When Infamous: Second Son for PlayStation 4 hits stores on March 21, gamers will get to assume the role of Delsin Rowe, a 24-year-old graffiti artist with smoke-based powers, as he rages against a nefarious NSA-like machine. And in the process players will also explore a detailed, dystopian version of Seattle. Horia Dociu, the game’s art designer at Sucker Punch Productions in Bellevue, gave us a guided tour of their video-game take on our city.
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① Though the team was able to work with real Seattle companies like Sub Pop, others weren’t that into the process (which is why you see a “Rick’s” drive-in). But there was an effort to maintain the game’s small, locally made vibe. “You’re not going to see Starbucks or any of the big guys,” Dociu says. “There’s no Pepsi or advertisements.”
② The improved graphical capabilities of the new PlayStation 4 show up most obviously in the light and weather of Second Son. Sucker Punch’s artists add new levels of detail to customary Seattle weather effects like morning fog, leaves blowing in the wind, and even the way light refracts through individual raindrops.
③ Traversing Seattle rooftops is a big part of the gameplay, so the Sucker Punch team scaled the real Space Needle and photographed the tops of nearby buildings to portray an accurate picture. In the game the attraction is used as a transmission hub by the Department of Unified Protection, and those jagged growths that spiral up the sides of the monument may be blocking or monitoring citizens’ cellphone and Internet activity.
④ Sucker Punch has been working on its version of Seattle for more than two years, spending countless hours taking pictures and scouting locations. They set the game here based on a combination of hometown bias and practicality. “It probably would’ve been rather expensive to fly to different cities to do that exploration,” Dociu says. “And we wouldn’t have the home-field advantage.”
⑤ While neighborhoods like Pioneer Square and Capitol Hill are present in Second Son, the game condenses the city to a size that’s just big enough without being unwieldy. To make sure the smaller city still feels like Seattle, Sucker Punch added in actual landmarks like the Pacific Science Center arches, the Crocodile, and Elephant Car Wash (where you’ll actually be able to buy a copy of the game once it’s released).
⑥ This isn’t a purely dystopian Seattle; urban decay varies across neighborhoods. “We wanted to make sure that the clean, rich areas felt that way and the gritty areas felt dirty and grimy,” Dociu says. So while you’ll see homeless people in Pioneer Square, there’ll be clean cafes with “Free Wi-Fi Available” signs in the more northern and commercial neighborhoods. “It’s a real city,” says Dociu.