We last saw THQ and Volition's Saints Row 2 back at THQ's Gamer's Day in April. After missing the game at E3 we caught up with associate producer Dan Sutton at an event in London to talk about how the game has been progressing since then and to find out how the PS3 version is coming along. Read on for Dan's thoughts on PS3 trophies, Home integration and a Saints Row MMO.
VideoGamer.com: I didn't get a chance to see the game at E3, so the last time I saw it was at Gamer's Day in April. How has the game come on in those months?
Dan Sutton: The biggest thing we do when we develop our game is have a base pass at the city, then we go back and polish stuff. So that was the biggest thing, we've gone in and polished stuff. I think the graphics have improved a ton since Gamer's Day. That's been one of our biggest focusses there. As a lot of people know, we delayed our game to focus on polish as well. That's just been huge, getting those extra weeks in there as well, and having the team just focus on art just took everything to the next level as opposed to where it was at at Gamer's Day. And beyond that it's just adding a lot of features in there. Improving our co-op as well, adding more multiplayer modes. We haven't talked about multiplayer. We're going to be doing that over the next month, having a multiplayer event where people can sit down and get hands on. It's been improving graphics, making sure the game's stable as well, and adding a few more activities in because we've had extra time.
VideoGamer.com: Was the extra time something that the team requested?
DS: Yeah I think it was. It was a joint thing between THQ and Volition, sitting down and being like "Hey, you know we got to make sure our graphics are top of the line, we have to make sure everything is completely stable, everything ships how we want it to be". We knew that with the time that they had there, we weren't off, we just asked I believe for a couple of weeks extension, but they gave us a few more than that just to make sure we had more time to polish. Yeah, so it was really a joint thing by both THQ and Volition sitting down and were like "Hey, we want to make sure we give a good game". And we saw GTA, and we had to be as good as that. So we needed the extra time to do that, and we did that.
VideoGamer.com: There seems to be this perception that with GTA and Saints Row it has to be one or the other. Can't gamers pick up both?
DS: I hope so. I noticed that too. It's weird because if you look on forums on any website, that's what you see: Saints Row or GTA? It's all the fanboys on both sides going at each other. It's actually kind of hilarious to sit back and listen to that. It's cool to have such a passionate fan base, that they go and attack the other one. I'm sure for GTA it's the other way as well. It's such a huge genre. You're paying 60 bucks, and I think with the open-world genre, when you're paying that money, that amount of money per game, you're getting the most game out of it. It's kind of weird because you'd think people would latch onto that more because it's like "Hey, I have more replay value, I can do whatever I want to in the city," but people just want to say which one is better. Some people kind of isolate that but I think people are opening up more to both. It seems, especially after GTA 4 came out, it's an absolutely beautiful immersive world. I think a lot of people saw in that the gameplay from San Andreas and Vice City wasn't there. It's definitely a slowed down game, they use cover a lot more. It's more realistic so you're not going to be able to go through walls, that kind of stuff. If you blow up a building you have 10 cops on you and they take you down. I think that's one of the things. Now you're getting the best of both. I think we're giving them a really cool hyper realistic world and GTA is a nice cool realistic world. With ours we just take gameplay to another level I think, and also co-op too, doing something different. I think they're going one way, we're going another way, and we're both going to have different feature sets.
VideoGamer.com: Why do you think gamers have these arguments, not just with GTA but with all kinds of games? And with games that are multiplatform.
DS: It's a good question. I do it myself too. I remember when there were the Madden games and the NFL games, those 2K games. I was always a huge fan of the 2K games. I loved those games and when they stopped making them I was upset. I don't know, I think people just like to argue I think. You saw that with fanboys. HD DVD vs Blu-ray, that was a huge one too, where people were going at each other. Even when the medium was gone you saw HD DVD people going "Hey, we're selling better now, we're coming back". I think it's just people like to argue. It's a fun thing, games are one of the things, sports teams, whatever it is, people like to argue. Sometimes there's not really a basis for your argument, it's just arguing for the sake of arguing. And when people argue with you it encourages you to do it more.
VideoGamer.com: Yeah. I can understand that, especially when it's an argument over rival platforms, where one side has one set of games and the other side has another set of exclusives, but with GTA 4 and Saints Row 2, everyone in the argument can buy both.
DS: People have their own opinions of what they want in the game. So if you have a feature that they want in the game, they're probably going to latch onto that more than they would another game.
VideoGamer.com: How much of a nightmare is it developing an open-world game? Is it the biggest challenge in game development right now?
DS: It's one of the toughest definitely, because you're doing so many things. You're throwing racing into a game, you're throwing in base jumping. Being able to go through an entire city, and see it stream in there and not to have load times at all. I think it is one of the toughest genres out there. That's why you see the development teams of GTA and ours just being so large compared to other games where you can get by with 30-60 people, as opposed to teams like ours where at times we had 120, 150 people. So yeah, I'd say it's definitely challenging, especially because you have a huge world that you have to do all these elements in and then just finding some of the bugs that are out there. It's always a challenge doing that, because sometimes you don't just have bugs that pop up. You have bugs where you have to play level 1, then play level 2 like this, then level 3 like this and then this bug will pop up. It's insane, the complexity when it comes to open world games, but it's also really fun because people feel a sense of accomplishment once they do that, as opposed to working on an FPS or racing game where you just have this kind of enclosed, one-dimensional type thing. Some of those, like BioShock, branched out and have all these different dimensions in there as well, but it's definitely not as complex as a huge game with tons and tons of features in it. I agree with that.