David Goldfarb on PAYDAY 2: “People Need to Play Roles and do Their Homework”

For me, PAYDAY has always been a series to follow. There isn’t anything concept wise quite like it, and the RPG slant OVERKILL is bringing to PAYDAY 2 has me practically shaking in my booties. We had the opportunity to speak with David Goldfarb, Director of PAYDAY 2.


For those who don’t know, could you tell our readers a bit about the PAYDAY series and how it has evolved from the first to PAYDAY 2?

The original PAYDAY was a co-operative game about robbing banks (and committing crimes) with your friends. It was the brainchild of Bo and Ulf Andersson, the founders of OVERKILL. Payday: The Heist took some inspiration from Left 4 Dead‘s co-operative shooter vs AI setup and added huge levels and randomization in a heist-themed world where the player played one of four different robbers doing all kinds of jobs. It was a success for us, and PAYDAY 2 builds on the base concept of robbery with friends by building out the “robbery fantasy” even more. We’ve turned it into more of an RPG. Stealth is now a viable option for heists, there is an economy and loot system, there is a skill system that enables people to develop their own heister in the way they want, and five times as many missions as there were in the first game. PAYDAY 2 is, in all ways, a much, much larger and deeper game, in every way, but we still share the same DNA.

Trying to complete heists using only stealth seems to be pretty difficult, what was the balancing like to make it difficult but achievable?

The QA and level design team worked really closely with the programmers to find the best and most rewarding feeling. It really did take an immense amount of iteration and tweaking to find the sweet spot between frustration and challenge. We think we found a good balance. The goal was to make it difficult enough so that it would be very, very hard, but possible for skilled players to achieve. Stealth isn’t supposed to be easy. There’s a reason you need a coordinated crew – people really need to play roles and do their homework if they want to stealth a job, just as they would in a film. Anything else would have felt broken or cheap.

When making each mission area, did you make the area then think about different objectives you wanted to include, or was it the other way around? Also, a big part of stealth seems to be character disciplines, could you explain a bit about the different classes in the game?

The process of making levels is very organic. We usually start with an idea for a space or a setting or a job, but that tends to be very high-level, like “jewelry store hit”. In the case of the multi-stage jobs, we did have high-level descriptions for all of them but when we actually got down to brass tacks to make them, things almost always changed. You find out some ideas don’t work, people come up with new ideas and you just need to roll with it to do and iterate, do whatever you can to improve the gameplay, change the objectives, eliminate them, scrap the whole thing, even. Some of the level designers also like to put down geo and find lower-level things that are fun and then work backwards from there. It really depends.

Along with objectives being different, enemy spawns are too. Do you just have a massive spread sheet somewhere of all the different variables? I’m really hoping you do!

There are a number of ways we monitor what is getting spawned when.

How was the E3 experience for the team? From walking around, there always seemed to be a good group playing the game or waiting to try it out.

We had a great E3 and it was equally great to see how much people enjoyed the game. The booth was always full and we met a lot of awesome fans and got tons of love wherever we showed it. Plus there were always people wandering around with masks. Which was cool.

Finally, what would you like people to know about Payday 2, that they might not already?

It’s the only co-operative first-person robbery RPG/sim out there. If you want to fully realize the robbery fantasy and act out all the stuff you see in classics like “Heat” and “The Town” you owe it to yourself to check out PAYDAY 2.