Payday 2 – take a walk on the wild side

By Brenna Hillier
24 April 2013 14:12 GMT

There really aren’t that many games that let you be the baddie. We chat with Payday 2 director David Goldfarb about one of the freshest shooters of the generation.

David Goldfarb

Payday 2’s game director.

Prior to joining Overkill Software in August 2012, Goldfarb held one of the most respected gigs in shooter development, serving as lead designer and writer at DICE on Battlefield 3 and Battlefield: Bad Company 2.

He’s also served stints at Killzone developer Guerrilla Games and MotoGP developer Milestone.

An all-round champion.

In case it’s slipped your mind, Overkill is now part of Starbreeze, and headquartered in sunny-ish Stockholm.

“Imagine if Payday 1 and Diablo 2 and Hitman had a kid, uh, cooperatively,” David Goldfarb explained to me, apparently not aware that it is the writer’s job to provide the delicious flavour text and the developer’s job to try and be as boring as possible in order to make me feel like I serve a useful role in society.

“Imagine that there is an entire economy around your robberies. Imagine there are many more heists and that heists can be multi-stage, so there can be small one day jewelry knockovers or four day ‘move the cartel’s drugs to a safe location and then cook the meth yourself gigs.

“Imagine that you are playing something a little bit closer to a bank robbery/crime simulator, where your choices matter more, where you can develop your character by choosing how and what he invests his experience points in, where you can play levels stealthy or guns blazing, and where your choices make your character more able to do each of those things.

“Then imagine that you really have to control a room now, that the game looks, sounds, and feels like those scenes from Heat and The Town and The Dark Knight.

“Then imagine every job has a loot payout, or PAYDAY, where you get things from a vast loot system, like masks, clothing and weapon modifications, in the same way you would from a conventional RPG. Then imagine you are doing this all with three other human players. Robbing banks and committing crimes with friends – virtually, of course.”

I see what you did there, Goldfarb.

Prior to the big reveal in March, I’d noticed two reactions from you, the audience, every time I’ve mentioned Payday 2. The first is bafflement, because you apparently forgot that it was announced way back in June 2012, and seem quite astonished that it’s going to be in your undeserving, probably not very clean little mitts in just a few months.

“When you plan a robbery you don’t do it in public – you keep it in the safe house,” Goldfarb quipped. “Production of Payday 2 has been full steam since the beginning of 2012.”

The other reaction is delight. Payday: The Heist is one of those rare releases that you play a few times and suddenly the rest of your games library looks a bit grim; the same save-the-princess stop-the-terrorist run-down-the-corridor screaming tried old stuff.

These games can be a lot of fun, of course, but they come bearing the discernible flavour of focus groups and the desperation of spiralling triple-A development costs. Very few of them bother to take the mechanics we know and love – shooting foes, not shooting our buddies, completing objectives – and rearrange them at all, let alone in such a way that you discover something that feels really new. Well, you can see why; if c@LL_0f_dUty_fAn_97 can’t get a killstreak within five minutes of picking up the controller, he or she’s probably not going to be tempted away from the multiplayer juggernauts of our time.

What about Sony?

Payday: The Heist launched in October 2011 on PC and PlayStation 3. The PC release is “by far” the most successful version, but Sony made quite a fuss about having a console exclusive on the co-op title, offering various promotions. Sequel Payday 2 is headed to Xbox 360 as well, but Goldfarb hinted that Overkill’s earlier partners will enjoy some sort of special arrangement.

“Our relationship with Valve and Steam has been (and continues to be) really amazing, and we have some incredibly exciting stuff with them in the pipeline that we of course can’t talk about yet,” he said. “That said, our relationship with Sony and Payday 2 is also awesome, and we uh, can’t talk about that either. The good news is that soon we can shed some light on all this darkness.”

Those who do succumb to Payday’s lures enjoy the refreshing tang of something quite unlike its peers.

“It’s the only successful co-op robbery game ever made so far as I know,” Goldfarb said. “So retaining the tone and as much of the flavour of the franchise as possible is important for the sequel.”

Payday 2 is built on the same in-house technology as The Heist, although Goldfarb said the team has implemented major revisions to animations, the shader pipeline and the renderer. That said, there are some aspects which Overkill merrily threw out and set on fire.

“Civilians standing up in front of your gun is out,” Goldfarb said. “AI team bots looks to be out – there’s always a back and forth, and in a perfect world with infinite time we would be able to make the most amazing thing ever, or at least that’s the lie we tell ourselves.”

It’s a good lie, and the excellent thing about sequels is that you have the chance to make the fib come true.

Payday 2 is due on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in northern summer.

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