Brenda Romero on the very long road to making Empire of Sin

A lifelong dream

Empire of Sin started development in 2016, but creator Brenda Romero had the idea for this game a lot longer than that. In an interview with GamesBeat, Romero explains just how long she's been holding onto this idea.

The first time I pitched it was to Paradox. But Prohibition itself is a pretty broad theme. It’s an area I’ve been interested in. I spent the first 20 years of my career working primarily in RPGs, so it didn’t necessarily fit there. I guess it was a sort of side intellectual curiosity. If there was a new book about it, I’d read it. When a TV series came out, like Boardwalk Empire, I was all over that. Any movies that had to do with it.

I was trying to figure out a way to make a game that hadn’t been made. It’s an interesting theme, but I didn’t want to make something that was like a game somebody else made. Somewhere, floating in the Atlantic, probably in 2014, I thought of the game that eventually would become Empire of Sin.

Empire of Sin director on her inspiration, the game's historically-accurate newspapers, and the importance of diversity in characters

The game Brenda Romero has always wanted to make

Brenda Romero has been waiting a long time to make Empire of Sin, and it's finally coming to fruition. The original source of inspiration for the title comes from all the way back in Romero's childhood, which she details in a Shacknews interview.

“the original inspiration goes back to my mom refusing to answer my question. I grew up in a town in northern New York, and it was on the Canadian border. So, there was a bar that was the oldest, continuously operating bar in the United States called The Place. And I wanted to know a simple question; how come they didn’t shut it down? And my mom didn’t want to say, ‘well you know, it’s a grey area, cops are dirty’. There’s not a chance she was going to tell me that. So, she didn’t answer the question and I became fascinated with the time period and I’ve had that fascination for 30 plus years.”

A ton of work is going into Empire of Sin to make it feel appropriate for 1920s Chicago. This goes for all aspects of the game, both big and small. Believe it or not, the dev team has one member who's job it is to recreate time-appropriate newspapers for the player to read. Romero explains the feature in an interview with USGamer.

"He researches what happened in this month in this year, and he writes newspapers. So if you go to the newsstand in a game and purchase a newspaper, depending on what time it is you're going to get that news."

Romero wants features like these to be included in the game in order to immerse the player. Another way to build that immersion is by letting the player feel like they're represented in-game. This is something Romero takes extremely seriously.

"[It's] unbelievably fucking important that you can play as a black boss; you can play as a black female boss. It was important to me that if you're Latino you can play as a Latino character, or if you're a Native American you can have a Native American character. So someplace, somehow you can see yourself in the game, no matter who you are."

Empire of Sin gets a new gameplay trailer, game set for release in Spring 2020

Yeaaaaah, see?!

In Empire of Sin, players build their own ruthless criminal empire as one of 14 distinct bosses vying to run the seedy underworld of organized crime in the city. With randomly generated starting conditions, players will have to adapt to survive and do whatever it takes to outsmart, out-gun and outlast their opponents.

Empire of Sin- an exciting character-driven strategy game set in 1920s Chicago will be coming to PC, Mac, Switch, Xbox and PlayStation consoles in Spring 2020.

John Romero says Empire of Sin on Switch is being developed alongside the other versions, and is not a port

The way it should be

John Romero is working on Empire of Sin, which was announced for Switch back at E3 2019. This will be Romero's first game on Switch, and his team is going out of their way to get things right with their debut. In an interview with GamesIndustry, Romero explains that Empire of Sin on Switch isn't a port. It's a version being worked on every day alongside the other versions.

"As we're developing the game, it's on the Switch every day. We develop milestones on every platform. It's not like we're going to port the thing to the Switch. We're making it on the Switch while we make it on all the platforms. We're working on the Switch to make sure it's fast, it's performant, that it handles memory the right way, and that it's not like we have a bunch of work to do after we get the game done to get the Switch working."

Empire of Sin's character relationships and personalities evolve over time

You know, like real people

Empire of Sin is trying to do something special with how it tells a story through its characters. The gang you take on isn't giong to have a set of cookie-cutter personalities that don't evolve. In an interview with Gamasutra, developer John Romero explains how characters will change over time.

"Adding all of the character traits and relationships adds a whole layer that most games don't have. The fact that it changes over time makes it more emergent. They're not static---you can't just say 'this character is always like this, and they're like that forever, and I know how these chess pieces work together.' The chess pieces change over time."

Empire of Sin's lead game designer has wanted to make this game for 20 years

20 years in the making

Empire of Sin, which is coming to Switch, is a strategy game set in 1920s Prohibition-era Chicago. The game is coming from Romero games, which is headed by legendary DOOM creator and co-founder of id Software, John Romero. In an interview with Kotaku, Mr. Romero wants one thing about Empire of Sin to be clear. This game comes from the mind of John's wife Brenda, and she's been wanting to make it for a long, long time now.

“I mean, in interviews, the question of ‘where does this come from?’ I tell them, this is Brenda’s design, she is lead game designer, she’s wanted to make this game for 20 years. All her experience on Wizardry 8 and working on Jagged Alliance, playing Civ for decades, playing X-Com—she wanted to put all of that into her favorite time period, which is Prohibition-era Chicago.”


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