Sucker Punch's home is roughly a 15 minute drive south west from the spreadsheet-porn palaces of Microsoft and Nintendo. Well-hidden among the sterile sprawl of Bellevue, Washington, it's filed away in one of the city's numerous towers of gleaming anonymity.It's refreshing and somewhat surprising when the elevator doors part to reveal a team of 80-odd artists and technicians creating video games.
But that's games development for you: success is achieved after years of toil if enough people buy your game. If you're really lucky, they might even know the name of the studio which made it. Most, of course, will never be troubled by where that studio is or who works there; fame rarely comes into it, never mind infamy.
But, if Sucker Punch has its way, InFamous 2 could be your ticket to becoming famous - as director Nate Fox explains, by making your own content and sharing it with the world.
This is not a new idea, of course. Media Molecule's LittleBigPlanet has already empowered millions with the tools of game creation as mainstream entertainment. But it's never been done like this before, in an open-world action title.
It takes a brave – or recklessly hubristic – designer to talk up aspirations of "game of the year awards". But that's exactly what Fox is doing, the night before the InFamous 2 beta is due to go live and serve up the game's editing suite to PS3 owners.
He's not the only one coming over all Billy Big Bollocks. What was the problem with InFamous 1? "It ends," development director Chris Zimmerman states baldly. "How can we create an endless game? Limitless content."
User-generated content. Integrating this was a priority for the studio. The evidence comes in the shape of three playable UGC missions, which appear on the map as green icons (there's a bunch of filtering options which determine what appears). Since they exist separately to the main game's missions, you can attempt them at your leisure or ignore them entirely.
The toolset, at first glance, seems remarkably broad and deep. In fact the range of parameters which can be altered is frankly overwhelming. The work is done, in the most basic sense, through placing and programming nodes in the environment: the circuits, if you like, that control how your missions play out. It's not a million miles away from the logic of LittleBigPlanet.
To illustrate how it all works, the Sucker Punch demo lady spends about 30 seconds knocking together a routine for Cole's corpulent sidekick, Zeke. It sees him walk around in a defined 'patrol' pattern but, when threatened (in this case by Cole attacking), he turns and runs as instructed. This could form the core of a protection mission.
While acknowledging that Sucker Punch owes a huge debt to Media Molecule (which, it turns out, offered direct advice), Fox differentiates InFamous 2's take not only in terms of genre. He argues that this feature of the game is akin to "playing with action figures".
A few random examples of what the toolset allows: the physics of objects can be modified (how they react when hit, the effect of gravity, and so on); the precise speed and direction of vehicles can be set; using the 'platforming pack' you can build entire structures block by block; pre-set animations can be assigned (say, making Zeke fall down and vomit when danger is near)... You can even adapt music to fit scenarios and type in your own dialogue.
You can only play as Cole, but even his powers can be altered, enhanced and reduced. Then build-in conditions: if Cole collects 10 power-ups the damage he takes is reduced by 25 per cent. And so on. You can also take away player control entirely to make a non-interactive cinematic sequence. Fox rather excitedly suggests that he wants to see someone do an InFamous production of Hamlet.
A further straightforward example on show: a series of rings is placed periodically along a wire between two buildings. Cole must slide through them all to complete the mission ( the 'Win Condition'). A 'Kill Volume' is established beneath the wire so that, if he falls off, he dies (the 'Fail Condition').
To make the whole process a little less daunting, a group of templates is available for mission types. These provide a basic network of nodes to build upon. For the advanced user, Empty Mission enables creation from scratch anywhere in the game world.
The best example of a playable user-created mission I try is inVADERS, a Space Invaders homage. Cole is tasked with blasting down several rows of monsters as they make their menacing, regimented descent from the sky.
It's simple, smart, left field fun of a type that wouldn't make sense in the game under normal circumstances. Which is precisely the sort of thing Sucker Punch wants to encourage.
Like LittleBigPlanet before it, then, InFamous 2 looks like it will provide the tools not simply to create additional missions but also, for the wildly creative, games within the game. As Media Molecule discovered, the really fun part will be discovering the stuff the game's designers never envisaged.
Whether or not the editing tools prove accessible to mere mortals remains to be seen. But, thanks to the example of LPB, this isn't a serious problem so long as there's a core of crazed obsessives pumping out engaging, inventive content.
And for the budding designer, aside from the promise of tutorials, one nice touch is the ability for level creators to leave text notes in their designs. These appear above nodes, explaining how a certain effect was achieved. Share the knowledge, share the love.
What of the game itself? Already covered in detail in previous Eurogamer previews, Sucker Punch is desperate to stress the leaps - both technical and aesthetic - during this year's tour. The original game has been given a makeover.
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Prettying things up was an obvious direction for the sequel to take, but the team has nevertheless thrown itself into the task with gusto. It is with considerable glee that one of the environment team swoops the camera in debug mode through a leafy swamp before crossing into the city, which boasts little pockets of personality largely alien to the often drab uniformity of before.
'We Put In Some Trees and Colour and Stuff' is hardly a hold-the-front-page screamer, but from neon-stained red light district to godforsaken slum, Sucker Punch at least now seems to grasp that visual variety goes hand-in-hand with satisfying sandbox mechanics in motivating players to want to explore an open-world environment for its own sake.
At the very least, the environment is no longer comprised of "a bunch of five-storey urban buildings" as a PR rep puts it (although there's no lack of those).
Meanwhile, a boss battle in an unseen mission called Demon's Running wows as a visual setpiece. It shows off our hero's skills against a massive, Rancor-like beast the size of a tower block.
What's most impressive is that this foe isn't restricted to a defined 'arena'. It's moving (with devastating, spectacular effect) through an open-world, and the technical challenges in making this run smoothly are, as they say, non-trivial.
Doubts persist over whether the karma system will offer genuinely divergent experiences, and whether the host of refinements will amount to a clear overall improvement. And for all the talk about the design of Cole himself as a balls-out, awesomely powerful superhero, he remains, in look and personality, a rather unimpressive and uninspiring figure.
But the inclusion of UGC tools in an action game of this type is a move that at once sets the game apart from other titles in a powerful statement of intent. If inFamous 2 can fulfil its tantalising potential, infamy is surely the least likely outcome.
inFamous 2 is making its way to PS3 on 10th June.