Last week I attended a Mafia II preview event, armed with a list of questions you wanted me to investigate. After speaking with Director of Creative Production Jack Scalici, I left with those answers… and a tommy gun filled with tequila (seriously). Since there isn’t enough in there for me to mix margaritas for all of you, I’ll just cut straight to the interview.
PlayStation.Blog: Why go with Empire Bay instead of New York City?
Jack Scalici: It’s New York, with a little bit of influence of Chicago, with a bit of San Francisco mixed in there. But when you do New York you have to do it right, and it has to be exact, and you’ll get some psychopaths on the forums who’ll take a map of New York City, and a map of your game and point out everything that you did wrong and bad and why go through that? And also, if you’ve ever driven through New York, it’s not the most gameplay-driving-friendly city. There are a lot of one way streets, and it’s not as much fun as it could be if you were driving around doing 90 mph in a convertable blasting 1950’s rock ‘n’ roll. So you take reality, and you bend reality into what’s going to equal great gameplay.
PSB: How will Mafia II be connected to Mafia? (VesterDK) I haven’t played the first Mafia game, and I’m wondering if I jump right into the second installment, will I miss out on important story lines, controls or game play techniques? (luckyinlove777)
JC: It’s a completely new story with completely new characters. There are a couple of links to Mafia I, but you won’t really pick up on those unless you played Mafia I. Mafia I fans will have something that they’ll jump out of their seats when they get to a certain part of the game’s story, but you don’t need to know anything about Mafia I to play Mafia II. You don’t even need to know anything about the Mafia to play Mafia II.
PSB: What differentiates this game from other open world games? (skynidas) Is Mafia 2 just like GTA4? (asked on Twitter)
JC: You’ve played it, there’s nothing else out there like it. It doesn’t feel like anything else out there, does it? If some people did certain things right, and we wanted to do them right, instead of re-inventing them for no other purpose than being different, we didn’t do that; we did it right. So there will be some similarities to some other games. But in Mafia II, the core focus is on the epic Mafia story; Playing through it as this guy Vito, going through what he’s going through. It’s also staying true to what the Mafia is, you have to behave a certain way or they’re going to kill you. So rather than allowing the character to do silly things like “the old lady wants you to rescue the cat from a tree,” or whatever, you can’t do s— like that… because a wiseguy would never do something like that.
To me, the open city you can drive around is just icing on the cake. If, after killing [the target of Chapter 9 in the game], we just warped you back to the restaurant and Vito said “I did it,” that robs you of the magic of driving around in the 1940s and 1950s in Empire Bay. You’d really be hard-pressed to communicate “it’s the 40s” or “it’s the 50s” if you didn’t have this magic city to drive around in, and see the advertising, the fashions, the cars, the music.
PSB: How does the city change over time?
JC: The cars are completely different in the 50s than there were in the 40s. In the 40s you have these dull-colored, boxy people movers, some of which are fun to drive. But once you get into the 50s, you get this cherry-red convertable that just tears ass. You get up to something like 120 MPH, you can fly in those cars, it’s amazing. That’s my most favorite thing to do in the game, driving around in a convertable, listening to rock ‘n’ roll in the 50s.
PSB: Yeah, the soundtrack’s great. There’s, what, 120 tracks in the game?
JC: Over 120… Nothing defines an era like the music. Goodfellas is one of my own personal favorite movies. I thought one thing they really did amazing is, I don’t remember any kind of score. I only remember that music defined every scene. That’s how you knew where you were. You start off with “Rags to Riches” in the 50s and you end up on “Layla.” Every song that they chose was perfect, and they really set the tone for every scene.
This is something we did in Mafia. There’s a radio everywhere in Mafia II… and we scripted certain tracks to be playing on the radio when I knew you were getting into a car. So you’ll see it when you kill [that Chapter 9 dude] and you steal his car, and you start driving away and there’s a song that plays and it’s like “yes!”
PSB: Will there be some sort of customization in Mafia II? Such as clothing, weapon customization, etc. (Ar4chNova89)
JC: Well the cars can be tuned for performance, you can change the wheels, you can repair them, you can change license plate, you can paint it any color you want. That level of customization we really encourage because we want people to fall in love with their cars the way America did in the 50s.
PSB: Will this game be more of a free world type of game or will you be locked in to the storyline? (Ftwrthtx)
JC: When we looked at all of our potential sidequests we looked at them and said “which ones would a wiseguy just not do, period?” “What makes sense for a guy who wants to move up in the mob?” So we removed all this other stuff and said “OK, so this is all stuff a wiseguy would do, why isn’t it integrated with the story?” Everything he does has to be integrated into the story or has to fit with his motivation to move up, get rich, and get out. So everything that did fit, fit with the story, so we made it mandatory.
There are some little random things that happen that you can get involved in if you want. You may have seen there’s a greaser who gets into an accident with [a supporting character]’s girlfriend, and if you want to intervene, you can beat the s— out of the guy. That makes sense in the story, and it’s also an optional thing. You can just let it play out like “f— it, it’s probably her own fault.”
PSB: Will it have functionality with the Move Controller and can u just use one move or two, if so? (polo155)
JC: At this time no. Possibly in future games because I think there’s a lot of cool potential there… melee combat especially.
PSB: Will There Be any multiplayer/ co-op in the game? (Harlemz-Prodigy and others)
JC: Not currently at this time. We wanted to keep it story-based and focus on that and have that be the experience you remember. We don’t want people running around as these characters in the game world behaving as those characters never would. It just doesn’t fit with Mafia at this point in time.
PSB: Tell them thanks for the exclusive content for our system, that was really nice of them :) (Fallen_Guardian)
JC: It is really cool. We came up with the ideas of this character, Jimmy, who exists outside of the main story of Mafia II. Jimmy is just a total badass. He’s sent in by the mob to clean up the mess, like when you have a dead body or when something’s really going wrong. He’s like a combination hitman/cleaner. He’s this badass bald dude who basically does whatever the hell he wants.
The beginning of the Jimmy stuff [multiplatform DLC] is he gets out of jail and he wants to kill those people who wronged him and forced him to go to jail for them. For the PS3 [exclusive] stuff, we thought it’d be really cool to tell the story of what happened to Jimmy. How did Jimmy get here? That’s what the PS3 stuff is.