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Clint Ourso, Project Manager of Saints Row

Game: Saints Row
Company: Volition

After playing the Saints Row demo, Ricky Tucker/Starscream had the chance to speak to Clint Ourso and get the skinny on Saints Row. Here's what he had to say (and check out our Saints Row review listed below).

GV: First off, tell us who you are and what you do at Volition?

Clint Ourso: I’m Clint Ourso. I’m a Project Manager (PM) for the studio and was the Lead PM on Saints Row.

GV: Volition is mainly known for making shooters. How did the company’s success and experience with that genre translate into an open-ended game like Saints Row?

Clint Ourso: We really had to take a different approach than we have in the past. While the FPS experience helped with specific mechanics like aiming, combat, camera and controls, there were plenty of new areas that we had to focus on. We were able to come up with good ideas then iterate them a lot to really refine what we ended up with.

GV: What was the biggest challenge with working on the Xbox 360 as opposed to the other consoles you have dealt with? What was the easiest aspect?

Clint Ourso: The whole scope of the project and the new technology were the biggest challenges. Just getting our game working on the various hardware platforms provided to us while the XBox 360 was being designed and developed was an ongoing challenge. Trying to blow out the hardware with next gen features while simultaneously creating the content were added challenges throughout development.

GV: How did you approach the problem of giving players an open-ended experience while still giving them some sort of story structure? On that same note, what is being done to keep in-game activities “fresh”?

Clint Ourso: Our designers and writers did a great job coming up with multiple story lines which are compelling and packed with adult humor. We maintained the open-ended experience by giving the player choices of how to progress in the game. They can play missions, activities, cause general mayhem and pursue other goals to earn respect. Respect is the currency that unlocks new story elements and missions to keep the game fresh. Once the player begins the game and becomes part of the Third Street Saints, they have multiple ways of exploring new story lines and missions or unlocking new activities. We made it so the player always has choices about how to proceed and won’t get frustrated by being stuck on one thing in order to progress.

GV: How long is the game in terms of hours if you go through just the story missions?

Clint Ourso: It’s around 20 hours if you just focus on missions, but that is only a small part of the whole game. Throughout the world there are activities, stores, general mayhem, side goals and other fun distractions that can take you 40 hours or more to fully experience. For the value, Saints Row is packed with fun in both single player and multiplayer.

GV: About how big is Stilwater? How long does it take to go from one end to the other in a car?

Clint Ourso: Stilwater is a big place. It is divided into approximately 15 districts across two large land masses (separated by a big river). Hauling it through town ignoring traffic laws would probably take 5 minutes or so; of course it all depends on traffic, the time of day, weather and waiting for the drawbridge. Taking the freeway would probably save 2 minutes as long as there weren’t any accidents or police chases happening.

GV: The ESRB website it lists Saints Row as having "Blood and Gore", yet the demo is pretty clean. Were things simply omitted from the demo so it could safely be released to the public?

Clint Ourso: We didn’t alter the content in order to release it, except in cases where country restrictions required us to do so. We intentionally chose the style to fit within the context of the game.

GV: How deep is the character customization? Can players eventually get things like tattoos or alter their appearance in-game?

Clint Ourso: Character creation and customization are very deep. We have had fun making all kinds of characters during development, from popular folks to people that look like us. Once you get through the initial character creation, you are able to use in-game stores to alter or enhance your appearance. New clothes, hair styles, tattoos and jewelry are all available to further customize your character.

GV: The comparisons between Saints Row and Grand Theft Auto are inevitable. Did the team go into development with the idea of simply improving on the GTA type game or with the attitude of “Damn the comparisons, let’s just make a fun game”?

Clint Ourso: At the core we always want to make fun games, and inevitably your game will be compared with something that has already come out. In our case, GTA is the 800 lb. gorilla, but we went head on and took the open world genre into the next generation. Throughout a development cycle, we have to be aware of all games that come out that are popular and analyze them for what they do right and wrong and constantly push to keep up with the latest and greatest thing out at the moment. I think we did that well with Saints Row.

GV: Will more vehicles like motorcycles or airborne vehicles (planes, helicopters…) be included in the final game?

Clint Ourso: We will have additional vehicles in the game beyond just what was in the demo. Motorcycles will not make it in, but we do have a police helicopter that you can shoot down.

GV: Based on the demo, Saints Row seems like a very “ground-based game”. Are there more opportunities for “vertical gameplay” (i.e. jumping cars off rooftops) later in the game?

Clint Ourso: There are definitely vertical gameplay opportunities in the game. They are placed throughout the world in strategic and fun locations. You’ll have to explore the world to discover them all.

GV: The game’s multiplayer modes are the more anticipated features of the game. Was this a focus early on, or was it added later?

Clint Ourso: Multiplayer was a focus from the beginning. We wanted to give the players a robust multiplayer offering to fill a gap that we saw in the overall genre. We went with some traditional modes like Gangsta Brawl and Big Ass Chains (which are like deathmatch and capture the flag) and team versions of each. And we added more Saints Row centric modes like Protect Tha Pimp and Blinged Out Ride which require a more strategic approach. Co-op mode has level specific objectives.

GV: It was recently revealed that Saints Row features “limited” co-op play. Why is it being touted as “limited”?

Clint Ourso: Limited means that the co-op levels are made for two people.

GV: How many players can be in a gang online at one time? Also, is there any sort of clan (or should I say, gang) support?

Clint Ourso: Our multiplayer mode supports 12 players and it does have gang support. As mentioned above, the co-op levels support two players.

GV: Are there plans for downloadable content? If so, how is Volition approaching the rough waters surrounding the pricing issue for new content, especially after some developers have taken flack for “overpriced” add-ons?

Clint Ourso: Yes, there are plans for downloadable content and some has already been made. We’re working with THQ on the specifics so we can offer a good value and an enhanced game experience.

Thanks Clint! We look forward to many more cool games from you and Volition.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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