Mafia II nur unter DirectX 10 spielbar? Nein!

Die französischen Kollegen von berichteten, dass Mafia II, welches von der 2KCzech entwickelten Illusion-Engine angetrieben wird, ausschließlich unter DirectX 10 und Windows Vista spielbar sein soll. Das wurde auch von diversen US-Webseiten bestätigt. Das Ziel sei es, ein konkurrenzfähiges Grafikgerüst abzuliefern, das Spielen wie Bioshock oder FarCry 2 in nichts nachstehe. Dazu sei es notwenig, zwingend auf DirectX 10 zu setzen.

Der Aufschrei in der Spielergemeinde lies erwartungsgemäß nicht lange auf sich warten. Doch kurz darauf meldete sich auch 2KCzech zu Wort und dementierte die französischen Gerüchte. Mafia II wird auch unter DirectX 9 spielbar sein. Inwiefern es grafische Abstriche zu machen gilt, ist noch nicht bekannt.

Zwei neue Interviews mit Daniel Vavra (Lead Designer) und Frantisek Harcar (Motion Capture Lead Animator)

Daniel Vavra

Daniel Vavra

How did you become a game designer?
It was quite a long way. I started working for an advertising agency as an artist and I then joined IS as an artist. I created games at home, but at the time nothing like game designers existed so I didn’t see any future for the job. Only when we started working on some project in IS I got involved and had some comments from time to time, and thus I became a designer.

What would you recommend to those interested in becoming game designers?
It’s difficult because I didn’t start as a game designer. Nevertheless, you have to be talented for this job. Lots of people would like to become designers, but they don’t have the skills they need, at least not yet. The simplest way is to join a game-producing company and work at some other position, e.g. as a tester. In my opinion, it’s better to get some experience first, such as to create some quality game modes or a new level with a good idea for some existing game. Another option is to start working as a script programmer which is something I have no idea about. Being programmers, they in fact affect what happens in the game and locations. And if they prove to be good, they may advance to designers. In my opinion, it is best to try the mod scene and then work as a scripter programmer in the company.

What are you working on these days? Can you tell us?

Well, writing… (laughing) We are creating a new thing so I keep writing plus I supervise other people’s work. For example I come up with some idea, they work on it and I then check it whether it corresponds to the original plan. So we quite cooperate.

When you started writing the screenplay for Mafia II, did you already know what the ending would be like? Or did it change during the process?
Basically, I came up with the main plot and its beginning, and I also knew where the game should get. Then, I created the rest so the main storyline takes us, let’s say, four weeks, and then we work on details. Most people don’t work like that, though. They just begin and don’t know what it will end like even several months later. In a way, they let the characters and their possible behavior carry them on through the story.

Did you try to follow up from the story of Mafia I? Lots of people speculated about Tommy and his daughter or son…
No, we didn’t. I’ve read quite a number of ideas people put on the Internet. Yes, lots of things could have been done predictably like that, but it wouldn’t have been good to do it just because people already thought it would be like that. I don’t think it is so important to have the screenplays connected. Besides, we would be limited in many an aspect because it would be obvious what has to happen. And this wasn’t attractive for us.

Did you do any graphic design for Mafia II? We know you created the menu for Mafia I.
I created a proposal of the menu and GUI, but so many people have worked on it since that it’s no longer my work. So there’s not much from me in terms of graphics.

Do you consult with any team members or friends who worked on Mafia I and aren’t working on Mafia II?
Most of those who worked on Mafia I work on the sequel now so I don’t consult the others much. I’m still in touch in some of them, but I’m not allowed to publish info outside the company. I mostly work my way and don’t let the others interfere. If somebody comes up with a good idea, I of course agree. In general, though, I like to have my own idea and prefer it to creating things in a team.

How do you feel about the Mafia I mod community?
I can say I definitely like the mod scene, but don’t have time for it, unfortunately. There are tons of various modes and there is no guideline as to what to focus on in order to filter out practically pointless attempts and keep the good ones. This doesn’t mean that I ignore the community, though. If somebody comes and brings some good thing and would like to work here, I’d definitely take a look at it. In general, though, it’s quite demanding in terms of time.

Are there any 2K Czech members that have film experience?
Yes, there are some FAMU (Film and TV Academy) graduates in the company. On the other hand, I studied this myself and am interested in it so I mostly work with my own experience, and our animators then implement it. Some got to this work through this FAMU while others through amateur films. It is also thanks to them that there is a film drive in the game.

Where do you get your inspiration for screenplays, stories, characters etc?
I have to read a lot, not only about Mafia, but also about its era, politics etc. And that’s what we use to base our plots on. During that, of course, you come across real events that were quite interesting…

Can you give any examples?
Unfortunately, I cannot tell you, but I’m often inspired by real events, e.g. don Corleone in Godfather was inspired by a real agent Carlo Gambino. Most of good gangster movies are based on real events. Mostly, they are biographies of gangsters, or autobiographies. Films like Casino and Goodfellas are based on real characters so it was quite easy for the authors to create them. They got a biography of a gangster, shot a movie, and that was it. We take for example year 1950 and work with the relations some two families had at the time, and that’s what our own ideas are based on.

So you write the basic storyline and then forward it to somebody else to review?
Well, it’s not a basic line; it’s quite detailed, but somebody else processes it for the game design so that the game can be created according to it. So also I do it, but I could never manage all that myself, therefore there are several people for the job.

It is important that the player identifies with the main character in the game. How do you achieve this?
Similarly to the way films are created. The character has to be likeable so it’s important to think of something I like and have it judged by others. The character has to have some history, some characteristics, life experience etc.

Concerning customizable characters, do you prefer allowing the player to create their own personalized character or do you prefer pre-created characters?
This very much depends on the type of the game, and it’s also up to the developers. It’s quite good to create one’s own character in Fallout or Oblivion, but in Mafia it’s better to have the character fixed.

Frantisek HarcarFrantisek Harcar

There are a number of different animators working on Mafia II – what does being the lead animator of MoCap entail on a daily basis?
Most of my work lies in communication with lead animators, actors and the organization of motion capture sessions. The key thing I am responsible for is the quality of the MoCap data and that it is delivered on time.

What are you doing to make the game look different, better, more distinct than any in the past?

We use modern technology. A good example of this is the optical system VICON. It helps us to record the movements of the actors in more realistic way than ever before. In the past we used a magnetic system, which wasn’t nearly as good.

How do you capture movement so that it is realistic and diverse?
We try to build and organize scenes in the way that allows the actors to move as naturally as possible. We don’t want any artificial movements. We also have to keep the actors in the ideal capture space. That can be very difficult sometimes. We also use realistic models of utilities (such as guns) so that actors really carry things made of actual material in its actual size and weight.

What got you interested in this kind of animation?
The work is varied. I meet a lot of new people. There is always the possibility to use new and better software. And what I really appreciate is that no matter what the actor we are capturing looks like, the final look of the character is our job!

Are there any games, or other works, that give you inspiration?
I really like PIXAR animations, I also watch animated cartoons a lot and of course I sometimes play games and follow new technology. My biggest inspiration is always the final piece of my work. I am always looking for mistakes and ways to eliminate them in future projects.

Are you any of the characters? Will we see any of your personal movements in the game?

Well… I was a dead donkey once. So I didn’t actually move! I also was a jailor. I’m always some unimportant roles. We have actual actors for important roles!

Weiteres Interview mit Roman Hladik (Lead Artist)

Roman HladikWieder ein neues Interview. Heute mit Roman Hladik, dem Lead Artist von 2KCzech. Roman kennt ihr bereits. Denn er ist der Künstler hinter all denMafia 2 Artwork. Er plaudert in diesem Interview über seine Inspiration, sein Fabel für Frank Miller Comics, nackte Frauen und seine Pläne für die Zeit nach Mafia 2.

What were your inspirations when you started creating concepts for Mafia II?
I don`t remember exactly. It wasn`t just one thing. I like the era, design of fifties, old movies. So this all was inspiration. Based on this I made my own vision about Mafia2. Our game won`t be strictly realistic, we want to have strong atmosphere in it so we have to stylize rough facts. Work with them but distill only the important and interesting stuff of them.

Who are your favorite artists? Can be any type of artist…comic books, traditional painters…anything.

I like Frank Millers comic books. His drawings are really amazing and stories are dark romantic and breath-taking. Also I like impressionist paintings and one picture by Amadeo Modigliani, Sleeping nude.

When you’re not creating gangsters and mob boss characters for Mafia, what do you do in your spare time?

When I`m not creating gangsters… I draw naked women. Just for anatomy and drawing study of course. Or I go to pub. This is my the second most favorite activity. Drawing in a pub is fine too. ;-)

If you had to choose a character from any gangster movie, which character would you be?
Sin City isn`t gangster movie, but I like its dark atmosphere and I like Marv character. I don`t want be like him, but his is likable. If I think about the question I don`t want to be as any character of movies. I have my own life. I had never have an ideal or beau-ideal.

What will you do when you finish Mafia II?

I`ll take a long holiday. I have a dream few years already to ride Route 66 by motorcycle. Whole journey from Chicago to Los Angeles.

Kurzes Interview mit Lukas Berka (AI Developement Manager)

Lukas BerkaEin weiteres Interview ist bei DeLucas Restaurant online gegangen. Lukas überwacht die Entwicklung der künstlichen Intelligenz. Hoffen wir, dass er seinen Job gut macht – schließlich war gerade die KI der größte Kritikpunkt an Mafia 1.

What is your role on the Mafia II team?
I am responsible for all AI features to be completed in the proper quality and proper time. This is a good manager-answer, right?

What is your most favorite thing about your job?
It’s great when a person can see how a game gets created from the very beginning and even better is if a person can contribute with his own ideas or feedback. I am really glad that I can be part of this project with all these great people.

What is your least favorite thing about your job?
Maybe waking up in the morning (I find waking up before 9am rather weird) or the coffee machine that sometimes forgets to return the coins properly.

What types of music do you listen to?

I listen to good music but sometimes also to a worse one, so that after that I can like the good one even more. Although there was this one time when I listened to Britney Spears and since then I like generally anything.

Any hobbies? … girls…cars…toy collecting…comics?
I do collect toy figures of girls in cars or something like that.

What is your favorite game?
All right, it is Mafia II. Other than that its DoTa (Defense of the Ancients – mod W3 ), there is nothing like a little ownage after the work.

Interview mit Lubomir Dykast (Lead Mission Designer)

Lubomir DykastEs wurde ein Interview mit Lubomir Dykast veröffentlicht. Lubomir ist für das Missionsdesign zuständig. Also liegt’s an ihm, ob die Missionen spannend werden oder nicht. Grund genug für einige Fans ihm ein paar Fragen zu stellen und das kam dabei heraus:

As a lead mission designer, what is your mission at 2K Czech?
My main responsibility is to ensure that the final look of all the missions of Mafia 2 is as best as possible. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to stick to fixed regulations and, if possible, try to reach all the goals that have been set. In practice this means that I am primarily in charge of assigning tasks to each of the designers from my section, and I also need to make sure the first drafts they create can be used and look as best as possible. Naturally, I take care of what the missions should look like concerning both visual and gameplay aspects. In case any problems emerge, I try to resolve them immediately so that the time spent on production is as effectively used as possible and that the things do not have to be reworked several times. If something is unclear, I immediately go discuss it with my seniors, mainly with Pavel Brzák – the lead designer – and Petr Mikša – the game producer.

When you sit down to create a new mission for Mafia II, what are the first things that run through your head when designing that mission?
First, it is very important to create a list of actions and game mechanisms I would like to use in the given mission. It is crucial to count from the very beginning on using an interactive environment and consider the designed level a unique thing which should attract current modern players (create a diverse environment, try to have some dominant thing in each level, have an animated environment etc).

Next, I need to prepare references and materials in order to create game sketches; in this phase, it is necessary to collect as many photos and film clips as possible as references for the designed location. Then, I create a rough sketch, i.e. a very simple game map including only basic geometry; now, it is good to use art workers and their visions. The last thing to do is to produce a game 3D sketch, which is a rough model containing only a few textures, basic lighting, and several simple scripts necessary to test the primary gameplay. Now, from the perspective of design, the mission should be ready for graphic production. If all this passes through the process of approval, then the 3D sketch goes to the graphic team whose members then only deal with creation of graphics and do not have to invent the game, as it usual in other development teams.

Have you run into any situations in your career where you said to yourself “Mission Impossible”? If so, can you tell us a little about that situation?
As a game developer, I must admit I have to answer this question every single day. It is necessary to realize that even these days there are lots of things that cannot be processed the way we would like to do them in terms of technologies; physics of liquids is a good example. This issue may apply to individual locations and their launching on consoles (PS3, XBOX360), be it connected with the number of polygons in the view and connected FPS, then a number of lights per scene, size of textures and a collision scene etc.

Talking about any game that you have played in the past, has there been any mission you played and said, “WOW, that was a great mission from a design standpoint”?
This definitely happened to me after I finished the sniper mission in the last sequel of Call of Duty. I don’t get surprised very often, but I must admit that this game impressed me very much in terms of its design. The authors managed to implement most ideas and innovative features other games are not able to offer now. Almost perfect.

If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring mission designers out there…what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to create things on your own. If you think you have some potential, I would recommend that you start with game maps for games and modes with the help of free editors (UnrealEditor, Sandbox). To advanced ones, I would recommend Maya or 3DS Max, and if you succeed, then there is nothing to be afraid of. That’s the way I began.

What is your idea of the term “game”?
Lately, I have found out that each of us has a totally different idea of what game really is; some of us see only a box with a DVD in it, some see nice graphics, others see hours and hours of nights spent playing, lots of people find games relaxing, and some others can see never-ending work and T-shirts drenched in blood and sweat. However, it is also important to realize that it is never-ending fun, and that’s what it’s all about!