Q&A: Bruce Oberg on Infamous

We chat with Sucker Punch cofounder and programming lead Bruce Oberg about inFamous karma, creating fun superhero games, and living in the game's environment.

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Sony's PlayStation 3-exclusive game Infamous has some lofty aspirations. In addition to offering a huge degree of interaction between your character and the world, the team at Sucker Punch has included an elaborate morality system. It won't lock you in to any one play style, but it will make you think about the repercussions of your actions as you move through the environment. We asked studio cofounder and programming lead Bruce Oberg about creating superhero games, striking a balance between abilities and fun, and karma in Empire City. Check out our thoughts on the game's morality system here.

GameSpot AU: There seems to be a big focus on shipping games from proven franchises rather than launching new IP in the current economic climate. Why will Infamous as a new IP do well?

Bruce Oberg We have been very lucky to be able to create Infamous from the ground up as a video game. Using existing IP can help introduce you to a larger audience, but it often comes with many built-in decisions that don't necessarily make for a fun game. We created Empire City and our hero (Cole McGrath) with nothing but fun gameplay in mind. To our mind, having an original IP is the best way to make an amazing gaming experience.

GS AU: The open-world superhero genre is well established. What differentiates Infamous from experiences like Prototype, Hulk, City of Heroes, or Crackdown?

BO: From the very start, we wanted to give players the experience of what it would be like to get superpowers and become a hero (or antihero). To do this, we needed to provide both realistic choices and a world that reacted to what the player does. Empire City and its citizens react to Cole and they remember his actions. So the way you play the game has far-reaching effects on how the story and your powers unfold. The ebb and flow of your karmic state literally colours how the game progresses, and this adds a ton of variety to the missions and challenges throughout the game.

GS AU: Plenty of developers are trying to deliver the living-city concept. Tell us about the effects your actions will have as you interact with both citizens and the city itself, and the feedback you'll give players on their actions.

BO: Cole has a karma meter that can swing from good to evil and back again. People in the street react to his current state appropriately (for example, running away screaming if Cole is very evil). If you destroy a guy's car in a fire fight, that guy will remember it and perhaps he won't help you later in the game. In addition, Cole's powers grow in different ways based on his karma. "Good" upgrades to his powers are more precise and controllable, whereas "evil" upgrades are more chaotic and crazy. Also, many of the things you do in Empire City are permanent. If you decide to blow up a police station, it won't be around later when you need help from the cops. Our goal here was to make the player's choices and play style mean something beyond a high score.

GS AU: Morality also seems to play a major role in Infamous. Tell us about the various approaches players will be able to use to gameplay situations and how they will affect your character and skill progression.

BO: Cole's karma colours everything in Infamous. In almost every mission, the player can use both lethal and nonlethal powers for defeating enemies. The player can try to limit collateral damage or blow the crap out of everything. Sometimes, Cole will be given a specific karmic situation (for example, take a bunch of food for himself or share it with strangers). As Cole's karma changes, so does his physical appearance. The parts of the city that Cole controls also reflect his current karma.

GS AU: Since morality appears to ultimately play out as either supergood or superevil, will the game feature multiple endings? What do you hope to ask of players by offering the choice of superhero versus supervillain?

BO: Infamous is not a "Choose your own adventure" game, so the basic story arc is the same regardless of Cole's karma. That said, as the player progresses, different parts of the story are revealed depending on karma. So you may need to play the game twice in order to learn everything that happened to Cole!

GS AU: What can you tell us about some of the villains in the game? Who will Cole come up against?

BO: At the beginning of Infamous, a blast rips through Empire City. Cole unwittingly delivered the bomb, somehow survived the explosion, and emerged with his electrical powers. But Cole wasn't the only one affected. Others got powers as well, and Cole will have to battle them for control of the city. As Cole gains more power and conquers his challengers, he will eventually have to figure out who set off the original bomb and why.

Blue electrical attacks tell you you've got good karma. Red attacks mean you're heading down the evil path.

GS AU: What superpowers does Cole have at his disposal?

BO: Cole is a conduit for electricity, so all his powers are electromagnetic. He starts of with a basic lightning bolt that he can shoot through his fingers. He soon acquires a thunder drop that he can use from high jumps, and a shockwave that can deliver a huge kinetic blast to nearby targets. Cole gets more powers as he explores more of Empire City.

GS AU: From the various demos we've seen, there seems to be a save-versus-spend choice to weigh-up with your abilities and the energy required for each. Tell us about power regeneration and how players will recharge.

BO: While Cole can control electricity, he's not all-powerful. He needs to recharge when his energy orbs are used up, but luckily Empire City is full of juice. Cole can pull power from almost anything in the environment, from power lines to cars to the third rail on the subway tracks. Parts of the city may also be blacked out...these are obviously very dangerous for Cole.

GS AU: What (if any) lessons have you learned and directly translated from the Sly Cooper series to Infamous?

BO: Both Infamous and the Sly Cooper series were built from the same principle: Keep the fun stuff. We do a ton of experimentation and iteration when making our games, and the bottom-line rule is that the fun stuff stays and the un-fun stuff gets cut. It's hard, because you can spend a lot of time and effort on something that you think will be cool and awesome. But if it ends up not being fun to play, you have to toss it out and start again.

GS AU: Giving players a virtual open-world playground and over-the-top powers is fun, but what are some of the associated balance issues of creating a superhero game, and when do you need to reign in the controls?

BO: Balance is one of the crucial hooks for any game. We spent hundreds of man hours watching people play Infamous while recording their every move. From that mountain of data, we adjusted and readjusted thousands of difficulty settings in every part of the game. There's no silver bullet here--you need to ensure that players are always challenged and rarely frustrated.

We knew very early that Cole's powers were electrical. But we didn't want his powers to be unlimited. So we created the charging system throughout Empire City and made the use and management of power a key part of the gameplay. Needing to charge up adds a lot of tension to many scenarios in the game, and being able to unleash huge moves on your enemies then becomes supersatisfying.

GS AU: Bruce Oberg, thanks for your time.

Discussion

78 comments
GM-Lucra
GM-Lucra

Seriously some gamers take the whole system rivalry way to far. I am a die hard sony fan, but I still have a 360 along with my PS3. Why cant other gamers just admit that it is a good game and move on. There are a few games for the Wii that I would love to play but I dont hate the sysytem because I dont have one. Some gamers are just to stubborn and wont except this fact. All systems make good games!!!!!!!!!!

assassinatur54
assassinatur54

I hate people who think one is better than the other. Both are amazing, and I think 360 'fanboys' just say that Prototype is better because it's for 360. I think both games are equal, except Prototype has more blood. So stop with the arguing, both games are equal, deal with it! I am an owner of a 360 and PS3, and I say hell to those who argue which one is better.

Jfisch93
Jfisch93

I dont think that ps3 fanboys or ps3 only owners should even care. We can get BOTH

Gaspforthirst
Gaspforthirst

Just stop comparing Prototype with inFAMOUS. If any of you even spent any time reading articles on these two games, you'd know that they are very different in depth gameplay-wise. It's obvious that Prototype was made to be a smash 'em up game. inFAMOUS was made with the undertone of RP elements.

kkevguy47k
kkevguy47k

I'm definetly playing this game through twice. reason 1 is its awesome, reason 2 is so i can play it through the good way, then the evil way

Jak_Napier
Jak_Napier

i liked the music video, quite entertaining and a wicked soundtrack. Ive heard from the psu.com, that apparently in the deom if you look out for a coming soon sign or a now playing sign above an old movie theatre, on the list of movies advertised at the theatre it says "Sly Cooper 4, Honour among thieves". this could possibly point to sucker punch as the potential candidates to deveop and create a sly cooper game specifically for the PS3. This would be Sly coopers first HD next gen experience. If the rumors have been confirmed. I'll keep everyone posted on that. Cheers,

acdarkknight
acdarkknight

@PitchBlack999: Say what you want but dont get offended when people dont agree with your point of view. My point was that i am not on the prototype boards saying that it is generic and unnecesary so dont rain on my parade.

truthbetold101
truthbetold101

yeah, i'd recomend people dont trash the game until they've played it, cause you only make urselves look like looser 360 fanboys who are simply jealous. me personally, i thought it looked extreml repetitive in the videos, but over time watching them they got a little more interesting.... and when the demo got out for pre-order, ive played it 3 times, its freakn awesome! theres just a ton of stuff 2 do despite it being just a demo and i can say for myself, well done Sucker Punch, hope that prototype can do great 2.

acdarkknight
acdarkknight

@PitchBlack999: "an unwanted exclusive"? wtf is wrong with you? That statement is just wicked retarded. And if you want to play an over the top incredible hulk clone thats rated M then get off this board and go to the prototype board.

Vlad27145
Vlad27145

@nerd_assassin Yup, I really have high hopes for New Vegas. Rumours talk of it as based on the same engine as Fallout 3 (man, it really hurts me to call it that :'( ). I honestly hope that isn't the case, but anyway it wouldn't be a make or brake issue. I could still be happy if they throw in stats that are effectively useful, other than to shoot better. My first time through with FO3 I tried to go on the Charisma path, as i liked that a lot in previous Fallouts. It was horrible, and made me realise that to get the most out of that game all I could do is spend most of my points on guns. Somehow, they managed to link just about EVERYTHING to guns anyway, so it wasn't that difficult to do in the end :). Nice game, NOT a nice RPG. As for Bioshock, I don't think devs ever wanted it to be considered an RPG. I mean, Deus Ex, or System Shock 2 had WAY more RPG elements in it and they were still called mostly shooters. For emoticons, you just need to type the text equivalent, say : then ), it gets substituted automatically ;) EDIT: if Gamespot has the smiley in their database that is, seems they don't like crying faces :'(

acdarkknight
acdarkknight

Wow there are alot of trolls here. Its amazing to see that amount of people trashing the game who have definitely never played it. The demo is out, it is alot of fun to play. If I had to compare it to a game I would have to say take the powers of the Dark Apprentace, the game play and climbing of uncharted, the open city (and fun) of crackdown, and a morality system much like (but not as deep) as fallout. I find it hilarious the amount of people that have not and will not play the game hating on it, but those are the glories of a message board.

ratm247
ratm247

wouldnt it be disappointing if infamous AND prototype were both horrible games? i hope they are as good as they look, which is amazing.

nerd_assassin
nerd_assassin

@Vlad27145 Yay! Finally someone agreed. If that FO: Las Vegas turned out to be good, it'll be really sad that Interplay have to go bankrupt. They might as well should have sold the franchise to Obsidian. Bioshock kind of have RPG elements. Devs should really straighten up their decisions on the genre before releasing the game. That way people won't make statements that are misleading. Hehe. LOL on the COD4&5. I just hope they both end up ok. I really am looking forward to the "destroy the guy's car" thing. I mean, that's on the personal level. I've never seen a game like that. It's like putting a different AI and memory patterns to each person and switching states on that level is a very incomprehensible programming structure for me(as of now, everyone can get better). That's like how many variables if you compare it with a basic program. BTW, your gonna be the first one that I'll ask about this, how do I use emoticons?

Vlad27145
Vlad27145

@nerd_assassin Fallout 3 DOES suck as an RPG, and should be compared to an FPS. :D I don't get it these days, there are even people who are calling Bioshock an RPG. So, then COD4&5 are also RPG's in MP, because there are classes? ;) Back on topic. At the beginning I had higher hopes for Prototype than this too, but as more details surfaced I changed my mind about that. We'll see as May 26th arrives.

nerd_assassin
nerd_assassin

@PitchBlack999 After saying that inFamous is very unrealistic, there's this comment about Prototype PWNS inFamous? Wow, very very very...commendable. I mean, everyday you can see people morphing around and sucking people up right? WRONG. Genetic experimentation is indeed a reality, but it won't make someone an assimilating, shape-shifting person. On the other hand, I've proven my static capabilities. I may not shoot lightning at hand, but I've already shocked about 3 people with my body sparks. Heehee. Really, true story. Don't judge the game yet. You haven't even seen the whole of it. How can you all say that Prototype is better than inFamous(I actually commend people for saying that prototype would probably be better, at least they're just assuming and analyzing the facts at hand, and stating their opinion of course). And besides, you can play both if you have a PS3. If you have a PS3, that is. For me, it's going to be both. @wox232 I could have agreed if you compared like CoD to Halo. FO3 is an RPG. Now if you really stand by your decision then it's sweet victory for Fallout purists that someone is saying that FO3 sucks as an RPG(because the statement implies just that) and should be compared to an FPS. @bigkegofhealth Huh? No, there's a morality system, so it's not like Assassin's Creed. You can't kill people out of nothing, you don't have to kill someone most of the time to progress, and you don't eavesdrop to clear a hurdle. If it really does that "destroying something and it will not come back" or that "destroy a dude's car and he might hate you forever" thing, then this will be my game.

twillfast
twillfast

Oh btw, there's a large chance that at least one of these contested games (Prototype & inFamous) will be full of bugs or just plainly no-fun. It has happened to open world games before. I think Bruce at least makes a good point on the focus testing; to always keep it fun and remove the stuff that isn't. I guess it'll be decided in the demo of both of these games.

twillfast
twillfast

lol @ wox232's comparison, Halo vs. FO3. Well I think that NHL97 for the Sega Genesis will be a much better game than inFamous will be. ^_^

creed190
creed190

wox232 you got a good point there im probly guna do the same

wox232
wox232

This just looks like such a generic game. Playing with electricity? Been there, done that. I'll be getting prototype instead of this. And please, let's not make this a console war. Exclusives are not necessarily better; Halo vs. FO3 anybody? I just think prototype will be the better game. It looks like it'll have a better story, more interesting powers, and it's more open to boot.

wox232
wox232

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Ironserpent
Ironserpent

I can't wait for this game. Maybe GOTY?

YoJim8obaJoe
YoJim8obaJoe

Lswgamer Posted May 9, 2009 6:41 pm GMT Actually, Velvet Assassin is also available for PC. most 360 exclusives are on PC and better,whereas ps3 exclusives tend to be just that.Exclusive

ngboy
ngboy

ok someone saying that a game with a guy that controls electricity is unrealistic is like saying water is wet. some people here are just idiots. after trying this demo at the local gamestop, i must say it's pretty fun. i can't wait!

bigkegofhealth
bigkegofhealth

Looks exactly like Assassins Creed. It will get dull really fast. Unless there is an amazing storyline then this game is going to suck. Run around, do lightning related move, level up, do similar looking move with more lightning. There must be better ideas around than this.

Mystoksor
Mystoksor

the morality sounds cool in theory. I just hope that it's more of a merits-vs-drawbacks system, rather than making it sort of a rail-shooter scenario, where you need to take deliberate care to avoid civilians or incur an overall penalty

Silverbond
Silverbond

Oh man.... I can't wait for this game!

Jhraxlin
Jhraxlin

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

MajinDante
MajinDante

still dont see what the hype for this game is all about. it looks like another generic action game definitely renting before buying, i have not seen one video that made me hyped to play this.

brendanhunt1
brendanhunt1

its great to have a strong first party support

wonzan
wonzan

Gtgamer13fresh.....you mean "whether". Anywhos, I'm still unsure about this game. I won't be getting it on release and probably wait for the reviews first. Or just play it around a friends house.

Gtgamer13fresh
Gtgamer13fresh

-alex09 LOL, I think hes 9 yrs. I'm still stuck on weather I should get inFamous or Prototype. They both look like great games.

El_guitar_man
El_guitar_man

I can see this being a great game. Better than prototype I think.

Lswgamer
Lswgamer

Actually, Velvet Assassin is also available for PC.

Bozo1975
Bozo1975

Woops sorry the 360 did get some exclusives this year. Ninja Blade, Halo Wars, Velvet Assasin and soon Death Race!!

Bozo1975
Bozo1975

@Doolz2024 Err you do know there are more AAA exclusives for the ps3 right? Looking at what is coming in 09 it's a good time to be a ps3 owner. I will be playing Infamous, Uncharted2, GT5, GOW3, Heavy Rain this year, while 360 owners are stuck with more overpriced DLC for Gears2 and a missionpack for Halo3 :)

Zythn
Zythn

I can't wait for this game to be released; this is definetly a must buy!!!!

Deathrebellion
Deathrebellion

i things 4 sure this game is gonna give u a HUGE sense of Power by the looks of it

grassgreener12
grassgreener12

this game looks really cool....Only if i had a PS3. Oh well, i'll stick to another badass game, Prototype, for my over the top fantasy trip on tbe 360

Claverleykid
Claverleykid

Oh I almost forgot. OPM UK gave this a 9/10. Thank God!!

Claverleykid
Claverleykid

Same here Nihmmoh. In the demo on PSN Cole changes from good to evil by the start of a mission. Is this because it is the demo and the developers want to get the feeling of good and evil for the gamer (most probably) or is this how the game will work.

Nihmmoh
Nihmmoh

ill beat this twice, the first time ill be good and the second time ill be EVIL

Dragonrider617
Dragonrider617

This game looks amazing im gald i already pre-ordered it :D and Alex 09 where did you learn to spell?

vecsim89
vecsim89

From what Bruce Oberg has answered and the look of the trailers available to watch have been like, as soon as it comes out I'm buying it. I've already preordered it anyways lol.

Jhraxlin
Jhraxlin

That was possibly the most beast video from any game I've seen this year. I so wish I had a PS3, this game looks so freakin' sick.