How do you sell this very hardcore depiction of the graf culture to a mainstream gaming audience?
Marc Ecko: We have to make sure that our core concepts of gameplay appeal to everyone. Is it fun or is it not? Is it entertaining? Am I compelled to keep playing? Those are the things that we have to do, so that for a casual gamer it's fun and for the hardcore gamer there's something unique that they can appreciate. Look at skate shoes. There are millions more pairs of skate shoes out there than there are skateboards, which tells me that people who don't skate wear skate shoes. Why? Because people have learned about skate culture from guys like Tony Hawk and see something they relate to. That's what I'm trying to do with the graffiti in Getting Up.
How does the graffiti system work? Do you actually control the can or just press a button?
Marc Ecko: First of all, our main focus is the extreme sport of graffiti. It's not just about putting paint on the wall. It's about how do I get in, how do I get up, and how do I get out? You begin to get a real taste for that as you play it. So we've got mission critical tags that you have to do and non-mission critical tags. You've got an Intuition that you can activate by pressing down the right analogue stick, and that lets you know where the best spots are. In addition to that there's free-form graffiti - the ability to get up one colour tags, sticker and posters anywhere on any flat surface.
The graffiti culture operates a lot on reputation. Have you built that into the game?
Marc Ecko: Yeah. We have a rep level that builds as you complete mission critical and non-mission critical tags. You might get more for a mission critical, but that's because there'll be someone nearby who may discover you, or road traffic, or a dangerous drop. Also, the more complicated a piece is the more rep you'll build, but the easier it is for the paint to run. We want to avoid drips. Drips get baked into you piece and fuck up your rep score. You want pieces that look crisp and clean. And then we have the risk/reward time mechanic. Going too fast, going too slow, being too careful or flicking off the can all affect not only your rep, but also your wellbeing.
Do you use the analogue stick to paint graffiti?
Marc Ecko: Yeah, you use the analogue stick and you've got to use it in the same way a graffiti artist would. The ideal movement is in a figure of eight. If you go up and down it won't fill right. If you go side to side it won't fill right. But if you're using a paint roller then you'll have to go left and right or up and down, because a figure of eight would be messy.
Is the game free-roaming?
Marc Ecko: No, that's a direction we didn't go in. Getting Up is level based. There are 33 levels split into 11 chapters. I really didn't want to get into a pissing game over the whole free-roaming thing. I realized that what I had to lean on was pushing high visual production values and giving the player a sense of free-roaming by making them put graffiti in really weird spots that they have to find themselves. We've really tried to build the levels vertically rather than horizontally, and that give the gameplay a really unique feel.
Free-roaming or not, people will still compare Getting Up to GTA because of its style and attitude. Does that bother you?