Enjoy more content like this Lawbreakers interview throughout the day as we talk about our first-look with the game.
Nerd Much: You’ve talked about Lawbreakers being a fun game first and a competitive game kind of comes as an afterthought. Are there any plans to build a competitive scene after the game releases?
Cliff: Everybody wants to. You can’t force it. If you build something that inherently has drama, then, if they build it, maybe they’ll come. You start with grass roots, start with the small campaigns and work yourself out from there. I think there is room for a game like this in that scene, but I’m not going to try to force it too soon.
So would you say that’s not in your vision?
Long term, I would love for that to be the case. Short term, make a great damn game. Get it out there, potentially in early-access, partner with Valve, get it on the front of Steam, and we’ll see from there.
Lawbreakers isn’t usually the kind of game I play, how are you trying to draw in people who don’t normally play these games?
I think it’s one of the things by having character they can identify with across a myriad of backgrounds. Our cast is 50% female right now. We have characters that are for core shooter players that like their ironsides, but also I’ve seen a lot of players who just prefer to grapple and play as Kitsune who barely even use the weapons. Same thing with players who aren’t that good at aiming, they can use the rockets for Chronos, but also there are characters you can do well with barely even shooting and just using the abilities.
It’s one of those things by implementing abilities that yield a certain amount of depth, and appeal to core shooter players, but also hopefully go a bit wider. I think the tone is gonna help separate us from the games that are in this space right now. Going with something that is more mature. Seeing blood in zero G as well should be pretty interesting too.Yeah, we got a look at those effects and they are pretty impressive actually. It’s clear to us here now that Lawbreakers is a different game than others in this space coming out this year. How are you going to get the word out?
Well that’s why you’re here today. There are a lot of people who believe the press are irrelevant and dead. I think that’s bullsh*t. I think the press is just one more bullet we can use to get the word out to gamers and whatnot. Influencers obviously, but having Twitch and YouTube people come out here, social media, you have to hit across all fronts in order to hit people across the head with a sledgehammer to get their attention these days.
The most important thing for me is story, that’s why I don’t play a lot of shooters, but you’re well known for producing amazing stories in shooters and without a single player campaign, you’re doing a fantastic job of that.
I think you’re gonna like it even more when you see the Santa Monica map coming up. We’re basically learning a lot from what Ken Levine and the kind of passive storytelling of Bioshock. Where you go into this room like, “Wha. happened here?” You hear a PA announcement, you see a sign, you see that, oh, there’s a monument in the Santa Monica map to The Shattering that you can go around in zero G. The Ferris Wheel outside the Santa Monica pier has been re-imagined.
Again, we’re not ready to show that quite yet, but maybe soon. Grandview is our first map, it looks really good, it’s great, but you’re kinda getting the story of the Grand Canyon there. So what’s coming up, the re-imagining of what Los Angeles could be.
I always wanna know what inspires certain settings, did something in particular inspire The Shattering?
Well, The Shattering exists because it’s cool in fiction, but also allows me to take existing, established places and re-imagine them over the course of 25 years of rebuilding. The Grand Canyon I haven’t seen used a lot in games. Same thing with Rushmore, same things with a lot of these locations.
But when we get around to showing off LA, having just returned from Los Angeles, I have a love-hate relationship with that town, and it’s not all black and white in regards to loving or hating Los Angeles, it’s the fact that every time I’m in LA and something cool happens like, “This is some really good sushi,” 45 minutes in traffic on the way back to the hotel. There’s always some bullsh*t there.
You’re taking it with a spoonful of salt.
If LA is like San Franscisco if you do it on your own terms. So for me, I got hooked up with an invite to the Game of Thrones premiere, so I popped in, went to that, then got the hell up because that town will chew you up and spit you out man. Unless you’re successful in entertainment, in my opinion, there is no reason to live there.
I don’t know if you can talk about it yet, but are we going to the moon?
That’s actually a good idea. That’s going in the vault. If we get around to it, don’t sue me.
The thing about the shattered moon is its clearly easy to match with chunks that are large enough that have their own gravitational pull. There’s a lot more we haven’t shown yet with environmental gravity stuff.
So a lot of these arena shooters coming out have so many different characters and options and playstyles, but you guys are going on a more narrow route, what are your thoughts behind that?
For us, I’m going less is more. As much as I love Overwatch my first user experience with that is, “Holy Sh*t! Just give me the shooty guys.” Like, let me learn a couple of those characters before you go to everything else. So the goal for us at least, is to go deep with less characters. That way, it’s also easier to spot who’s who. And the game turns into a little more readable as to what the hell is going on.
These games are launching with how many characters? And they’re only going to have more. And then when you add skin variants, it’s like, “Who the f*ck is that?” Their biggest strength of these character-based shooters like that is also their biggest weakness.
You get the League of Legends problem where there’s just too many characters.
Yeah it’s, “Where do you start?”
Was that sort of an intentional throwback? Because in a lot of ways, Lawbreakers feels like Battlefield 1942. I know exactly what kind of weapon I have. Or like Desert Combat, that mod, where you had your class and you were the guy with the shotgun. It is a little bit like a 2002 shooter in that way.
Yeah I’ll take that. But when you add in abilities is when we start bringing it back and forth to 2016 and beyond. Then, you take these kinds of characters that are, for me, what I aspire to play as in this kind of fiction. The DA agent, an ex-con, yakuza assassins, those are the characters that I find cool. There’s this weird thing in a lot of these games where they come up with the most ridiculous thing they can imagine. It’s like, “Alright so it’s a catfish with a tophat.” I’m like, “What? Okay.”
It’s like the internet is trying to out-weird themselves. For us, it’s like I think we can take these traditional archetypes and find the proper ways to kind of twist them in regards to taking an assassin girl and giving her robo legs.One thing I’ve found that’s kind of different in Lawbreakers that developed as we played more and more, is that often when you play these games, you pick your character and you play that character and only that character. In Lawbreakers, because some characters are really fast, and some are really slow, I found that during our matches, you really change who you want to play as to better suit what’s needed.
Thank you, for example, if the other team starts stacking one type of class, and you go to respawn, you select the character that can, rock, paper scissors, kinda defeat that character. The goal is to always have the player make interesting decisions. Same thing with the health stations, it’s like, “Oh, I’m getting total fear of missing out because there’s combat in the middle of my base, but I want to get more health.” It’s that whole straw that broke the camel’s back. “Do I just keep getting health or do I fight? Oh, I should have gotten more health because now I have to wait to respawn.”
Good communication and changing classes on the fly is going to make that intense.
A team who is coordinated in this game is gonna decimate a team who’s not. Which is actually a big concern of ours in regards to matchmaking and being high-skill based. So we gotta get the matchmaking right in this game or we’re gonna be dead in the water.
This kinda goes back to a question earlier, with the lore for Lawbreakers, with the characters, will there be any kind of supplemental things that will flesh out the story and maybe the individual background of the characters?
Yeah, cards, media stuff, I’d love to have it all, but it’s a matter of making sure of marketing dollars.
Do you have anything to say to people that say you can’t do it anymore?
F*ck ’em. Naw, I’d like to tell them thank you ’cause it motivates me. It’s like the more you tell someone they can’t do something, the more you want to f*cking do it.
Let me tell you, you’ve still got it.
Thank you. For me, it’s one of those things, you know, it’s all about the verbs. Verbs that lead to moments. And then having a spectacular design team that can execute on that is also crucial too. And a great art department, and everything involved.
A lot of games are going for a faster and faster pace, where as Lawbreakers has characters who are generally slower, but you have to manage your sprint. How did you guys figure out the sweet spot for where you want it?
It’s kind of like the chicken and egg with the size of the levels versus character speed. What we wanted was for people to be selectively mobile. If they are just fast all the time and zipping around all the time, then your map is just one giant terrain. There is no sense of a front and things like that. Enemies start getting this big and everything has to be a f*cking sniper rifle at that point. We do have some zooms, but we didn’t want to be that kind of sniper game.
But for us, when you play as Axel or Kintaro, you do get that kind of selective speed bubble. But when you spawn sometimes and you’re playing as the heavy of Chronos or Bomchelle, you can get caught in his bubble and you get a little bit of that, “Oh my god I get to go fast as this big character.” Or blindfire into the middle then he lands in the middle of the enemy base. He has a little bit of a leap, so even the slowest characters still occasionally get these bursts of speed. Which, for me, is kind of a relief.For longevity, obviously you want people to keep playing. Are you thinking about any systems to implement in Lawbreakers like achievements?
Yeah, it’s all being planned and worked on it’s just not available for prime time right now. I always say you gotta nail the 30 seconds of gameplay, the 30 minutes, 30 days, which is kind of what we’re showing off right now. And eventually you want the 30 weeks and the 30 months for people to stick around forever.
That said, some of these games have become awfully grindy lately and I want us to do our version of that in kind of a fair way. So news soon on that.
If you look at a game like Titanfall, that was a really solid core-concept and then fell apart after launch, what are you guys looking at to address the lack of content that has killed a lot of shooters lately?
I think what we’re going to have to do is spool up and ramp up and make sure we launch with a lot of content, but I could write a paper on why games like Evolve or Titanfall had a little bit of trouble getting traction. I don’t want to throw anybody under the bus, but at the end of the day, $60 for those games right out of the box with paid DLC? Again, both those games are great, but if I was in charge, I would have made those games digital download only for the price-point we’re talking about right here [less than $60] with a fun kind of micro-transaction system much like Counterstrike Go‘s key and crate system. That would have been the way I would have monetized those.
This whole $60 disc-based thing? It’s like, “Dude, you’re just shooting yourself in the foot at that point.”