Mafia II

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  • June 21, 2010
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  • Author: Elizabeth
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Senior Producer for Mafia II, Denby Grace, sits down with me to talk about combat in Mafia II.

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Mafia II Podcast Episode 6: Combat in Empire Bay

Elizabeth Tobey:  Welcome to episode 6 of the Mafia II podcast.  I'm Elizabeth Tobey and I'm here with Denby Grace, Senior Producer on Mafia II and we're going to be talking about combat in Empire Bay.  So, Denby, how about we start with weapons.  What kind of weapons are available in the game as you progress?

Denby Grace:  Oh so where to start really.  That's a real sort of vast topic that we can really talk about.  To talk about the weapons, the first thing is to kind of realize what we're trying to achieve with Mafia II.  So the biggest thing is that we want this to be a realistic, period-authentic sort of Mafia experience.  So to that end it doesn't really make any sense that we give Vito – the player character – a bazooka and ask him to do some real crazy stuff, you know.  We want you to feel like a mobster all the time.  So feeling like a mobster, we need to give you the sort of weaponry that was used by these mobsters during the 40's and the 50's.  Now so around the 40's and 50's as well is a period in history when we're coming out of World War II in Europe and obviously in the Pacific theater as well so we have a few weapons from this theater as you'd expect.  Things like an M1 Garand, an MP40 can be bought as well.  Now these weapons – these sort of like army sort of surplus weapons – they can really be picked up only in sort of specific stores in our city.  So there's a guy in our city that actually deals in illegal old ex-war arms which is kind of nice - sort of fits him well.  This guy is sort of a – he served in a similar place as Vito during Vito's time in the war so it's a really nice sort of link to that.  As well as that we have like the classic weapons you'd expect like the pump-action shotgun, the tommy gun, and then you've got the variety of different pistols from sort of the small sort of colts all the way to the big magnums.  As well as that you've got grenades and molotov cocktails and stuff as well so there really is a lot of variety in the weapons but again it comes down to that whole realistic period-authentic vibe that we want.

ET:  So moving on from that, how do you get these new weapons as you go from start to completion?

DG:  It's a good question.  In a lot of ways it's very similar to how it was done in Mafia I.  It's kind of um – a lot of these things are driven by the story but as well as that, some of them you can interact with Empire Bay to get the weapons.  What I mean by that is the way you kind of get new weapons.  For instance, we've shown this demonstration before, Vito is actually shooting this fat man character with an MG42.  That's a very unique weapon that we use in the game.  At that story point, you know, you go and visit this guy called Harry.  Harry actually acquires this weapon for you, you know?  It's not an everyday sort of gun.  So through the story we kind of deliver this MG42 for you to use.  Now some of the other little weapons that you use, you can quite simply just go to a gun store in the city and buy up the weapons.  Now one of the nicest things that we can kind of like sort of feed into is the time change.  As we progress from the 40's and the 50's - into the 50's, sorry – you can kind of like release new stuff.  We kind of do it for the music, we do it for vehicles, why not do it for weapons, you know?  As weapons sort of – new weapons were invented  we kind of introduce it to the player as you progress through so you kind of get a drip feed of weapons through the time period.  So it makes sense that it's like that.  In the 40's, for instance, you see more weapons that are sort of like from that war period, whereas the 50's we move forward, we get different weapons.  So it's a double pronged thing.  You can get them through the story but as well as that you can kind of go these arms shops and buy them.  And then within the city there's certain kind of arms shops where they deal with special weapons and then there's like the more sort of, well I guess normal gun shops where you get pistols, shotguns, things like that.

ET:  Obviously combat is a lot more than just weapons.  What kind of fighting techniques are in the game and how do fighting sequences actually work?  It's not just, obviously, get up there and shoot people.

DG:  Yeah, absolutely.  So, again, I talked extensively about this in the press but it's nice to actually talk direct to the fans about this stuff.  It's like our sort of feeling for the Mafia II sort of experience is the (inaudible) should be a really sort of intense and sort of visceral experience, you know?  We really want you to feel that you're really in the middle of this gun battle, you know?  You've got wood splinters shattering around you, you know, glass is breaking all over, and you really sort of get that intense feeling that you're in this sort of epic sort of Martin Scorsese movie moment you know?  Cause you're being shot, you really do feel like you're being shot at.  And for that as well, you need the combat to be deadly.  You need the combat to feel like you're gonna die and as such like it only takes two, three, maybe four bullets to actually kill you.  A well-aimed shotgun blast at sort of point blank range and you're gonna die pretty swiftly.  So to that end then we use a cover system for the player and the cover system is a very simplistic sort of control you know.  You press a button to get in cover, and then from cover you can sort of lean over objects, lean around the side, sort of take shots at people.  Now the cover in the game, it's really really – it's a really intuitive experience.  If you see something in the city that you can take cover against, I'm pretty damn sure you're gonna be able to take cover against it.  Now last count, and I didn't count them myself, but we had our testers a few months back run through the city to sort of check all the covers work.  We're talking something like 65,000 covers that you actually use through the city.  Some of these interiors are hugely hugely detailed and making sure all these different things.  As well as that a lot of the locations, a lot of the city is made up of dynamic objects.  Things like vehicles, you know, you move a vehicle.  This is a dynamic cover that you can place in front of where you want to have this gun combat, use it as a shield, you know.  And it's a really sort of nice sort of extra tactic that you can use through gun combat.  So the cover system it allows people to sort of play the game in various different ways.  I think it's something that you need.  It feels, for us it felt a very realistic sort of step to take from Mafia I to Mafia II using this cover system.  I know games – a lot of games have moved forward in this way as well but um, it works, you know, it works.  This whole deadly combat thing, this whole realistic vibe.  The cover system, it just comes natural.  I think people are gonna really really enjoy that experience and enjoy the sort of, the intensity that it brings.

ET:  In terms of combat also, you don't always have a weapon at hand.  So what is hand to hand combat like?

DG:  The melee combat in the game, it really is um – and I keep using this word, visceral – the whole word visceral for us is – we want that sort of like exciting sort of film experience you know.  We want it to look really – again another word I'm gonna use again is intense.  And the combat is a brutal thing, you know?  It's very simplistic to actually do.  We only use three buttons.  To play you've got the dodge button and then you've got a light attack and a heavy attack.  And as you'd expect the light attack is pretty fast but deals like only a light blow.  And the heavy attack, it's much slower but it deals a much heavier blow.  And now you use various different combinations of these to perform different sort of attacks and you can combine these buttons together at certain times to pull of sort of like, sort of finishing moves and stuff like that.  And one of the coolest things that we have is we have a really nice dynamic camera system that slows things down as you're pulling off one of these moves.  And also you'll use the environment around you.  Say you're fighting right next to a car and then you'll pull off the – you'll kind of fight your opponent, get his health down to a certain level where you can pull off the finishing move, you'll grab him, and then you'll maybe take his head and smash it against the trunk, the bonnet of the car.  And all these things are done – bonnet, for all you Americans, is the hood of the car, sorry.  So you kind of do these things, they're quite simplistic, they're quite intuitive, you know.  We don't want people getting confused on the buttons and getting completely like sort of bogged down in these really complex systems.  But you still get that feeling of power, that feeling of brutal experience, and that was the main goal that we wanted.  As you progress through the game you get kind of a little bit of a drip feed of unlocking of stuff, like you'll learn a few different moves, you'll encounter some bigger enemies that will require you to use certain different techniques against them.  But overall, again, it's a simplistic but hugely rewarding system when you see yourself pulling off these great amazing sort of finishing moves.  It's a nice thing that I think – it just again it plays in well into that whole sort of epic mobster sort of vibe that we want for the game.

ET:  Since Empire Bay is very alive, you can engage in combat whether necessary or not with a variety of people.  How do the people react differently to fighting?  You know, other Mafia members, pedestrians, policemen, you name it.

DG:  Yeah we've had quite a bit of fun with this to be honest.  Different people kind of react in different ways as you'd expect.  A police officer – you gonna start a fight with him, he's immediately gonna try and sort of deal with you in the way that police officers know to deal with people, which he's gonna try to arrest you.  If you carry on then the police wanted rate is gonna escalate and then eventually he's just gonna want to shoot you dead.  But what you can do actually – the different people in the city – if you, for instance, start fighting an old man in the city.  He's old, he's weak, he might just run away.  He'll scream, “get off me” and just sort of run away and that's kind of like the sort of reaction you want.  But then there's some bigger characters, bigger pedestrians, and they'll be up for a fight you know?  They'll want to fight you back.  And then we have like, different gangs in the city, and depending on what area.  These guys sort of hang out in certain areas.  Now these guys will actually stick up for themselves pretty well.  You get nice moments where as if you're punching these guys and then eventually as they're getting towards being dead they might actually pull out a gun or one of their mates will come over and help them as well.  So you kind of get these cool situations.  You get these really cool standoffs as well where as if you pull out a gun they'll pull out a gun but they won't fire it until you fire it.  It's kind of like they say, “alright buddy, calm down” sort of situation.  You get these nice moments where these gangsters sort of they face off against each other and then they kind of put their guns away.  One of the things you'll see happening in the city is for instance you'll be fighting a gang and then all of a sudden the police will show up, the police will start shooting at you and the gangster, the gangster's mates don't take too kindly to the police firing up on his mate, and then the police start fighting with the gang, and then you're just left to just escape out the back door quite easily.  You kind of get these nice moments of the sort of, the living city sort of interacting with itself without you actually needing to be there and it's a nice touch that I think just adds to the whole flavor of Empire Bay being this sort of alive, living thing.

ET:  Alright well I think that wraps up episode 6 of the Mafia II podcast series, so I wanna thank you for being here and I will be back for episode 7 in a little bit.