Prototype 2 Developer Interview
Sporting a brand new character and a re-designed city, Activision and Radical Entertainment’s Prototype 2 prepares the gaming world for a brand new carnage-filled, open-world bloodbath. The original game gave players a massive re-creation of New York City to explore, save and/or destroy. This new game offers players more powers, a re-designed city, and thousands of mutation combinations to dish out destruction that’s signature to the Prototype franchise.
(Check out our Prototype 2 preview here)
With Prototype 2 releasing today, I thought I would publish our most recent interview with Radical Entertainment’s Matt Armstrong, the game’s Design Director in which we talked about the new features, the new powers, the development team’s goals, difficulties, creative ideas, and the origins of the hilariously unique “Bio-Bomb Butt Kicker” attack that’s exclusive to Gamestop pre-orders.
Check out the full interview after the break.
JTM Games: Hi Matt, could you tell us why the development team chose to go with a different protagonist (James Heller) instead of Alex Mercer in Prototype 2?
Matt Armstrong: From my point of view, there were a couple of reasons. One of which was that we’ve always known that if we got the opportunity to make a second game, if the first one was successful enough, that we wanted to go with a different character.We didn’t know which character, who it was going to be or what his role was going to be. But the thing that’s been intersting about prototype as an IP is that it’s all about the Blacklight Virus and it’s all about the effects that it can have whether some people it kills, some people it turns into mutated monsters, and some people it gives over-the-top crazy super-powers.
You always want to have the opportunity to tell different stories. It was actually interesting this concept that we can actually take a drop of the virus and we can go anywhere in the world to any different person and drop it onto them to see how they would go about using it to solve their own set of personal problems. With Prototype 2, when we hit on that idea that what if our new protagonist was someone who was a victim of what you did in the first game who suffers as a result of your actions.
It was one of those ideas that was just crazy enough that it split the room with some people going “That’s ridiculous! Why would you want to do that?” and the other people saying “That’s the most awesome idea ever!” and so from my point of view as a design director, I’m nervous about this; it could go horribly wrong but at the same time there’s so much energy around this idea that it would be stupid not to do that, and to try it out and see where it takes us.
JTM Games: What was the most difficult part about creating a brand-new protagonist in the Prototype universe?
Matt Armstrong: I think the biggest challenge is obviously defining that character and his role in the world and trying to make sure that you’re delivering the character that gets people excited, one that people actually want to play, one that people feels is somebody whos story is interesting and want to learn more about him. There were so many people for whom Alex Mercer resonated really strongly; and there’s a huge fan base out there for Mercer. And so we knew that if we delivered a character that was less interesting than Mercer, we would be in real trouble.
That’s why we spent a long time really crafting the character (James Heller). It wasn’t until we really landed on that idea that he was somebody who’d lost his wife and daughter and had actually been overseas at the time. Our sound guys went away and worked with our writers, and they basically put together a piece that was probably about four or five minutes long; just as an audio piece with just music and and dialogue between Heller and his wife. They’re talking on the phone and she’s talking about how the virus has started to take hold in New York and she’s getting really scared. There’s all these guys in the street with guns and she’s not sure who they are or whether she can actually trust them.
As soon as we heard this audio piece, it was just so emotional, intimate and personal that we just knew that we hit it. We knew exactly the line that we need to take with this. And the thing that’s crazy about it? We actually put that piece together about a year-and-a-half ago and it’s actually now the opening of the game. We just ended up putting it with images and going “yeah that works, don’t touch it; don’t change anything.”
JTM Games: The city game’s location is now called NYZ, could you talk about how different the deformed city has become compared to the first game?
Matt Armstrong: There’s so may different angles to that really. The analogy I tend to use is it’s kind of like 28 Weeks Later to the first game’s 28 Days Later, where in the first game it was very much about that initial outbreak of the virus and how everyone suddenly caught in the middle and they’re struggling to figure out how to survive in that hellish environment.
With Prototype 2 the idea is very much that Blackwatch (the military faction) has had the opportunity to get to grips with the virus and to start to contain the situation and control it a little bit more. And then we’ve expanded outwards from the Manhattan of the first game and we’ve gone to the outer boroughs, so you’ve got Staten Island, Queens, and the Bronx and all of that.
There’s three different zones in NYZ reflect a tiered approach to resolving the problem, where on the outer edge called the green zone it’s all about the military lockdown and there’s no real sign of the virus there. There’s just a lot of Blackwatch. And then you’ve got this middle zone which is the quarantine zone for all of the people that had escaped from the red zone and thought “okay life’s going to be okay, now we’ve survived; we’ve escaped” but of course they’re trapped in this really hellish overcrowded shanty towns. And you also know that Blackwatch and Gentech are doing certain things there that have a certain sinister element; but it’s not until you start to dig into the game that you start to understand that. And that gave us the opportunity to go back to the red zone and really just go to town on it completely.
We’ve really tried to recraft it and give it a sense that there’s been a war that’s been fought there for two years, so you’ll see skyscrapers with big holes punched in them, or buildings that have completely shattered facades. And then you’ve got these crazy viral tendrils that have burst out of the ground and wrap themselves all around buildings. Also on the ground level, it’s just absolute chaos where you just monsters running wild left right and center and then you’ll start to find these underground lairs as well that are actually spawning them. You can actually dig into them later on. From a player’s point of view, these become a sort of underground treasure chest where you go to start upgrading your character.
JTM Games: Could you tell us your favorite power or special attack that Heller has in Prototype 2?
Matt Armstrong: There’s a whole bunch of them and from my point of view, probably the most iconic one and the one that’s most impactful in terms of changing up gameplay experience is tendrils. The tendrils work in two different ways, in both cases its projecting Heller’s body mass but you can do it so that they’ll either grab people or vehicles and string them up and then rip them apart, or alternatively you can do exactly the opposite where the tendrils would just grab entities and objects and things that are in the environments and slamming them all together into a central point. And because it’s physics-driven, it’s always emergent that you never getting the same results twice.
It’s one of these things that’s incredibly satisfying even at the end of the game because you’re still feeling like okay, it’s getting more and more powerful and grabbing more and more objects, the effects are getting bigger, and this time it’s going to grab a passing bus or a tank or a helicopter and you never quite know what you’re going to get.
Now one of my single favorite things in the game is using the tendrils on a helicopter and seeing the tendrils hit then bounce down and just grabbing cars, pulling them up off the street and slamming them into the helicopter and blowing it right out of the sky! It just never gets old.
JTM Games: “The Bio-Bomb Butt Kicker;” Kicking someone IN THE ASS and then using them as projectile? Who came up with that idea?
Matt Armstrong: It was actually our head of studio marketing at Radical that thought of it. He was talking about how we’ve got a move in the game called the “Bio bomb” which basically allows you to grab someone, inject the virus into them and turn them into an organic hand grenade, throw them down the street and they’ll explode and mayhem ensues. He was just playing around with ideas, then he said “wouldn’t it be really awesome if you could just kick somebody in the ass and pump them down the street?” And one of the animators face lit up and said “Yes! I will do that!” And so yeah that’s where it came from.
From the demo I’ve played and the gameplay videos, news, and previews I’ve seen, Prototype 2 is looking like one of the bigger and incredibly addictive Canadian-developed superhero games of 2012. The game comes out today so you should pick it up and try it for yourself. See how much destruction you can do with Heller’s tendrils and perhaps even kick someone in the ass and send them flying towards a helicopter for explosive results.
Posted on April 24, 2012, in Interviews and tagged activision, games, gaming, james heller, prototype, prototype 2, prototype 2 interview, radical entertainment. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.