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Scott Phillips Talks Saints Row IV, Super Powers and Penetration

July 18, 2013 Written by Joseph Fait

Saints Row 4

Saints Row has always been an interesting franchise to me, with what seemingly started as a clone of GTA having so clearly moved past that generalization, becoming something I don’t think anyone would have imagined. You’re the Saints-leader-turned-President, can mow down aliens in a virtual world with super powers, and use a DUBSTEP GUN… a DUBSTEP GUN!

I got to ask Scott Phillips, Design Director at Volition, why you can do all these things, and most of the interview can be summed up with ‘because it was fun’. But Scott gives more nuance in his answers, so enjoy!

Professor Genki… Where is he?!

As with any psychotic man-cat you never know where the Professor will show up! But rest assured that Professor Genki certainly makes another appearance in Saints Row IV.

Genki has worked together with the evil alien Zin’s imperious leader Zinyak to create an activity based around the players’ Telekinesis super power. In a crazed timed scenario the player is tasked with throwing specific objects (people, cars, genki heads) through specific rings placed around the world using just the power of their mind.

In addition to his Mind Over Murder activity, Genki also makes surprise appearances throughout the world at random times and when he does show up he’s there to lay the smack down on you and anyone else nearby with his new super powers.

From the previous games most of the vertically was just blasting people from a VTOL, has making Steelport a more vertical city been challenging?

Dealing with the players’ super powers has definitely been the most challenging thing in making Saints Row IV. It’s certainly a design challenge to deal with a player who can run 90 miles per hour, jump over 20 story buildings, and freeze enemies nearby at a whim.

For dealing with the verticality of the city specifically we had to make technical improvements to the buildings to allow vertical running up the surfaces of the buildings, we had to redesign large portions of the city to have sufficient verticality and interesting locations since they weren’t built that way originally, and we had to fill the city with gameplay based around traversal of rooftops which were practically unused in Saints Row: The Third. So all in all it was quite a challenge and we can’t wait for players to get their hands on the game and enjoy it as much as we do.

Another big part of the previous games has been gunplay, with the new powerful melee options available, do you see people dropping the guns?

We actually set out early on to make sure that the guns were seen as a compliment to the brand new awesome super powers and melee moves. For instance we didn’t want to create a super power that directly mimicked a weapon – we didn’t want the game to feel like you could run around with an RPG in one hand and you could also throw RPG-like projectiles with your super powers because it would get very boring and redundant very quickly.

We set out to make the game balanced in such a way that the super powers would be seen as combat modifiers and the guns were seen as the core combat mechanic. Melee has always been a very fun and powerful but secondary combat feature for Saints Row. With Saints Row IV we wanted to make sure you felt like a super hero but that you weren’t just meleeing every enemy. This is why we added new enemy types that are either impervious to melee (7 foot tall autonomous combat robots or 15 foot tall tank-like robots) or enemies that required specific super power use in order to even be able to damage them (shielded enemies). In this way we created even more variety and options in combat so the player always feels like they have to mix and match their melee, guns, and super powers to be kicking the most butt possible.

What would you say is Saints Row IV‘s Penetrator?

The Dubstep gun has clearly become the iconic weapon for Saints Row IV, and that was not by accident. Early on in the development of SRIV, I felt like we had a lot of cool weapons but nothing that was as iconic as the penetrator. So during brainstorming for a new weapon the ‘Dubstep gun’ idea came up and we all immediately knew it was a weapon we HAD to make.

The Dubstep gun has become quite popular and has become part of the special Collector’s Edition of Saints Row IV and has gone around the web as yet another stride in Volition’s never ending battle against boring game weapons.

Seriously, why just not use “The Next Great Game in the Saints Row Franchise” as the title?

That might be a little bit hard to fit onto the box cover, but I love the idea! Speaking of, initially one of the titles we were considering (or rather, that I liked) was “Super Saints Row: Fourth Strike Alpha Championship Turbo Edition,” but ultimately we stuck to the classic roman numerals to keep things simple.

How Nolan North is Nolan North?

Nolan North is a force of nature and iconic within the video game industry and we love him! In Saints Row IV, Nolan plays one of the eight voice options available for our players. In addition to Nolan we’ve got an unbelievable selection of player character voices for players to choose from to make the character their own. And if you can’t find a voice you like, well then you can shift the pitch slider around and make your own chipmunk or James Earl Jones-sounding voice, it’s Saints Row – so make it your own!