Mafia II Roundtable Interview

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posted 8/23/2010 by Tina Amini
other articles by Tina Amini
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It has been eight years since the original Mafia title, Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven, was released. Now, under the guidance of 2K Czech, Mafia II will feature Vito Scaletta's rise in one of the prominent crime families of Empire Bay during the 1940s and progressing into the 1950s. Although we scoped out the game at a preview event in San Francisco, and had the pleasure of interviewing Jack Scalici one-on-one for some unanswered questions, we sit back down with the Director of Creative Production at 2K Games and our fellow game journalists to learn more about Mafia II and the process of its development (as well as getting a few fun questions answered). Read on for the interview, but first: an introduction to the game from Jack Scalici.

Introduction:
The game is called Mafia II. It's coming out on August 24th of this year for the PS3, 360 and PC. It tells the story of a young man named Vito Scaletta and his best friend, Joe Barbaro and their rise and fall in the Mafia in the 1940s and 1950s.

Almost eight years have passed since the original Mafia title was released. Why did it take so long for the sequel to come to fruition?
You guys have all seen the way the game looks and the way it runs; how smooth it is. Right from the get-go we said we want to develop it to look and run like that on all three major platforms that could support a game with graphics and features like this.

At the time, there was no engine out there that could do that, so 2k Czech chose to develop their own game engine. That is neither cheap, nor quick to do. That was what took most of the time for the last eight years. Of course, games this big don't come together overnight, so we did need a couple of years to put the rest of the game together after the engine and the dev tools were built.


What are some of the major improvements the devs have made to Mafia II over the first game?

First and foremost you see the graphics. Mafia I looked great. It looked amazing at the time. It still holds up to this day, which I think is a major achievement. But Mafia II had to look better in every way, and it certainly does.

One thing we chose to keep from the first game was the major focus on story and atmosphere. I really wouldn't call that an improvement, but it’s something that I think Mafia I did better than any other game of its time—and of all time, actually. It’s something we chose to bring over from the first one.

Mafia II draws from an era of Americana that's part and parcel of the American experience. Since the game was designed and created by 2K Czech, were there any challenges about obtaining authenticity of that era, whether it be in the script, the game’s visuals or anything else? If so, how were those overcome?

A lot of it was my job. The artists flew over to New York, Chicago, San Francisco; they took photographs, did a lot of research. That's something where you don't really need to be from the culture to understand. Like fashion and advertising and things like that. As far as the dialog and the characters and etc. go: the original writer, Daniel Vávra, and I both worked really hard together to Americanize or “Hollywoodize” the script that he had written. So a lot of that really fell to me. 


What were some of the most challenging obstacles the dev team encountered during development?

The biggest obstacle—as I said earlier—was probably the game engine; developing this tech that not only had to work on PC but had to work on the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360.

Some people don't know this, but because it was 2002, it started out being developed for the PS2 and the Xbox and PCs from 2002. Once the next console generation hit, the game engine had to be fitted to those consoles with all the new capabilities that they brought to the table. So no longer were you confined to certain memory restrictions. Now, all of a sudden, we have these game consoles of today, which are technologically light years ahead of what the PS2 and the original Xbox could do. So that was probably the biggest challenge.

Do you foresee the Mafia franchise progressing into even more recent time periods?

Of course. I mean, the mafia is something that has existed for hundreds of years. It’s something that's going to exist. It’s become a 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. It could go anywhere and do anything, really.
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