It is a bit weird because players who are returning to this franchise, are probably aware that the character they're playing is someone whose life they ruined.
Yeah! Which is intriguing to say the least.
Do you know if something like that been done before?
Not that I'm aware of. (Laughs) I mean, it's not impossible that there's a game out there where that's the case but it's certainly new to us.
You said that you want Prototype 2 to appeal to a larger audience - which is par for the course in making any sequel - without diluting what made the franchise a hit. Is that why you introduced a character like Heller who is an injured party and thus, easier to identify with than Mercer, who is basically a sociopath?
Yes. That was a very early decision. Certainly our internal marketing and PR guy at Radical was very keen on the idea that if we had a character that people could immediately relate to, and immediately understand his problem, that would be a much easier sell.
I mean, that makes it sound all vaguely cynical, but I do think that it's important to have a character that people can actually buy into and like and that communicates with players.
We saw the results of that decision when we released the 'Homecoming' trailer a month or two back. The response to that was overwhelmingly positive - players just seemed to immediately 'get it'. They understood exactly who Heller was, why he was motivated to do the things that he was doing and were intrigued by the path he was starting out on and where he would eventually end up.
Can we assume that in Prototype 2 - like in the first game - the player is going to cause quite a bit of collateral damage?
(Laughs) You can!
Then how do you balance this more sympathetic character with Prototype 2's gameplay? With Alex it was easy, because he was morally bankrupt anyway, but you seem to want Heller to have a stronger moral centre.
It's been a tricky balancing act. But one of the interesting behaviours we've seen in the focus testing we've done, is how players take out enemies really cautiously. Developers just break out the whip-fist or the tendrils and go nuts, but players were more selective in their approach and we were intrigued by what we were seeing from them.
We spoke to them and asked them what they were doing and they said they felt Heller wouldn't be the sort of person who would just indiscriminately kill people.
It was interesting that there seemed to be enough granularity in the mechanics that the players felt able to do that and empowered to do that. Players were applying their own handbrake. They were gravitating towards this morality without us having to tell them or having to put barriers in the way. That gives us the opportunity to allow more freedom and flexibility, so you can essentially play the game the way you want to.
The game is set up so the experience can be quite similar to controlling a character Niko in GTA IV, where, if you really want to you can go out with a rocket launcher or a machine gun and start slaughtering NPCs. That's quite at odds with who the character of Niko is; he's a good man who is forced into a difficult situation.
But I think that, at that point, players understand that they're travelling off the beaten track and their actions are inconsistent with the character, but if they're having fun, who are we to argue with that and try and stop them?