RATED M FOR MATURE
ELIZABETH INTRO: Welcome to the seventh episode of The Darkness II podcast series. I'm Elizabeth Tobey, and today I sit down with Sheldon Carter, Project Director at Digital Extremes, and designer Tom Galt to talk about some of the weapons Jackie Estacado can wield over the course of the game.
ELIZABETH: So let's start off; just say your full names and what you do on the project.
SHELDON: Sure. I'm Sheldon Carter. I'm project director on The Darkness II, which is what you're hearing right now, so, [LAUGHTER] that is irrelevant.
TOM: I'm Tom Galt. I'm lead designer.
ELIZABETH: So, we're talking, weapons in The Darkness II. Let's get started with a general topic and a buzz word: Quad-wielding. You've said it a lot. What does it mean, and how did you guys come up with it?
SHELDON: Well, it was, you know, we were inspired by the Gillette series of razors [LAUGHTER] and we just thought how do we, how do we keep going one up from the next one.
TOM: We had five at one point…
SHELDON: That's right…
TOM: But that was just too much.
SHELDON: Yeah. We had three and it was like fuck it, let's go to four, Quad-Wield. Awesome. Right. Quad-Wielding is about having, it's about having two Demon Arms and two guns at the same time and, you know, for us it's about that being really intuitive to use, so it's not, you know, switching between four different things, it's doing them all at the same time. So you've got one demon arm that can grab, one demon arm that can slash and then your two trigger--well, those are the bumpers--and then you've got your two triggers for shooting guns which you can mix and match.
So you could have like a Desert Eagle and a UMP and then you could, you're shooting with those two things, grab something with a, with the grab demon arm, slash something if it got too close, so it, it's kind of, you know, trying to be seamlessly using four different types of attacks, I guess at the same time.
TOM: Yeah, yeah, if I remember, it all came out of us wanting to bring the demon arm right to the front of the combat. Like, you know, it, it was kind of buried in, in the powers menu in Darkness 1 and we want it available all the time so we started with slashing guys with it and doing that kind of stuff and then sort of grabbing guys with the demon arm and throughout, and, throwing objects and that kind of stuff and it just sort of moved out from there.
SHELDON: Yeah, it actually, I was watching, Spider-Man 2 the other day, and to see Doc Ock and he's chucking car doors and he's slashing guys…
SHELDON: I was thinking about how much we must have been inspired by that.
SHELDON: That's Octo-Wielding. That's next. That's The Darkness III. [LAUGHTER].
ELIZABETH: how are the Demon Arms different from other weapons and the Darkness powers in the game? And also, can you talk more about how they're different from how they were in the past?
SHELDON: Yeah, Tom can definitely talk about that.
TOM: Yeah, so the Demon Arms, that was the question, right?
SHELDON: How the demon arm is different.
TOM: Yeah, okay, so Demon Arms, you know functionally it's the same. So if you enjoyed using them in the first game it, it's the same basic core functionality as grabbing things and, slashing things. So the big difference now is that it's available all the time 24/7 when you're playing the game. So you can be in combat shooting your guns, you know, watching the Darkling do his thing, but you can also be slashing guys, grabbing things like that. So basically, the big difference is though, grab and slash are on separate buttons now, so in the first game, I believe it was hold the button down and you'd grab things, but tap it and you're demon arm would poke out there and hit guys.
So we separated those out into two different buttons to give you greater flexibility with how you use them. So on left bumper's grab, so you tap it and the demon arm will reach up and grab a target object and bring it back in and then you can, you know, throw it at enemies or if it's like a, a car door or a dumpster lid, you know, large objects like that, you can use those as shields. And the slashing demon arm you put on the right bumper so you can hold that down. And then you can actually control how you slash with it, so you can, sort of, you know, push up on the right stick when you're holding down the right bumper and you can slash guys up into the air like that.
Or you can slash them left to right by pushing in that direction too. So the demon arm has really added a lot of flexibility to the combat and, really defined the core of what the game's all about now.
SHELDON: Yeah, totally and the grab one, you can, so, like Tom was saying, you could grab objects in the world, you can grab weapons, you can, you know, pick up weapons that are far away from you. You can also pick up people, which is pretty awesome because when you pick up people, that sets up our execution system. So, you know, y-you got someone, grab them by the legs, pull them in close and then you can, you can do an execution like a wish-bone; you grab the other leg and kind of pull them apart like a Thanksgiving, uh…
TOM: Yeah, and they're, they're lots of fun because you can, you know, if the enemies have been giving you a hard time you can finish off with that and you'll add insult to injury by ripping a guy in half or, you know, they have gameplay implications as well so you can, get some cool rewards if you, if you actually have the balls to pull off an execution in combat and get yourself out there, then you can get a cool gameplay reward to help you out.
SHELDON: Yeah, because, I mean, and that ties into, eh, you know, you were talk, talking about powers. I mean some of the powers we've shown so far, things like gun channeling which lets you, you know, channel the Darkness through the guns that you're wielding so you, you're going along and fighting; all of the sudden you activate gun channeling and you have unlimited amo and amped power to your guns. And let's say you're doing that in the, in the middle of combat and, you know, it's on a recharge basis so it takes a little time for it to, to come back.
But there's executions you can do that actually help that recharge faster. So you're in the heat of combat, you're gun channeling, you're taking out a whole bunch of guys, you want that back again because another wave's coming. Great, grab the first guy, you know, tear his head off and see, and see your gun channeling, you know, maybe you're, you're halfway there now. You don't have to wait the whole time. So it's cool because it all kind of feeds into itself.
ELIZABETH: You already talked a little bit about executions but, there are some colorful executions and colorful names. Can you talk a little bit about them and how you came upon which ones are in the game?
TOM: Yeah. A lot of them, I think, were just kind of thrown over the wall at the animators and they came up with a lot of cool ideas, referencing the comic book a lot to see the kind of crazy things Jackie does. And then we'd get them back and then we'd start just trying to name them, you know? And throw around names a little bit here and there and came up with some pretty cool ones.
SHELDON: Yeah. And you… yeah, exactly. You try, and, the thing is that some of them are so graphic it's really hard to come up with the, n-like, what do you do when the demon arm reaches into a guy's ass and pulls his spine out of his ass? Like I don't know what you call that-- so what that, that's, that's going to be a hard, that's going to be a crunch session tomorrow night is name, name the…
TOM: It might take a few days…
SHELDON: Spine out of the ass....
TOM: Yeah, yeah, yeah, it, it's, it's tough, yeah, I don't know.
ELIZABETH: My next question's going to be boring now because we're moving back to guns.
SHELDON: Guns are cool.
ELIZABETH: So, you've mentioned some different guns but obviously you can use a whole bunch of different guns and different guns in combinations. Can you talk a little bit about which weapons we have in the game?
TOM: Yeah, I mean we have the, the usual gamut, you know, SMG's, pistols, shotguns, assault rifles. I think one of my favorites would be the shotguns. We have a cool feature that, we've introduced where you can, we call it active pumping. And it basically allows you to really chamber rounds quickly with a shot gun. So if you just shoot, you know, he'll do his usual chamber and you'll get your next shot, relatively quickly.
But if you're in a hurry, you know, you have a lot of enemies in front of you, you can really chamber that next round super fast by tapping the left trigger. So, you get a real nice flow and shotgun combat where you fire with the right trigger and then quickly tap left trigger to chamber that next round. So you can go right trigger, left trigger, right trigger, left trigger really quickly and it really gives a nice pace to the, to combat.
SHELDON: Yeah. We, and we tried, we've tried to take that philosophy almost for all the weapons so like another example is we do have the true dual-wielding so that you can mix and match your guns. But on top of that, I mean, one of the things that happens, at least that we've found with, with games that dual-wield is that you have your character and it's kind of like the hands are both, like cut way out to the sides on, you know, for every shot. You kind of, as soon as you go from one gun to two guns you've got this really wide cone of view.
And, and what we've done similar to how the shotgun is, you know, if you get into a rhythm with shooting, alternating your shots, your hands actually move closer to the center of the screen kind of narrow your field of view a little bit so you can kind of still be getting a little more precise while you're shooting with two weapons. So, you know it's kind of neat but different, um…
TOM: Yeah, it's not, it's not as good as going “iron sites” but it does, it does, have an impact on accuracy so it's pretty cool.
SHELDON: Yeah, that's kind of cool that way. I mean, yeah, in terms of the, w-we do, we really do have kind of the weapons you'd expect, but even the weapons that we felt like for, were more like, suitable for Jackie; I mean, we felt like pistols for him instead of kind of going down like, the, I don't know, block path or the [LAUGTHER] small like kind of light firearms, they would go more heavier. We could name them all but I mean, they're just, they're just the types of things you'd expect you know, and you get to play with those a bit.
TOM: Yeah. We really took a lot of effort in making sure that every gun has a unique feel to it and has some unique characteristics to it, or even our assault rifles, you know…
TOM: It's, it's the full auto or we have the, the, the three chain, the three round burst of the Carbine, and then we have our Striker which is the, the semi-auto. So, you know, everything has, you know, uniqueness to it, everything has its little perks, so different players will find different, different favorites and that's what we see in, in the studio when, and in play tests too, so…
SHELDON: Yeah, people kind of really kind of hone in on the guns that they like. We have actually, I mean, it's kind of going off topic a little bit but in our, in our talent and progression system we have a whole tree that's dedicated to weapons, so there's lots of things for fans who love guns. I mean this is a shooter. You know, for people that like shooting guns, there's a lot of things that you can do not only just down in terms of like your weapon selection but even upgrading how Jackie handles the guns, to make it more interesting.
ELIZABETH: Uh, the environment is also sometimes a weapon. Can you talk about how you use the environment around you in battles?
TOM: Yeah, okay, so the environment as a weapon. So, that was, this was actually, I'd say one of the more challenging aspects of, of the core design of The Darkness II is figuring out a language for, you know, how, how to show the player what they can use the environment and what they can't. And, you know, we started with anything and everything. But we, we, we settled in on, on sort of objects that can be easily carried around without, you know, obstructing the view and that kind of, the view space and that kind of thing. The, so basically you went, when you're walking through the environment you can get a hint, within that object whether it can be grabbed or not and we sort of highlight what you currently have targeted.
Which isn't what you're looking at with your gun. So you can be targeting objects in your periphery with your demon arm, which is automatic while you're shooting guys. So, it, you can truly like shoot guys while picking up other objects, beside them. So, yeah, I mean, so we have a lot of everyday objects like newspaper boxes you'd find in the streets, that when you throw it at enemies it hits them and knocks them over. So it has a gameplay impact there where you can knock guys out of cover and that kind of stuff.
Uh, we have, javelin type objects we call them. So coin meters, rebar, that kind of thing. So these are things you can use to t-throw at enemies and pale them against walls and, have a lot of fun; people trying to see how many people they can impale with one pole.
TOM: I'm not sure what the record is right now. And, you know, and then we have shields that are slicing type objects. Like, like ceiling fans; if you throw those you'll cut guys in half. So, yeah, a lot of different variety and we have o-other ones as well that, uh…
SHELDON: Yeah. It creates, I mean, like it creates interesting interaction when you're going in. I mean, like I remember the first time we had, we put ceiling fans in as a fan blade that you could throw and, you know, decapitate guys or cut them in half. I walked into a pool hall and, you know, guys start rushing in on me and I slashed the first guy and I grabbed what I knew to be a javelin object which was a pool cue. Got the pool cue and speared the guy and I'm like, okay, well there's another guy halfway across the room, what am I going to do and I looked around and I saw the demon arm target the ceiling fan above me and I reached up, grabbed that and then cut his head off.
And I'm just like, whoa! Okay! Like these are the type of interactions we want. It's like kind of inventing, well, I mean, giving the player the ability to kind of invent combat recipes as they're playing the game.
SHELDON: So, I don't know, what other objects, is there anything else? I guess we have propane tanks.
SHELDON: Things like that? [OVERLAPPING]
TOM: Yeah, explosives.
SHELDON: Yeah exactly that you can, you can throw, uh…
TOM: What else.
SHELDON: other stuff.
TOM: Car doors.
SHELDON: Oh, car doors! Yeah. And that's the other thing. I guess you have a class of objects that are shields too. So, I mean, it's not just about, picking up and throwing them. It, it's also about using them as a defensible position, right? So you have moving cover. All the sudden, you know, you see a car pull it up and now you're shooting through the windshield which is pretty cool and you can, absorb damage with it and then you can also throw them and get kind of, the slicing action.
ELIZABETH: So, let's talk a little bit about light and dark and how that figures into gameplay and sort of in conjunction with that what do enemies use against you while they're fighting?
SHELDON: Yeah. I mean, I think that's one of like the biggest differences between, Darkness 1 and The Darkness II is that in, in The Darkness II we had a philosophy where we didn't really want the player to have to go in and manage all the lights in the room. We didn't want you to have to go in and kind of pick through every light before you got in a fight. Instead what we have is, sure, there's big pools of lights that you can see when you walk in. You're like okay, that's where the danger is, that's where I don't want to go. But that's not the end of it, because now the enemies are bringing light into the fight.
So, you know, all of the sudden you're fighting Brotherhood in, in the streets and you're okay, avoid the street lights, or shoot them out; that's great. But then all the sudden one tosses a flashbang in and totally strips your power and you're like, okay, wow, I've got to get out of the radius of this and then another enemy comes out, a Brotherhood comes out and, you know, he's, we call him a support Brotherhood, and he's got a huge light canon on his shoulder and he's just keeping it pinned on the whole time, stripping your power so you have to take care of that light before you can, you know, fight the rest of the guys using your powers.
Because, Jackie, as soon as you're in the light, you know, you're a regular dude. You can still shoot your guns and stuff like that but, but all your powers are gone, so it's a, it's an interesting dynamic because all the combat spaces, even though you might think you walked in and “okay I shot out that light, I'm great,” the enemies can change it up radically. Yeah.
TOM: Yeah it was really, you know, Jackie's a badass. He can pretty much butcher any normal way that gets in his way. So it wasn't going to be much fun for us just to have a bunch of generic, you know, blue collar mobsters, eh, running throughout the, the levels that you're just going to be cutting through from start to finish. We had to get in a new enemy type that knew about the Darkness and knew how to counter it so that we could present these kinds of gameplay challenges and scenarios to you. And so it, that's what the Brotherhood gave us, is it gave us an enemy that could use lights and it could use other tools, you know, like the shield guy, who, you know, he's protected.
And you can't grab his shield away from him because it's armored with some special armor on it. So you need to really puzzle out how you're going to defeat each enemy in each of these encounters as they, as they come at you. So it's a real dynamic system that, we're pretty happy with.
SHELDON: Yeah, each of the, like the Brotherhood are, are really cool that way because, you know, they do use light but then they have Tom was saying, there's the shield enemy who presents a different challenge or there's, there's the Melee enemy that uses a whip. And I mean, this creates a some crazy scenarios where you run in, you're shooting and this whip guy comes along and he, he hits you with the whip and he disarms you so you, he yanks your guns out of your hands and so you're like, okay, great I'm going to go hit him with my Darkness powers and a flash bang come in and now you can't use Darkness powers as well.
So, you know, you really, you really went from all the sudden having, you know, full advantage in the combat. You think, oh, one guy with a whip versus me and my Demon Arms, I'm good, to oh god, I've got to run, I've got to figure out another way of getting here. I mean, I have to come, get to cover. I'm going to have to figure out how to use a different weapon here; use my demon arm to, to grab something from behind cover. So it's neat that way.
ELIZABETH: Uh, final aspect before I let you guys go? Can we talk about the Darkling and how he helps you out in fights?
TOM: Yeah, yeah, Darkling is awesome because he's, you know, he's, he's there to make you laugh but he's, he's, he's a huge impact in combat. And he really supports the, the idea we have of the Demon Arms and that close personal combat. So, you know, you're in a fight, you're shooting some guys, they're behind cover, they're well entrenched. Oh, you know? That's not good enough. The Darkling will come out beside them and grab his leg and start pulling him out of that cover spot. So, you know that's great because then you can chop, run forward and chop him in half or, or grab him out of that pose if you want, and execute him.
TOM: So, you know the Darkling is, is handy. He's, he, he really gets in there and helps, helps pull guys out and helps support your, you know, whatever you want to do, you know? He, he helps you, you can shoot the guy if you want but if you want you can execute him, use a demon arm, whatever, however you want to kill him.
SHELDON: Yeah, it's cool because he's like, he's got the, he's that distraction that lets you sometimes concentrate on, on a tougher enemy too. Like, you know, we were talking about a shield enemy who has a, a tough armor that you have to shoot off. Well, you know, you have to focus on that guy to take him out but on the periphery there's another guy who's got, you know, a Desert Eagle and he's plugging away at you and you can't just concentrate on him and then all of a sudden, you know, the Darkling leaps, leaps up on him and starts, riding him like he's in a rodeo.
SHELDON: You know, kicking the hat back. And you look over, you kind of laugh and go like, “okay buddy, you take care of that, I'll, I'll get this guy.” And it's cool because, you know, he'll distract him long enough for you to kind of complete that other gameplay task, so it's kind of cool that way. I'll just keep saying at the end of everything, it's kind of cool that way.
ELIZABETH: It's okay.
SHELDON: Oh, yeah…
TOM: It's really cool and the Darkling of course, you can, control the Darkling too, so that, that's the new feature, in, in The Darkness II that, we're, it's, it's actually a lot of fun and it really changed the pace, you know, you're used to slicing guys and running forward and, you know, causing chaos. But, when you're playing as the Darkling, you're sneaking around more. You know, light's obviously deadly to you so suddenly light is hugely dangerous and you have to be really careful at where you're going to go.
So, you're dodging pools of light. If you, if you're, you know, sneaking around Brotherhood with support lights, then you've got to be careful of them and really puzzle out how you're going to get through areas. So he's, he's really cool that way and he gives you kind of that stealth element that, that you think might be missing from, you know, all the other action bits in the game.
SHELDON: Yeah. I think like that's the, the Darkling and controlling him, people often ask us, I mean, everything shown, we've shown so far has been so action oriented. You know, we're talking about quad-moving, we're talking about ripping guys, in half and they're kind of wondering, where's, you know, what's the stealth aspect or what are the pacing aspects. Well, yeah, it's really cool. When you get to control the Darkling and now you're creeping along as this little guy who, whose totally vulnerable but also has cool executions; like he can, he can grab guys and kind of do his own executes; he's got lots of little, unique gameplay elements and it kind of brings back that stealth element.
ELIZABETH OUTRO: This, of course, is just a smattering of all the tools Jackie has at his disposal (and barely scratches the surface of all the tricks he has up his sleeve) but hopefully has given you a taste of what is to come when you step into Jackie's shoes this February. Thanks for listening — we'll be back soon with episode eight where we talk about sound in The Darkness II.