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Free from word balloons and "kapows" and "blams," Sucker Punch tells Gamasutra how the studio's approach to superhero comics in Infamous 2 takes a "special and different" approach to an established genre of art.

Leigh Alexander, Contributor

May 3, 2011

3 Min Read

Sucker Punch's Infamous games present a modern vision for the classic superhero. Lead character Cole McGrath has the supernatural powers, but it's the player who gets to decide where on the moral spectrum he sits. You could think of the PlayStation 3 titles -- the 2009 original and the upcoming June 2011 sequel -- as interactive installations in the broad superhero comics genre, and the developer's going to some interesting lengths to drive that correlation. For one thing, DC Comics is putting out a six-part series that follows the story arc between the end of Infamous and the beginning of Infamous 2. But that style of art production is part of Sucker Punch's internal work, too, as the team thought that unique animated 2D comic sequences would be a refreshing way to present the Infamous series' cutscenes. While at Sucker Punch, former art director Edward Pun worked with a four-man team whose members combined pencils, storyboarding, line art and ink, drawing the material for the cut scenes before handing the Photoshop plates off to video production lead David Molloy. "They're hand-drawn files -- we bring them into a 3D program and use special effects," Molloy tells Gamasutra. "We add sound design and composed music, and we put them together in the most cinematic way that we can without going too far [away from] the 3D world." It's about keeping the narrative presentation unique, he says. Adds Pun: "They're integrated within the storytelling, but they're separate movies that we put into the game. It's an actual, separate little movie." "We're making a superhero game; it just seems like a really natural step," says Pun, who explains that the Sucker Punch team is indeed taking every opportunity to try new positions on the spectrum between printed media and interactive entertainment, in addition to acknowledging the origins of the Infamous brand's themes and style. "Instead of it being on paper with word balloons to get the speech out, to tell the story with 'kapow' and 'blam' -- we don't have those restrictions," Pun says. "We don't have to have panels; we can actually have frames within a movie. We can implement it to what we do now and make it kind of special and different." "Comic books in the past were turned into movies," notes Molloy. "Well, here, we created a superhero video game first, and right away, we said, 'every superhero needs to have a comic book.' Even though we do as much realism as possible in the game to make it cool in 3D, we thought a great way to tell the major plot points was to do it in this comic book style." Classic comic brands have years of history attached to them, and the Sucker Punch team has enjoyed building a universe where the character's fresh to audiences -- and where, through game choices, players can essentially create the character's nuances themselves. Interactivity adds something new and important to the comic genre, Pun says. "You are involved," he explains. "In Infamous 2, you're still driving what Cole thinks is right, or what you think he should do -- should he help the person who's getting mugged, or should he just do his own thing and accomplish his own goals? That's really different from some of the well-known superhero properties, where if you're playing Superman or Batman there is only one path, and that is 'good.'" The team focused on developing 2D story scenes that didn't take the player out of the gameplay too much, in an environment where players usually seem most interested in whether cutscenes are skippable. "We do our best to present them in the best possible way," says Molloy. "We do a lot of experimentation; there are a lot of motion comics out there, and we've done a lot of research to figure out what really works." "We do our best to tell them quickly in a beautiful way, without going too far and making the player feel like they're bored," he adds.

About the Author(s)

Leigh Alexander

Contributor

Leigh Alexander is Editor At Large for Gamasutra and the site's former News Director. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Variety, Slate, Paste, Kill Screen, GamePro and numerous other publications. She also blogs regularly about gaming and internet culture at her Sexy Videogameland site. [NOTE: Edited 10/02/2014, this feature-linked bio was outdated.]

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