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').