Prototype 2 – Interview with Producer Jonathon Lim

February 24, 2012

In 2009, Radical Entertainment’s Prototype set the gaming world ablaze with its emphasis on open-world exploring and gritty combat, combined with some of the sensibilities of John Carpenter’s 1982 sci-fi classic The Thing. Now, three years later, Protytype 2 is ready to be unleashed on the public, not unlike the virus which is at the core of the game itself. Rocket Chainsaw recently had a chance to speak with Radical Entertainment producer Jonathon Lim about what new appendage-enhanced mayhem can be expected in Prototype 2, as well as his past works and eating preferences.

Rocket Chainsaw: Obviously in Prototype 2 we’ve got a new protagonist – what was the main motivation for having a new person for everybody to play around with?

Jonno: At the start of Prototype 2 we kind of talked about ‘What do we do next, what do we do with Alex Mercer?’We built it up to such great heights in the first game that it became difficult to make another game this time – does he get more powerful and start fighting cities and fighting planets? (laughs all around) It’s not practical, we can’t build a game around that!

RC: You’re not trying hard enough!

Jonno: (laughs)So we kind of took a step back and said ‘Well that’s crap, we can’t do that, it’s not practical for what anyone would want to do, And we kind of analysed the game for a bit and the most interesting thing is how the virus affects people, and how it affected Alex Mercer and what if it infected somebody new? I think the most interesting story is how somebody grows over time to be someone like Alex Mercer and that was what was really intriguing about the first game and I think we wanted to capture that again in the second game. And really the only way we could do that was with a new character. Once we figured that out the pieces kind of fell together quickly, in terms of ‘okay, we’ve got a new character, but what do we do with Alex? We can’t toss him aside because we’ve spent all this time making him so cool, but let’s bring him back as an enemy maybe. We started throwing some ideas back and forth and lo and behold we had Prototype 2.

RC: You mentioned that there’s a few new little toys to play with in terms of abilities. I had a nice little go with the blade-chopping-people-in-half-thing and also I’ve got to say that I enjoyed grabbing the gun off a tank and blowing a helicopter out of the sky. What would you say is your favourite new little trick for Prototype 2.

Jonno: There’s so many and to be honest I would probably give you a different answer every time you ask but today I think my favourite is the bio bomb. Basically, you grab a guy and you inject a little bit of the virus in him and kind of let him incubate for a second and then throw him in this big tendrily explosion that’s pulling cars and other people, and there’s a nice big gory explosion at the end of it. The thing that;s most interesting is that it plays out different every single time. It’s based on who you throw it at, where they are in the environment, what cars there are around and what have you. It plays out differently but every time it’s awesome.

RC: I noticed that the lead guy James seems a bit of a mercenary and a bit meaner even, because he’s had his whole family murdered . Are you really trying to set him apart as a different person to Alex? He also seems to have a bit of different motivation as well.

Jonno: Absolutely. I think one of the criticisms we had for the first game was that people didn’t really understand what Alex was about, they didn’t understand his motivations or what he was doing or why he was doing these things. So straight away when we figured out that we wanted to do a new character we wanted to make sure that a: people could identify with him and people understood where he was coming form and B: people really got behind his motivations and got behind what he was trying to do. I think most people can identify with loss on some level and people deal with it in different ways, and how Heller deals with it is just rage. He’s really angry about what’s happened and he’s kinda hell-bent on getting rid of the virus one way or another. That’s how the game starts, but obviously things kind of change in between, but it still doesn’t change who Heller is in that he is a passionate guy by default, and that’s how he reacts to situations.

RC: Just to expand on that, there’s something in the game that one of the higher-ups says that was related. When they absorb people they also absorb their memories and stuff, is there going to be room for further exploitation, or can’t you explain that just yet?

Jonno: it’s something that we’ve brought forward from Prototype 1, those memories and the videos of those memories were really interesting to people, and I think what’s really great about that whole mechanic is that you can kind of pick through the arm of the military by just delving into people;s memories, and lots of things that you thought were true you’re going to find out are actually wrong . What it drives home really is that truth is always just an interpretation, there’s always two sides to a story and through these memories you’ll see that not everything is as it seems to be.

RC: I’ve noticed on your rap sheet that before the Prototype games you’ve done a few licensed games, like Simpsons: Road Rage and Hit and Run (I really enjoyed Hit and Run, by the way), Hulk: Ultimate Destruction and Scarface. They’re three pretty prominent and well-known franchises and they were actually well-received too, which is pretty difficult to do. Most people are just ‘GoldenEye, yeah’ and that’s it. What kind of positives and challenges are there when you do work on a licensed game?

Jonno: At Radical, back in the early 2000s when I was working there, we kind of made a name for ourselves on these licensed titles by really capturing the soul of the IP. I think that’s the kind of thing we took away: if there’s a universe there it’s important to adhere to it and it’s important to make people feel like they’re a part of it and that’s something we kind of carried forward into Prototype – now that we’ve crafted this universe we’ve got to make sure we work within those bounds and we’re not throwing anything in left and right. We’ve got to make sure that the fans from the first game feel like they’re in the same universe in the second.

RC: Last question now, and probably the most important and serious question of all. I’ve heard that you enjoy eating chicken in your spare time.

Jonno: (laughs)

RC: And when you’re not eating chicken you’re eating beef – is there any room for lamb or seafood?

Jonno: Seafood definitely, I love sushi. As for lamb, I prefer chicken and pork and beef but at the same time a good lamb curry is delicious – what can I say, I’m a meatatarian!