Earlier this week, we learned that Ice-T himself will be making an appearance in Payday 3, courtesy of a reveal during gamescom Opening Night Live 2023. But the extent of his involvement in the game was still a little murky…until we sat down with the Payday 3 team at gamescom to clear things up.
Below is our full, detailed Q&A with Payday 3 lead producer Andreas Häll-Penninger and global brand director Almir Listo about everything Payday 3: it’s planned Unreal 5 update, the new Ice-T heist, its $40 price, and more:
IGN: Why did you decide to launch the Unreal 5 version of Payday 3 after the launch of the game?
Andreas Häll-Penninger: I can take that. So when we started the development of Payday 3, we just had Unreal 4. Unreal 5 wasn’t available, and as Unreal 5 became available, we did look into it and evaluated it. But we just saw that moving and transitioning during development would put some risk to the core experience of the project, and the most important thing for us right now is to make sure that the game is fun and it plays well. So the transition post-launch just makes sense for us from a development point of view.
We saw new footage of the new heist that is available later. Can you tell us a little bit more about this particular one?
AH-P: Yeah. So like you said, in the beta we had a bank, which…has a very classic bank robbery feel to it. It’s very close to the core fantasy. This one is a little bit different, most noticeable. It has a very different setting. It’s also a little bit more stealth-oriented, and it has a very interesting feature where when you steal the loot that you’re after, it degrades over time. So you need to be very quick and very coordinated with your team to get it back to its container before it loses its value.
Almir Listo: It also features a new contractor. So for this heist, we’re working together with Ice-T, who portrays the character of Mac. And apparently, we didn’t know this before, but Ice-T has been a fan of Payday since seven, eight years past. Yeah, Payday 2. So when we reached out to him, he was super excited to work with us. So he’s a new contractor, this is his heist in New Jersey, because he’s from New Jersey, so we had to do that for him.
What was the biggest challenge in developing Payday 3 on the new engine as well? You did talk about the different technical challenges it presented.
AH-P: I think, so Payday 1 and Payday 2 were developed in our in-house engine diesel, and Payday 3 is done on Unreal 4. And one of the biggest challenges that we faced very early on was making sure that we still capture that Payday feel, the moment-to-moment. Because it has a very particular feel. So we worked on that for a very long time and made sure that we had a prototype that felt like Payday before we started fleshing out a lot more features.
I also think something cool that we could prepare properly for Payday 3 was that when we made Payday 2, we didn’t know we were going to be working on it for 10 years. But making Payday 3, we’ve built the proper foundation so that we know that we can continuously update it over time. And with our partner Deep Silver, we can look forward to at least 18 months of post-launch content.
We see a lot of games coming out at the $70 price point. What was the reasoning for the $39.99 release price?
AL: I only have 40 bucks! No, but I think it’s a fair price point for a fair amount of content. Payday: The Heist to the highest, the first game had six heists on launch. Payday 2 had 12, and Payday 3 has eight on launch. But over time, we’re going to add more content, both free and paid, whether it’s characters, heists, weapons, gadgets, new outfits. So over time there’ll be more to enjoy. But I think $40 is a great price point, because if it would be a $70 title, maybe that would be two more years of development or whatever. But we feel this is a good price point for the amount of content you get.
The preview has some mechanics that we weren’t able to do before, like putting the mask on and being able to climb things to help with the stealth gameplay. So what were the biggest changes in Payday 3’s mechanics from Payday 2?
AH-P: What we did early on was really try to identify how we can get closer to what the heist fantasy is all about. So not necessarily looking at mechanics that are like, yes, this would be fun. That’s obviously a very important part of it, but starting with how do we enhance that? So I think, at least for me, and many of the people in the studio, all the new mechanics around hostage management, now you can grab civilians and guards as human shields, you can trade them with the police and negotiate with them, you can trade them between assaults to get resources back. So there’s a lot of things to play with there that really fits into what bank robbery is all about.
AL: For me, it was a lot about retaining the integrity of the game, like the world of Payday. I think with Payday 2 we went over time, we went all over the place trying different things and so on. And for Payday 3, even though the game is an evolution of the series, we still want to pull back the fantasy and make it more mature again. A bit more dark and gritty. So I think that’s reflected in the behavior of the world, how it looks, the atmosphere of it all, how New York feels and so on. But also our characters, that they look five years older. Because a matter of fact, it’s been five years since they retired in Payday 2, and that’s also an important part of making a sequel. That it’s the same world, it’s the same storyline. We haven’t gone and changed everything. It is your OG for coming back into a world of crime for whatever reason that is going to unfold in Payday 3.
Can you actually go into a little bit of the story? Why did they come out of retirement and what have they been up to?
AL: I think we don’t want to spoil too much, but what I can say is that what happened after the White House heist in Payday 2, when they stole their pardons, their presidential pardons, the gang retired, and there were more than 20 people in the Payday gang at the time, they retired and went their different ways, and for whatever reason that we’ll find out in Payday 3, they were forced back into a life of crime. And Mac, the new contractor that is portrayed by Ice-T, including others, are bringing them to New York to help them along.
You did mention earlier that there are going to be some expansions, some free, some not. So how many DLC do you have planned for this game so far?
AL: We’re looking at year one initially, because that’s what we have coming up. But of course we’re fantasizing about what’s to come and there is so much input. I really want to give a shout-out to the community. They’ve been with us through these past 10 years, always having great feedback on what to do, what not to do. And they’ll definitely influence us, I think, as soon as they get to try their hands on the launch content and as soon as they start feedbacking us, we’ll be taking that in and adjusting course probably slightly.
AH-P: Yeah. We want to work with them closely. And then also, even though we haven’t said exactly what we’re going to do for year one, what I can say is that it’s important to us that it’s not just a content treadmill, not only characters and weapons and cosmetics. We want to ensure that we grow the product and we take the experience where we want it to be, and we work together with the community on finding out what’s that going to be long-term.
AL: It’s funny with Payday 2 as well, I remember when we were making collabs initially, we made over 30 different collaborations for Payday 2 over 10 years, the fans were like, “Why did you do this? Why did you add this? Oh no.” And now with Payday 3, they’re like, “When am I going to get my favorite collab back?” So the tide has changed somewhat, but we still want to retain the integrity, focus on the core gang initially, and then over time we’ll try to see what collab should we do, what shouldn’t we do?
AH-P: Yeah. And I think retaining the integrity has a lot to do with collaborating with your community. We have people that have thousands of hours in the game, and Payday 2 has almost been … Almir and I have been at Starbreeze for almost 12 years now and working on Payday 2 for a long time, and Payday 2 for us has almost been like a test bed. We’ve been trying and experimenting a lot with different things, some stuff that works, some that doesn’t really. So I think we’ve learned a lot from that and really learned that working together with our fans on making sure where their expectations potentially aren’t met.
AL: Especially being really clear on when we screwed up, because we have … In over 200 updates over 10 years you’re bound to screw up at some point. And I think being very honest and open about that and telling the community, “We’re sorry, we should have done this, we should have done that instead,” and just listening to them and having that very truthful and straight relationship with them, I think that’s done a lot over the years.
For more from gamescom 2023, you can catch up on all the news with our roundups of day one, day two, the gamescom awards, and Opening Night Live. And for more Payday 3, we got a hands-on first look earlier this year.
Rebekah Valentine is a Senior Reporter at IGN.