Saints Row: The Third Interview (Xbox360)

The Saints Row franchise has had to struggle against the shadow of Rockstar's popular franchise, but now the team at Volition have truly made it it's own game. We spoke to one of the game's Producers, James Torbit, about what makes Saints Row: The Third so unique, and so very silly...

Strategy Informer:
You've mentioned how the story missions are going to provide unique experiences not possible in the main game. Is there a reason for that? Can the technology not handle it?

James Torbit: It's more to do with tying those events into the storyline. There's two halves here - the first half is the open world gameplay, bunch of toys in a box, the other half is the story line and these moments that you're going to have on the missions. We don't want them to be arbitrary, and many of them are very complex. Some of these are very difficult to build especially outside of the context of a mission, and they are technically difficult to achieve. But these are moments we want so we keep them in the game.


Strategy Informer: How do you feel you're going to drive the sandbox genre forward here?

James Torbit: There was one basic design philosophy that we had, and I think it's what sandbox is, and that was we wanted to shed the rules of realism, and if it's fun we'll put it in. Over the top, ridiculous experiences. We want to create an environment where if you're in it, there's always something going on. It's densely packed. That's going to be our open-world experience, there's always something going on.

Strategy Informer: You mentioned how you wanted to shed the rules of realism, and all that, why then do you feel the need to continue with a core narrative?

James Torbit: Well, the crazy and the mayhem is still part of the missions. It's not not part of the storyline. Those work so well within the context of the missions, and mission gameplay is an important part of the game - we want to retain that. One thing about Saints Row and other games like it is that you can choose, you can drive around a bit and do stupid things, or you can progress the storyline, and there's no order to that. I know there's players who don't go through all the missions, they just go around and do whatever it is they do. They are both important parts of the game though.

Strategy Informer: Do you want this game to be taken seriously?

James Torbit: Well, as a toy, and as something fun yes. The storyline, and the characters and everything are all very tongue and cheek, and I would not expect them to be taken very seriously. Some of it is very overt and... that ridiculous dildo bat, that just made us laugh so we put it in the game.

Strategy Informer: Do you know how much content there is in the game? Do you think there's enough to keep people interested?

James Torbit: We have been working on Saints Row: The Third since before we finished Saints Row 2. It takes years to get something like this finished. I don't know what the path is - from the first mission to the last - is going to be at this point. I think in Saints Row 2, I think we were seeing people go into the 30-40 hour range. We've got more open world content for player, missions are longer as well, simply in terms of duration, I think we'll have as much content, if not more, than SR2.

Strategy Informer: Do you think you'll ever push the franchise to a point where it's just a sandbox game. You like to use the toy-box metaphor, do you ever envision a game where there is no narrative, no missions, just do-whatever-you-want?

James Torbit: That would be a very radical departure from what we do now, because the storyline and the characters, and the development of our world are very tied to that story. I know that from SR1, to two, to 3, and then on to 4, we spend more and more time on what that open-world play is and trying to constantly entertain you in this ambient way, and I do think we're going to continue doing that. But the mission and all, I think it's unlikely that we will ever not have missions.


Strategy Informer: So you would like there to be a fourth game?

James Torbit: *smiles* Of course.

Strategy Informer: What can you tell us with regards to multiplayer at the moment?

James Torbit: Co-op will be a big part of the game, we will not have competitive multiplayer though. We have things in store for additional modes, but we're not talking about those yet. There's some new features for co-op as well, but we're not talking about those yet either. Everything that you saw in Saints Row 2 though, like the drop-in/drop-out stuff will be there, it's just the new stuff I can't talk about.

Strategy Informer: Do you not think competitive multiplayer works in the sandbox game then?

James Torbit: I'm not so sure that it doesn't work, but we wanted to focus our efforts specifically on co-op - which is very popular. We also wanted to focus our efforts on the building of the city and the sandbox, the competitive multiplayer... was just not the focus for our game. People weren't spending a lot of time with it.

Strategy Informer: Will you guys be releasing any additional content? With Red Faction you guys have Battlegrounds, and the movie as well - anything like that for Saints Row?

James Torbit: I can say that there will be, I cannot say what it is specifically. But yes, there's a big push for stuff like that, it's more than we've ever done before I think, and that will continue on into the Downloadable Content. We did [DLC] on Saints Row 2, we're going to do it more with Saints Row 3.

Strategy Informer: Saints Row 3 is scheduled for 'Holiday 2012', but say if GTA V was announced this year, also with a release date at a similar time, do you think the franchise can stand on its own now?

James Torbit: I think they're different games now. GTA is an 800-pound gorilla for sure, but I think we're pretty unique from them now, so yeah, I think so.


Strategy Informer: Many developers say that though, especially when talking about competition. They're quick to disassociate themselves from other games, say how their game is unique, and even go as far as saying things like one doesn't exclude the other. But in today's economy, even games that fill completely different niches, consumers may not be able to afford both. What would you say to persuade people to buy yours instead of theirs?

James Torbit: Well, for us, the thing that I would say, and that anyone who's worked on Saints Row: The Third should respond to that question is that it's just guiltless fun. For me personally I think it's huge value for the player. you get a lot out of a Saints Row title, it's not a short experience.

A little bit of insight for you into the madness. "Guiltless Fun" sounds just about right, from what we've seen so far, but here's to hoping that the toy-box nature of the game doesn't detract too much from the core narrative. You can read more about Saints Row: The Third in our preview.