Interview: A2M on WET, female characters and the future

Thursday, 19 November 2009 12:21 GMT By Patrick Garratt


A2M’s WET stood out this year for pushing a female character out with a brand new core IP, as well as shouldering Bethesda’s 2009 to a greater degree. While reviews were mixed, there was no denying the impact: you all know what Rubi looks like, right?

Third-person hyper-violence is always fun. We caught up with the game’s creative director, Patrick Fortier, to chat about the thinking behind the project, the validity of female action characters in the modern landscape and what’s next for A2M

Interview by Nathan Grayson.

VG247: What were the major influences behind WET’s style and aesthetic? Girl-killing-people-while-listening-to-punk-music is one of the best ideas ever. Where exactly did it come from?

Patrick Fortier: We really wanted to capture a “grindhouse/old 70’s action movies” sort of vibe in order to communicate right away to players that this game is over the top and bigger than life. We don’t take ourselves too seriously and we want people to understand that right off the bat. Regarding the music, we wanted something that matched the style of the universe and we were lucky enough to attract some very talented indie bands that just fell in love with Rubi and the concept of the game.

Did you always set out to create a sort of “Tarantino-esque” game? Or did you make a stylistic change mid-development like, say, Borderlands did?

Things evolved naturally around Rubi. The more we defined her, the more she influenced the universe in which the game takes place. Ultimately, we simply embraced our style over time by developing the different camera filters or the “drive-in theater” adds, etc.

Will we be seeing any WET DLC in the future?

No plans for that at this point.

WET is a single-player-only game, which is good! Shoehorning multiplayer where it doesn’t belong never ends well. But was there ever a point where you considered adding a multiplayer mode? Did you ever feel pressured to do so because of, for example, reviewers’ tendency to harp on games without multiplayer modes?

We thought about it a bit, but it just felt pointless to have a pseudo-multiplayer offering while that was not the focus of our game.

How’d the publishing relationship between A2M and Bethesda for WET begin? Did you approach Bethesda about publishing or vice versa? How’s working with them been?

After the Vivendi-Activision merger, A2M bought the rights back and decided to take its time finding “the right” publisher (ie, someone who understood what the game was trying to do and passionate about bringing it to market). That’s when we approached Bethesda and it’s been wonderful working with them. They understand Rubi, they speak the same language as us (since they are a developer too, they understand how things work on the floor) and they are consummate professionals, so it’s been nothing but joy collaborating with them.

You chose to create a female main character – and a fully clothed one at that! But, you know, your game’s name has some, er, connotations. So, as far as female characters go, where does Rubi stand? Is she sort of a mid-point between hyper-sexualized female leads like the Dead or Alive girls and the totally non-sexualized lead from Mirror’s Edge?

Rubi’s a problem fixer who happens to be a woman. We didn’t want her gender to define her, but we did feel having a female character was a nice way of visually promoting the main premise of the game (ie, agility, athleticism and fluidity of movement). We made sure nothing was gratuitous about her, but we didn’t make a special point of taking away all her femininity either. She’s a contemporary female “Clint Eastwood”!

In that vein, what do you think of the state of female characters in gaming at the moment? I mean, obviously we’ve come a long way from Ms. Pac-Man, but where do you think the industry stands now? How do you think we can improve our portrayal of women in games?

I think we have to reach a point where having a female character is simply a non-issue. It shouldn’t be seen as a particular risk, the decision should simply be based on the relevance of the character in regards to the experience the game is striving for. Ultimately, simply having good, fun games starring women protagonists is what will improve their “portrayal”. Good games are good games – regardless of the character’s gender.

In general, WET is a far cry from the brown and grey somber shooters that populate the shelves these days. Instead, it’s wild and over-the-top, but in a sort of classic grindhouse sort of way. Are you worried that some consumers might see this as a turn-off?

I hope people see it as a fresh take on an old-school genre. Some of the elements that make our game up have been done before, but we combine them in a recipe all our own. The flavor of the action (high-flying acrobatic kills) and the style of the universe create an experience that’s distinctive and refreshing.

WET is A2M’s first current-gen original IP. If WET is successful, will we see more original IP from A2M?

That’s definitely something A2M is looking at, so yes, that’s certainly a possibility.

A2M has created many licensed games, including a few that might be called “kids’ games.” However, games aimed at today’s youth seem to be stuck in a bit of rut. For every one Scribblenauts, there are 50 generic candy-coated platformers. Do you think younger-skewing games could stand to be improved a bit? And if so, how?

Games need passionate people to make them and those people need to have enough time to realize their visions. It ultimately comes down to commitment from publishers, deciding how much time and money they want to allow to more “family oriented” titles.