Lewis Boadle, art director at Fallen Tree Games, speaks with GamingBolt about the upcoming open world crime romp.
There’s nothing quite like a game that puts you in a sandbox environment ripe for havoc and chaos, and then just lets you loose. Fallen Tree Games’ upcoming open world crime romp, American Fugitive, is looking to do just that, and with its top down perspective it has serious shades of classic Grand Theft Auto titles. Wanting to learn more about this curious title, we recently sent across some of our questions about the game to the developers. The following questions were answered by American Fugitive’s art director, Lewis Boadle.
"American Fugitive came from a conversation about what it would really like to be ‘on the lam’. We didn’t consciously plan for a GTA vibe, but it undoubtedly has influenced us as we’ve loved GTA throughout its entire history – both 2D and 3D."
Based on what we’ve seen of it so far, American Fugitive seems to be giving off a very classic, old-school GTA vibe- was that much of an influence on you?
American Fugitive came from a conversation about what it would really like to be ‘on the lam’. We didn’t consciously plan for a GTA vibe, but it undoubtedly has influenced us as we’ve loved GTA throughout its entire history – both 2D and 3D.
There are some unique features we’re really excited about; Players can break into any building (although this can go badly wrong if they make too much noise or the place is occupied). The ‘Wanted’ system is based on your appearance, so it’s down to the player to find ways to throw the cops off the scent, whether it’s raiding someone’s washing line, or ditching a hot car for
something less noticeable.
How much freedom to explore or because chaos does the world of American Fugitive offer?
We tried to give the player as much leeway as possible to ‘play it their way’. Redrock County is divided into three regions, separated by rivers and police roadblocks. Making progress through the story will unlock these areas, and you have complete freedom to explore – and cause carnage in – the unlocked regions.
It’s a sandbox game, so we’ve tried to create systems that encourage ‘emergent’ gameplay. For example, we introduce the player to a Car Crusher, which you can use to crush anything that the magnet will latch onto. We’ve found that players love grabbing hold of passing police cars and turning them into a metal cube – driver and all!
Why did you choose to go with a top down camera for this game?
Aside from the influence of retro games, we felt that an overhead camera gives the player a wider overview of the vicinity, and helps them make better decisions, whether they are trying to be stealthy or gung-ho. Also, it’s a practical decision. We can’t compete with the level of detail that AAA games add to their world, so a more distant viewpoint was ideal for our small team.
What kinds of criminal activities can we engage in during sandbox open world play? Are things like house or bank robberies on the cards?
You can rob houses, stores, vehicles, people. All sorts of vandalism, destruction and violence are available from the outset but there will be an appropriate police response to your actions, so my advice is to choose your moments! The big-ticket crimes, such as bank robberies are generally limited to the story, to prevent the economy being unbalanced.
"The core experience is about 8 – 10 hours long. Like other open-world experiences, doing the other activities (collectibles, jumps, stashes, time trials etc) give the game a decent amount of longevity."
Are there any co-op or multiplayer options in American Fugitive, or is this a purely single player experience?
We’re focused on creating the single player experience, but it would be a great update, no doubt!
About how long can we expect the campaign to be?
The core experience is about 8 – 10 hours long. Like other open-world experiences, doing the other activities (collectibles, jumps, stashes, time trials etc) give the game a decent amount of longevity.
The Nintendo Switch seems to have become the go-to platform for both, indie developers and those who love to play indie games. As an indie developer yourself, what are your thoughts on the system? Do you think it presents any unique advantages to a particular style of games?
We’re thrilled to be bringing the game to the Switch. Its portability makes it such an exciting platform to develop for. It’s a little less powerful than the standard consoles, so we had to come up with some clever ways of getting the same experience on to the Switch, but we’re happy that we’ve managed to achieve that. I think it lends itself well to those quick pick-up-and-play sessions like this, where you can do a quick mission on the bus, or while the other half is watching ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians’.
Will the game will feature Xbox One X specific enhancements? What can players expect if they are playing the game on Xbox One X? Is 4K/60fps on the cards?
We are in the process of optimisation right now, so it’s too early to confirm exactly what resolution and framerate it will achieve, but there will be specific enhancements.
And how will the PS4 Pro version turn out in terms of resolution and frame rate?
Likewise, we’ll know this for sure closer to release.
From a development perspective, how do you find the Xbox One X to be and how do you compare it with the PS4 Pro?
They’re both sweet systems to develop for and play on. The X is slightly more powerful but from a development perspective, they’re both very fast pieces of kit.
"This is the platform we’ve been doing the majority of our performance testing on, as any improvements for Switch tend to make the others even faster."
How is the game running on the original Xbox One and PS4, frame rate and resolution wise?
The game plays well on these systems. We’re locked at 1080/30fps to ensure a silky-smooth gameplay experience.
And the frame rate and resolution while the game is running in docked and undocked modes on Switch?
This is the platform we’ve been doing the majority of our performance testing on, as any improvements for Switch tend to make the others even faster. It currently runs at the native resolution for each, although optimisation is still ongoing, so that might change.
Next gen is coming sooner or later. From a development perspective, what is your biggest expectation from PS5 and Xbox Scarlett?
Expectation seems to be for more things based in the cloud. I’d like to see more raw power, which generally gives developers more opportunities to create the experiences they want.
What is your take on Sony’s reluctant policy on cross play with Xbox?
I think their reasons are probably business-driven more than technology-driven, but if the demand from the community is strong, I’m sure they’ll eventually soften. Fortnite has certainly helped!
Do you think cross platform will be one of the defining features of next-gen consoles?
I don’t see how the option to play with your friends – no matter what console they own – could ever be a bad thing. Whatever technical challenges stand in the way, I think we are getting to the point where they need to be overcome.
"I don’t see how the option to play with your friends – no matter what console they own – could ever be a bad thing. Whatever technical challenges stand in the way, I think we are getting to the point where they need to be overcome."
What is your take on the ongoing drama of loot boxes and microtransactions?
It’s not an area that we are not very fond of, and as developers we’ve tried to avoid it wherever possible (there are no microtransactions in American Fugitive), but I think it’s also important to recognise that we are in an age where some – not all – consumers of media entertainment are attracted to (so-called) ‘free’ experiences, so developers need to find deferred income streams. We’ve seen the effects of this in the mobile market (AKA the race to the bottom), and we hope that the console market will continue to value paid games over free ones.