GR: How would you compare Niko to Carl, Tommy and the other protagonists? How is he different from them, and how is he the same?
RS: I would say he’s more grounded in a real person than... well, the other guys were kind of cartoon characters. Movie characters, maybe. I think that there’s been a real strong effort to ground Niko as a realistic immigrant to Liberty City, as much as you can be realistic with a guy that honestly goes around shooting a lot of people. So his narration of the story, what he describes in cutscenes and that kind of thing, they're sort of more subtle, the emotions and the feelings and the motivations are more subtle, because it’s not “I just want to get money so that I can become the king of New York.” There’s clearly a past at work. There’s clearly other sorts of motivations that become pretty clear. He just doesn’t have a tremendous sense of humor. He gets on and does the business with his own goals.
GR: Is romance a big part of the game?
RS: Big part? It’s part. It’s possibly the most interesting... it was one of the most interesting parts... Just because [the romantic interests] weren’t obviously a bad guy wanting you to go do something. The way that you react to and with them is more subtle, because it’s not just about, you know, somebody telling you to go and kill somebody, and if you do that successfully, they say, "Well then, there’s a pat on the back and 10 grand." Now the relationship that you have, the interaction that you have with them is much more of your own making. So it’s more interesting to sort of work out what it is you need to do and how to do it.
GR: Without ruining anything or giving anything major away, what would you say is the biggest general improvement in GTA IV over the previous games in the series?
RS: Without a doubt, the city.
GR: Just the city itself?
RS: The city itself is the main character. It plays its own role. So just that experience of going around it, however you choose to go around it, by helicopter, by cab orjust driving. The city is an amazing standout.
GR: Can you think of any good, specific examples of the city seeming like a living, breathing place?
RS: Yeah... people walking around the streets with a coffee cup in their hands. I blew through a crosswalk just as a guy was – I was kind of going through fairly slow – but he was holding his coffee cup, the car came really close and he kind of jumped. I mean, the reaction – because they're using the Natural Motion engine – the guy sort of reacted to the car. He jumped back, dropped his coffee, starts bitching about dropping his coffee and, you know, you just go by. But the whole sort of movement and interaction between the person and the car looked like what would happen if you went too close to a guy carrying a cup of coffee on the sidewalk. And it really is some of those little details that help.
I mean, you don’t see couples walking around holding hands, [but] there is also an awareness. You know how when you jack a car, but get a bit stuck and they come back after you, and start trying to fight with you? Well, their buddies could come and help. Somebody else might go and attack one of those guys. Seeing a police officer with his gun out, arresting somebody else that’s not you, was kind of awesome. It’s like, “ha, ha!” So there’s so many of those sorts of people in places that help you feel like it’s a good... an interesting place to hang out. I shouldn't say "good," because to be honest, everybody’s f***ing miserable. I’m not sure I would want to meet any of these people myself.
GR: Was there a more overall dismal feel to Liberty City than there is in the real New York?
RS: You know, New York’s got that New Yorkness of crap attitude, and there’s a lot of people rushing in a lot of directions, you know, for their own purposes. But at the same time, there are going to be people who are smiling. I didn’t see any... nobody [in the game] said anything that implied that they were smiling. Liberty City, it’s a tough place to come to. There’s not a lot of fluffy bunnies. Everybody’s hard-edged, everybody’s got a purpose.
GR: Are there any teases or hints of other cities existing out there, like Los Santos or Vice City?
RS: Yeah. They’re talked about. I mean, this is clearly a city in a world that includes Vice City and those from San Andreas. I mean, they’re not forgotten. They’re clearly out there, and there’s references, whether it's on the radio or in what characters are saying.