Interview: inFamous 2’s Joe Ishikura

As posted on Game Console.

By Michael Gray and Chris Leggett, Wednesday, 4th May, 2011

Interview: inFamous 2's Joe Ishikura

Game Console: When inFamous 2 was first unveiled, Cole looked a lot different to what you’ve now opted to go with at the request of fans. Can you tell me a little bit about that whole situation? What made you want to change Cole’s appearance in the first instance?

Joe Ishikura: We took a look at every single detail and we were trying to think of ways that we could improve it. As it turns out, we tried a couple of things, we took a long hard look at it, decided that it wasn’t the right direction to go and just decided to move on. I think at the core, though, the character of Cole was always going to remain the same. So the big message, with great power comes great responsibility, all that stuff was always going to be the same.

GC: The unveiling of the user-created missions was a big surprise. Can you tell us a little about how it’s all going to work?

JI: The biggest thing to keep in mind is that, if you sign into the PSN, you will actually just see these mission stars that people have created. You’ll notice that they’re User-Generated Content (UGC) missions but they’ll just be in your world. So as you’re kind of running around, they’ll feel like just another mission that’s in the game. If you don’t want to play them, of course, you can turn them off and you never have to see them again.  But I think the coolest part about it is that, after people have created missions that we just thought that they’re pretty good, we go ahead and… I think the term that we use is we "bless” them, and they’re just available in the world. So as you’re running around, you’ll see one of these green mission stars in your world and you can just play it. So that, I think, is perhaps the coolest detail.

GC: Is it easy to put together these UGC missions? And how flexible is the system?

JI: I actually think one of the coolest things about the UGC content is that it re-uses a lot of the stuff that’s already in the game. So you don’t have to create your AI from scratch; you could just go ahead and say, "Let’s put a mini gunner here and a shotgun guy here”, and it’ll all just work. It’ll use the AI that we spent two years refining already.

GC: What was behind the decision to incorporate this into inFamous 2?

JI: I think really we wanted to do something different, that clearly differentiated from inFamous 1, and this was one of the cooler ways that we could do it. Clearly, we took inspiration from things like LittleBigPlanet, but we thought that, within our space, we could do something interesting too; a little bit different from what the other ways in which you see this offered. It’s one of those things where, of the options that were available to us in wanting to do something online, this just seemed the most appealing to us where we could kind of differentiate ourselves the best.

GC: What are the biggest overall changes to inFamous 2 from the previous game?

JI: I actually think it’s kinda the way that we upped the ante and scale for a lot of things. We’ve shown off the big tornado power that we call the ionic vortex, we’ve shown off really, really big enemies. For us, it’s kind of that feeling where, at the end of infamous 1, you ended up kind of a demigod; you were just clearly, amazingly powerful. We thought to ourselves that, "we don’t want to bring Cole back down to square one”. We don’t want him to have to struggle against the little guys again. So, in order to up the ante, we had to up the ante in both the powers that he has that we’ve made available to Cole, and the enemies that he faces. So I think, really, the scale is one of the big things there.

GC: From various gameplay videos, buildings appear to be more destructible and they’ll collapse around Cole. Was Naughty Dog’s Uncharted 2 an inspiration for a more action-packed experience this time around?

JI: Absolutely.  I think the way that I think about it is that, one of the things that Uncharted 2 does really, really well is just the overall presentation value and how important that is to gameplay. I think a lot of the time you kind of have the two in separate columns, but I don’t think you could really separate them. And so even little things where we [played] with the camera and made things more intense; I’m sure you’ve seen some of the melee finisher moves that we have. A lot of that presentation and just how more visceral and more impactful everything is. And certainly we took a cue from Uncharted for that one.

GC: How do Cole’s new fire and ice powers work? Is there anything you can tell us about these?

JI: I don’t want to spoil too much, because half the fun is in discovering them, but I will say that one of my favourite things to do is to freeze somebody and then pick them up with that car-throwing move that you have and then throw the frozen person. That’s one little nugget.

GC: inFamous 2  brings back the morality system. What are the perks of going good or evil this time around? And how much do your choices impact on the story?

JI: It’s actually pretty interesting this time around. This time we actually have a lot of exclusive content for one side or the other. After looking at just the way that people have been playing infamous 1, we know that people really like playing twice. We want to give people more of an incentive and more kind of cool stuff to see for the first time on the second playthrough. And so there are actually missions that we’ve shown off a little bit of where it’s literally about a quarter, 20% of the game that you will only see on one side or the other. Of course, we also have the big choices that are connected where it’s also related to the powers that you get. And I think, really, one of my favourite things that we added was the kinda "smaller” moments within the game; the more opportunities that you have to express which side you want to be. And I think our favourite example that we like to talk about is the ‘glass-shard carrier’. It’s just a pedestrian that picked up one of the glass shards and decided to keep it. And so, for a good player to have a choice of, ‘Do I really want to hurt this guy so I can get another glass shard, or do I keep with the path that I was already on and decide that I’m just not going to get that glass shard?’ It’s a tiny, tiny moment of the game, but we’ve added a bunch of these and I think it’s a really cool way to experience karma in different ways.

GC: What can you tell us about Cole’s growth as a character? As you mentioned before, he’s become somewhat of a demigod by the end of the first game. How has this affected him psychologically, and how has he grown as a character?

JI: I think the way that I usually think about it is that, with inFamous 2, this is kinda his moment to start to understand how much responsibility is on his shoulders. It’s kind of this Spider-Man feel where with great power comes great responsibility. When you’re that powerful, everything that he does has huge consequences, both action and inaction. And so it’s him coming to understand that and finding how he wants to deal with it.

GC: From the very beginning of infamous 2, obviously the player has taken a path in terms of where they want to take Cole in the first game. From the word "go”, can they then start the game off as a ‘paragon’ player, for instance, or as a ‘renegade’ to take the Mass Effect terminology? Or is it more of a progression that develops over the course of infamous 2?

JI: We haven’t revealed too much about what you’ll carry over from infamous 1, but you will definitely carry some stuff over from infamous 1. Unfortunately, we haven’t revealed too much of the details on that yet.

GC: What can you tell us about the new city, New Marais?

JI: It’s inspired by New Orleans. I think it’s about roughly the same size [as Empire City]. The thing that I think is most evident from the screenshots and the videos is that it’s really gorgeous this time around; very vibrant colours. It’s just a cool-looking place, but I’m not an artist, so I get to brag about it because I’m not responsible for any of it, but it looks amazing. The other part that you actually mentioned earlier is that there are components of it that are very destructible, too. The whole thing feels more reactive. I think, overall, there are stronger distinctions from area to area. I think it’s just a really cool place to be and it has a very neat flavour to it.

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