VGC recently got a chance to play a few hours of the upcoming Saints Row reboot, as well as chat with Damian Allen, the principal designer of the game.
In the brand new gameplay footage, you can see below, we experienced a wide variety of what’s on offer in the new game, including shooting, driving, the open world, and the love-it-or-hate-it dialogue.
When we chatted with Damian, we had a lot to ask, especially in the wake of rebooting and refreshing such a beloved franchise.
While the public reaction to the reveal trailer was mixed, we were interested to find out what goes into making a Saints Row game in 2022, and what has changed.
Rebooting a beloved series is always difficult, but what have you made of the reaction of the general gaming public and the fans of Saints Row?
It’s funny, we’ve been working on this project for quite some time. You don’t come up with the entirety of the project early on and say, “Hey, this is what we’re gonna make.” You have a goal, you have a direction, you have an idea, it becomes somewhat organic, you always have a box you’re working on an idea to go for.
We had so many discussions on does this feel like Saints Row, what makes us a Saints Row project, what makes this a saint’s row game at its core, by looking at the previous projects and looking at what we have. And having played through the [new] game myself in its entirety, it feels very true to assess your game. So it’s such a tough position sometimes because you just want to say, “trust us, we love this franchise, we love this game as much as you do.”
How has the tone changed from early conception until now?
The overall idea of this project has always been to be a more grounded universe than what we ended up with in the previous series, or the previous iterations of the franchise, you know, go into space, go into hell, you have some pretty extreme examples of that. And so we said, “Okay, well, let’s, let’s take this game, this next thing we’re working on, and let’s ground it”.
We still want some fun, we still want some over the top action, we want that Hollywood level of excitement. But we’re not looking to go to space, we’re not looking to go to hell. And we want it to feel like a game you understand is a Saints Row game. But that we can build systems and mechanics and story and characters around a more grounded one.
How did the team deal with the changing sensibility in terms of content and jokes? There are obviously some elements of previous Saints Row games that couldn’t be in the modern entry, so how did the team ensure they weren’t punching down?
The idea of punching down is something we wanted to avoid wherever possible. We want the players to feel like they can be the type of boss they want to be. The boss is definitely a criminal and so they are going to make choices that, you know, they as the player engages in this game, they are not exactly someone that you would say, “Hey, this is the best person to have around and noncriminal moment.
All the developers here understand the world that we live in now. And we want to make sure that we embrace the ideas that games are for everyone. We really want players to say, “This is my game, this is my world, I’m engaging in how I want to”. We have a story to tell, you know, the story is definitely a singular story, but it is not about making fun of people at their expense. It’s about this group of people that are struggling and how they raise rise to the top of the criminal world.
There’s been a lot of discussions recently about the relationship between fans and developers, and how fans interact with developers online. What do you think of the idea that players need to give developers more respect when interacting with their work?
DA: I’m a developer, but I’m also a fan. You know, I love the franchise I’m a huge video game player, and I love to play lots of different games. And so you know, being on both sides of that I understand sometimes that this is what I hope the game is and what I want the game to be may be different than what the developers come up with. Making games is very difficult and at times I’m amazed that any games are made because of all of the moving parts and so these discussions that we have internally about what the game is and where we want it to go.
I think that we really tried to say, okay, let’s look at this game, how does it fit in the central franchise and end up being something that we love and at the end of the day, that’s the best we can do, we can make the thing that we love, and that we hope that everyone else will love too. If we’ve done that, and internally, we can say we love it, then we can give it to our fans and hopefully they love it along with us.
And if there’s constructive criticism and feedback, of course, we’re going to listen to that. And we want to know what people think and what they love and what they’re frustrated with. And just do it with respect in and in a way we and in a way that that understands that we do love this game.
How does it feel to be one of the only big games coming out later this year? How has shipping a game in the current climate been different to previously?
DA: It’s different than it has been in the past in the sense that being somewhat distributed at our studio. Some of the last moment polish things are a little bit different when I can’t just hand a controller to a person and say, “Hey, what do you think of this? Give me your feelings on this?” So it does take a little bit more time.
But I have been really impressed with the studio, with our IT group, with all of the different levels of development that we have. How do we work together? How do we find this process? And how do we refine it at this time? We have been given a lot of time and allowance to make the best game that we can. And we’re really excited. It’s coming together, you know, the polish is there, the moment-to-moment gameplay is there. And we are so excited for our fans to get a hold of this game.