Mafia III Studio’s New Game Will Focus on “Mature” Subject Matter
Other than that the team has a new project in development, nothing is known about what Mafia III studio Hangar 13 is working on. What we do know, however, is that the developer’s next game won’t be another Mafia entry. Yet, according to game director Haden Blackman, the subject matter will take on the “mature” nature of their last title.
At Brighton’s Develop Conference, Blackman and executive producer Andrew Wilson reveal Mafia III’s original prologue was cut due to its being controversial and exploitative. Following talk of this revelation, Blackman expresses pride in having worked on the game, especially considering the subject matter. Now the team’s ready to explore new avenues, particularly with regards to tone. Something a bit more “uplifting” is to come from Hangar 13 next.
“I am incredibly proud of Mafia III on every level,” Blackman says. “The fact we tackled this really tough subject matter was fantastic. But at the end of the day it’s a dark game–it’s a violent exploration of damaged people. We want to continue to be able to do character studies and dive into what makes people tick, and universal human truths, but a lot of us on the team also want to do something a little more inspirational and more uplifting, so the tone of this new thing we’re working on is a little bit different than Mafia 3, but it has a lot of the same underpinnings in terms of strong characters. It’s got weight and heft. And it’s mature – not necessarily the rating but the subject matter.”
Later in the conference, Eurogamer’s Robert Purchese, wanting Blackman to expand on his “uplifting” comment, asks if the studio feels a responsibility to tackle racially-charged subject matter. Blackman responds, “I feel a responsibility, yes. In the sense we have the capability to tell meaningful stories so we should tell meaningful stories with meaningful characters–and characters who you would not usually encounter any other way. It’s important to me we have a diverse cast. I might say the tone is a little more uplifting [but] we’re still dealing with really weighty subject matter and themes, and we’re not afraid to tackle those things.”
Blackman adds that their intention is never to get up on a soapbox.
At the same time, I never want us to be a studio that gets up on a soapbox, and we were really careful about that with Mafia 3. One of the first conversations Bill [Harms, lead writer] and I had about Lincoln was, ‘He can’t be perfect. He has to be flawed.’ We cannot put him up on a pedestal and say this is the idealised African American lead character, otherwise it won’t feel true, or honest, and we wouldn’t have enough to relate to with him while working on the story.
It’s really important to me we tell the truth in our games, and we try to make people think, but the moment we get up on a soapbox and start preaching we’re done–everyone will see right through that.
It’s a fine line to walk, balancing the honesty that comes with portraying horrific events. Honest depictions relay facts, and, in the fictional representation of said facts, builds a story that best conveys realism. However, employing heavy handed tactics to force audiences to feel despair often culminates in alienating them. The presentation, then, should simply present and encourage the audience to stop, think, and draw its own conclusion. If nothing else, Mafia III succeeds in that regard.
Adam Wilson chimes in next, speaking candidly on Hangar 13’s creative process in the early stages of development.
“It’s better to go completely wide at the beginning and talk about the game we want to make, and then start talking about the characters we want and how we’re going to make those characters reflective, perhaps, of what’s happening in the world at the moment. There will probably be some of that but it’s too small a box to have at the beginning.”
Blackman teases more about where the team begins when starting work on a new project.
“We follow the same patterns. We know the setting, we know roughly the type of story we want to tell, we know the high-level details of the game. Who is the most interesting character or set of characters to be in that story? That’s where we start. I feel like we have a pretty diverse cast right now but it came out of that – ‘What is the setting and how do we make this the most interesting story possible?'”
From the outset, it sounds as though the narrative and characters in Hangar 13’s next game will be just as carefully crafted as that of Mafia 3.