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Saints Row mobile developer's big ideas

"We wanted to unshackle the player," says lead programmer Matthew Magee
Product: Saints Row | Developer: Mnemonic Studios | Publisher: THQ Wireless | Format: Mobile | Genre: Action, Racing
Saints Row Mobile, thumbnail 1
With Saints Row riding high in the console game charts, the speedy arrival of the mobile version (which we've already reviewed on Pocket Gamer) is surely the shape of things to come – that is, simultaneous release of conventional games and their mobile cousins. Matthew Magee, co-founder of developer Mnemonic Studios and lead gameplay programmer for Saints Row, told us more.

How did you get into mobile games design?
Myself and fellow Mnemonic co-founder Robert Sproats shared a long term interest in the games industry and developing both games and game engines. The opportunity presented itself to form Mnemonic Studios, and we've now been designing and developing games for over three years.

What interested you most about the Saints Row project?
Working with THQ Wireless to create a freeform game world where the player could choose how they wanted to beat the challenges was of great interest to us. Lots of mobile games tend to be quite linear, and we wanted to unshackle the player and say: "Here's the game world – just go wherever you want and do whatever you want and have fun!"

What unique features will we be able to see in the game?
The scale of the game is really what makes it unique – there's so much to do, and the playing area is truly vast. Weapons like the Rocket Launcher and the Flame Thrower are great fun, and car jacking a sports car and upgrading it for racing gives players something else to do if they want some variety from the core missions.

How is it like the console game?
We looked hard at the Xbox 360 game and cherry-picked some of the best gameplay bits for inclusion in the mobile game. The respect and cash earning systems are very similar, for example, and the basic mission types were also taken from the 360 version. The boss missions at the end of each district were taken from key events that occur in the console game. The characters you meet in the mobile game are the same as the ones you'll meet in the 360 version.

What was the most challenging aspect of developing this title?
The scale of what we were attempting was the most challenging aspect. We had to build a city with a working traffic system, pedestrians wandering around, AI to control the police pursuits and the combat with opposing gang members. Add to that the vehicle physics, the missions and activities, and so on and you start to realise how large the game really is.

What other features would you have liked to have added to the title?
It would have been nice to add even more side activities to give the player more to do between missions. The car jacking is great fun, so is the racing, but the Demolition Derby activity is one of my favourite parts of the console game and I would have loved to include that in the mobile version.

Sadly we ran out of time so we couldn't add it, but perhaps that's something that could be added to any possible sequel...

Reviewer photo
Owain Bennallack 22 September 2006
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