Writing up our talk with Lead Game Designer at Avalanche Studios, Peter Johansson, was difficult, because we now spend every waking second parachute-climbing mountains and battering hanging enemies to death with our grappling hooks in Just Cause 2.
Understandably pleased with the way the game came out, he was bubbling over with enthusiasm as we slumped together in overly-plush leather seats somewhere in deepest, trendiest London. Together we relayed our best “that was pretty cool when I...” stories from the game and also sought answers to that most hallowed of questions: why can’t we tether ourselves to a dolphin and go surfing across the sea? Well, he wouldn’t tell us, but there were lots he would impart. Read about what he had to say right below this sentence.
“One of the cool things about Just Cause 2 is it has its own flavour. It’s found its own direction and I think that’s something that’s really needed in this genre, which is getting pretty crowded. It’s centered around that sense of fun that you can have all the time. That gave us a great deal of freedom to brainstorm lots of ideas, a lot of which, in the end, we couldn’t do. Like animals: having them would mean you’d have to create behaviours for them as well.
“The environments would have been nice with some animals in there, though. Some people don’t notice it, but some do, saying ‘Oh, I want to explore the animal life,’ and some might find it relaxing, swimming and seeing there are fish about. Perhaps you could even have tethered yourself to a dolphin. If that was in the game, it would definitely be trailer material.”
“Multiplayer’s something you need to do exactly right, and will spend a lot of time and resources on doing. We tossed around a few ideas but we realised we’d have to spend a lot of time doing it, meaning there would be less resources we could put towards the single-player. There were lots of things we had to improve from the first game, to get the core foundation the best we can, because otherwise we have nothing to build on for a multiplayer game anyway, because people are just going to play the game once and then just go back to playing Call of Duty.
“A lot of the time multiplayer is sort-of expected, so you do it and it ends up as a half-baked thing, so I think when we feel we’re sure we can do it and keep that exciting core experience then we will. There’s a lot of really crazy physics going on too, so we’d have to deal with that.”
“I think the story is important, to give you a context to your different actions, but in the end it’s also not meant to be too deep or anything, because that can get in the way of the ‘fun’ and the playfulness of it all. A lot of the missions came from when we started brainstorming and, in the end, the ideas just kept getting crazier and crazier.
“I can see why people would see ’80s action films in it, and we also wanted to change the Rico character, make him a bit more rugged, a bit cooler in that sense. We didn’t want him to come across as a secret agent - Rico’s not really a James Bond character. He goes in with a bang, causes lots of explosions, that’s his way of dealing with problems, while James Bond would probably go undercover. Rico’s a bit louder than that.”
“I reckon it would probably take over 100 hours to complete everything in Just Cause 2. I know what to do, and my highest save in terms of completion, before they changed the save system and I had to start all over again, was around 60% or something like that, and I had 60 hours or so invested in it.
“The metrics are fun as well, the system that tracks peoples’ progress, completion percentage stuff to create leaderboards based on that as well. That’s really addictive and we kept playing the demo around the office and competing for the highest score, most chaos, that sort of thing.
“As for the car radio? Having one came up, but we didn’t want to just do it as a knee-jerk reaction. Usually you’re not going long distances in the vehicles, you’re using extractions or a plane or something, so we felt it wasn’t really needed. We felt it wasn’t really enough bang for the buck, so we concentrated on other stuff.”
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