The motto of Electronic Arts' upcoming open-world/RTS mashup The Godfather II is "Think Like A Don," so, in order to create the full-on Don experience, EA made us an offer we couldn’t refuse: They set us up with a limo ride to a killer yacht that tooled around the San Francisco Bay while we sipped wine and talked gaming…all so we could bring you back the details on The Godfather II and the following interview with one of the games creative directors, Michael Perry.
Perry and I sat down over some hands of blackjack and mixed it up about The Godfather II’s gameplay, unique RTS elements and visual style
What did you do to translate the unique look of the Godfather films to the videogame world?
The films are set in the late 50s and early 60s, and when we looked at that era, we saw that the 60s is just a ripe, beautiful era for style. There were a lot of different styles that happened in the 60s. The early 60s have a really 50s type style, and the late 60s have obviously a hippy era and Vietnam era. But the style we decided to go with was the mid-60s, 64-66 London mod, Twiggy type style. Steve McQueen in the Great Escape. All these great films that have this really distinctive look. And we decided to merge that with the Godfather theme. So you look at some of the families in the game, like the Tony Risotto family. It’s a family from the film, and we gave them a really traditional new York mobster look. He dresses in black, his mob wears white t-shirts, but then we created new families that bring in the 60s style. The Magano family we created for the game. And they have a very strong Italian/Sicilian style—really loud clothes a lot of paisley, a lot of very 60s looks. So for us to translate the godfather look and the 60s style into one game was a challenge for us, and we’re really proud of how it turned out.
Godfather II mixes Action and RTS elements throughout...Are you worried that action gamers won't care for the RTS elements and RTS fans won't dig the action?
That’s the biggest challenge with our game because that’s what makes the Godfather II game so unique compared to all the rest of the open-world games is its integrated, strategy gameplay. The interesting thing for us is that you don’t play the action game or the strategy game in the Godfather 2. You’re playing the Godfather 2 game. The strategy element of the game gives meaning and purpose to the Action game. It gives you a context for what kind of decisions you need to make, so if you don’t really think about the strategic game, you’ll probably lose to the rival families. But that doesn't’t mean you stop playing the action gamer. In our game, the Don does get his hands dirty. You get out there and extort money and take over places. So for us it’s really one gameplay experience. It’s a unified experience and we think players will really enjoy it and understand that this is the backbone what it’s like to think like a Don and act like a Don.
Could you play it as simply an RTS game or as just an action title?
It’s a challenge in both cases. And that’s why we let the players build their own family tree. You could sit back and do a lot of the operations from the Don’s view, and do a lot of directing your guys in. But the game is really weighted to players' skill, so if you get in there and you’re really good at targeting and you’re really good at doing headshots, or you’re really good at directing crew members to cut the power before you go into a venue, you have an advantage. So it’s really up to the player’s strategy. You could do a little bit of both, but a balanced strategy is probably the best way to win.
What consoles will we see the game on?
Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
Any plans for a Wii version?
No plans right now. We’re just going to focus on the PS3 and Xbox.
Do you have any plans for downloadable content?
We’re not talking about any plans for that now. The main thing for us is we want to make sure that the game we ship is the best game we can possibly ship, so we’re really not concentrating on anything beyond that right now.
My favorite character in all the films is Fredo. Does Fredo show up?
Fredo is absolutely in the game! Fredo is with you in several key points of the game. Not only in scenes that we created from the film, but also in scenes we added to the fiction.
Do I have to kill him? Because I won’t do it...
(Laughter) I’m not going to talk about Fredo’s demise just yet, but you should feel sorry for Fredo. Don’t forget, in the Godfather 2 film, whether he meant to do it or not, Fredo made a few mistakes.
Speaking of The Godfather films, tell me how you handled the original material. It must have been difficult to show it the proper respect...
We started this not in Godfather II, but in Godfather 1. Our first goal in Godfather 1 was to honor the franchise. In Godfather II our goal was to not only honor the franchise but to expose a lot of new people to the franchise. It’s a great film. One of the greatest films of all time. The challenge is, can we expose a new audience to the Godfather fiction. This is a 35 year old movie, but it’s absolutely as relevant today as when it came out. It’s just a brilliant film. So we took key moments from the film, brought those into the game, but we also integrated the game with a lot of really interesting mobster history. The 60s was actually a really wild time for the mafia. Not only with the mafia but with the US government, with the CIA, and with Cuba. So we tried to merge those elements in with the Godfather fiction to give a whole new view on what it’s like to experience the Godfather.
Will there be any senate hearings in the new game?
That is a critical juncture in the story. With Michael Corleone being under investigation by the senate committee on organized crime, he, as a mobster, is not really able to do the day-to-day operations of being a mobster. That’s really convinient for you as the player. So you become an acting proxy for Michael Corelone. You are the guy that represents the Coreleone family in taking on rival families in the game. And building up and managing the family business.
Are there any vehicles other than cars?
It’s definitely focused around cars. We don’t have airplanes or helicopters or anything. But we do have a variety of vehicles. And they’re customized for each of the cities we have.
Which cities are in the game?
New York, Cuba and Floria. You unlock cities as the game progresses. But it matches the fiction. It definitely ties into our with a twist that involves Hyman Roth.
Is it possible to carry over character from the last game to this game.
No. In the Godfather 1, the default name for the character you played was Aldo Trufanni, and at the end of the Godfather 1, you became the Don of New York. Our game picks up where that left off. So when you start the game off, your character is an underboss in Aldo Trepani’s family. So Aldo does start off the game with you. It’s not the character we load from your previous saved game. But is is Aldo Truffanni as a character.
Are you disappointed with Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola’s reaction to the first Godfather game?
I can’t comment on Coppola. Sorry.
Which actors from the film will be in the game?
Robert Duvall! Unfortunately, all the other actors who played the main characters in Godfather 2 have passed away in real life.
Except Al Pachino.
Al Pachino decided not to do it. But we do have the rights to a lot of the other characters. We have Fredo Coreleone, of course, so we have the rights to their likenesses and voices. We have Lee Strassburg who played Hyman Roth, and Judy Streidlen. Working with Robert Duvall was an absolute honor.
Thanks so much for your time!
The Godfather II will be out on the 360 and PS3 in February 2009.