Developer Haemimont Games have created a number of titles over the past few years, including the last two games in the Tropico series. In those games, you controlled the lifes of the citizens of an island country as their dictator. In their next game, Omerta: City of Gangsters from publisher Kalypso Media, the team has the player located in Atlantic City of the 1920s. This time, he will move up in the world of organized crime. As one might expect, the guns come out when you least expect them.
We got a chance to chat with Bisser Dyankov, the lead designer of Omerta at Haemimont Games, as he talks about their combination of management simulation and tactical strategy in their next game.
First, how did the concept for Omerta come about?
We always wanted to experiment with a tactical combat system - it is something that we have not tried before, but we all have a keen interest in. On the other hand, Haemimont Games has solid experience in strategy/economy management titles. When you add our interest in the Prohibition era and classical gangster movies, games and novels, you get the birth of the Omerta concept. Omerta tells a gangster story during the Prohibition. The strategic part of the game flows in real time and focuses on economy management and mastering the relations with other gangsters and the police. Combats are turn based and focus on cover, positioning and tactical use of skills.
We have seen this time period and location portrayed in the TV show Boardwalk Empire. What sort of research did the development team do for this game?
Boardwalk Empire definitely has its influence over Omerta, but our intention is to tell a very different story than the one in the show. We also drew inspiration from classic noir and gangster movies, as well as other video games and even documentaries. A particular inspiration that stands out is L.A. Noire - a game in a very different genre and set in different period, but very close to the tone and atmosphere that we wanted for Omerta.
What is the fictional back story of Omerta?
Omerta tells the tale of two brothers, who help each other to leave Sicily and reach America. Each of them pursues his dreams and has to face the question of the price he is willing to pay to fulfill them. It's a story about family, society and the relations between them. Where will they draw the line, what sacrifices are they ready to make?
What sort of missions and tasks will be available in the game?
Every campaign mission takes you to a different district of Atlantic City. There you will immediately start interacting with the local riff-raff, as well as with the prominent underground figures. You will have to manage both limited resources and fierce competition, grease palms and twist arms to get your business running. Let me give you an example - money laundering. Most criminal enterprises make profits in Dirty Money. Some actions, like building construction, are only possible with Clean Money. Dirty Money can be laundered into Clean Money with some risk - and for a rather stiff price.
What can we expect in terms of combat? Will we see lots of tommy guns blazing?
Absolutely! I don't think anyone would make a gangster game and miss the opportunity to employ the Tommy gun! We have 8 weapon classes, 5 ranged and 3 melee, and every type of weapon plays differently than the others. The Tommy gun weapon class focuses on wide area attacks, demoralizing your enemies and making them more vulnerable to further attacks. The combat, as mentioned above, is turn-based and involves a lot of tactical planning, usage of cover and special skills. Every gangster in your team has specific stats, weapon, perks and talents. As they level up, you are able to customize their gear and perks and experiment with many different character builds.
What other kinds of gameplay features do you consider to be important in the game?
We have a mechanic called Heat. Heat results from the underground activities, and usually the more violent they are, the higher your Heat will be. Heat also accumulates over time, faster in some districts, slower in others, depending on the police presence there. When the Heat becomes very high, the Police comes in force and you have to face some tough choices. Do you betray a fellow criminal to use as a scapegoat, offer a fat bribe, call in a favor from a prominent contact or charge head on, hoping to destroy the evidence against you?
What can you tell us about the art style and graphics in the game?
We have chosen a gritty, realistic visual style, reflecting both the atmosphere of the period, the Roaring Twenties, and out chosen setting, the World's Playground. One thing I particularly like is the atmospheric look of the city at night, when it is raining. It reminds me of my favorite noir movies. We took special care to ensure that both vehicles and buildings are appropriate for the time period. You will recognize several famous landmarks such as the Steel Pier, all famous hotels, the Boardwalk Hall and, of course, the Boardwalk itself.
What can you tell us about the multiplayer modes in the game?
We have several multiplayer modes, offering both cooperative and competitive tactical battles. You can invite your gangster friends to face the cops or the prohibition agents together. Or, in case you are in the mood - start a competitive game to remind your friend and his gang of the money he has not paid back.
What is the current status of the game's development and when will it be released?
Omerta is in a state of constant improvement! It has reached the peculiar state of game development where the game is simultaneously almost finished and still has an immeasurable potential for future refinement development. Release is planned for Q4 2012 on Microsoft Xbox 360 and Windows PC.
Finally, is there anything else you wish to say about Omerta?
The Boss will be happy to lend you several copies of the game to review. No interest, whatsoever. No strings attached and no hidden costs. Take it just as a friendly favor. For the family, you see? It's an offer you can't refuse, really!