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Retrospective: Saint’s Row

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When Grand Theft Auto III hit the Playstation 2 in 2001 it was unlike anything we had seen before.  Sure, the sandbox concept had been dabbled with from time to time and by the name alone it’s clear that Grand Theft Auto had been an established franchise, car stealing and hooker beating included.  It was GTA III that put everything together and re-established the concept of 3D world building and open variety of player choice.  Despite all the freedom of GTA III – not to mention the fact that most of my friends have explored Liberty City and put tens of hours into the game but never played more than the first handful of missions – it’s a very linear game.  Not only that, but as missions progress the game gets quite difficult and the open alive city is a drawback to completing missions.  That’s where Volition and Saint’s Row step in to attempt the next step: an open world where everything you do from running around to side missions affect the main story.

Saint’s Row began life in 2003 as a PS2 game called Bling Bling.  Senior producer Greg Donovan discussed the genesis of the title at GDC 2014 and the difficulty of pitching the game to THQ, which up to this point had not published anything like it.  Donovan and his team envisioned a game about a free world and all the minutia that make up that open world to recreate the gangster lifestyle.  The actual phrasing from the pitch video was, “Bling Bling is a third person action game about style, music, gangs, and guns.  It is the video game equivalent to a rap music video.”  Donovan and developer interviews since haven’t been too forthcoming with how the game eventually became a sandbox open world game, but given that both GTA III and Vice City were already out when Bling Bling began development it almost makes sense that it would take on the same style.

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Written by Fred Rojas

February 5, 2016 at 11:00 am

Unreleased Game: Saint’s Row Undercover

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Last week developer Volition, best known for the Saint’s Row franchise, discussed its canceled game on PSP Saint’s Row Undercover.  It started out as a PSP port of the second game in the series, but expanded into something more.  In addition, the company sat down with magazine Game Informer and turned a standard interview into a 4-part nearly hour long documentary on the company.  In addition, Volition released a 122 page PDF that is basically a design doc and walkthrough of the title.  With all of this amazing transparency, and the release of the prototype itself online, we just had to take a look.

I would love to give you a crazy video that details all of the wacky things you can do, but honestly the game lacks any true definition.  Now to be fair, it shouldn’t have any definition, it was a game the developer was prototyping for potential release and then was canned.  I take this moment and brief write-up to mention it only because people have asked me in the past why I haven’t covered Resident Evil 1.5 (ie: Resident Evil 2′s original version) and other unreleased demos/alphas/prototypes that have been set free on the Internet and it’s basically because not much is there.  The story, design docs, interviews, and concepts of what Resident Evil 4 or Saint’s Row Undercover could have been are fantastic and interesting, but what remains that can be played are shells of a game.  Anyway the links are there, have fun with it, personally I find it to be derivative of the Grand Theft Auto “Stories” games that came out on PSP, but then early on that’s all Saint’s Row was until it defined itself.  It also gives me an opportunity to cover Volition and Saint’s Row all week, so stay tuned for some wacky articles.

Written by Fred Rojas

February 1, 2016 at 3:00 pm