Saints Row 4 is set for release next month for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. This time around, the ‘head honcho’ of the Saints (you!) has been elected President of the United States. If that wasn’t a hilarious enough premise, the story centers around a catastrophic alien invasion, with the Saints teleported into an alternate “bizarro-like” simulation of Steelport. Given the premise, Saints Row 4 promises to be the most hilarious and over-the-top title in the franchise to date.
At E3 in Los Angeles, Gaming Illustrated received hands-on time with the game and spoke after the demo with Project Art Director, Steven Quirk. In this exclusive interview with GI, Mr. Quirk discusses the upcoming release date, the humor that’s gone into the franchise and the core philosophy of the Saints Row franchise.
If you haven’t checked it out already, be sure to read Associate Editor Kalvin Martinez’s hands-on preview (PC) of Saints Row 4.
GI: Sean Gibson, GamingIllustrated.com. If you could introduce yourself and your role with Volition and the Saints Row 4 game, please?
Steven: I’m Steven Quirk. I’m Project Art Director of Saint Row 4 at Volition.
GI: There’s a lot of hype around this game, and we were at the party at E3 having a good time. It seems like there’s a lot of positive energy surrounding the title and you guys are very close to release. Any comments about the reaction here and just staring the release date in the face now?
Steven: It’s really great just seeing people having fun. That’s the core philosophy we have and we want to throw more at them to play with. The key is that it’s fun. We’ve thrown out crazy ideas. It’s funny the kind of stuff that gets tossed out. A lot of people question where it comes from… mad man, or drugs, or whatever. In reality we’ve got a lot of fun guys that like to get in there and play games, so, whatever gets into the game has got to be fun. It’s great seeing reactions to it. It’s feels like a sense of accomplishment, and it’s great to be so close to it.
GI: It’s over the top. It keeps getting more over the top, to the point that your creativity seemed to go through the roof in SR3, and I think once you remove those boundaries of physical reality you guys really were able to create a unique product. That’s what really makes Saints Row 4 special.
Steven: Yes, certainly. I think it’s a testament to the team. Once you open it up and let people get creative, and they start owning stuff. You let people try anything and you find some really cool stuff. It’s the creative energies unleashed like you said. It’s a great studio to work at. I think any idea with our team is going to get listened to no matter where you’re at. If your brand new to this company, if you’ve been there a while, doesn’t matter. People get together and they make special things happen.
GI: I can’t imagine the amount of directions your team could’ve gone. You’ve thrown reality out the window with this game. How do you keep everyone steered in a unified direction at all? It seems like everyone would be in a completely different place.
Steven: We’ve got Creative Director Steven Jaros, and Scott Philips the design director. We all just get in a room, we make sure we have that vision created together. It’s over the top, anything goes, but were not going to throw everything in. You have that test – is it fun, is it going to be cool when you get that controller in your hands? It’s got to fit that fun factor. It seems like it would be all over the place, but it does drive. You are leader of the Saints, and then you become leader of the free world, and now we opened it up to aliens invading. What could be next? It’s pretty crazy.
GI: You have some new friends at Deep Silver, which is a nice way of putting it. There has been some ups and down emotionally, but it seems like everyone is all smiles here. Has there been good synergy between Volition and Deep Silver with the new merger?
Steven: Yes. Looking back on it, I don’t think it could’ve gone much better. They came in and said, “We know you guys are experts at what you do. You know your game. We’re not going to come in here and stir the pot up. Maybe we’ll learn some stuff from you.” It’s business as usual. They came in, and it’s been great to have that support.
GI: There are a lot of artists out there looking to get their break in the industry. What would you recommend to them that they do to really improve their portfolio and break into the industry the right way?
Steven: To get into the industry, I think you just have to adjust your attitude for what you’re going to be getting into. I think people have a lot of illusions about what it’s like in our industry. It’s knowing you’re a bigger part of something… getting that bigger picture, obviously your skills, just your communication skills as well as your artistic skills in order. You could be the most badass artist, but if you’re not willing to take critiques and work with somebody it won’t work. I think that’s one of the most important things you can really build up about yourself. It’s communication and seeing that bigger picture.
GI: How do you properly create art that interacts the way the game developer wanted to interact in the game’s universe? You could design it one way and it may look completely out of place to the way with someone’s going to be interacting with it when they control the game.
Steven: Sure. That’s communication up front and really just trying to prototype stuff, get it in there quickly so then you can find out if it is fun, if it is marrying it together right. Early on, I will admit that in Saints Row 1 and earlier games that I have even worked on, you almost feel like two teams are in separate wings of the building, and then you hope it works together. The more and more we work together the better… just getting stuff earlier in the game, getting play tested, getting the big room together – designers, audio guys, effects, and environment art … see what’s working, see how people are playing it, and see where you need to go. You just keep working on it, being adaptive, being flexible. It has gotten better and better with each Saints Row.
GI: How long is the game play on this one? What should gamers expect overall in that time period?
Steven: Total core, missions, and then all the stuff you can do in the world? We’ve got people that come in for play test that have played for four days and still not even gotten half way through. You can do a speed run, probably hit that 20 hours or so, it depends on your play style really. There is so much to do, this is more to do than any in the previous Saints Row games, just the activities, the collectibles in the worlds, and the rewards you can get. We try to get enough for everyone. There’s fun for any kind of play style there.
GI: Nice. There’s a lot Saints Row fans really looking forward to this game. Final question here. What do you hope this game, in terms of message with Volition and Deep Silver, sends to fans of the series?
Steven: We just want you to keep having fun. If you enjoy playing it, we hope there’s more in store. We’ll see what happens. This is really like a shout out to the fans who have been alone for the whole series. It’s got a lot of new stuff that we’ve never done before as well. I’m really excited to see the reaction to it when the full game is unveiled.
GI: Awesome. Thanks.
Video Teaser for Saints Row 4
Saints Row 4 releases August 20 in North America for North America for Xbox 360, Windows PC and PlayStation 3.