Crackdown 2 - Interview with Jim Cope, Lead Producer
By Mike Baggley (05.31.10)
Along with our 'Crackdown 2 Hands On Impressions,' Extreme Gamer's Mike Baggley had a chance to sit down with the Lead Producer behind 'Crackdown 2,' Jim Cope. Here is the full transcript and audio recording of the interview.
Interview with Jim Cope, running time (12:08)
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MB: What was it like to put the team together to work on this game?
JC: Its basically a new team, but comprised of 50% of people that made the first game, so there was a lot of work to do there. It was really hard basically (laughs), and we are thankful for some good luck. We had a very a very difficult mission - make a game in a short space of time, and make a game as a follow up to something that's absolutely adored by a lot of people, and do it from nothing. It was almost mission impossible, so we’re glad we got to this day where we actually have a finished game, and its pretty good, and we managed to do it. If you asked me if I could point to one thing that we did particularly well, I wouldn’t be able to. I think it is just a combination of a great team that’s worked very hard and has been a bit lucky, and there’s lots of little bits and pieces like that, but it just all comes down to the fact that people worked very hard on it.
MB: Was there any development in process before Ruffian formed or was it square one right as soon as you guys got going?
JC: No, it was square one. Microsoft gave us the code, and we started working on it. It was that simple, once we got the go ahead and it was hit the ground running. A few guys who are very clever came from the first game and were able to do a lot of work in a short space of time, so again, because we had that experience from doing what we did on Crackdown they were able to just start where they left off basically. Even though there was a big gap in the middle, they were just like really eager and ready to go.
MB: Have you been able to put your own Ruffian touch on it?
JC: I think so. I wouldn’t say its Ruffian touch, but I think what's good for the players is what we believe in, and what they criticized about Crackdown was pretty much on par. We looked at the fans criticisms and our own criticisms and we said okay, let’s improve on this, let’s fix the stuff that people didn’t like and improve the stuff people did like and just make a better game. I don’t want to blow my own trumpet and I don’t want to speak about the game ahead of its release too much in terms of how good it is, but I think we’ve done that. I think we’ve made a game that's more well-rounded, more accessible, still is intensely Crackdown - it has that feel. I think people will like it and I’m proud of what we made.
MB: A big part of the first game, I’m a big RPG fan by the way, so leveling up skills and stuff like that is huge for me. Obviously I’ve seen from playing so far that its still in the game. Has the mechanic of it changed at all? Has it become a speedier process than before?
JC: We have made it a little bit speedier. One of the things that we found is that obviously people like being a super hero, so we’ve given them a taste of that a bit quicker. One of the problems was that some of the leveling up was unbalanced in Crackdown. The driving for example was very hard to do, so we’ve kind of brought that down a bit. By increasing enemies and stuff like that, its a bit easier. We’ve kind of just touched the balance of the early part of the game so that people get that addiction of what it feels like to level up. They get that a little bit sooner. You’ll get to level 2 agent a little bit quicker than you did before because that gets people addicted. Its that sampler, its that crack sampler (laughs). Its that crack sampler in Crackdown - I better not say that (laughs), Its about making sure that people engage with it quickly and then they know what its like, they now what they’re getting into, and they feel the benefit and from that point on its again that experience, its very simple, skills for kills, do this and get rewarded, have fun and become more powerful. Thats a really nice mechanic, so you don’t mess with that too much. There’s nothing to mess with.
MB: One of my favourite parts of game last time was being able to have the co-op experience. How does the various progression of people in a co-op game affect the game world. Is it based on whoever’s hosting the game?
JC: There is a concept of the host. The world and the mission state belong to the host. We have looked at the mechanics for that, but for now we’ve settled on that because people understand it and its easy to explain. Everything that people earn from a character point of view or progression point of view is theirs - its doesn’t matter where they’re playing. So if they’re playing in someone else's game they get skills, they earn that, that’s their player. There is a separation between what you do in a mission sense and a player sense. Its all about what world you play in, so if you’re playing in someone else’s game, you earn everything that can, achievements, skills, all those sorts of things. Everything is yours to keep forever, and thats where the player progression is. The world progression is something thats slightly different, its about progressing that game. Its works really well, you know, people understand it, and you earn everything that you do. Your character is a reflection of how you’ve played, forever, and always is, and thats whats good about it, thats whats rewarding, If you are a person that concentrates on agility, and your friend is a person that concentrates of firearms, then you have that touch, that characterization of how you’ve played in the game. It works to the overall game benefit because you play in different styles and coming together still works. Its just nice, its earned reward.
MB: Is there a system in place or an easy way to change who the host is?
JC: Its just based on invites, so its whoever starts the game and invites people in, or who join in progress.
MB: So if it was my game, we’d just quit and then my friend would start a new game and invite me?
JC: Yep. It should make sense. Its just a save game, so thats it really.
MB: I’ve been reading a little bit about the new vehicles that are going to incorporate 4 players. Are there any other new vehicles that we can expect, like motorcycles for instance?
JC: No, not motorcycles sadly, but I will say watch the space for DLC. We’re going to introduce some new things in that. The game itself obviously has a large variety of vehicles like buggies, trucks, SUVs, tanks, helicopters - really good fun things. The cell trucks are great - big armoured basically buses with turret mounted rocket launchers on the back. They’re great co-op vehicles. Its all about that kind of ‘Mad Max’ styling. Its kind of improvised weaponry, which is what the Cell are there for. There’s lots of variety in that respect, and really the Agency vehicles are all about adding gameplay variety and behavioral variety. You’ve got that go anywhere nature of the SUV, you’ve got the death from above nature of the helicopter. Its all very, kind of, pure. We don’t hold back with this. Its like, look, its a helicopter with rocket launchers. Just go and have fun! Hold down the fire button and just blow everything up. Thats the fun.
MB: Does the co-op also work as a lobby system? Can we just go right into multiplayer from a co-op game?
JC: We’ve kind of embraced the whole party system. If you’re in a co-op game you can transition into a multiplayer game. Thats all there, We think of Xbox live as an artery in the game, its always there. Its the social engagement aspect of the game. Its what brings people together. We’ve tried to make sure as best as we can to have that as seamless as possible. The join in progress is absolutely superb in Crackdown 2. In the original Crackdown it was really frustrating. There was massive loading time, everything had to restart. It just took a long time and it was annoying as hell. That was a really big objective for us, to make the join in progress and that transition system as painless as possible. Its so good actually that you can join someone else’s game without them noticing. It works well and its one of those things with we’re proud of. It might not be the biggest feature out there, you know, its not going to change how the game is, or how rewarding it can be, but its something that makes the process of enjoying the game a little bit more transparent. Its about trying not to interrupt the player, trying not to be too much of a pain and making it as easy as possible. Its just simple usability really.
MB: Other than taking down bosses and factions, what other sorts of trouble can we get ourselves into in Crackdown 2 when playing ourselves or with friends?
JC: The Freaks are a pretty nasty menace. They’re kind of like your main nighttime focus. The day/night cycle is really important in Crackdown 2. At nighttime the streets are completely swarmed with freaks and you can get completely absorbed in just killing them. They actually get more powerful the more you annoy them. Things like reaper freaks and strength reapers start emerging if you kill too many. You’ve got freaks that can actually pick up objects and match the ability of the player character, so they can throw cars at you as well as you can throw cars at them. They can also jump across rooftops. You’ll be introduced to things like goliath’s and things like that in the heart of freak lairs. They’re like great big underground freaks that smash beacons and things like that. There’s a lot more gameplay variety, and its more about making sure the player is challenged. I think one of the things in the original Crackdown was that it was great being a super hero but you were unchallenged and unrivaled. One thing we thought about in Crackdown 2 was making sure that there’s always an opposing force, so that you’ve always got something to fight against...
MB: Instead of just spamming the melee button!
JC: Yeah, we don’t really like those games where you can close your eyes and just hold a button. Its that “press A to win”, why? I want to be challenged.
MB: Its fun to discover the moves, but then after that you need a challenging way to engage with them.
JC: Its much more arcadey. We want the game to be, not hard, but a fair challenge. The whole point of this is, like any game or sport or anything like this - the rewarding thing is beating the challenge. I think there’s still something we do that’s pretty unique to Crackdown. Its still a truly open world game. Its still just about mindless fun. We’re not trying to be a linear story narrative in any way. We’re just trying to be game, and we just want to be an open, do anything, approach it from any order kind of game. I think that its nice that other games can do something in terms of story telling and narrative, and cinematics, but thats not Crackdown. Its about the lack of that, and the lack of control, and all about the freedom on the player character.
For more information on Jim Cope and 'Ruffian Games' click here