Interviews// IO Interactive: Mads Prahm

Posted 19 Jan 2010 15:18 by
IO Interactive has had a pretty good track record until Kane & Lynch: Dead Men was released in 2007. But the studio behind Hitman is willing to take all concerns on board and make a better game in the sequel, Dog Days.

In many ways, this new title aims to be completely unlike its predecessor. In terms of creating a fresh start for the characters and brand name, to avoid the controversy that plagued the first game, and in allowing you to play as Lynch, Kane's schizophrenic polar opposite.

SPOnG was treated to a first look of the game last month, but also sat down with the game's Producer, Mads Prahm, to discuss the inspiration behind all the changes ? particularly in its user-generated content angle ? the draws of Shanghai, and the perception of publisher/developer that gamers tend to hold these days.

SPOnG: Thank you for joining me today Mads, firstly could you introduce yourself to our readers and give us a little bit about your career history?

Mads Prahm: Sure, I'm the producer of Kane & Lynch 2 at IO Interactive, and I've been with the company for nine years. These days my job usually involves management, but my first project was on a game you might remember, called Freedom Fighters, as the lead designer. The games industry in Denmark is not that big, so IO's been the only studio I've worked at.

SPOnG: I remember a while ago, when the first Kane & Lynch came out, that IO said it wanted to create locations and scenarios that matches the mood and perspective of the characters. What were the challenges and processes behind that approach?

Mads Prahm: I think the mood, perspective and scenarios came together as a natural process once we had chosen Shanghai as the general location. The city has all of this chaos and bustling nightlife ? it's always changing so fast and there's this eclectic mix of old and new... and that confusion really matches the schizophrenia that Lynch has.

The art director, game director and I went to Shanghai ourselves to scout for potential locations to use in the game. We had a big list of areas that we wanted to see and some were a bit dodgier than others (laughs). Imagining the action and structuring the gameplay around this city really happened by itself because the land is so inspiring.

SPOnG: I know it's largely a replication of Shanghai, but did you have to exaggerate any of the locations to suit the characters better, or did you find real world areas to use that would better support Kane and Lynch's personalities?

Mads Prahm: It is definitely exaggerated, but not to the point where it's ridiculous. It's mainly the scenarios that take place in the locations that are exaggerated. The environment itself is pretty close to Shanghai, but we may exaggerate the contrast of 'old' and 'new' a bit. Generally though, we're trying to go for the 'real' and for the 'credible' feeling, so we didn't go overboard.

SPOnG: It's interesting you say that, because in the presentation you guys mentioned that you wanted to make this more real, and more gritty than the first. There was a specific emphasis on the word 'real', and you talked about all this research with focus groups about that concept. What were the results of that research that you decided to use in Dog Days?

Mads Prahm: Actually, the research we did wasn't so much focus groups as it was our own research, into other media and things that we find credible or believable when we see it. For example, we looked at Youtube videos and movies like The Blair Witch Project.

That film in particular was a big inspiration to us because it was one of the first movies that made you think whether it was real, like a documentary, or fiction. Of course, when you're playing a game you know that's not real, but we still play on the same feelings ? and when you're immersed in a game it can make a similar impact.

SPOnG: You said there were many inspirations from various sources and you showed these in your presentation, including the 'vibe video' which had clips from films like Collateral and Die Hard. You've obviously taken those on board stylistically, but I notice there's also a kind of Asian film influence happening, like a John Woo or Takeshi Kitano style. Would you say that's the case?

Mads Prahm: Not really. I mean, we can't escape the John Woo influence in terms of action and violence... but for the work with the camera and the visual aesthetics, the inspiration has really come from documentaries and user-generated content.

In a way it's about how Hollywood movies and and some TV shows have so much production value that it starts to feel artificial. We're trying to go in the opposite direction with this, as if there isn't a specific author to this game.

And in a way that's how you play a computer game; you're the main character, you are the author. You're not watching a movie that IO has scripted for you. You're running the action here yourself, we're just setting the stage.

SPOnG: That's something else I noticed in watching those specific clips of Die Hard and other movies; they all seemed to revolve around using the environment to escape nasty situations. What other kinds of messages did you get from the vibe video that you felt you needed to take on board?

Mads Prahm: There's a lot of things. I'd rather not go into too much detail with the features that we haven't shown yet, but generally we wanted to create the feeling of being right in the middle of a gunfight. You saw the clip where Bruce Willis is crawling around on the floor while everything's being shot to pieces ? that feeling of being in an uncontrolled gunfight is what we want to achieve.

Rather than sitting up in the mountains and sniping people from a distance in Iraq for instance, you're in this really close situation and you're always taken by surprise with it. You have to improvise, you have to find new places to take cover... So it's more like scuttling through this dangerous environment and really getting your hands dirty.
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