Few games could be called ugly and have it be a compliment, but with Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days that may well be the case. Designed to show bad men in unfortunate circumstances, its violence is not for the weak hearted. The marketing campaign was built around this, as Karen Conroe North American Launch consultant for Eidos, illustrated to us during an interview.
[a]list: Was it purposeful to present the teaser trailers for Kane & Lynch 2 as stock footage?
Karen: Those were released late last year, and they were some of the first looks at what the game content would have. They were very short and they were designed to get people talking about it. It really did look like a cut from a security camera footage. Those were the first two pieces that were released, and then the debut trailer released in December. They weren’t marked with any branding for the game in order to work up the early buzz.
[a]list: Were the trailers affected by the aesthetic design of the game, or was it the other way around?
Karen: It’s really to emulate that YouTube video look; it’s like someone is photographing the video. That was the intent of the development team to present it like a hand-captured video and it’s front in center in the marketing campaign to have it presented the way.
That was absolutely a reflection of the look and feel of the game and it was an extension of the creative vision. That was one of the guiding principles for the ad campaign – the look of the trailers were designed to preserve the frenetic pace of the game and the unique style of the art direction.
[a]list: Was it seen as important to emphasize the personalities of Kane and Lynch in the ads?
Karen: In terms of focusing on the personalities, the key message is getting that anti-hero look. And they’re really not heroes; they’re regular guys and they make mistakes and bad decisions. They have no chemistry together, and it’s the opposite of even buddy cop/crime films, turning that stereotype on its head.
We want to convey the desperation in their lives; Lynch has a girfriend now and has something to lose. Both of these guys, there anti heroes, but they’re losers! They have bad luck and they’re constantly at each other’s throats.
Would you trust these men
[a]list: Yeah in most co-op games like Gears of War, there might be some male jocularity, but it’s all in the name of camaraderie. Kane and Lynch aren’t like that…
Karen: They don’t like each other! They just happen to need each other. This is supposed to be for one more score. Lynch doesn’t like Kane, but he knows that only Kane can move this crime deal forward.
[a]list: The Kane & Lynch series is often described as being purposefully grimy. Did you look to bring out these harsh tones in the marketing of the game?
Karen: The team went to Shanghai and did extensive video capture to convey what the city looks like in the side streets and alleys. In some of the trailers, like for behind-the scenes clips, we really wanted to get at “what is real” but we didn’t want them to look like the traditional pieces in a nice set up with a TV commentator, so we went to Chinatown in LA to recreate the lights and sounds of the game and present things in a different way.
One of the great things about Shanghai, is it made it easy to emphasize the old and new. There’s the grimy old Shanghai and the shiny and neon new Shanghai. It’s about contrasting that, and I think Shanghai has a very clear contrast. And the basic footage they got… you can really see that in the look of the product.
The game takes on all the aspects of the anti-hero perspectives. It’s like the antithesis of Mafia II which is stunningly beautiful in presenting its pristine game world and K&L takes the opposite approach with its urban grittiness. That’s where the tagline “Real Ain’t Pretty” came from.
[a]list: It sounds like a unique project to work on, even among gaming.
Karen: You’ve got to love your ugly baby! I’ve enjoyed it. Because it isn’t like other products and it has a distinctive look that stands out.
[a]list: How did you all look to focus on the character emphasis switch from Kane to Lynch from the first to the second games?
Karen: That was by fan request, actually! So many people requested to play as Lynch, because he was so crazy! So that was really driven by fan request.
In a way, this chapter in the series was really driven by the changes in Lynch’s life. He has his job there with the crime syndicate, his girlfriend – it’s a springboard out of the events that ended last game. It really was a point to focus on Lynch, in the marketing.
[a]list: How did you look to emphasize the multiplayer modes? The popular scenario “Fragile Alliance” from the first game was one of the larger selling points.
Karen: Absolutely. It was popular the first time around and we wanted to push it out in Dog Days, so we released a bunch of trailers for the multiplayer modes, including an arcade mode that you can do by yourself so you have a chance to practice before you go online. We also did trailers to show how each of the modes work. Around the launch of the multiplayer demo, we had some pre-order spots that had to do with the multiplayer; we made a trailer for Gamestop to show their items and the same for Best Buy. We wanted to promote the multiplayer that way; it was a key priority.
[a]list: What were some of the unique challenges in working on Kane & Lynch 2 in particular?
Karen: One of the challenges we had was to make spots that are acceptable to a general viewing audience, and the ESRB has strict ratings for TV and for things without an Age Gate. We have a spot in LA Live, so we were challenged to make it happen. TV networks have their own creative, and they have their own guidelines as well. With any “M” rated title you have to think about how you’re going to present it, but the look of Kane & Lynch 2 is very intense so it really grabs viewers. And that’s our objective, but you have to meet everyone’s guidelines.
[a]list: We’ve heard about how there are strict parameters over what violence can and cannot be shown on television – forces some games to have clever editing.
Karen: In some ways that’s a plus!! You want people to feel compelled to see more. Sometimes you can’t show too much before people think you cross the line, but the nature of the product is not to dress it up, so it’s a balance.
[a]list: Karen, thanks.