Rockstar’s fighting between the nostalgia that gamers have for the series and bringing in new players.
Dan Houser is the lead writer of Max Payne 3 – the same position that he held on GTA IV – as well as the cofounder and VP of Creativity at Rockstar Games in New York City. After Take Two Interactive bought the rights to the Max Payne series from Remedy Entertainment in 2002, and we eventually found out that Rockstar would develop the sequel in 2009, fans of the first two games were a bit surprised. How could the makers of GTA make Max Payne as good as it was? Now that screenshots and the first trailer reveal a differently toned game, those fans are confused by the shift from the gritty New York streets that were as much a character as the eponymous detective was. Houser says that he must fight gamer nostalgia in order to make a modern game.
“I think the challenge of nostalgia is a profound one, because one thing about videogames is your memory tends to remove the horrendous,” Houser said. “[Games] become these great, perfect experiences. It’s definitely a challenge to get the right pitch when you want to appeal to the fans of the original and bring in a new audience.”
Houser believes that strong writing is what will elevate games. “If games are to be the next major form of creative consumption, art, cultural expression or whatever the correct term is, then strong narrative has to be part of that,” he said. “If the mechanics are fine and the story is ridiculous, the experience is much diminished.”
For whatever reason, Houser’s script demanded that Max depart his streets and head to sunny Brazil. We don’t know very much about the details of why and how Max Payne needs to go there, and that veil of secrecy is very much intentional.
“It’s really important to us that the games [feel] kind of magical,” Said Houser. “It might annoy people that we don’t give out more information, but I think the end point is people enjoy the experience. The less they know about how things are pieced together and how things are broken down and what our processes are, the more it will feel like this thing is alive, that you are being dragged into the experience. That’s what we want.”
Whatever I might think about the changes Houser makes to Max Payne, I have to respect his opinions on maintaining the mystery of games. That’s something Rockstar does really well, and I will withhold judgement on Max Payne 3 until I play the actual game.