Sunset Overdrive Interview with Creative Director, Marcus Smith

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One of the most highly anticipated Xbox One titles, Sunset Overdrive, has come to EB Games Expo Sydney and today I had the pleasure of speaking to Insomniac’s Creative Director, Marcus Smith.


What drove you to Sunset City? How did you come up with this amazing idea behind Sunset Overdrive?

Oh boy. Well originally Drew Murray, the game director and I, we worked on Resistance 3. I was creative director, he was lead designer and we worked together really well – great friends. We were having lunch and it came up, ‘what kind of game would you make if somebody gave you the money to do it?’ Like your own idea and everything. And we started talking about something that was much more traditional zombie apocalypse-y. We were both about to be parents at the same time, and so I think we were thinking about the end of the world a lot, ‘cause it’s just nerve racking to bring a life into the world and so we started thinking about it. We just came out of Resistance 3, which is a very dreary existence right and the idea of going into a new franchise like that was kind of depressing. So we just started thinking about everything that we like in the world of those zombie apocalypse type games. Every once in a while something happens and it just seems super fun, like the end of the world where Will Smith is hitting golf balls off an aircraft carrier or Charlton Heston is driving a big boat in the empty streets of L.A. It just looks awesome to me.

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Yeah and those are the games that everyone wants to play.

Right. And so that was the main twist – what if it’s not the end of the world, but like a new beginning? You play a character that is basically just not living up to their potential and all that, and when the end of times come about, it’s kind of like they find their place in the world. And you know all those sorts of video game fantasies come true is the new existence – the new end time. So that was the main thing and then we just ran from there for this idea of fun in the end times and then the team just came together and made amazing stuff happen.

Do you think in 2027 our world will be anything like your creative idea?

Uh, I think in a lot of ways the world’s already like . . . (chuckles) you know an energy drink turning people into mutants is already, it’s not really preposterous.

It could happen.

Stuff happens all the time, where major corporations release things and get away with stuff. I mean GM, American carmaker, they knew about a problem with their car and they didn’t do anything about it. Thirteen people died as a result, and that kind of stuff happens all the time. So it’s hard, as silly as it is, it’s also sort of reflecting society as it stands now. And yeah . . . it’s not that far off.

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Do you drink energy drinks yourself?

I do, I totally do. Yeah, yeah – I think diet Red Bull has gotten more of my money over the years, than I care to admit. Yeah, sadly I do drink a lot of energy drinks.

I think everyone here as a gamer drinks a lot of energy drinks.

Absolutely – so it seems like it fits right (chuckles).

Do you think the Xbox One community will respond well to Sunset Overdrive? How do you anticipate they’ll react?

I honestly don’t know because, I mean obviously Xbox One has sold millions of copies and how do you, how do you define millions of people? You know I am certainly hopeful; we’ve made a game that is entertaining. We’ve seen that people, whether their new to gaming or are experienced, there’s something to do in Sunset Overdrive. You know and it’s inviting and accessible, but its got layers of complexity that skilled players can get into, so we’re hoping that everybody gets along with it, but at the end of the day its also got a point of view, it’s colourful and different and there are frankly going to be people who just don’t like that. Everybody has their own taste in games and we fully expect that there are going to be people who just hate the game, and there is nothing we can do about that. As long as we can get people who really like it.

Do you think you will get a lot of Tony Hawke fans into the game as well?

I hope so, yeah maybe cause most of us were Tony Hawke fans and this definitely was a game from early on, we said ‘it’s going to be like Tony Hawke with guns’, because most games have traversal , a lot of times it’s in the negative space that you’re traversing. Like you get off the environment and then traverse, whereas this game, like Tony Hawke, you have to have that awareness of the world, you have to know what’s bounce-able, what’s grind-able and all that. So there are a lot of similarities to Tony Hawke and this game. Also that accessibility that you can just pick up Tony Hawke and it was fun to play off the bat, but then you could learn how to do all the advanced moves. So yeah, I definitely see a lot of similarities in Tony Hawke, certainly an inspiration.

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So what aspect then do you think gamers will value the most about Sunset Overdrive?

You know right now I think in the climate of games, we don’t have very many games that don’t take themselves very seriously. I mean, I used to love games like Sam & Max that were just funny, and there’s just not that many games that have a sense of humour right now. Saints Row is funny, but it’s its own kind of humour and we’re definitely . . . I think it’s right to have more games that have humour in them frankly. So hopefully people will respond well to that.

Yeah and I think they will.

Good! (chuckles)

Would you like to say anything else about Sunset Overdrive?

Buy it! It comes out here October 30th and I hope that everybody loves it.


Thanks Marcus Smith for taking the time to participate in the interview. Be sure to test-run Sunset Overdrive at EB Games Expo this weekend!

For more of our EB Expo coverage, click here.

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