Eurogamer: The review scores came in and no doubt they were a bit lower than you hoped. Was there a lot of deflation in the office?
Keith Hladik: We were pleased with the first announcement of the sales. I don't recall exactly, but it was about 100,000 for the first few weeks. Coming from where we were at – we're an independent studio and this is our first IP – we had pretty decent sales and the reviews were fair.
I don't recall anyone being down. We already knew we were going to make a sequel, so the fallout from that was we were determined to make the sequel way better than the first one.
Kevin Sheller: I'm not going to make a comparison to Grand Theft Auto... but okay, I'm going to make a slight comparison to Grand Theft Auto. The first two GTA games, nobody knows anything about them, right? Grand Theft Auto 1? Nobody even said that word. They never said two either. It wasn't until Grand Theft Auto 3 that people really got excited about what they were doing.
We look at the first Conduit as our learning experience, our foundation work – and we'll see where we go from there.
Eurogamer: How do you think it would have played out if Eric and Matt hadn't gone to E3 and set the hype train in motion? If you'd just quietly got on with it instead?
Kevin Sheller: It's hard to imagine. What happened is what happened, y'know? It worked for us in that we secured publisher assistance, because we generated a lot of excitement. We had a lot of offers from many different parties. So that gave us an opportunity. If we'd been quiet about it I don't think we would have been able to publish it.
And most of the time publishers want every SKU imaginable. They want the PS3 and the 360 and the Wii and so on and so forth, because if they're going to make that investment they're going to want to see a big return. It would have been a really hard sell to go out and say, "We're going to make this awesome thing for Wii only." They'd have been like, "Hmm, yeah, sure you are."
Eurogamer: Obviously the original didn't exactly sell millions of copies. How did you get the sequel green-lit? Was it locked in before the first game was even out?
Kevin Sheller: It was always a two-game contract.
Eurogamer: Take us through the things that the sequel is doing that the original didn't. What are the key improvements?
Kevin Sheller: Let's break it down, because man, there's so much. If you start off with single-player obviously it's a longer gameplay experience. We have a much richer story, cinematics, characters that you're going to see and interact with that we didn't have in the first game. The boss battles are huge.
Keith Hladik: The first game was mainly set in Washington DC, but this one is set in China, Siberia, DC, in the middle of the ocean, and some other locations we can't talk about right now. And we have a lot more weapons. You can take more weapons into each level, you can pick which weapons to take into each level.
Then there's multiplayer. The big thing, there is split-screen. A lot of people wanted it in the first game but we just didn't have time. So that was one of the first things we worked on. And there's also split-screen co-op in the Invasion mode where one to four people can fight wave after wave of enemies.
There are over a dozen maps. Some are returning from the first game but they're mainly all new. There are all the weapons from the first game and around six or so new ones.
Kevin Sheller: And the ones from the original are all upgraded and improved.
Keith Hladik: There are suit upgrades too that can, say, make you run faster or do more damage with certain weapons. We also allow voice chat with rivals now so you can befriend random people online you play against using the Headbanger headset.
Eurogamer: Clearly you're doing you're best to make sure it's a superior game, but is that enough? You've got the continued reluctance of Wii owners to buy into third-party games, dwindling enthusiasm for the console in general, not to mention gamers who might feel burned by the original.
Kevin Sheller: One of the things you already called out in one of your earlier questions is we hyped up the first game quite a bit. We've done the opposite with this one. We've been subtle about it. Here's what we're doing, tell us what you think. I'm hoping it will have that surprise element.
Keith Hladik: And we're hoping word of mouth can play its part. If you remember in the nineties when GoldenEye first came out, I didn't hear about it. People were talking in school and I was like, "Maybe I should get that game". So that's one thing I'm personally hoping picks up.