Little known developer Behaviour Santiago is in the dreaded crunch. Its eyes are bleeding as it smashes out downloadable co-op game Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime ahead of its projected spring release. And yet creative director David Williams still found the time for a chin wag, via a timezone-bending phone call, to tell Eurogamer about one of the smartest-looking downloadable games of the year. What a nice man!
Eurogamer: This game is a partnership between Sony Pictures and Atari. How did Behaviour Santiago get involved?
David Williams: We'd been talking to Atari for some time about different projects. They came to us asking what we would do with this. We gave them a nice presentation saying, we want to make this game a bit more upbeat, a bit more arcadey. They liked the way we were going and we decided to work together.
Eurogamer: The game reminds me of the old 1987 Ghostbusters arcade game by Data East. Is that deliberate or coincidence?
David Williams: That's actually a coincidence. We looked around at different games. I saw that one a couple of weeks ago when I was looking around on YouTube. But no, that one wasn't one of the references.
We looked at previous Ghostbusters games and really wanted to make something a bit faster, a bit more arcadey. If we were going to look at anything it would be things like Smash TV and the old arcade games of those times. So, the genre is the same but we weren't actually looking at that game.
Eurogamer: Co-op is hot right now. Was that an emerging trend you identified early?
David Williams: Multiplayer is very popular at the moment. But also as far as the brand goes, Ghostbusters is about four people working together as a team, all having their good parts and their bad parts and their pros and cons. So having a four-player game made perfect sense.
Eurogamer: In this game each of the four characters is a rookie that has been drafted in to help save New York. Some are disappointed they won't play as the Ghostbusters from the movies. Is that important?
David Williams: The general story is that there is a demon that's being resurrected in New York City and because of this process there are lots and lots of ghosts being drawn to New York from all over the world. This means that the original Ghostbusters team is pretty much overrun with work, so they've had to recruit these new rookies to help out.
The original team does take part in the game, but in the story sequences in-between the missions. They are there, but you don't get to play the original characters.
Eurogamer: Does it include voice acting from the original cast?
David Williams: No. The story is shown through comic sequences.
Eurogamer: Why won't we play as the original characters? Were the actors not available?
David Williams: I'm not sure what the process was. This was more of a direction from Atari.
Eurogamer: How is the game structured?
David Williams: The story is told through comic sequences. The script was written by Tom Waltz, who has written a load of Ghostbusters comic books, so he was very aware of the brand and did a fantastic job of capturing the personality of the characters - even giving the new characters really good personalities that kind of matched up with the original cast.
You have your story and then you have a top down-ish camera view of each of the environments. The story says there are loads of ghosts at the Sedgewick Hotel, which is a well-known location from the other games and the movies. You start off with your Neutrino Wand, which is the well-known weapon of the Ghostbusters, and clear off that location with new ghosts coming in all the time, playing in a very arcadey style.
As you progress through the levels, in the cut-scenes you have Egon inventing new technology for you and you have new weapons to use as you progress and meet new ghosts. One of the reasons for this is, Egon's discovered certain entities have specific coloured auras around them and they are weak to certain types of energy. So we have is specific coloured ghosts, and as you play through the game you can switch to different colours and that weapon is stronger against that type of ghost.
Eurogamer: So there's strategy involved in the combat?
David Williams: Yes. Each weapon does do damage against all the ghosts, it's just if you choose the right colour then it's a lot stronger against that specific type of entity.
Eurogamer: Another game I've seen Ghostbusters compared to is Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, perhaps because of the perspective and the co-op. Is that inspiration or coincidence?
David Williams: That one's definitely a coincidence. We were halfway through production when that one came out. But yes, the Lara Croft game is very nice. We had wanted to do the top-down camera view because it really helps that arcadey style. We couldn't really go for third-person combat unless we were going for the previous type of game. To keep the action up we wanted to go for a top down camera so you could see ghosts coming at you from all directions and do quick rotations and try and get them.
Eurogamer: You mention Terminal Reality's Ghostbusters game. Did you analyse the reception to it and learn from it?
David Williams: Yes, we did look at it at the start. It's aimed at a certain type of player. It's a full retail game and it's a bit more of an adventure type of game, doing a lot of searching and using lots of gadgets to try and find the ghosts.
Doing a game for XBLA, we wanted to go faster paced. Also, being on Live Arcade made us go for that faster paced gameplay.
Eurogamer: Where are you at in development?
David Williams: We're trying to finish it. We're in at the weekends.
Eurogamer: You're in the dreaded crunch?
David Williams: Yes. It's one of the things you get used to. Making games is fun. It's got to have a downside as well.
Eurogamer: All three versions will launch at the same time, right? There's none of this Xbox 360 exclusivity that annoys PC and PS3 gamers is there?
David Williams: No I believe they should be out at about the same time.
Eurogamer: There's a heavy emphasis on multiplayer, but will it be fun for single-player fans?
David Williams: Absolutely. When you're playing on your own there are always the three other characters playing as AI. They're there to help you out at all times. If you lose too much energy you fall to the floor. If one of the other guys is around and available he'll run over and revive you.
Obviously if you are playing in multiplayer, you have your friends there to help, you can talk to each other and build up strategies together. But the AI works pretty well and will always help you out in a crunch when you have to up against the bosses.
Eurogamer: Are you able to drive the Ecto-3?
David Williams: No. When we were doing the game design we were trying to figure out who wants to drive and who wants to shoot. Most of us just wanted to be on the back shooting. So we created another character called Jeff, who is the driver. He meets you at various points in the game to drive you around the city. In those driving sections you're all on the back of the car chasing and being chased by lots of different types of ghosts.
Eurogamer: So you don't directly control it?
David Williams: No. It drives on rails around the town and at various points in the level you stop, do another mini battle, and then get back in and continue.
Eurogamer: How many hours of gameplay does this offer?
David Williams: About six.
Eurogamer: Would you say there's replay value?
David Williams: Yeah. For replay the main thing is score. All the levels and the entire game have leaderboard support, so you can compare all your scores against anyone else who has the game or friends. There are special combo systems in the scoring so you can build up huge scores by gaining big combos in specific areas. Also there are hidden collectibles. As you search around the area, even though it's not an exploration game, there are hidden items to find, and obviously Achievements and Trophies.
Eurogamer: Will the PS3 version support Move?
David Williams: Not sure. We had considered it, but at the moment it's not on the cards.
Eurogamer: So no plans to add Move support after release?
David Williams: That's one to talk to Atari about. I don't know if there's been a decision about the Move.
Eurogamer: Are there any Easter Eggs that reference the films?
David Williams: Yeah. The story references lots of Ghostbusters lore in itself. One of the rookies is related to Dr. Janosz Poha, who was in the second movie.
Eurogamer: He was the creepy guy who worked for the painting, wasn't he?
David Williams: Yes that's right. He's in this script for this game and ends up being the bad guy without knowing it, and then apologising.
Eurogamer: I noticed from the trailer there's a lot of crossing of the streams. Isn't that a bad idea?
David Williams: It's been some time since you weren't allowed to cross the streams. Egon hasn't been sitting still with his technology advancements. Now it's an advantage to cross the streams. If you're playing in multiplayer and you're very close and aiming at the same ghosts, you can merge the streams, gain a power advantage, and it also causes splash damage, which affects the ghosts in the surrounding area as well.
David Williams is creative director at Behaviour Santiago.