Ask Developer a Question: Lead Designer of Omerta: City of Gangsters

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Last week, you've asked a few questions about the upcoming gangster-sim Omerta: City of Gangsters. During the last couple of days, has managed to track down Boian Spasov, Lead Designer of Omerta at Haemimont Games, and squeeze out a few answers from him, using various 'interview techniques'. If you wanted to know more about Omerta, but were afraid to ask, read the interview below. Don't worry about knowing too much--we can protect you from them, as long as you don't talk to the law. Also, grab Omerta - City of Gangsters while it's hot--15% off until Thursday, January 31 at 10:59 AM GMT when the game's released.
Sachys: How important was the influence of popular culture (films, television etc) based around mafia and prohibition era life - was it a definite inspiration or perhaps purely an angle of research?
This is the question that comes up in some form in every interview we do for Omerta. The popular culture was definitely a huge source of inspiration for us and we watched every noir movie, gangster flick or TV show we could think of. We also did a lot of historical research and found that the reality sometimes is even stranger and cooler than fiction - just watch any Prohibition documentary if you don't believe me!
Still, we are not doing the gaming equivalent of the Boardwalk Empire series or one-to one recreation of the historical Prohibition era Atlantic City. As good as all these inspiration sources are, they can take you only so far, and I believe we succeeded going farther and creating a title with its own identity.
Alkaid13s: What would you say is the ratio between strategic play to action.. ie manpower/business management versus walk around shooting things?
One of our goals was to balance the game at around 50% strategic gameplay (establishing and managing your crime empire) and 50% tactical gameplay (combats). This ratio is not fixed - some missions may be finished without a single combat while others are very battle-intensive. Your individual preference also plays a role - for example you are able to auto-resolve combats of lesser importance or to take additional wet works combat missions for the other kingpins.
JasmineMoldovia: Will we be able to actually run a Mob, or will the focus be on the turn-based battles like Xcom:EU?
The turn-based battles are important, but they are definitely not the sole focus of the game. As I explained in my reply to Alkaid13s above, strategic gameplay is just as important for us.
About that "running a Mob" question... Without spoiling too much of the story I can say only this: think bigger!
jsa1978: Will you be able to build businesses (Legal and Criminal) in the game or will you have to find one already operating and take it over? I've played Gangsters: Organized Crime and like the aspect of building an empire of both Front Businesses and Criminal Businesses like speakeasies, and whorehouses. Also, will you have the ability to "influence" people/groups like politicians, law enforcement, or labor unions?
You are able to establish new criminal businesses behind harmless looking fronts, construct new buildings, and take over the establishments of other criminals either by money or by force. You will constantly interact with politicians, crooked deputies, city officials, celebrities, other gangsters and whatnot. If you manage to win their trust, you will be able to cash in favors or use them otherwise. For example a bribed city official can be used to launder some money, a politician can get your men out of jail and a local celebrity can be scammed, resulting in a big payday.
mdqp: How important will combat be? Will there be any way to play as a "pacifist gangster"?
Will "diplomacy" play a role in the game? Would you be willing to talk about how will it be?
Combat is important, but it will be the most important game element only if you wish to make it so. Depending on your decisions and gameplay style you can avoid some battles and auto-resolve trivial combats if you wish.
Still you will have to get your hands dirty sometimes. After all, being a gangster is a dangerous line of work.
Rivereyes: How many options are we going to have in terms of criminal activity?
There are almost thirty different criminal businesses you can establish and almost twenty rival businesses and city buildings you can interact with. Money laundering, illegal gambling, extortion, bootlegging, producing alcohol, gun running, scamming, underground fights, bank heists, raiding the police armory and bombing the competition are just few examples of your average day in Atlantic City.
011284mm: Will there be any real police inclusion such as trying to track down people for murders. As well as the ability to 'employ' the police, or otherwise skew their interference with your activities while playing?
Most of your criminal activities generate "heat", which is attracting police attention on your gang. When the heat reaches critical level, certain criminal actions become unavailable and you have to disrupt the police investigation, otherwise you will lose the game.
Luckily there are several ways to deal with the cops. A good fat bribe may do the trick, but the cops tend to demand more in future. If you've won the favor of a corrupt deputy you can call a favor to cover your tracks. You are able to storm the police station and destroy the evidence, but this will be a tough combat and works only once per mission. Finally, you can feed the cops another criminal - someone who is on good enough terms with you so that you know the juicy details about his endeavors. This will not only shake off the cops, sending them after the scapegoat, but leave his establishments empty and ripe for the taking.
JOxerTM: From screenshots it's obvious you'll lead a hero or a team. But the question is are their skills predefined or you can specialize your hero or team members in some areas, for example make one great with guns and another great with fists.
You specialize your gangsters by selecting perks for them every time they level up and equipping them with whatever weapon you think is best.
There are around 50 different perks allowing for a huge variety of builds. Some examples - a resilient "tank", a sniper, a very mobile character that inflicts low damage but nasty status effects, a gangster delivering devastating critical hits or attacks many times during each of his turns.
Still, not all characters are created equal and the base stats and talents of the character also play an important role. You can easily exchange the rifle of a character with great ranged stats with a Tommy gun and re-specialize him to a different ranged build. But no matter what you do he will not be nearly as skilled with a baseball bat. Or you can give the baseball bat to your prizefighter that previously fought with brass knuckles, but you can hardly teach him to bandage the wounds of your other characters as a drunk Irish doctor does.
netgear99: How much depth is the game going to have, for example will upgrades be linear?, will the player be able to make choices that can radically alter the direction of the game?
As I understanding the question, you are asking to be not only about depth, but also about choices in Omerta.
You can choose how to develop your businesses and gangsters, and in which city district to put your foot in next.
There are many more minor decisions during a mission. Do you attack the enemy lieutenant or buy him out? Do you break the knuckles of a debtor or give him a few extra days to pay?
To answer your specific questions - the business upgrades are usually independent of one another but you can rarely afford to pay for them all and have to choose between them. You will have to make many choices, both important and trivial, and will have to bear the consequences of each of them.
supersachdeva: How reactive is the game to a player's style of gameplay? For example, will there be specific events that take place if a player makes poor decisions; events that don't occur otherwise?
Yes, please refer to my answer to netgear99, above. Actually, making the world react to your actions and creating consequences for your decisions was a primary goal of the design team and we worked very hard on both.
RandomPanic: What have you done to curb repetition in a game where repetition could completely ruin the experience
We created lots of custom content in the campaign missions - characters, events and situations that do not appear elsewhere in the game. We created far more team members than you would need, so if you decide to replay the game you can easily pick an entirely different team. Finally, in combat with each weapon feels radically different and there are enough different weapon types and character perks to keep you interested for a good long while.
gyokzoli: How does the multiplayer work? Also is there a co-op multiplayer mode or is it planned?
There are four multiplayers modes - two of them competitive and two cooperative, all of them supporting two players. The competitive modes are a straight deathmatch and the more complicated "get the money" mode in which you have to escape with a bag of money guarded by an NPC character while fighting the other team. The cooperative modes represent a bank heist and a prison break. The prison break mode is my favorite - both players start with only half of their teams available trying to bust the rest of their mates from the prison cells. When they manage to do so they must fight their way out through the police reinforcements and the elite prohibition agents arriving on the scene.
Your multiplayer team is separate from your single-player team and you can develop it with money earned after multiplayer matches. Unlocking new characters, better weapons and leveling up are all available in multiplayer.
Morciu: will we see some of that wacky self conscious humor or is it gonna be all gritty and violent?
You will not find much Tropico style tongue-in-cheek humor in Omerta. I wouldn't say "any" because El Presidente is a sneaky one and his influence may sometimes reach even Prohibition era Atlantic City...
All in all, the game is not all about spilling guts, cement shoes and feeding stool pigeons to "da fishes" and I expect that you will chuckle more than once, even if the humor is somewhat darker than in our previous title.
Boian Spasov, Lead Designer of Omerta at Haemimont Games