Last month, we put you to work by having you ask Ruffian some questions regarding Crackdown 2.
It seemed only fair, because it's high time you did something for us considering we have to put up with all the arguing, nitpicking, name calling, and questioning our gender leanings and facial hair choices on a daily basis.
However, because we honestly love you all so very, very much - we decided to pay you by offering up a dilapidated van as compensation for your efforts.
We still have not chosen who gets the Ruffivan, but we will reveal the lucky (or unlucky) winner in due course.
Now that we have those pleasantries out of the way, let's get to it.
Below you will find your questions answered by producer James Cope and art lead Stuart Campbell.
slayernl: Is there any tracking of the orbs you have found in the game, because at the end of the first game you could search for hours with a printed–out map in you r lap for that last few orbs. It would be useful if it was tracked in–game what you already collected.
James Cope: Yes that was a bit of an oversight, so we’ve made a few improvements but importantly we didn’t want to break the challenge. The whole Orb collection experience is so fondly remembered because it’s both rewarding and hard. So we worked on keeping some level of difficulty but correcting the fairness of it.
First thing is you’ll always know how many Orbs you’ve got and how many are left to find. It’s also broken down into territories so you’ll know where you’ve found Orbs and how many are left per district of Pacific City. An actual new feature for Crackdown 2 is something called the Orb Ping. Pressing up on the D–Pad will ping your minimap radar and briefly locate Orbs in the vacinity. The more Orbs you collect, the more effective your Orb Ping becomes.
All in all, we’re helping a bit but also making sure it’s still a challen ge that’s worthy boasting that you’ve got them all.
Aimless: The original Crackdown is still one of the best examples of Achievements used as an ancillary game structure, not just positive reinforcement for traditional campaign progression. How does the second game compare to the first in this regard, and will you be making use of Avatar Awards? And does Crackdown 2 recognize that you have played the first game, be it through looking at save games or Achievements?
James Cope: Yes, we’re making use of Avatar Awards and they’re tied to various Achievements within the game.
Since the Q&A went out for this interview you’ll have seen that our Achievement list is now out in the wild, so I hope you’ve seen for yourself that we have stuck with the concept of Achievements as ancillary game structure. My current favourite is “ Yippie –Kai– Yay : Drive an SUV into an airborne Agency helicopter.” The thing about this one (and our general approach to this type of Achievement) is that there’s not a single way to do it. It’s down to the players imagination on how they achieve it either in single player or in co–op.
That’s the thing I like most about them – getting players to think “WTF? That’s impossible! Oh! Wait. Maybe if I just...” There’s no right or wrong or best way to get things like that, it’s true sandbox fun.
mathare92: Were you ever tempted to break away from Crackdown’s distinct art style for something with a bit more fidelity?
Stuart Campbell: The art style is an integral part of the franchise and we didn't think it was right to drastically change the feel for the sequel, especially with us staying in Pacific City, though we did aim to improve on what we had previously.
We had to make some careful choices about what to improve to give us the biggest gains. We have actually increased the fidelity quite substantially from Crackdown 1 in terms of texture resolution, lighting and LOD detail, all within the same art memory budget. We also made big improvements to the sky system and added in the foliage and terrain blending.
It’s nice to see that people think it's visually similar as it means we didn't bend it too far from the original style. But w hen you get your hands on it the differences between 1 and 2 will be immediately apparent.
Marcusaur: It seems as though Ruffian really are focus ing on making Crackdown 2 a largely multiplayer game. What kind of challenges were involved in making it a completely open, drop–in, drop–out co–op experience while still retaining the freeform environment and mission structure?
James Cope: Yes I’d say that Live is a big focus for us but it’s not the only one.
The Crackdown experience was always better in co–op and we wanted to push that further. It’s unique to have an open–world game with Campaign game that is entirely free–form drop–in, drop–out experience. The way I think about it often is that it’s like a school playground, and Crackdown is like the opposite of double hard maths . Crackdown is running around with your friends and just going crazy.
The design and gameplay team hate us for this. It’s both empowering and very limiting, everything has to work for one player or four players and at any moment in time those four players could be doing different things or the same thing.
The most complex aspect of the whole development has been the network architecture to do it. It’s been quite an amazing feat, thousands of enemies, objects and lots of gamestate shared between four players in the same world.
mington: Is crackdown 2 art?
Stuart Campbell: Of course . :)
James Cope: It’s entertainment with style.
Gheritt White: What’s been your favourite post–Crackdown, non–GTA open–world game? Just Cause 2? Mercenaries 2? Red Faction: Guerilla? And are any of them better than Crackdown 2?
James Cope: We have to go back a little bit further than those games to get my favourite .
Since Crackdown came out, the open–world game I’ve enjoyed most has been Saints Row 2. It made me laugh, a lot, it was simply good fun. It was really dense too, there was a lot of gameplay variety in the city and I never felt like I was lost. Basically though I just loved it because I got to spray the city in, err… excrement.
Are they better than Crackdown 2? They’re different. Crackdown 2 is unique in that the world is truly open, you can tackle objectives in any order and with four players however you want. That what Crackdown 2 is like, it’s however you want and that’s always been the Crackdown ethos and I think we still have that as a unique strength.
Blerk: Comparison shots between the first and second games show a city that’s fallen into ruin, but appears to be mostly unchanged from the original. How much ‘new’ stuff is in the city for Crackdown 2?
James Cope: We took the city through a period of growth, destruction, renewal and abandonment. It’ s an all new evolution of the City. You’ll recognize places because we wanted to get players to think about the story of the world and what’s happened. Instead of putting players through cutscenes and linear narrative, we want that feel, tone and character of the city’s story to be told by looking at the world and exploring in it.
So there’s new bigger, taller, buildings in Crackdown 2 but the gameplay has also gone underneath the city with Freak Lairs – big enclosed cavernous spaces that are infested with enemies. Going underground is like jumping into a big arena shooter, being surrounded by things and yes, killing them all off.
mington: Ruffian careers page: “We’re looking for a concept artist, primarily with environment skills, to help shape the visuals on our next project?” So, like, what's the next project?
James Cope: Why? Can you paint? We know what it is but we don’t know what it is. It’s so early on in the form of ideas at the moment that we’re only just starting to understand how we can turn it into a reality. We’ve got something that we think is going to surprise people but we’re a long way off from being able to say exactly it is yet.
kilerviel: Is there really a 'secret lvl 6?
James Cope: What else comes after 5?
Marcusaur: What sort of ranking/ leveling system is planned for the competitive multiplayer modes, and will it feature unlockable weapons, perks and that sort of thing or is it a bit more simplistic?
James Cope: There’s a PVP Rank that’s progressed according to experience and player s kills. It’s a reflection of kudos more than a gameplay unlock in the multiplayer modes .
One of the things we decided to do with the multiplayer game is to keep people on a level playing field, we looked at integrating the player progression and abilities in the PVP game modes but there’s such a massive disparity between the low powered Agents and high powered Agents that it was unfair to newcomers.
The PVP games are all about player skill rather than character skill, it’s an intense game where movement speed and knowledge of the arenas is most important.
So, there you have it. Your questions about Crackdown 2 answered. The game’s out on July 9.