Surreal Software has come a long way from its horrific settings of The Suffering games and settled on Las Vegas for its newest game. Three years in development, This Is Vegas was shown for the first time at Midway's Gamers' Day event at the Red Rock Casino in Sin City.
The city that never stops partying can now be at your fingertips 24/7. While the money you win and the girls you bed aren’t real, neither is the money you lose or the sexually transmitted diseases you contract. So it all balances out. Alan Patmore, the game's executive producer, took some time to talk about this open world virtual Vegas.
PSU: What was the inspiration for This Is Vegas?
Patmore: We wanted to do an open world game in Vegas. We did a bunch of research trips to Vegas to figure out what the essence of Vegas was. We didn't want to just do a Grand Theft in Vegas and make it a thug-based game. There's a lot of space in the open world space to explore and it doesn't just have to be crime-based games.
PSU: What were the challenges of turning Vegas into a game?
Patmore: It was things like how do we carry this party vibe over and make tangible mechanics fun? And will those mechanics support more traditional open world mechanics like fighting and driving? That was the inspiration. Some of the challenges we had was figuring out how to make it all work together and balance the mechanics and have them work off of each other.
PSU: Who's your target audience for this game?
Patmore: I definitely think the tone and style of this game, and the fact that it's set in Vegas, which is cool and hip, that mainstream gamers will like this. A lot of people who like open world games but don't want the gratuitous violence or the thug lifestyle, will play this game. From a core mechanic standpoint, we're making sure the four pillars that we have are unique. Fight and drive are fun enough that everyone who picks up GTA will love to do that in the Vegas setting. We spent a lot of time with the fighting system to make sure it was fun to play. With the cars, there are tons of jumps to go off. We have a Freemont Experience area for pedestrians only and it's fun to blaze through there and knock people down with a car. This game has a tremendous amount of appeal to both the hardcore and mass market.
PSU: How are the four pillars of gameplay broken up in the game's missions?
Patmore: There are specific mission that require you to fight. There are missions that integrate all aspects of the pillars, so you may have to dance, fight, drive. A lot of the missions are up to the player how they beat the mission. The good part of open world games is that we want to give the player a set of tools to use in this believable, simulated Vegas and fighting is one of them. You can go off the rails and start beating the crap out of everybody and see what happens. We want to reward people for trying different things and exploring this game. We want you to play the way you want to play.
PSU: In keeping with the theme of fours, what are the four factions the player will interact with in this world?
Patmore: There are four main factions in the game, each based on a deck of cards. The Diamonds are the rich folk, the Hearts are the old entertainers, including this game’s version of The Rat Pack, the Spades are the rockers and the Clubs are the DJs and dancers.
PSU: Can you talk about how players can cheat when gambling?
Patmore: We've added advantage play to all of our casino games, which is our cheating system. For blackjack, one of your buddies will mark your deck of cards with either a dash (low), a circle (medium) or an X (high) and you use infrared glasses to see these. It doesn't guarantee you're going to win but it gives you a distinct advantage over the house. So you literally play the house against itself by knowing if there's a heart card coming. It's really about playing against the house and beating the house and it adds a whole new level of depth to gambling. Then, on top of that, you have to monitor the pit bosses because we have suspicion that's built and if he sees you he'll either replace the dealer, the deck of cards or take you out back and beat you up. You have to be cognizant of who's watching you when you're cheating.
PSU: Can you just cruise the strip and explore this world?
Patmore: It's up to the player to initiate any mission. Once you start a mission you have to finish it in a certain amount of time. It becomes a player choice of when to progress the mission. We want to support people just playing in the environment. Our mission structure is the narrative. It's a well-written story with hilarious dialogue and an irreverent sense of humor. We're hoping people will want to progress the narrative.
PSU: If you're really into fighting, what does the game offer?
Patmore: We have a series of side missions that reward the player for screwing around. If you really like to fight you may want to do the vigilante series of gigs where we have five levels progressively getting harder from catching muggers to taking out hardened criminals to eventually becoming a superhero figure rushing around fighting crime.
PSU: How does the party system work?
Patmore: There’s plenty to do at the in-game nightclubs like Aqua, including getting the party started by dancing solo or with a synchronized group. In addition to this mini-game, there’s a bartending objective that requires you to serve beer, mix drinks, light cigarettes and bash heads on the bar while keeping customers happy.
We'd like to thank Alan Patmore for taking the time to sit down with us and for answering some of our questions.