Volition talked about the game's reboot and its main character.
Saints Row has walked a long way, from being called a GTA clone to becoming its own crazy franchise, and seen many changes, which made it unique and fun to play. Today is the day Saints Row starts over with a reboot that looks at the series from a new perspective.
In an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, principal producer Rob Loftus and creative director Brian Traficante shared why Volition decided to remake the game and the main character.
Saints Row is known for its over-the-top gameplay and humor, getting more intense with every new installment and reaching the peak in the fourth game, where you become President of the United States, get superpowers, and fight aliens. The reboot seems to take a step back from the last games of the series and takes place in the fictional city of Santo Ileso following a new gang as they try to take control over the city from different gangs.
The decision behind rebooting the franchise is pretty simple: broadening its audience. Loftus says it was a "creative choice" made by the studio.
"It wasn't a choice where somebody on the publishing side, or somebody on the business side said, 'You know what? Societal tastes have changed and we need to change Saints Row.' It was our own thinking that drove this," he says. "I think that a lot of content creators and brands are trying to expand their audience. And that means not connecting with that type of humor. It's about connecting with a type of humor that is more suitable for a larger audience. We all know that society's tastes can change over time. Saints Row 1, 2, 3 – they were games of their time, and with our approach here, it was about bringing Saints Row to a bigger audience and the audience of today."
Traficante adds that the studio has never been asked to avoid juvenile humour, potty jokes, and sex; it tried to understand what people connect with, why they connect with that weapon, or that joke, that story, that moment, and what it can do to make them connect with what it's doing today.
"It wasn't an agenda to replicate or go there, but it was very natural for us to, as developers, find that new approach towards the type of humor we wanted, or what's wacky in the game. It's about how we surprise the player."
Traficante also says that the team always tried to ensure the humor was not harmful but notes that society and its tastes have changed since the series began as well as the studio itself. After the disappointing reception of Agents of Mayhem and the sharp turn Saints Row took with its last game, the studio decided to tone it down a little and return to its "roots".
"It seemed like a moment where we could just maybe take a step back and say, 'Well, now let's do something completely new. Maybe rethink those storylines. Do a new crew. Do a new cast of characters and play with it that way," Loftus says.
One of such changes is the Boss, the player's character, who is a Black woman in the reboot. It might not be that shocking to many people, but it's still not that often you see a woman and a person of color at that as the main character in video games.
"We felt it was time," says Loftus. "We really responded to that character, the look of that character. We, along with our publishing partners, rallied around that image. I remember the meeting where we all made the choice. At the time, it was a bold choice but we just felt it was right."
However hard Volition tried, the first reviews of the reboot are not as stellar as the studio might have expected, but it's too early to say if the game attracts the audience and connects it with the changes Volition made.
"I wouldn't say that the future for us is only Saints Row. And that's not to say that that's revealing anything. It's just that's not the way we look at it. And when we look at it, there's a wealth of experience at the studio that has solved all kinds of interesting gameplay problems in a variety of different genres, and to real success. And so I think if we look to the future, we'll be interested in leveraging that."