Saints Row games are not targeted to fans of nuance and subtlety. Take its upcoming Agents of Mayhem for instance, a spin-off that wastes no time in conveying its reverence for the 1980s, specifically the charm and aesthetics of G.I. Joe. You can expect a lot of grade school-level humor and dialogue mixed with a hearty peppering of obscenities and mature themes. We spoke with Anoop Shekar, design director at Volition to learn more on what to expect from Agents of Mayhem.
Gamespot: How does Agents of Mayhem fit in the context of the Saints Row series?
Anoop Shekar: It's actually not part of the Saints Row series, per se. It just has a lot of callbacks and references to previous games we've done; the flair has somewhat carried over. Agents of Mayhem is really its own game. We have characters from Saints Row but the Agents of Mayhem versions are different than what you're going to see in a Saints Row game.
If someone created a timeline in their head, does this appear after any particular Saints Row?
At the end of Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell, Johnny Gat is presented with a decision from God, where he can do one of many things. One of them is to create a new universe. So Agents of Mayhem is sort of like the idea if that universe was created, this might be one of those.
Agents of Mayhem has a very 1980s direction and aesthetic. How did you arrive at that?
It came from our original inspiration for it, where a lot of us are big fans of G.I. Joe and grew up in the 1980s. We thought it would be cool to do a modern, humorous take on that aspect of our lives and things we grew up on. But we have to make sure it was in a modern context so people who didn't experience those things would still understand and appreciate it.
Who do you see being the main audience for this game? On the surface, it does have that tween level of accessibility, but it also has a lot of R-rated aspects.
Oh yeah, it's definitely a mature game; we're targeting 17. The visual look is supposed to be a juxtaposition to the horrific and more mature things the characters are doing.
What can you say about the activities one can do in the open world that aren't story-related?
There are the outposts you can take over but there are also legion lairs you'll encounter throughout the main storyline. You'll stumble upon them or get information about where they are. These lairs are all over the place and you can get rewards, experience, crafting materials, and money by completing them. There are also races you can do on foot or in your car. We also have targets, legion cannons that are strategically placed throughout the map that you need to take out.
Would you compare the amount of time a person could spend in the open world to the time spent in Saints Row 4?
It's probably a little bit less, except for the legion dungeons, but they are comparable.
Consumers will have a lot of characters to choose from. Do you expect them to get attached to three particular characters to complete a party or are you encouraging them to try everyone as they're gradually introduced?
We put systems and situations in place for you try out all the agents. Before you unlock an agent, you play their unlocked mission. So you get to see what they're like and then it's up to you to decide, "Yes, I'm interested in leveling this character up and making them part of my rotation or part of the three that I always play with." Or you can say, "You know what, that character's not for me, I'm going to just stick with these guys that I've been using for a while."
The idea is to give the player choices and some players will play with all or a lot of the cast while some will stick with four, three, five, or maybe six throughout the whole game.
Will the player be forced to pick certain characters as they near the end of the game?
On the critical path of the main storyline, no. You can always pick any three agents you want to take with you to the end or at any point in the game for the main missions.
What was your design philosophy in trying to keep the cast very offense-oriented but making sure they weren't copies of each other?
We looked at other games that have multiple types of characters, like Skylanders, League of Legends, and Overwatch. We want to provide different ways for people to experience the game. So if you like pet classes, then maybe you'll like one of our agents that we haven't introduced yet. But if you like to just move around a lot with a big gun, then Daisy is a good choice. We wanted to basically create abilities and characters that appeal to a wide variety of people. One of the things we've found when having the game playtested with other people is that we don't have any one agent that's either really liked or really hated. Different people like different things, and that was a key to getting more people to play the game.