Agents of Mayhem's design director discusses open-world development

We talked to Agents of Mayhem's design director to learn more about how Volition is building open-world games these days.

This week, Volition released its new follow-up to the Saints Row series, a superhero/GI Joe-inspired game called Agents of Mayhem. It builds on the company’s open-world roots by mixing League of Legends and Skylanders-type abilities into a series of colorful characters who the player brings into a three-person squad. 

Today on the Gamasutra Twitch channel, we invited project design director Anoop Shekar to describe the process of making these colorful characters. If you missed our chat, we’ve embedded the full video up above for your convenience. 

But just in case you’re out to save the world from LEGION as we speak, here are a few quick takeaways from chatting with Shekar. 

Hero-driven game design is popular for single-player games, not just multiplayer ones 

We’ve made much note here on Gamasutra about the rise of hero shooters and similar character-driven games, but if what Shekar describes is true, there’s lessons about character design from those games that can be pulled into single-player projects as well. 

In Agents of Mayhem’s case, Shekar says the character-switching mechanic arose in part because of his fascination with Skylanders’ toy-driven design. When his kids needed a fire character to solve a certain puzzle, they just swapped out their former hero for a fire-powered one who could get through a mission. Agents of Mayhem now has a similar system, which encourages players to synergize the characters in their roster so their abilities can play off of each other. 

Abilities can solve level design challenges

While explaining the process for crafting a video-game version of Seoul (where the game takes place), Shekar told us that it was the creation of a “triple-jump” that helped the level designers finally hone the right size and spacing for the buildings. If you’re a developer about to embark a game that will require a large amount of traversal, Shekar’s description of a level design process anchored around the traversal system may prove exceptionally useful. 

Loot boxes in bigger games will happen, even if players complain about them

Though Shekar said loot boxes you can buy with real money aren’t appearing in Agents of Mayhem anytime soon, we did discuss the business model for triple-A games and why so many are turning to in-game purchases like this. In a time where many players are critical of their inclusion, Shekar said that from the developers’ side, features like this are only implemented because someone, somewhere, is spending money on them. 

It’s something for developers to consider as they weigh player feedback going forward, since keeping the lights on at a company may very well mean implementing seemingly unpopular features like this. 

For more developer interviews, editor roundtables and gameplay commentary, be sure to follow the Gamasutra Twitch channel. 

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