First announced by Atari in May of last year, Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure is a futuristic third-person action game in which you'll assume the role of Trane, a graffiti artist attempting to use his talents to free the city of New Radius from an oppressive mayor. Information on the game has been scarce since we were afforded a brief glimpse of it at last year's E3, so we recently contacted Marc Ecko, the hip-hop fashion mogul and executive director on the game, to check on the game's progress.
GameSpot: We haven't seen the game since E3. What have you been up to?
Marc Ecko: The rest of 2004 was crazy. I continued building our apparel business with G-Unit Clothing Company, Ecko Unlimited, Zoo York, and others; watched my first project in the publishing business, Complex, continue to dominate the men's magazine market; started working on a huge retail project in New York's Times Square scheduled to open next year; and moved all our operations into one 275,000-square-foot location in Chelsea. But Getting Up was, by far, my primary focus--from reworking characters in my mind in the shower every morning to tweaking the script in bed every night. This has been my dream for seven years, and I want to make sure that we do everything possible to execute it right.
GS: How did Marc Ecko, Atari, and The Collective get together?
ME: I managed to meet up with Atari when they were still Infogrames. I became friendly with Bruno Bonnell, and he believed in my concept and game idea. He simply gave me the shot. We did a world tour searching for the right developer to help bring this to life. We were impressed by The Collective's execution on nailing details on Buffy and Raiders of the Lost Ark that were crucial to the culture of those worlds. I needed a team who was willing to play anthropologist and be open to learning about graffiti culture, not simply fall back on doing a candy-coated version of that world. Not to mention that The Collective is a solid partner for delivering great fundamental gameplay, from fighting to platforming. It was the right fit all around.
GS: Why did you choose to go with The Collective for development?
ME: We considered a number of possible scenarios, including the creation of an internal development team. While meeting with The Collective, I was blown away by the excitement they showed toward this project and their willingness to immerse themselves into the graffiti culture and the world of New Radius. I particularly appreciated their openness and willingness not to dismiss me as an "industry outsider" or as merely "a guy who makes sweatshirts." They listened and continue to teach me and my team.
GS: There hasn't been a whole lot revealed on Getting Up's gameplay. What can you tell us about how it's going to play?
ME: This game asks the questions, "What if graffiti could change the world?" "What would that feel like?" "What sort of events would transpire?" I didn't want to make a "graf simulator." I have been focused on enhancing the experience, continually heightening the anxieties and drama situated within that world. That is why it takes place 15 minutes in the future in New Radius. I developed New Radius to have the cultural and architectural sensibility of New York City and its boroughs while blending it with the verticality of Kowloon, Hong Kong. This alternate universe with its treacherous landscape makes a great home for the sort of action that we wanted.
What drives the game is the concept of "get in, get up, and get out." Graf artists don't take the front door, and they certainly don't leave by following the exit signs. "Getting in" will task the player to assess how best to physically get to his or her objective. Do you anxiously stealth your way in? Go balls to the wall? Exploit your athletic capacity and risk life and limb?
To "get up" is not merely about writing your name with aerosol paint. It will be about going as big as you can go with painting your name, all while assessing how much time you have to do so. The bigger you go, the more time it will take, thus exposing you to a greater risk of getting caught or catching a bad one. The player will have a character arc that teaches him or her all about the different conventions of proper street art--from tagging with a shoe-polish mop all the way through wheat-pasting a poster. It is a rich experience that really pays an homage to graf culture, much in the same way that Tony Hawk put the details of skate culture on a pedestal. Besides making for great gameplay, it will allow the player to learn about all the nuances of the graf medium.
New Radius is not very friendly to graf writers, so "getting out" is no joke. These three elements of "get in, get up, and get out" are constantly in rotation, and the player is free to experience the game based on his or her style of conquering New Radius while progressing toward "legend" status.
GS: What can you tell us about the story and characters?
ME: I am very excited about them. I have always dreamed of blending a science-fiction narrative with an urban experience without having to be all cliché with spaceships or new-age jargon flying about. That has been an exciting and inspiring challenge.
Our lead character, Trane, is a reluctant hero. You see him evolve and come to terms with his almost superhero-like skill set. Trane is played by my good friend, the rap star Talib Kweli. Kwa is the perfect voice for Trane in so many ways. Many of Trane's personality traits were based and cast around Kwa. Trane is a rebellious intellect. He is young with an old soul. His sarcasm is razor sharp. He does not depend on a crew to boost his ego--he can fly solo and stand out in the packs fighting for his spot. He marches to his own beat and puts his money where his mouth is. Do not sleep on Trane, either--don't underestimate his lean, lanky physique. He is nice with the fist game and won't feel bad for bruising up your pretty face.
GS: Will you be using any other celebrities to do voices or as cameos in the game?
ME: I am very excited to have Kwa on board. Stay tuned for more details. We are in advanced discussions with many other cultural luminaries.
GS: What can you tell us about the technology behind the game?
ME: Unfortunately, it's too early to reveal, but stay tuned.
GS: Are you planning any exclusive content for the individual platforms?
ME: Still too early to say.
GS: Will there be an online component to the game?
ME: Not in the launch version.
GS: What can you tell us about the game's soundtrack?
ME: Music is as integral to this world as graffiti is, so we have made a dedicated effort to showcase it prominently. All I can tell you at this point is that the role of the music placed in the game will be a breakthrough, and it will be coming from a very unusual angle.
GS: If there's one misconception making the rounds about the game, what is it and why is it wrong?
ME: Yes. This is not Jet Grind Radio. That is not to dis what that game was, because I respect it. But our game has as much relationship with that game as Kelly Clarkson does to Andre 3000.
GS: Thanks for your time.