We recently had the opportunity to speak to Avalanche Studios, Senior Producer John Fuller about the studios upcoming release, Mad Max. Mad Max is a vehicle, combat and third person action video game set in an open world barran environment, based on the Mad Max films. Developed by Avalanche Studios and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Mad Max is scheduled for release on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Linux and Microsoft Windows on 1st September 2015 in North America, 2nd September 2015 in Australia and 4th September in Europe.
PA2J: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us John, when did Avalanche Studios first decide to make a Mad Max game?
John: Avalanche Studios had been doing some prototyping of a post-apocalyptic setting as the basis on some new concepts we were pitching. We met with WB Games and it turned out they had a license they really wanted us to look at… Mad Max. Obviously it was very attractive as it contains a lot of the over-the-top action associated with Avalanche Studios, as well as lots of potential for a compelling open world.
PA2J: The films have become cult classics throughout the years, how close to the films did you want to get when developing Mad Max the video game?
John: I think that everyone has their own interpretation of what Mad Max means to them, particularly since it’s been so long since the previous films. For some, the gyrocopter and boomerang are iconic. For others, the highly stylised characters. So we spent some time with George Miller early on understanding what the fundamental constants of his vision were. We then created a cohesive internal vision and messaging for the game so that everyone had a unified idea of the world, the story and the mechanics. We feel we have been very faithful to those ideas.
PA2J: The wasteland and surroundings look incredible, making Mad Max appear very dark, daunting and lonesome at times, what was it like creating the vast landscape for the game and how much detail went into creating the world?
John: Initially it was daunting. At face value it was an empty, foreboding world without the promise of much action. However, after some thought, we decided to use this to our advantage. One of the things that we hope hooks the player is how this initial impression is changed and challenged the more you explore. There are dynamic elements that appear, like storms and other weather elements. There are lots of encounters and pockets of population but many are well hidden and blend into the landscape. There are lots of hidden remnants of a destroyed world.
There is also a history behind the geographical area. It is hard to understand initially but if you are prepared to invest and put the pieces together, you can build up a vision of a fully functional, civilised city prior to the apocalypse.
PA2J: Mad Max takes place in a wide open world, can you tell us a little about the kind of things players can expect to encounter when traversing the wasteland and what kind of size will the world be compared to other games?
John: The world does not have hard boundaries so in theory you can keep driving in a certain direction, although in practice it will get too treacherous to survive (if the tedium of the uninhabited Big Nothing doesn’t kill you first).
The main elements of The Wasteland are Scrotus and his oil-harvesting empire, Wasteland survivors (some of which you can make alliances with), remnants of the old world (which often are the setting for side missions) and the odd Buzzard faction, who seem to be part of The Wasteland itself.
Your main goal will be to weaken the stronghold of Scrotus through a host of different activities – most of them involving death and destruction. You will also be rewarded for exploring the wasteland and finding food sources, relics of the old world, special vehicles and much more.
PA2J: Combat throughout the game takes place both inside the vehicle and out of it can you tell us a little about both styles and how they can help you in the game?
John: Vehicle combat is fast-paced, physically-based warfare on a epic scale. It also has a depth which supports many many hours of gameplay since you can upgrade and customise your Magnum Opus in countless numbers of ways.
On-ground combat is also visceral and brutal – true to Max’s survivalist instincts. It has parallels to vehicle combat in that you have to manage your scarce resources but some of your options are extremely powerful (like the shotgun or thundersticks, which are available both driving and on-foot).
There is also an important bridge between the two where Max scouts things, plans entry to enemy fortifications, uses the sniper rifle to weaken defenses and so on. A vehicle combat encounter can easily turn into a full on melee in certain conditions, so the two types of combat should be quite cohesive and fluid.
PA2J: Recovering scrap from the wasteland can help Max forge and create new weapons, what kind of weapons are available for creation and are blueprints required?
John: Primarily, Max will use scavenged resources to improve his vehicle upgrades, his hand-to-hand upgrades and to generally improve the productivity of the strongholds with which he can form an uneasy alliance. In some cases, there will be a set of required pieces in order to complete the upgrade.
The Magnum Opus represents the greatest level of progression and here you have attachments to the vehicle in the form of offensive and defensive weaponry (ramming grills, armour, shredding rims, boarder defense spikes and so on). There are also a bunch of active weapons like the sniper rifle, the Harpoon, the Thunderpoon (the harpoon launcher used to fire incendiary Thundersticks) and a few more. My favourite is probably the Sideburners – a dual sided flame thrower attached to the chassis.
PA2J: Mad Max’s vehicle plays a pivotal part in the films and in the game, the cars are customisable, can you explain a little about the kinds of things you can expect to upgrade?
John: You start off the game as Max is being stripped of his Interceptor and is left for dead. Luckily, you meet a strange companion, a Wasteland Blackfinger or mechanic, who is positively rabid about the idea of creating the greatest War Machine The Wasteland has ever seen. Chumbucket helps guide you as you get the opportunity to craft your unique vehicle, known as the Magnum Opus, from the ground up, even choosing the underlying chassis. Apart from the combat options mentioned above, there are a host of upgrades associated with the drivability and handling of the vehicle as well as a bunch that allow you to customise the appearance or just display your Wasteland trophies to intimidate enemies.
One of the interesting design choices is that the gameplay is not about maxing out (no pun intended!) every upgrade. Many combinations will simply result in a poorer performance for your vehicles. Each upgrade will be accompanied by changes to various attributes. You will have make calculated trade-offs based on what you value most or the style of play that you enjoy best. For example, heavy set vehicles will have trouble escaping the heaviest encounters or accessing the most remote, hard to reach areas. On the other hand, nimble and rugged off-road vehicles will be particularly vulnerable when in the midst of large-scale vehicle battles and this will affect how you must play to succeed.
PA2J: Will there be any multiplayer aspects to Mad Max or is it a strictly single player experience?
John: It’s all about you experiencing what it is like to be Mad Max. There is a gripping story, containing great enmity and an intense emotional journey if you choose to engage it in that way. So, strictly a single player narrative journey.
Having said that there are a few ways that we will allow you to share your journey (and particularly your Magnum Opus, which is like an in-game reflection of your choices) with friends.
PA2J: What does it feel like to be releasing two of the most highly anticipated games of 2015 with both Mad Max and Just Cause 3 coming out later this year and are there any future projects for Avalanche Studios?
John: You could say it’s the year of the Avalanche for us! It is definitely a high point in the studio’s history. We are incredibly proud of both titles and can’t wait to see how they are received.
Apart from the two you mention, we have a number of other projects on the go at the moment. Some of those are public (like enhancements and new content to the Hunter and updates to Rumble City) and some we won’t be able to talk about for a while.
Massive thanks to John Fuller for taking the time to talk to us. Below is the Official Mad Max Gameplay Reveal Trailer.