Mafia II Podcast Episode 7: Driving and Cars
Elizabeth Tobey: Welcome to Episode 7 of the Mafia II podcast series. I'm Elizabeth Tobey and I'm back with Denby Grace, Senior Producer on Mafia II, to talk about driving and cars in the game. So, Denby, let's start by just talking about the simple fact of how many cars are in the game – what kind of cars are they?
Denby Grace: So how many cars are in the game? So, it's a good question. Not one I have an accurate answer for. I can say there's more than 50, less than 100. I think the number – now let me think about this – I think the number is somewhere like 77 I want to say is the number that's kind of in my head. And we have a huge variety of different cars. Really nice thing is we have 40's cars, we have 50's cars, and then we have lots of other different sort of vehicles and sort of vehicles that you'd expect to have around there. Yeah so we have a vast number of cars I think it's safe to say you know. We have sports cars, 4-door cars, we have big trucks, buses – all the stuff you'd expect to find from the sort of periods that we have.
ET: What's the big difference between the cars?
DG: The cars – as well as like visually being different, obviously - you have like a big performance gain on them and performance is hugely different from the sort of early cars that – we have actually some cars that I think were around from the late 30's, early 40's – and these cars sort of appear in our 40's city. Those cars, obviously, back in the 30's, vehicles were really really for practical use only, you know. They're sort of for driving from A to B. They're very heavy, very poorly sort of built suspension, smaller engines you know, they're not going to go very fast at all. And these sort of cars were very common in the period. And then in the 40's things like to get a little bit better, you know. But at the same time because the war in Europe there was a thing like, there was a ban on making vehicles that weren't for army use and stuff like that. So people kind of got by with what they had. And the vehicles that you have then, obviously, they've progressed forward since the 30's but they're still – they're probably quite – you get some real “chokers” I think is a good – well it's probably not actually a word but it's something we can say – they're quite slow, you know, they're handling is not so great. And then as you go through to the 50's – and 50's you really start entering the sort of golden age of sort of – I think the word I'm looking for is – when people start really spending money on cars you know. People are buying cars and doing them up – there's a lot of money in America and there's a big boom time. So people are like sort of spending money on making their cars look nice, they're wanting to spend money on the performance, they're modifying their cars, there's hot rods about, you know there's a lot of chrome on these vehicles. And by this period like the engines are good, the handling is good, and they're really sort of, like really iconic 50's cars that you'd expect. So you really get that variety as you sort of progress through the game. One of the nicest things, I think, for people experiencing Mafia II is the fact that you can sort of invest time in your car, and invest your money in your car even. So with a lot of open world gaming cars are a real throwaway item for a lot of people you know? You kind of steal a car, next job, steal another car, next job, steal another car. And like with Mafia II we wanted, again when it comes out, we want the player to behave like a realistic mobster. Mobsters don't steal cars when they're mobsters – when they're sort of “made” guys. They have nice cars and they spend a lot of time in their car. The car is really an extension of themselves you know. They wear a nice suit, they look nice. The car is really sort of like in the same way. And we really wanted to sort of – we really thought about how can we make the player really care about their car – want to care about their car? And the way we do that is we allow you to sort of, obviously when you start you're gonna steal a car and acquire a car – you acquire a car in many different ways. And you sort of – you get your car and you can legalize it. Then you take it down to the garage – you can sort of change the plates, personalize the plate, write custom number plate – I don't know, you might want to put “Elizabeth” on your number plate. You can do that, which is a nice touch. You can paint it any number of I think it's like 35, 40 different colors, so you choose the color. A lot of the cars as well in the 40's, they're all two-tone as well so you get to choose your nice variety of colors. And then from there you can kind of – you choose some rims, you can upgrade the performance such as the actual engine itself and all these things. And you can actually get to a stage where your car is absolutely unique in the city – it's the fastest car in the city. It looks completely unique, and that's a real cool sort of thing you know? Having this car that is genuinely better than all the other cars. So we give the player somewhere to invest their money and it really helps make sort of the car ownership sort of experience – that whole thing – a bit different you know? It really sort of plays into who you are as t he character and stuff like that. It allows you to make these sort of unique choices.
ET: Now you briefly mentioned that there are different ways to get cars other than just stealing them? Can you talk more about how you get cars?
DG: One of the things that happens in Mafia II is – well it happens in the mafia I think generally – is, as I touched on is guys will – they steal cars and very early on in our game you're set aside – you have to steal cars you know. You're nobody in our story. You're nobody – you have to absolutely go out, steal vehicles, whether it be smashing a window, using a lock pick to sort of get into the car, steal them, and then legalize them. So at some points in the game you actually can be given cars for instance you sort of finish a mission and sort of like some of the prize – the spoils I guess for completing the mission is you can take the car that's left there you know? One mission in particular – I'm not going to go into too many details because I know you guys don't want the story revealed too much – is you actually get an opportunity to sort of – one of the best things about killing this guy – you've seen him drive around in this car through the city and then you get it for yourself and you're just like, “great.” And you can't get this car you know? It's a unique car to this one guy. So it's a real nice sort of touch that when you actually get to sort of take this guy out and you get to take his car for your own and it's touches like that I think that people are going to really appreciate especially the fans – the people that look that little bit closer, they're really going to sort of get those details and really enjoy those touches.
ET: Now moving past just the cars themselves let's talk about actually driving. One of the most basic parts of driving is that we have two different distinct weathers for the city. How does driving differ between the two?
DG: Driving in Mafia II is vastly different for a vast number of different reasons. The biggest thing I think that is different is the one you touched on, is the snow vs. the summer. But as well as that in the summer even it can be raining. So raining will even, it will make things – even things about a little bit anyway. So it's a very good point you know. The handling in the wintertime is very slippery you know. Cars are spinning out – and you'll see the AI drivers – the pedestrians around. They're spinning their cars, they're crashing into stuff, their cars are actually pulled over to the side of the road broken down in all these sort of nice sort of scripted moment touches that we have. But the driving experience itself – it's more challenging now which in itself was quite an interesting sort of development experience for us you know. To go out and through our story we wanted to set it in this bleak sort of winter setting to really feed into our story and then we were like faced with a challenge. We're like, “alright so people who play our game for the first time have to experience this winter city and driving is really really hard.” And you're just like – it was really interesting development exercise on how we dealt with that, how we – the sort of cars we gave you and the way we tweaked the values of the cars. There's so many so many different sort of values we have with our cars. It has a really really realistic physics model for instance. So many different things can come into it – tire pressure, weight in the car, sort of the chassis size, the sort of amount of fuel in the car I think actually affects the weight in the car – just loads of different stuff. I'm sure we can have one of the Czech guys at some point really go through in detail if we asked them. So there's loads of different things and then you can kind of combine that by the number of cars that we have. Every car is really unique in the sort of way it handles and these little unique touches make every different car sort of really interesting. You'll find one that just suits your style of driving I think you know. I mean I'm a big fan – personally I'm a big fan of the convertibles. They're really fast, stupidly hard to control like steering-wise, as they were back then you know. These things are made to be wrapped around trees I think you know. It's really challenging, but at the same time when you actually do it, and when you're good with it, you feel that, you feel that, “you know what, I can handle this car” you know? I guess it's like driving a Ferrari in real life, you know? You get in one, put your foot down, you're gonna crash. But in the game we have vehicles that are like that, you know? Ones that are hugely rewarding, hugely fast, but at the same time, deathtraps.
ET: So, getting a bit more technical, what were some of the most important driving elements you did focus on while creating the game? What was the core design?
DG: That's a good question, and we had two goals with Mafia II where driving is concerned. One is we wanted – we looked at Mafia I, obviously. And Mafia I was – the driving was something that really split people. I think the real thoroughbred fans – as you guys that listen to the podcast are – really really loved the realistic, sort of the authentic, sort of the period experience of vehicles. Now clearly we didn't want to leave you guys behind. We did not want to sort of turn away our fan base and sort of go down the route of some really archaic sort of physics model and sort of really sort of simplistic unrealistic experience. So we didn't want to do that but at the same time we did want to make our game more accessible to sort of a wider market. So for that what we actually did is – we decided a long time ago to support both you know. To support two driving models. And we have basically a realistic model and a normal mode. Now realistic mode actually – the way this works is we have no driving aids whatsoever. You know you get in the car, the acceleration, the steering, the braking – all these things are completely you. Everything you do, it's down to you. As such, the vehicles are more difficult to control you know. But they're much closer to their sort of real-life counterparts – they're much closer to what people would have experienced in Mafia I for instance as well. You know there's no driving aids in these things. Now with the normal sort of mode which you can turn on if you want – is we offer some very sort of like simplistic aids to the driver. We turn things on like steering assist, braking assist. All these things are hidden, they feel very natural you know. For that you're going to get the sort of driving experience you'd expect from the good quality open-world games. We still think the driving on the normal mode is exponentially better than a lot of open-world games out there you know? It really is a good experience and it really for 9 out of 10 users I think they're gonna do this. I think the other thing I can talk about is the high level goal for what the driving we want in Mafia II. We wanted the driving to feel like a white-knuckle Hollywood movie. You know, you're driving, you're sort of screeching around corners, a hub cap is flying off you know. As you're driving past someone you might knock a wing mirror off, glass will pop out, a cop will shoot at you and shatter your back window. That's the sort of experience we want people to have. And then kind of like – and I kind of guess I've answered my question a little bit in reverse – and for that reason we wanted to cater to both sets of people – the thoroughbred fans, the guys that want the risk. We want you guys to have the same overall experience, but we need to cater it towards your skill set. I think that's the easiest thing to say. So for that we support these both ways and we allow you to sort of play these two different ways. But I think the overall experience is the same you know? You want that sort of 50's cop movie sort of vibe of screeching around corners with water splashing up from puddles and stuff. And I think you see it from the gameplay trailers that are out there and the screenshots that we put out. You really sort of get that vibe you know? You get that sort of exciting sort of 50's police chase vibe.
ET: Now for the last question – this is sort of a personal one, but – do you have any favorite moments/scenes – without giving away any story, obviously – that are really awesome driving-wise?
DG: Probably the most awesome part for me in the game and driving – it's actually not a police chase, not an exciting moment – it's just one of those moments in any game or any movie or anything like that that you're just like, “that's just really cool.” I want to be in that car in that moment in time. So what happens – again I'm gonna completely generalize everything so I don't give any story away – the guys, Vito, Joe, and Eddie – they'd actually been out completing a mission or completing this job they had to get done – it will all become clear I'm sure when you play the game – and then the drive home after this mission is where things start. Now Vito and Joe are like 10 pints deep – they're super drunk at this point in the game. They can not stand up. I think Eddie early on in the mission actually vomits. So these guys are super drunk, you get in the car, and on comes a tune on the radio and Eddie's just like, “Vito, don't touch that dial right now.” And then the drive home for the next two to three minutes is Eddie and Joe just completing the worst karaoke along to this tune that you've ever heard. And it's just a moment in games where you're just like, “that's pretty cool.” You know you feel you really connect with the guys, that you're just like that – you're driving the car, Vito is complaining like anything about their singing, and the stench in the car from the vomit. And you're just like – it's just a great moment you know. And you just get these moments sometimes - and I have to give a big hats off to Jack for coming up with that one. He's just like, “oh I've had this idea” and he went away with the actors and recorded it and then came back to me and the Czech guys and kind of sold it to us. We're really really happy how it's turned out. For me, it's probably my favorite driving moment in the game. It's not exciting, it's not fast, it's just cool.
ET: I want to thank you for being here, and we'll be back actually with Jack for episode 8, so see you then!