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Mad Max Senior Designer On Appealing To The Modern Audience



These days, no one ever says cotton swabs, they just use the name Q-Tips. And instead of telling someone to use an Internet search engine, you simply say to “Google it”. In a similar fashion, the name “Mad Max” has also become a generic term to describe anything post-apocalyptic, including video games.


Which is why the recently announced Mad Max game from Just Cause developer Avalanche Studios has a lot to live up to.


Siliconera caught up with Peter Johansson, the game’s senior game designer, to ask about the challenges that lie ahead, as it pertains to making a game whose very name is synonymous with an entire genre.


Perhaps it goes without saying that it’s a pretty big deal for you guys to be able to make a Mad Max game, correct?


Peter Johansson, Senior Designer: It’s like a dream come true, because we get to do what we love the most… crafting these really huge worlds, filling it with lots of action-packed content, and of course, giving the player lots of freedom to explore that content.


What’s been the reaction thus far to the game, among attendees at the show?


People are really happy about it! I think people are getting the chance to see what we are really good at… everyone one is really excited about playing it.


Has it been at all surprising? In the sense that… you and I, we’re in our mid-thirties, so we grew up watching the original movies in our childhood, whereas many younger folk, a price percentage of the game-playing audience, might not be at all familiar with the character.


It does seem that the response has been especially strong amount older folks; that image of the legendary Mad Max that they remember from watching the movies, as kids like you say. But I think he has always represented this huge open world, a post-apocalyptic reality… that theme and style has become known with the younger audience, hence why they know the name and hence why it still causes a reaction.


And not just the man himself, but also his vehicles, the wasteland… it’s all part of our vernacular. It resonates quite well with younger players, so I think they’re going to be equally excited. Especially to take play as the real thing.


It’s funny you say that, the “real thing” since Mad Max started out as a series of films that has inspired all sorts of fiction, including video games, and now there’s a video game called Mad Max. How challenging is that? To make a Mad Max game truly stand out, from what it has inspired, which is a lot.


I think, traditionally, these types of Max Max-like games have been shooters. There have also been vehicular elements, but they’ve either been separate or not as pronounced. But to us, this mix of vehicle combat, and on foot combat, each presented equally, plus a seamless transition between the two… I think that is going to be very, very unique.


In one moment you can be engaged in this car situations, you have people jumping onto of your vehicle, trying to pull you out, or maybe they manage to damage it, which pretty much forces you out… this combat is going to continue seamlessly. Them getting out of their cars and engaging in combat with you, with melee weapons, with their fists… to me that is really exciting.


Percentage-wise, how much is on foot and in vehicle? Is it 50/50, even down the middle, as it was implied in the demo?


Actually, it’s hard to say. I can’t say for sure, since we’re still building the game. It’s still in a pre-alpha stage. But, of course, your primary method of survival is your car, your Magnum Opus [the name of your primary ride in the game]. It’s basically your comfort zone, though there will be times in which you need to step out of it.


And of course you have to face all these dangers that are everywhere, in this wasteland. All of sudden, you have to be extremely careful, because of traps and ambushes, even the environment itself can be very hazardous. But it’s necessary, to keep your car running, like to scavenge for fuel.


You only have one vehicle?


Yes, it’s yours to customize. But there are over 50 different vehicles in the game, and you can drive them all.


Can you talk about this “bond” between man and machine that was touched upon in the demo and which the game as a whole aims to deliver?


Well, you can personalize it, purely on a cosmetic level, to make it look more like your own, something unique. Though I believe the simple act of constantly collecting parts or scrap, to enhance your vehicle, which you drive around in a lot, creates a special bond. “This is MY car, I’ve made it myself. I did this, to achieve that, so I can ram this gate…” and so forth.


Can the Magnum Opus be destroyed?


It can take heavy damage, but thankfully your mechanic, Chumbucket, is always around to help fix it up for you. Of course, when it does break down, you’re exposed to the dangers of the wasteland, so that’s something you’re going to want to avoid. But that’s the reason why Chumbucket is there, and it’s just not a matter of convenience.


We needed him to be persistent, otherwise it would be very difficult to get that bond. That is something that we did find in Just Cause 2, that you really didn’t get that bond between man and machine… though it really wasn’t that type of game as well. It was more like, you just use a vehicle for a while and got rid of it. This time, we really did want to establish a real bond with the Magnum Opus. Again, your car is your tool, your friend, also your salvation.


Was anyone attached to the movies looked at the game and had any opinions on it? And what has been the reaction down under as a whole as well?


No one from the movies has checked it out yet, but that would be exciting of course! As for people in Australia, the reaction has been super positive. They’ve all gone “FINALLY!!!” They’ve been waiting forever for a Mad Max game. And it’s almost here.


Mad Max will be available in 2014 for PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. You can read our hands-on impressions of it here.


Matt Hawkins