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Post-Mortem Interview: The Godfather for Xbox 360

With The Godfather The Game now in Xbox 360s everywhere (read our review), we thought it was a good time to chat with Mike Olsen, the game’s Creative Director, for a bit of a post-mortem about the development process on this next-gen version of the game. Our conversation ran the gamut from gameplay enhancements to content creation, and Olsen was quite forthcoming about the entire process.
DailyGame: Part of what made the current-gen version so enticing was the BlackHand gameplay mechanic, yet you still enhanced it on the Xbox 360. Why did you choose to not abide by the mantra of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”?
Mike Olsen: With BlackHand Control proving to be very successful in the current-gen versions of the product, it was an area we knew we wanted to double down on for the Xbox 360 version. To take the art of intimidation and Hand-to-Hand combat to the next level, we’ve added more Face-to-Face pressure tactics and weak spots to key merchants and racket bosses, and are giving you more finesse controls for the analog fighting experience.
There are a slew of new attacks at your disposal — such as lightning-fast jabs, a two-handed overhead smash and a demoralizing kick to the groin — but many new NPC reactions as well. Executing heavier attacks, or charging your power attack, now allow you to unleash a “stunning blow” on your opponents, sending them straight to their knees or flying backwards. As you increase your fighting skill, these debilitating attacks become easier to unleash, and your probability for landing a stunning blow increases.
Additionally, we’ve added a ton of new destructible objects and throwable items for you to inflict pain and add pressure to your opponents, and we even added persistent facial bruising to better communicate damage on NPC’s.
We’ve also expanded the ever-popular and crowd pleasing Execution Styles list to almost 50 executions. With so many new weapons at your disposal (including our personal favorite: the burning 2×4 that allows you to perform the all new Sicilian Candle execution — I’m sure you can figure it out 😉 ) we just couldn’t refuse!
The Godfather Xbox 360 screenshot
The AI is a bit more brutal in the Xbox 360 version, particularly in car chases. Was this the one area of the game you felt needed the most work, or are the AI upgrades simply a matter of being able to make them on a next-gen system?
In the original version of the Godfather we focused our efforts in creating a great on foot experience. After listening to critics, we decided to improve our chase AI for the Xbox 360 version. Improvements like chasers attacking from the front, cutting off the player, setting up roadblocks, new side-ramming and general pacing improvements create a significantly more enjoyable and challenging chase experience.
In addition to beefing up the chase AI, we also made some improvements to on-foot combat AI. Continuing to listen to our critics, we addressed the issue of making hand-to-hand combat fair by minimizing multiple enemies attacking the player. We also tried to make the AI feel smarter by enhancing their blind-fire tuning and search behaviors.
There’s more variety now in the types of side missions compared to the current-gen version. What was your approach to making those additions?
We added a huge amount of new mission content to the 360 version of The Godfather. For starters, to fill in some key Godfather moments we’ve added four new exclusive story missions including a Trojan-horse mission at Solozzo’s warehouse, rescuing Tom Hagen from his kidnappers, and taking out Moe Green after heisting his casino. For the side missions, we’ve added five new challenging hits (with all new bonus conditions), a drug bombing run (removing Solozzo’s drug fronts) and an entirely new favor system.
We’ve also built this version specifically for the Xbox 360 and have added about 40 Xbox Live Achievements for you to earn and an all-new Top Don score that will allow you to compare your playthough against your friends.
The Godfather Xbox 360 screenshot
Playing through the Xbox 360 version, we easily saw how many different aspects of the game you’ve enhanced. What single improvement are you most proud of that didn’t make the cut in the current-gen version?
Without a doubt the single feature we are most proud of is being able to bring to the table for the Xbox 360 version is the ability to bring a henchman with you into battle. A crew member serves as both a bodyguard and a soldier. He’ll follow you into battle, attack your enemies, and protect you from retaliation during a mob war. They’ve become a key component to the “living world” missions, such as the extortion game and compound takeovers. As you rise through the family ranks, you can hire even better and more deadly crew members — even Underbosses.
Crew have added a huge amount of strategy to the game. For example, they can be used as an intimidation tactic when shaking down businesses — sometimes the mere sight of two Corleone thugs is enough to make a merchant pay. If you’re occupied with roughing up a racket boss, your crew can also keep an eye out for cops or rival family members. Having extra muscle helps tremendously when taking over warehouses and hubs, and you’ll definitely need the extra firepower when going after enemy compounds. During a mob war, your crew member can draw fire while you make an escape, or shoot out of your car during hot pursuits.
Achievement Points–people eat them like candy on Xbox 360. Was it easy to come up with the types of things that will reward points, or did the team have to rack its collective brain?
Coming up with the list of Achievements was actually quite easy and a lot of fun for the team. With so many different side-missions at your disposal, we knew we wanted to use the achievements as a way to give the player new objectives and give him/her even more insight into what the game had to offer. We also took the time to ensure that they were balanced throughout the course of play; we didn’t want to front load the Achievements, yet we didn’t want too many that required you to play for 40+ hours, either.
Our philosophy was to trickle the Achievements throughout casual pace of play or for those interested allow them to go view the achievements list and refocus their gameplay experience to concentrate (and sometimes educate) on one area of the game.
What’s the most outlandish achievement? Did you find yourselves drawn to achievements for being “naughty”?
The “Executioner” is probably the most fun and challenging Achievement. This requires you to complete ALL execution styles in the game (which has been increased to almost 50), you’ll be required to use the environment and every weapon the game has to offer to dispose of your enemies in the directed fashion.
The “Debt Collector” Achievement serves as arguably the most daunting task, requiring you to collect all 100 film reels scattered throughout the game (but don’t worry, you’re heavily compensated and you’ll also unlock bonus footage as you collect).
The Godfather Xbox 360 screenshot
The Godfather The Game released not too long after Saint’s Row, another open-ended crime game on Xbox 360. What would you say to entice an Xbox 360 owner who thinks “hey, I’ve already got my GTA-like game, why should I buy this one?”
We’ve obviously played a ton of open-ended products, but we set out to be more than a carbon copy. The Godfather takes all of the open-ended elements you like about the GTA-like products, but then offers you a unique and authentic mafia experience.
We put a lot more focus on player and character development as well as the control mechanics. With the BlackHand control scheme leading the way, we wanted to give players a much more visceral and “in your face” experience with the controller acting like an extension of your hands — attack your opponent using the analog stick, grab him by grabbing the shoulder buttons — as you manhandle your controller, your avatar manhandles his opponent on screen.
We then created a territory control game with an addicting extortion mechanic that allows you to strong-arm merchants for protection money. Manipulate the world by keeping the cops on the payroll or hiring henchmen to help you do your dirty work like taking out the four rival families via contract hits and destroying their family compounds.
We then take the Godfather fiction and use that as the conduit to deliver these systems to you as the player, but even using the license is done in an innovative fashion. You don’t just play as a movie character, but rather create yourself using our MobFace character creation tool and work your way through the ranks in a 1940s-50s New York City. Work with the Corleone Family as you relive classic Godfather moments alongside unforgettable and memorable characters from the film such as Luca Brasi, Sonny, Tom Hagen, and of course, Don Vito Corleone himself.
Create yourself, earn respect and see if you have what it takes to become the Godfather of all Godfathers. Then challenge the world and see if you can top the Top Don leaderboard.
Thanks to Mike Olsen and the team at EA for taking the time to chat with us about The Godfather for Xbox 360.

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