One of the core systems shown in your original 2007 pitch was the random weapon generator. How has that evolved for the sequel?
That's actually one of the things that was a really difficult decision as we came in to the second game. It took a long time to create that tech, the way all the different weapon bodies and components come together. I personally don't even understand how it works... it's just a really complex system and going in to this we thought that the manufacturers' identities were a little weak in the last game. You couldn't tell one gun from another.
We've kind of gutted the system. The mechanics of how it works are still relatively the same but we've re-concepted every weapon across the whole board. Our game is about the guns; we have so many more components and attachments. When you take that and the character that we're talking about right now - Salvador the gunzerker - you can have a crazy rocket launcher in one hand and a minigun in the other.
If you take all of those guns and figure out how many different combinations you could create... to us that was a really important thing because this is a gun game and we really want people to understand that, and just see that we've gone all in to do the best we can and give them as many options as our play style will allow. We're doing our best.
For the sequel did you look at what fans liked best about the original and expanding on that, or are you looking to do your own thing?
Both 2K and ourselves both believe in the promise of the project - that's never changed. The core values and the core design... we listen to feedback externally and internally. The publisher really is like, 'we trust you to do what you're doing' and we're doing the best we can to meet expectations on both sides.
Obviously there's some pressure. We want to deliver. We're very honest with ourselves - we didn't want to create just an annual sequel that changed the textures. Very few components from the last game are being reused. We have some staples for certain enemies that we put in for familiarity but it was really important for us to just do more of what we did better, with as many things as we can put in there to keep players interested.
What facets of the original do you feel didn't turn out so well?
We're our own worst critic - I'm never really happy. We know the story wasn't the most amazing thing but we also took the decision to say 'this is about the gameplay' and we didn't want to override that. That's something we're really working on in this, getting the story in to the missions and presenting reasons for what you're doing rather than just fest quests and following your HUD dot.
NPCs and interactions with them are much better. That's one other thing... we're putting a lot of effort in to that to make the world feel alive. I felt the world in the original was a little static and we're now trying to get as much movement in there as possible and creating a little more realised world. And when we're creating an enemy it's about the gameplay first, plus the AI's improved a lot. Some things are appropriately dumb (laughs) but we've really tried to look at that and I feel like we're doing a much better job.
In a genre that's dominated by Call of Duty a lot of developers are now trying to create shooters that are a bit different such as Brink, Bulletstorm etc, but yours is one of the few that's seen success. Why is that?
In regards to us I really do feel it was that we didn't want to go overly RPG and we didn't want to go overly shooter . There was always a constant struggle over how may stats we showed and we tried really hard to make that balance palatable to a player who plays a more standard shooter. We tried to cater to those guys. That was really important to us, it wasn't just like 'oh I saw this feature in another game, let's put it in'.