Click: Hi Peter, thanks for the opportunity for this chat… so a couple of brief questions to start with; why a new Crackdown and why a new development house?
PC: Why a new Crackdown? Because it’s a great game! The consumers loved it and I think that’s the core. The feedback from Live is that we have to offer games like Crackdown that are particularly Live focussed, and I think we did a great job of it! Have you played the original?
PC: Did you like it?
Click: Loved it! It’s a real office favourite – a nice fresh take on the sandbox genre.
PC: There you go then; you’re answering your own question really. Wouldn’t you like to have more of that?
Click: Why not more DLC instead?
PC: DLC has its own saturation level. People want bang for buck; they want value for their money and new features, you know? We have listened to people very intently into what they loved and what they didn’t like about Crackdown. We want to try and help clear up some of the things that they didn’t like and then preserve what they did; so we still have the verticality, we've still got the 3D platform, and we’ve still got the gorgeous cityscape.
We’ve upped the visual fidelity - upped the fidelity in the game as a whole – and we have given you 4 player cooperative mode which is double the trouble, twice the fun! Then there’s the 16 Player competitive mode… there’s nothing else like it. There is not another example of a multi-player game like Crackdown 2. Crackdown is Crackdown.
Click: You recently Tweeted a rather curt response to a magazine’s claims that Crackdown 2 looked like inFamous with multi-player, saying explicitly that it’s its own game, and looking at the early code you’ve got running here, we can certainly see that that’s the case. It’s really pushing the 360 quite hard isn’t it?
PC: Very hard! So, I mean, I wasn’t being curt, the thing about Twitter is that you’ve only got 146 characters so it’s hard to respond to an issue like that. What I was trying to say is that it’s its own game – we’re not copying anyone. We’re going to have our own multi-player session that’s completely different to anything else because it’s Crackdown. That’s all I was saying.
Click: You have created a strong environment and a strong storyline for your city, and for us it would be foolish not to develop it further, and obviously Crackdown was a financial success… but the change of development house, was it just timing with regards to...
PC: To Realtime and Ruffian? Yeah, unfortunately by the time we came around to getting everything lined up for such a big endeavour, like a triple A game, Realtime had moved on to other pastures so to speak. They were working hard on APB. I love what they are doing there… they’re a great company and I look forward to playing that game. The business stars wouldn’t align really at the time to get it going.
So when it came to it Ruffian were there, and they are the right partner for us; a lot of them had worked on the original game so it was the right fit… the right guys are making the sequel.
Click: We touched on the 4 player Co-Op, and how you feel it’s going to stand out, that it’s not going to be like any other game. Something that set the original aside, and really intrigued me personally, was the strong musical content with the involvement of really amazing electronic artists like Amon Tobin. Know I know you're a drummer and a musician......
PC: The drummer follows musicians around! (laughs)
Click: Will you be taking a new musical direction? I understand there has been a bit of development around that side of things.
PC: I think that last time around we had great artists as you said, like Control Machete and things like that weren’t necessarily known at the time. I think this time around we will be offering a lot of that kind of experience, but we’re also going to have something that I want to do an exposé on at another time because we are in the mix right now.
It’s just different; it’s taking something that’s very modern and applying it over – layering it over – a gaming experience. One of the problems we had last time with the great sound track was that a lot of people didn’t get to experience it enough of it; so we want to use it to set mood for different emotional experiences this time around. I think that the way we are doing the music – the way we are patching it up – is a little different to the norm, allowing it to be more atmospheric and more immersive.
Click: That’s something that’s definitely needed – you need to lose yourself within the game…
PC: Exactly. This is a good conversation to have about losing yourself, getting into the zone with a game. A lot of people want photo realism, I look at Crackdown and I think it’s very unique. It’s got its own style, very colourful palette. Outlining looks really great. It doesn’t do itself justice in the still frames but when it’s moving it’s an awesome place to live in.
Click: In terms of on-screen goings on, it looks a hell of a lot busier than the previous game. What sort of numbers are we looking at?
PC: At night there can be thousands of people on the streets!
Click: The AI looks to have gotten a once over too; the characters all look to be far more reactionary towards their surroundings this time around…
PC: Yes, definitely! (Points to monitor to give real-time commentary) You’ll see the aggressive response kick in now because he is shooting at everyone in view, so pretty soon he is going to get targeted by a bunch of angry people. So yeah has the AI improved? Absolutely! Everything we do is focused on the tenant that the gameplay comes first.
We got criticised last time around, during the development of the game everyone was asking 'why doesn’t is look more real?' and we stick to the tenant that the gameplay comes first and everything else takes second place after that.
Click: Surely a game like this doesn’t need to look “real”, after all… how real can superheroes be?
PC: That’s exactly it! That’s what we used to say to people. Why do they want it to look real when you’re jumping around the city from 15 stories up? But they did, and we held onto our own style and our own ideas. If you look at Crackdown and take a screen shot of Crackdown 2 now and compare them, you’ll see that it’s all running at a much higher fidelity, and it’s a much better looking game at higher resolution; but its still Crackdown.
Click: Things seem a little darker this time around, and coupled with the various factions and mutants, do you think you might lose some of the core audience from the original?
PC: I think its going to gain us more! We’re not going to interrupt your gaming experience by trying to deliver you the story; we’re going to create you a facility to explore that story if you want, via Story Orbs. We’ve also got additional stories that can be fed to you if you want, via a live news ticker along the bottom of the screen, and news being broadcast on screens around the city.
So is the story darker this time? It’s a little bit darker but it’s the same world. If you followed the first game to the end the creatures were released and you can see them wandering around the tower; they‘ve now taken over the world. Yes it’s darker but honestly its still Crackdown.
Click: So what are you looking at in terms of a release date?
PC: Well there was a miscommunication from an agency or two in the States that wasn’t sanctioned suggesting a release date of May 2010, but that’s nowhere near accurate. You’ll definitely be playing it in 2010 but not May. There’ll be a demo first, with multi-player included, and then pretty soon after that you’ll get the game.
Click: The demo played a huge part in the game’s success last time around, why do you think this was?
PC: I think it’s fair to say the demo was very important to us because we knew that we had a great game, and we wanted to people to find that out for themselves. It was very difficult to give people the full feel of the 12 - 20 hour experience in the space of the demo, so accelerated levelling is something that we did very well. We showed off what the game was capable of in that demo and people loved it. You’ll get the same thing this time around, plus the multi-player aspect too.
Click: In terms of DLC, there were plenty of options available for Crackdown owners; ranging from free to paid content. Personally, I thought that the DLC was a little hit and miss, and I’m of the opinion that unless DLC offers something drastic or new functionality then they are just a method of up-selling to customers. What are your opinions on that?
PC: I’ll have to respectfully disagree with you; I think we did a great job with our DLC. We offered people new ways to play and new game modes. So there are two ways of approaching DLC; content (like extra maps), and functionality like new game modes. The latter is, in my opinion, where DLC really comes into its own. If it gives you a new way to play a game you already have, then it’s worth it. I think that we do that.
Last time we did a new thing – Free to Share – so if I have bought the DLC and you haven’t, we can use my DLC together. I think that’s a really good idea, the try before you buy scenario. I disagree that DLC is just an up sell, I think it allows you to get a much longer experience out of your game that you ordinarily would.
Click: You’re promising a very successful game, and judging from the early code we’ve seen today it looks set to deliver, but what’s be next for you after the game is completed?
PC: For me? I think there are a lot of legs in Crackdown, not necessarily in the format that it’s currently delivered in. I think working for Live publishing we want to work on magnetising people to Live through the different properties that we have like XBLA. I think for me the future is definitely around Live and providing content for the service.
Crackdown is very near and dear to my heart, so I can’t imagine leaving it behind any time soon… but the great thing is that with the extended team here, we’ve got a lot of great people who are well capable of continuing the series, so it’ll be in good hands whatever happens.