One of the first major titles of the year for the PlayStation 4, inFamous: Second Son did very well for Sony and the team at Sucker Punch. In many ways, following this up with a DLC project was a no-brainer, with inFamous: First Light announced at E3 this year, but it’s still interesting to see some of the decisions that were made along the way.
Considering that inFamous 2 was followed up with a standalone DLC pack, it’s not too surprising to see the same policy used for First Light. A much bigger shift is a change of protagonist, putting players in Abigaile “Fetch” Walker’s shoes and telling a story with her at the centre.
To talk about these decisions and more, we sat down with Brian Fleming, Producer on First Light, to talk about the game.
TSA: Many people would have expected to see DLC for inFamous Second Son, but it was a nice surprise to see that the main character in First Light is Fetch. What can you tell us about the story and what’s going on in the plot?
Brian Fleming: Well, I think for us, when we were wrapping up and started thinking about how we wanted to add more to the Second Son story, we’re really compelled by origin stories. So one of the first topics of discussion was whether we could do one of these character’s origin stories.
TSA: Origin stories are always such good fodder for superheroes too.
BF: Well they’re tremendous for video games, and I think the reason for that is the story and the progression of the character’s powers really parallel what the player is going through, where they might be learning new controls. So the fact that the character is learning their powers too, that alignment makes it such a natural fit, beyond just the narrative benefits of it. It’s really a great play experience too, so we really like those.
So that was definitely something we wanted to look at, and we’re just so happy with the character that Fetch became, as we worked on the game. We were really compelled by her story and really enjoyed working with the actress [Laura Bailey] and what she brought to it, so for us it was a straightforward choice.
I think we knew well before the game had hit the market that this was where we wanted to go next, to tell that part of the story.
TSA: In terms of the setting, then, are you bringing back Seattle or breaking out from the city?
BF: Certainly, we’re going to visit Seattle, but there are some new locations. The prison at Curdun Cay and the mountains that surround that are big new parts of the story and the gameplay experience, so we’ll visit both of those as well.
There’s new technology and new rendering problems for us to solve, doing snow and other things, but all of that is part of what First Light is about.
TSA: It sounds like the story will stretch into the time period that Second Son took part in. Is there some kind of crossover here, to maybe see some events from a different perspective?
BF: Well, it takes place prior to the events of Second Son, so it really is a proper prequel to what goes on in Second Son. It’s really more a chance to learn about the story of Fetch, her brother and their time in Seattle, but also her time in Curdun Cay, the training or concentration camp for people with powers. So we cover all of that time.
TSA: You touched on this, when you spoke about origin stories, but why did you decide to shift away from Delsin? Are you maybe keeping him back for the full releases, or something?
BF: I think the obvious thing was that we’d give Delsin a new power, and we certainly talked about that…
TSA: *cough* Paper! *cough*
… but we really felt like this was a way of adding width to the universe. I think we see inFamous as this cast of characters and situations that have evolved with people who have powers, and we think there’s real value for players to see different perspectives on it and not just one character’s. It makes it more dimensional to have another character’s point of view on all of these things.
That’s another opportunity for us to tell all these stories, doing origins and giving players another perspective on the universe.
TSA: Fetch is obviously going to have neon powers throughout, but I was wondering if and how you’ve made her different to Delsin in that regard? Does she have a different twist on neon?
BF: The way I’ve been explaining it is that she has the same power source as Delsin, in that they both use neon as a power source, but the way that they manifest those powers is different and she’ll have her own unique upgrades. So I think the experience plays considerably different to Delsin’s neon powers, even though they share the same power source.
TSA: It’s quite interesting that this is the second time you’ve done a standalone DLC, but why have you made that decision as opposed to tying it to the game?
BF: I think we really like the value proposition – and I mean there wasn’t a strong directive from Sony on this – where we felt like this is the right way to go for us and the games we build and the stories we want to tell.
If we’d done a new power for Delsin, then that may have fit better as DLC. I don’t think we have some axe to grind that it must always be one thing or the other, but again, when you’re doing a prequel or an origin story, it kind of made sense to do it as a standalone.
TSA: And in some ways, I guess it would make a nice jumping on point for people that just want to see what the game series is about?
BF: It is certainly a reasonable entry point, and we saw people doing that with Festival of Blood, who bought that, thought it was great and then went out and bought the other games. So that certainly weighs into the thinking. It’s not a primary concern, but it’s part of it.
TSA: With First Light set to come out in August, that’s quite a quick turn around, isn’t it?
BF: Yeah, it’s pretty aggressive! But then again, we like to keep busy, so it’s not a terrible thing!
There’s a lot of new things we’re trying, with the new environments and locations, so from a production standpoint, it’s a little bit ambitious. But we enjoy the chance to tell new stories and you know, candidly, it’s fun to do new stuff. It’s an opportunity for us to flex our muscles a little bit.
We’re in a spot where our tools are completely functional across all areas, so it’s sort of a relief to be working on new stuff, because we’ve been working on Seattle and Second Son for a number of years. Suddenly, we’ve got all of these tools and we can now go make some new stuff, so it’s a fun opportunity to be able to work on smaller projects of this size.
TSA: With that in mind, are you planning on finishing First Light and then rolling into your next full game, or might you look at continuing with more smaller projects?
BF: You know, my job and the jobs of the vast number of people at Sucker Punch is to work on this right now. There are a small group of people who are working out what we’re going to do next, and I try my best to plug my ears and not listen. It just breaks our concentration on what we’re doing.
There’ll be something to do next, but for now, we’re just working on First Light.
TSA: Finally, you managed to get a great reception from the fans to Second Son’s photo mode. How big has it been for you guys to see that come out and blossom in the way that it has?
BF: Photo mode is one of those crazy example of something where – and I’ve forgotten exactly how it came up – we started seeing the shares right away, and we were like, “Man, these are amazing!” and wondered what if we gave them the tools that we use for making cutscenes and things?
It was just one of those things that was kind of the perfect place and the perfect time. It was literally like two days for one of our programmers to make this feature, and we released it and it really blows up in a really gratifying way for us.
It really helped us connect with the fanbase, that were so, so enthusiastic in their support of it. Some of the shots that came out are even bar setting for us! I mean, holy cow, man, we’ve got to step up our game when we’re making screenshots!
TSA: I think it was one of the very first things that came out of it was the screenshot with the chain and the depth of field…
BF: I know exactly where I was when I saw that!
I don’t think it was from the press tour, but we were flying home and I was in the airport the day that it had come out. I’m reading NeoGAF and some of the other blogs and I see this photo and I remember showing it to people I was flying with. Like, “Holy cow! Look what people are doing!”
It was a really exciting time for us.
TSA: I’m sure you’re looking forward to seeing what people can come up with in First Light!
BF: Yeah, photo mode and all those little add ons will be present in it.
Thanks to Brian for taking the time to talk to us about inFamous: First Light, which you can look forward to in August