PayDay 2 is looking utterly ridiculous ahead of its August release; a madcap crime spree boasting randomised missions and rampant cooperative shenanigans that never play out the same way. Having enjoyed a lengthy hands-on preview with the latest production build, I was keen to explore just how deep the rabbit hole goes. Luckily Andreas Hallpenninger, an Overkill Software QA agent, was on hand for a chat about dynamic missions, DLC and customisation.
Note that Hallpenninger was unable to comprehensively address a handful of questions due to his Quality Assurance role, but I referred them onto Overkill Software developers who replied promptly via email. These instances have been clearly highlighted.
Jonathan Lester (Dealspwn): Thanks for talking to us, Andreas. First things first, what were the major lessons that you took away from the original PayDay that informed the sequel?
Andreas Hallpenninger (Overkill QA): First of all, we wanted to add stealth. People wanted to be able to stealth through missions, or at least they want options. In PayDay: The Heist, when you entered the bank, you put on your mask and your only option was to kill the bank manager, take his keycard and just wait for SWAT to arrive. Now you have the option to approach in different ways. We don't want to force players into any one style, it's entirely up to you.
Also, in PayDay: The Heist, money didn't matter at all. You robbed a bank, you got your money but you couldn't spend it on anything! So we wanted to make it more of an RPG robbery game, that's why we added the inventory system where you can customise your masks, customise your weapons and all that. The economy system was a key new addition.
Overkill (via email): We definitely felt there were some key things that we didn't quite get all the way with. We wanted to give people the latitude to pull off the perfect heist, something that was missing from the first game or at least, was not really possible at the same scale it is now. We wanted to give people a reason to rob, give them something they really wanted as players, to keep them coming back to heist.
We felt like an hour mission was great, but we needed a spectrum of shorter missions, so people didn't have to block out an hour to play everything, so we created jobs that could be subdivided into days, meaning we could switch maps and create mininarratives inside a given job. We felt we needed a way of allowing people to choose their character and create their own custom role, so the skills system was born. And we felt we needed a place where people could learn what the game was all about without fear of getting shot in the face: the Safehouse.
Dealspwn: It's clear that randomisation is one of the big selling points of PayDay 2. How deep does the rabbit hole go?
Andreas Hallpenninger: It's not just gameplay, like how many guards do you have or how many civilians are watching you. It's the environment itself as well. For example, we watched our fans play the beta and there's a level called Watch Dogs, and players always put their [loot] bags into one container. So now we've made a 20% chance that the container's gone. Sometimes the main entrance might be closed, so you have to go around. I've played the game for a year now and I'm still surprised sometimes!
Dealspwn: How difficult was it to balance a game that's so heavily randomised?
Andreas Hallpenninger: It's tough! We think we did it well, the fans are very happy.
Dealspwn: The CRIMENET online hub is one of the major new additions in PayDay 2.
Andreas Hallpenninger: We wanted more of an RPG game, so instead of having a list of missions like in Payday: The Heist – where you just pick one and that's it – we made a map that's dynamic because we want you to feel like a criminal even in the menu! Not just when you're in the mission. So we want you to feel like a criminal who's looking for new heists. They're all dynamic, they pop up on the map, disappear and pop up again.
When you start at level zero, you'll get more easy ones, like knocking over a grocery store, and as you progress as a criminal you'll get more difficult ones like art galleries or bank jobs.
Dealspwn: Out of interest, how many missions are there?
Andreas Hallpenninger: Twenty-six.
Deaspwn: Wow, that's pretty impressive.
Andreas Hallpenninger: Some of the missions are one-day jobs, like the bank heist. But some of the missions are three-day jobs, and they contain a mini-story. You can also get dynamic missions between them.
Dealspwn: That's right, in fact, I wanted to talk about those. I played a museum heist that turned into an absolute bloodbath, and the next mission started with us being run off the road by police and being forced to escape. How many of these dynamic missions are there, and how are they triggered?
Andreas Hallpenninger: We have six of those escape missions. Depending on how you played in the previous mission, the chances of getting an escape mission between days gets bigger. So if you stealth through the mission, there's a 90% chance that you won't trigger it. Did you play the trade mission?
Andreas Hallpenninger: Did you get an ambush?
Dealspwn: Oh yeah, a tactical team deployed right in the middle of the drop. It was messy.
Andreas Hallpenninger: That's also one of the dynamic missions. Not just escape missions, but the entire chain. You might get an ambush in the third mission depending on how you played the first one.
We want to encourage people to play stealth, but you don't have to. If you have four Enforcers [the heavy assault class – Jon], you might be better to go in guns blazing.
Dealspwn: Sounds like a plan, though I much preferred playing as the Mastermind myself. I especially enjoyed making SWAT team members put their hands up and converting them to our side.
Andreas Hallpenninger: Me too!
Dealspwn: Is it possible to max out all the skills in each class?
Andreas Hallpenninger: No no no no. We don't want to do that at all. You can probably max out one tree, but you're not locked to it, you can spend points however you like. You could spend ten points in Mastermind, a few points in Enforcer, it's entirely up to you. You can respec, but it costs money to spec skill points, and you'll only get 50% back if you respec.
Dealspwn: I found that communication was absolutely essential – when we didn't talk, we got utterly destroyed. Is it even worth turning up without a headset?
Andreas Hallpenninger: Communication is essential. It might be [worth turning up without a headset], but it's always more fun when you play with your friends, at least in the more difficult missions. The game is so hectic and intense, so you'll want to scream at people! It's a social game. Just like Left 4 Dead, you'll want to play with a headset or people you know.
Dealspwn: Sounds good to us! I noticed that PayDay 2 runs on the Diesel 2.0 engine. What shiny new features can we expect from the engine, and what are the advantages to keeping tech development in-house?
Andreas Hallpenninger: I have no comment on that, sorry.
Overkill (via email): Iterating on known technology means you have people who know the ins and outs of the tools. It lets us work faster, more efficiently, and innovate, instead of banging our heads against the ceiling of starting from scratch. Most of the most successful games/franchises of all time are engines that have organically evolved as the needs of the game have required. Diesel 2.0 is no different.
Ulf Andersson, our resident rendering/design guru and co-founder of Overkill, has improved the lighting model substantially with very little cost in frame rate. Significant attention has gone into more realistic colour curves and contrast as well as effect rendering. The network code is even more robust and is faster than before as well.
Dealspwn: With the next console generation breathing down our necks, did you ever consider repurposing PayDay 2 for PS4 and/or Xbox One?
Overkill (via email): We can't comment on this beyond saying we are focused on the current generation but we are sure Payday 2 would be a natural for next-gen.
Dealspwn: Do you have any potential DLC plans in the pipeline?
Andreas Hallpenninger: Yes! A lot of DLC!
Dealspwn: Really? Do go on. Are we talking new weapons and heists, that sort of thing?
Andreas Hallpenninger: Yes. We also have something called the Safehouse, it's like a basement underground where you have all your masks on the wall, all your weapons, a shooting range and you can train sneaking and all that stuff. There... might be... I think the plan is to give players the option to actually buy stuff for the safehouse; maybe make it bigger or stuff like that.
Dealspwn: Oh, like vanity items?
Andreas Hallpenninger: Yes, yes. A lot of DLC is coming.
Overkill (via email): We have a full year of DLC expansions planned, new jobs, new content (masks/mods etc) and even more exciting stuff in store.
Dealspwn: Interesting, we'll keep an eye out then. Finally, I guess, I need to ask THE question that we always like to pose to developers and QA testers: what in your opinion is the most awesome, badass and high-fivingly epic thing that players can do in PayDay 2?
Andreas Hallpenninger: Oh God!
Dealspwn: Oh yeah.
Andreas Hallpenninger: F*ck! That is a really hard question. There's so many things! Let me think for thirty seconds...
Dealspwn: Erm, okay. It doesn't have to be one specific thing, it can be a top ten if you like...
Andreas Hallpenninger: … I love the point where you have to escape. You open the vault, you grab the stuff, the assault starts and you just run for the van. Everyone is panicking, someone is having a near-death experience, it feels like playing Heat. That makes me hate the game too, that feeling of running, that hectic experience.
I love the mask customisation too, I can spend hours just customising my mask. One of the guys [on the QA team] had a really nice mask, but he had to sell all his weapons because he wanted it so badly. We started a heist and all his weapons were level one, just because he wanted a mask!
Dealspwn: Well, I guess he died looking really cool.
Andreas Hallpenninger: [laughs] Yeah, he did! Oh yeah, I gotta say the Mastermind too. It makes me feel so cool when I get to convert a cop and a [friendly] SWAT guy's running after me through the map. All my friends are like, “what the f*ck, how did you...”
Dealspwn: Yeah, same here! I'll definitely be speccing into Mastermind next month.
PayDay 2 is releases in August for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.