Why did you decide to settle on the good and evil dichotomy -- or rather, why did you decide to make it a superhero/supervillain game as opposed to just a superhero game?
Well, the high-minded reason is that if were trying to make you feel like a superhero, part of that is that, in my mind, taking the narrow path - doing the thing that's harder because you think of it as the right thing to do, and so unless we gave you a choice where it was easier to not be good, you would never feel like you were being a selfless hero. If the game just forced you into this thing, you know like, save these people, the game designer was making you do something and you didn't get to own the experience.
"I think that's when you feel like you're a superhero. The judicious use of power."
It's pretty cool to watch players when they first get superpowers in the game, and the first choice we asked is like, "do you want to give the food that these starving people need for them or take it for yourself?" And most people are playing as a good person, and they say "okay, I'm going to give it all away." And then, like a minute later, some people hate you and they try to stone you to death for what you see on the Jumbotron because there is evidence linking you to this explosion, and when the population start to stone the hero, players go crazy, and they start attacking people with lightning, and they murder them all.
So, when there's this big ham-fisted choice good or evil they say, "I'm going to be good." Then when crap hits the fan, they actually use their superpowers to blast people; they don't run away and do the high-minded thing. So, it's really - I don't know if that's super germane. But, what's interesting is that its actually the real moment when if you had superpowers, what would you do with them? These people if they had superpowers like they do in our game, they'd blast people who attacked them.
I did the same thing.
Yeah, we all do. It's a video game -- you're conditioned to, right? Oh, somebody's attacking me but that's really the karma of the game playing out. It's not the big ham-fisted decisions, it's the second-to-second gameplay of "oh, maybe I won't throw this grenade because it'll blow up three civilians, even though it will take out the enemy". That kind of high-minded sort of Batman-like sensibility of trying to protect people. I think that's when you feel like you're a superhero. The judicious use of power.
You seemed like you were taking caution about giving Cole too much of a set superhero identity. I wouldn't call what he wore a superhero costume. He never received a formal alter-ego. Was there a decision going into that?
Yeah, there was. We wanted to make it a story about an everyday guy like you or me – I mean if suddenly Griffin, you got powers, you could turn invisible, would you go out and get a cape and a giant belt buckle for real?
Probably not. Well, I'd be invisible...people wouldn't be able to see me anyway.
You wouldn't. That's a good point; that's an excellent point. [laughs]
It just seemed kind of unreasonable that that's what he would do and so we just had him wear what he wore before the blast. And granted, it's a pretty cool outfit but...
What's he got in that bag?
Well, what he's got in that bag is his identity before as a bike courier before the blast. There's this kind of subtle theme – I don't know how well it worked or didn't work – but he's this guy, he's getting a little older, right? He's 27 and he's still a bike courier and it used to be really cool that he was counter-culture when he was younger but now it's getting a little bit long in the tooth and his friends are moving on a bit.
So this game is kind of him living up to his potential, which, if you listen to a lot of the backstory stuff, he had not been doing before the blast. So that bag is sort of his identity as this courier dude who – do you know any bike couriers?
I don't have a lot of bike couriers where I'm from.
Well bike couriers are really cool. They break the law. They don't ride where they are supposed to, they have their own kind of fashion. They walk into these corporate towers wearing their outfits and they go into the elevators into the most secure area in the entire area. We kind of accept them, but they are totally counterculture.
You know what he should have kept in that backpack?
What should he have kept?
Yeah, I think what he should have held in his backpack are water balloons. So if somebody is giving him a hard time he just throws a water balloon at them, and then he can shock them and everyone around them more efficiently.
Were there any sort of advancements in hardware or in sort of game play conventions in other games during that three and a half year period that you guys noticed and had to include in your game?
You'd be surprised. Not really. When we started the game, I think we were - This is the total insider tip and you can yell at me if I'm going off the rails a little bit. But when we started the game, we had a lot more kind of social interaction with the pedestrians, because we had all played the Sims, and the Sims were the thing that was taking the gaming world by storm, that kind of organic life simulation.
Stuff like in Fable 2?
Yeah, but the Sims was the one that made us think "oh, this is where all games are going". And we did some experimenting with it, and it didn't really make you feel like you were a super-hero, so we ultimately got rid of it, but we spent a long time experimenting with that stuff. Probably like a year. And really, none of it is in the game at all.
"We certainly are pretty ruthless. If it's not fun, we just kill it."
Did it just become too much of a time sink, or did it just not feel right?
We had a demo where somebody might be crying or whatever, and you could go near them and you could tell them jokes to make them feel better. Like using social interaction, not just punching and kicking to express yourself in the world. And it felt like this really gamey way to be social. We did have one where somebody would look at you kind of amorously, and if you impressed them enough, you could make out with them in the street. Which I was all about because I'm like, if you're a hero and you can't get the girl, what is the point?
You're such a small studio -- is it not kind of tough to make those kinds of huge cut and run decisions to ditch something you've been working on for a year? Is that kind of an intimidating thing to do?
It is, but my personal logo is "fifth time's the charm" which is to say you have to try it and kill it, try it and kill it, try it and kill it and now we're at the fifth time, and every time you killed it, you'd have that little thing that you learned to make the system better, stronger.
You are constantly evolving the system into something that is very beautiful and fun. But through iteration, through play-testing, through not being afraid to aim higher, you'd get the game stronger. So we have a lot of tools to make prototypes very quickly, a lot of support for people taking chance. We certainly are pretty ruthless. If it's not fun we just kill it.
And ultimately that gives players a better game right? Because you're not dealing with features that are kind of OK, but kind of not. We only give people good things.
I know you guys aren't working on whatever it is that you're doing next...
Yeah, we're hard at work at nothing.
Which, after three and a half years, you deserve it.
Actually I'm not even joking. A large amount of our studio is on vacation. It is weird. It's a ghost town at Sucker Punch right now.
How do you feel about the reaction to the game?
You know, this is a little weird but E3 has been my first interaction with people who have played the game that are kind of gamers, right? I'll wear an Infamous shirt and I'll walk to the show and people will say, "Hey man, Infamous – that game is cool." They don't know that I've worked on the game, I just have a T-shirt that says the name of the game and they want to talk to me about it.
And that feels fantastic because it's something that people enjoy enough to want to talk to some random dude about it on the subway in LA. So it feels pretty good, I've got to tell you.
That's all I have!
Yeah, well thanks for taking the time to talk to us. That was nice of you.