, turning them in each direction. As you turn them the longer you own them, the more time they'll be spitting out money or points for your team, so again, they're located throughout the map and again, in that map, all of the other specialties have value because things are hidden behind different locations in the map.
The Demolitions mode has the same kind of core concept. As you go and take over a demo opportunity, it's the more team-oriented and strategic of the two, so once you take over one of those demo spots, the next one opens up so it really kind of moves you as a team throughout the map as you play.
WP: Speaking of specialties, in games like Team Fortress, it's very visible what character is what specialty. With The Godfather II, anyone can have any one specialty or multiple specialties. Is there any way to differentiate that online, or do you rely entirely on player communication?
HS: We rely on player communication about whether that guy has that ability. When we're playing in single-player, you can see your own guy's in your direct crew, you can see the specialties on them. In multiplayer, we don't show that on there.
WP: Are the multiplayer maps based on anything in the single-player mode, or are they exclusive to multiplayer?
HS: Some of the concepts are built off of places that we had in the single-player world, but they're basically all customized directly for multiplayer. We have some warehouse opportunities and that's one of the places, but we've taken that idea and really built it out to try and make a map out of it because multiplayer arenas are designed for equal balance with two different sides of the team playing and that all the modes can be played in each of those locations, so they're really completely designed for the multiplayer experience.
WP: Any clan support or anything of that nature?
HS: Not at this time, though there are friends lists and that kind of concept. We have been talking about how we'd buff that out further over time.
WP: It seems like that would be perfect for something like The Godfather II.
HS: Absolutely. It's been one of the key ideas — you can play with your friends, and how do we add that next layer? — and that's one of the things that we're thinking about as we continue to progress.
WP: Is there anything about the game or the multiplayer that we haven't talked about that you wanted to add?
HS: I really think that the heart of it is that we focused on the idea of taking your family online and the organized crime ability or that whole concept, taking the specialties and playing each one of the specialties, and bringing that advantage from multiplayer back to single-player and then the progress that you make in single-player enhancing your effects in the multiplayer experience. That's really the thing that differentiates us from the other multiplayer games out there.
Developed at the EA Redwood Stores studio, The Godfather II will be coming to the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC in February 2009.
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