The Godfather Designer Diary #1

Executive producer David De Martini sheds some light on EA's family business in this designer diary on the upcoming game.


Electronic Arts' upcoming Godfather game based on the novel and film of the same name stands as one of the most anticipated games to hit this fall. Amid the anticipation for the game, there's a healthy dose of cynicism surrounding it as well. Will EA really be able to offer as rich an experience as the classic movie and book without compromise? Executive producer David De Martini sheds some light on the project's beginnings.

The Family Business

By David De Martini
Executive Producer, Electronic Arts

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David De Martini

My name is David De Martini, and I am the vice president and executive producer responsible for the Godfather franchise. I have been working in software development for 24 years and have spent the last seven years at Electronic Arts. I have previously been responsible for NCAA March Madness, NASCAR, Jane's, Knockout Kings, and Tiger Woods PGA Tour. I also spent 18 months as the COO of the Redwood Shores studio.

The Godfather game has been in the works for 2 1/2 years. Paramount, the owner of the rights to the book and the film, approached us to discuss some creative ideas about making a game based on the Godfather fiction. We spent six months discussing creative concepts. We pitched several ideas until we finally agreed on the idea that would become the core creative element of the product.

That concept is to create yourself in the game, earn respect, and become the Godfather. After you create yourself at the start of the story, your character is invited to join the Corleone family. Once you're in the family, you work your way up through the ranks until you get the opportunity to become the Godfather...if you play your cards right.

Our approach to this project has been very simple. We set out to make a great open- and living-world game, one that would stand on its own even without the Godfather license. Then, once we had accomplished that mission and made a very innovative game, the plan was to add all the Godfather flavor and texture to make the experience even more memorable.

Our team feels a great sense of responsibility working on The Godfather. We have seen the film hundreds of times and have read the book many times as well. We are experts in this fiction and are excited about the opportunity to work with this material.

In order to create an authentic Godfather experience, it was essential that we get as many people as possible from the movie involved in the game. It also meant doing hundreds of hours of research on 1945 New York City so we could capture the feel of the era--from the way people acted and dressed, to the cards, weapons, and buildings--and stay true to the story that Mario Puzo first wrote many years ago.

We have great respect for this fiction, but we don't fear it. We realized early on that we need to be bold enough to take it to where it needs to go in the interactive space. Puzo had this freedom with the book, and Coppola had a similar freedom with the movie. We deserve the opportunity to evolve the fiction for the interactive space--to dare to be bold and make an open- and living-world Godfather experience rather than just making a movie game.

The Godfather aims to drop you into the rich world seen in Mario Puzo's classic novel and Francis Ford Coppola's film.
The Godfather aims to drop you into the rich world seen in Mario Puzo's classic novel and Francis Ford Coppola's film.

During the initial creative discussions, we considered the first-person, role-playing, and real-time strategy genres but finally settled on a third-person action title. We wanted this game to heavily focus on what went on behind the scenes and in the living world. Not the ordering around but rather the actual activities that the order takers had to do on a daily basis to move the family interests forward. Additionally, the third-person perspective lets you be the star of the game. This gives the game more of an emotional impact and really draws you further into the gameworld.

This open, living world is so interesting that I would rather walk! There is a driving element of gameplay, but it isn't the focus. Stealing cars was not appropriate to the era. Plus, when you're in the car you miss so much of the world. We want you to walk the streets and experience the realities of the life that you have created through how you play the game. If you are more violent, the world you live in becomes more violent. If you play in a more balanced way, the streets are more balanced, and people are not as prone to draw guns and shoot.

To put it another way, we are creating a world with a memory and a world with consequences. When we push these two dimensions, the world starts to feel alive--it has feelings and becomes more dynamic. Many game makers in this genre set out to create life as we know it and then fall hopelessly short. Our model represents a significant innovation beyond what has shipped to date.

We are currently pushing hard in the main production phase of this project. We are working long hours and focusing all of our attention on the building process. We have a great team of people who are all dedicated to making our creative vision come to life. Right now they are focused on getting all the characters up and running and on the neighborhoods and venues and gameplay and UI and... It is a very busy and exciting time on our team.

Within the team we follow very simple principles, which we established long, long ago: Have fun, try hard, work smart, and play our positions. These four simple rules have guided us as teams and individuals for more than two years. They have allowed us to create an open- and living-world game with significant innovations in controls, living-world behaviors, and emotional investment. When we are done, we want to be respected for our approach, our courage to take the game beyond expectations, and for the excellence of our results. Above all, the game must be fun. If the core mechanics are great, then people will play and not even realize why they are having so much fun.

Rather than having you play as one of the known character's in the story, The Godfather will cast you as an up-and-coming member of the Corleone family.
Rather than having you play as one of the known character's in the story, The Godfather will cast you as an up-and-coming member of the Corleone family.

I'm kicking off this diary series, and I hope that you all keep coming back to it. Many members of our team will be contributing to it, giving you the opportunity to learn about the development and creative process for The Godfather and for games in general. You will get to live the life of the Godfather team and then live the life of the Corleone family in the game itself.

Making anything truly great isn't easy. It takes a ton of work and tremendous creative energy. It takes an exceptional team of individuals who pull together to accomplish something special. We have that team, and we are making that game. I'm sure that all the gamers out there will enjoy the results. When you do, and that smile comes to your face, we will know and we will be proud of our efforts.

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