Interview: Mafia II producer Denby Grace

Three delays later, Mafia II looks like it's finally (finally!) getting ready to launch. It's been a long journey, and we spoke with 2K senior producer Denby Grace during GDC about the development time and what we can expect from the ambitious crime saga:

We've been waiting a very long time for this game haven't we?

Denby Grace, senior producer: The reason for the delay is polish. You'll see the game looks great as you play today. It's just not quite perfect, which is what we at 2K generally strive for. It's what we want to be known for, the quality of our games. Just having come so long, it would be foolish to release it too early.

Are there any specific reasons for the delay? What needed to be polished?

Technically there are a few things: the framerate isn't quite on the money yet. It's just the whole experience. One of the things we're spending a lot of time doing is focus testing. We're testing about twenty people a week. And it's getting that difficulty curve right. We want it to be hard, but we don't want it to be impossible like Mafia I. I don't know if you played the first game, but there was one mission when we shipped the game. Literally everyone failed until we released a patch. So we're really, really conscious about delivering a really balanced, proper difficulty curve. And then it's just bugs. It's an open world: ten square miles, fifty vehicles, a hundred environments. There were quite a lot of bugs in it!
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It's true that the city is very large, but it also changes over time, correct? That must pose some challenges.

Not content with making one city, we've made two cities. You progress through the '40s and the '50s. We have a '40s city, which is a very snowy, bleak backdrop, which we've shown off before at E3 last year. And then you progress through the '50s and the feel is very different. Some different buildings have opened, some different shops have opened. The big thing is, though, the game is set across three seasons. We use the seasons, we use the weather, we use the time of day, we use all these things to paint a really elaborate mood for everything we do.

Considering there's a huge city, with a lot of voice acting, were there any concerns you might not be able to fit the entire game on a single DVD?

There were at one time. We've resolved those issues now. Not to go into too many details, because it's not very interesting, but we had to split out languages. We're doing full localization for every language, which is pretty unheard for an open-world game, but it's something we're committed to because we have such a huge following in Europe. So we've had to do that, but the English fits fine. It's one disc. The experience is fifteen hours, so it's not too bad. But the scope is pretty huge, the script's like 600 pages; 160,000 words; 300 speaking characters. It's huge, but it fits on a disc.

The GDC demo hints at conflicts with rival gangs. Is controlling territory a large part of the gameplay, and is there an overarching "meta-game" for owning turf?

There's no meta-game, so to speak, but there are gangs in the city that control territory. Obviously, you'll use Little Italy as your local territory. If you get some grief in your territory, the native Italians will come and support you in your efforts. There's Irish gangs, Chinese gangs, and stuff like that. These gang areas are interwoven into the story, so you experience them through the story. But at the same time, if you go off course, there's civilians amongst those gangsters, and you'll get to know them as you play through the game. If you mess with a gangster, his mates will join in and mess with you back. But through the story, you'll experience these things as well.


Is the gameplay going to be tweaked any further? Specifically, we found it interesting that there's no cover-to-cover movement in the demo we played.

There's no cover to cover movement and that's not going to be coming. That's a reality. We had it, and we cut it. It just wasn't super useful. You can get in cover, and you can move around a corner for cover. But what we wanted was a really fluid experience. The moment you have special conditions at the edges of cover, then it becomes kind of complex. I'm a big fan of Gears of War and Uncharted and these kinds of games, and hey I love their cover system and I'm not going to start ragging at them at all. But sometimes we'd find that you could get stuck in cover, and we wanted the A button to always be the same control, no matter where you are in the cover.

Everything is still open to be worked on, you know. That's the reality. There's still a few bugs when you pop up at the end of corners, stuff like that. As for cover to cover movement, we're not going to implement that.

We only got to see a very small amount of police confrontation in the demo. How far does it escalate? What are some successful strategies for eluding the coppers?


If you go into an arrest status, that might trigger two or three cops to chase you. "Shoot to kill" status will go up to four, fix, six. When you're getting towards the end, the police are using tommy guns, leaning out of their vehicles to try and shoot you, there are stingers across roads, roadblocks across bridges, that sort of stuff is what you can expect. Obviously, there are no helicopters and stuff like that.

The system is based on line of sight. You have an immediate chase, but if you duck out of sight the cop doesn't know where you are and you lose your wanted status. But if the cop sees you at a close proximity, then he's going to fictionally radio in what you look like. So at that point, you're wanted by the entire force of Empire Bay, whether they see you or not. If you stay out of sight, then they're not going to be immediately chasing you. But if you come back into sight, then they're going to know what you look like and they're going to chase you. At that point, you'll have to change your clothes, or cleanse your car. There's different ways you can do that: you can change the license plate of your car, respray it, that sort of stuff.

A good strategy to use is -- if the cops are in cars, their cars are often faster than yours, especially in the '40s. One of the best things you can do is stop your car, jump out, and go jump over fences, stuff like that. They're not so hot on foot.

All those doughnuts get in the way, huh?

Haha,
yes, I've talked about that a few years ago. The "fat cop" thing.

Finally, we've seen the single-player game. Are there any plans to incorporate multiplayer?

There are no plans that we are speaking of at this moment.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.