Mafia II Interview with Jack Scallci

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Today is a a great day for us over here at ZKG, as I got a chance to get on the phone with Creative Production director, Jack Scalici, and ask him questions (along with several other members of the media), about 2KGames upcoming sequel – Mafia II. Set to release next week, the game is set in the 1950s-esq backdrop of the gangster reality, paying homage to such greats as The Godfather, The Goodfella’s and more.

So take a break from the mediocrity, and enjoy in delving into some of what’s to come in the upcoming game.

ZKG: Starting with some development questions, almost eight years has passed since the first Mafia game, why has it taken so long for a sequel?

JS: You guys have seen how the game looks, and how smooth it is. Right from the get-go, we wanted to develop it to look like that – it run like that on all three major platforms. That it could support a game with the graphics and features like that, and the engine to do that didn’t exist. So 2K Czech choose to develop their own game engine. And that is neither cheap nor quick to do, and that is what took most of the time during the last 8 years. And of course, games this big don’t just come together overnight, so we needed a few years to put the rest of it together too.

ZKG: What were come of the major improvements the devs have made to Mafia II over the first game?

JS: Well, first and foremost you’ll see the graphics. Mafia looks great and it still holds up to this day (which I still think is an achievement), but Mafia II has to look bigger and better in every way, and it certainly does. One thing we chose to keep from the first game was the focus on the story and atmosphere. I really wouldn’t call that an improvement, but it’s something that Mafia did better than anyone, and it’s something we did to bring over.

ZKG: Since Mafia II was designed by 2K Czech, was there any challenges in obtaining in-game authenticity, and if so, how was those overcome?

JS: That stuff was my job, actually. The art was obviously the artists flying over to New York, or Chicago, San Francisco, did a lot of research and took pictures. That’s something that you don’t really need to be from the culture to understand; things like culture and fashion. As far as dialogue and characters and things like that go, The original writer, Daniel Barbra and I, worked really hard to ‘Americanize’ or “Hollywoodize” the script that he had writer, so a lot of that helped me.

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ZKG: So what were some of the most challenging obstacles the dev team encountered during development?

JS: The biggest obstacle was probably the engine. Developing this tech that not only has to work on PC but also has to work in the PS3 and 360. This game, some people don’t know this but it started for the PS2 and Xbox and PC’s for 2002, yet once the next consoles came out, they had to be fitted for the next generation. And all the new capabilities that they brought to the table: so no longer were you confined to certain to memory restrictions. We have the game consoles of today that are technologically different from the consoles of the PS2 and Xbox.

ZKG: So do you see the Mafia franchise entering even more recent time periods?

JS: Of course! I mean, the Mafia has existed for hundreds of years, and it’s going to exist. It’s become this kinda general term for organized crime: it doesn’t have to be the Italian Mafia. We’ve all heard of the Russian Mafia or the Yakuza – the Japanese Mafia – so it could go anywhere.

ZKG: Where there any features in Mafia II that didn’t make the cut that you wish had?

JS: Um, there were a couple of features that I wish: the melee combat working? But we have a great combat system working, but melee weapons isn’t something really known for, it’s more about guns? But at one time we were playing around with baseball bats, and pool cues. We were also playing around with destructible environment: take a piece of the level like a breakable chair and bash someone with it, then take the pieces of the broken chair as a weapon. Those are things that I wish we could have gotten up to the same caliber, but we don’t include them because they weren’t up to level quality.

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