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On July 23rd we packed into our towncar and took a trip down to reddit for a grand old Ask Me Anything! We were absolutely flabbergasted by the attention, and we had a real swell time answering questions that night! While the full AMA thread is still there on Reddit for you to take a gander at, we have gathered here a fine selection of questions and answers for you to enjoy.

On the setting
BlueLantern84: What made you lean toward this particular setting?

Brenda Romero: I have been fascinated with the Prohibition-era since I was a kid. There is a bar in my hometown called The Place. Rumor has it that it is the oldest continuously running bar in the US, and never shut during Prohibition. The bar itself is a short walk to the St. Lawrence River and across that is Canada. So, it served a lot of Canadian booze during that time. I knew I wanted to make a game in this setting at some point, and I started toying with the idea in 2000. The challenge with making a game, though, is that it has to have a hook -- the unique thing that separates it from all other games. That's the game you see here. Chicago was key to it. It's geographic location, the people who were there during the time... it was just an incredibly rich space to develop in.

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kirsebaer-_-: When you make a game such as this, do you talk with old mobsters and get their input?

Brenda Romero: I've had 20 years to research the game, so I've taken in a lot. I've read every book I could get my hands on, watched a ton of documentaries and read police files and testimony from the time. I also have watched every film and TV show that's even remotely related (and the whole Sopranos series six times). I didn't talk to any actual gangsters of modern era for this game, however. Just the stuff on Capone could keep me going for years. We also had a guy on the design team, Darius Monks, whose job it was to dig all kinds of stuff up. Some of the bosses in the game are a credit to his sleuthing work.

What makes the game stand out?
Hieremias: I am super on board for an "XCOM-with-gangsters" game, but because there are so many games in that genre can you give some details on how yours is different?

Ian O’Neill: Great question! The setting is a huge part of what sets Empire of Sin's combat apart from similar games in the genre. The weapons and equipment, the Gangster professions and abilities, and the environments all combine to really make our combat systems their own. Combat will feel familiar and comfortable to fans of the genre, so they'll be able to jump right in and get started, but there's also some new tricks and tactics that you're going to have to become familiar with to come out on top. I'll give one example. Combat can happen anywhere, and I mean anywhere. Hit that ambush button and traffic around you will stop as the game switches over to turn-based mode. You've now got a whole bunch of cars that will provide you with cover or block line of sight. Use it wisely.

Brenda Romero: Great question! Most importantly, we have no aliens (or they are just disguised as humans. The truth is out there on the internet. It is the only way to get this message out. Help us.)

Empire of Sin has a lot of different stuff going on in it. You're building an entire empire in a variety of different ways. That means that you have to gain strategic control of neighbourhoods, maximise their earnings, and learn all the little things you can do to increase prosperity (or trash it in your enemy's neighborhood). To do that, you need to get and manage a crew who often have minds of their own and might make friends, enemies or lovers of one another. Bosses have their own unique stories as do some of the gangsters, and those stories come into play as missions in unique ways. While you're trying to be Boss of Chicago, someone is also trying to kill you. Many someones. So, you have to manage your diplomacy and know your enemy like you know yourself. Make alliances, Form trade agreements. Accept and offer protection treaties. There's just so, so much going on in the game.

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On what inspired the team

Scythius1: Which 3 games would you say Empire of Sin is mechanically most influenced by?

Brenda Romero: From a design perspective, it is heavily influenced by the games in the Civilization series, Jagged Alliance and XCom.

Katie Garner: I can answer to the narrative design, which is inspired by branching path style dialogue found in games such as Fallout 3 & New Vegas, mixed with some Divinity: Original Sin 2. Skill checks and traits play a part in missions, so they're certainly something to bear in mind when making dialogue choices!

---

MachoToast1122: Are there any films or television shows that inspired the game and it’s mechanics?

Brenda Romero: Without a doubt, The Untouchables and The Sopranos. The interplay between the various bosses in The Sopranos and the humour/depth in their own stories is something that I definitely wanted in the game. I can't claim credit for its delivery, however. That is all down to our writing team: Katie, Mike, Luke and Jack.

---

titus_1_15: As a kid Gangsters: Organised Crime was one of my favourite games, and for years I'd been hoping someone would have a modern take on something in the same vein. I particularly enjoyed the legal fronts/illegal business and money laundering mechanics, which few other games have explored, and the general tycoon aspects, as much as the combat.

Was this game one of the influences you looked at when designing Empire of Sin?

Brenda Romero: Surprisingly, it wasn't, though it certainly comes up a lot. The main influences from a gameplay perspective were games in the Civilization series and XCom (for the combat). My favorite game of all time is Civilization Revolution. I also love the time period of 1920s prohibition-era Chicago. At some point, this happened in my head: What if instead of picking Napoleon or Gandhi, I was picking Al Capone and Dean O'Banion? What if instead of trying to build an empire to last the test of time, I was trying to build an empire to take everyone else out?

I also drew heavy inspiration from my favourite TV series, The Sopranos.

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On Game Development
tmjhurts: What are a few things about developing a game, even just minutiae, that a lay person doesn’t know about but you find interesting?

Conor Jordan: The most interesting thing I find about developing a game is you've got a group of experts in art, programming, design, narrative etc. all coming together and just making this one awesome thing for others to enjoy. It's the fuckin' coolest thing.

John Romero: The process of developing a game is one of constant problem solving. The first big problem is that you have a game idea you want to make - to solve that problem you have to break it up into hundreds of smaller pieces. Those pieces tend to break into dozens of smaller pieces as well.

This is why it takes years to make a game.

Brenda Romero: Wow. Interesting question. I have never done anything else, so I find it a challenge to have perspective on what other professions might feel like. I do know that game development feels more like a family to me than any other "team" I've been on, and I mean "family" in the near-literal way. It's pretty demanding, and the game is in your head even when you are not working. I wake up at 3, 4, 5am thinking about stuff. It means that our partners, families, kids also live this thing. When we launch the game, we ALL launch it. There is a tremendous closeness bound by that purpose. I can't imagine it's like that at an insurance company.

---

Bazztoner: How challenging has been for you to conceptualize this type of gameplay coming from so many different backgrounds?

Brenda Romero: If you're referring to the gameplay style, it was 20 years worth of challenging. I've wanted to make a game based on Prohibition-era Chicago for a very long time. It took that length of time for that unique mix to come together.

---

RSAnderson: Hey guys, love your work! How do you go about casting voice over for your projects?

Katie Garner: Good question! Casting for VO is a lot of work, but also really fun. For our part, we listen through tons and tons of auditions and match up voices with characters. Every so often, a voice will just click. You're listening to an audition, and you'll immediately go, "Wow, that's exactly what this person sounded like in my head." It's a really cool moment.

---

guyewhite: What is a programming skill that you learned early on that has been useful over and over again in game development? (Could even be a “beginner” move!)

Ian Dunbar: I distinctly remember when I realized that you can safely remove elements from a list while looping over it if you loop over the list in reverse. That blew my mind at the time.

John Romero: The most important skill in programming for me has been writing only small bits of code before running and testing it. The bugs you have are typically very small and easy to understand and fix.
The longer you code before testing, the harder it is to debug.

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On Gameplay

grumpyfrench: Multiplayer?

Brenda Romero: Empire of Sin is a single-player game.

---

JoshRTR14: Will the Nintendo Switch version be watered down or the same as the PC release?

Brenda Romero: Same game, no water added.

---

AllntheReflexes: You guys are great!

In Empire of Sin, will there be other ways to defeat the bosses in the city other than killing them? How will police/FBI interact with the player and the AI? Will there be any form of a court system/arrests/judges?
Thanks! Looking forward to the game!

Brenda Romero: Chicago in the 1920s was a tough place. The police will arrest people and send them to jail, but everything has its price. So for enough cash, you can get them sprung from jail. One way to avoid that is to get the police to like you enough, then you pay them and the will turn a blind eye to your activities. Ultimately, Empire of Sin is a game about making allies... and then making enemies.

---

MachoToast1122: What rackets will we see in Empire of Sin? I’ve read on the steam page about protection rackets and union skimming but haven’t heard anything about those in a while. Was wondering if they’re still a part of this game.

Brenda Romero: There are currently 4 base rackets in Empire of Sin, Breweries, Brothels, Speakeasies and Casinos. Protection was modified as a racket and moved into diplomacy which gave it way more strategic depth. Weaker gangs can pay protection to stronger ones so paying protection is still a thing in Empire of Sin. Union Skimming ended up on the bad end of a gun and did not make it to the end of development.

---

RomanMad: Will the maps in Empire of Sin be randomly generated each time you play?

John Romero: When you start a new game you can choose how many Bosses and how many Neighborhoods you want to play against and in. Then, the placement of the Bosses is randomized and the Neighborhoods themselves have random placement of rackets. The Neighborhoods themselves are designed, but not the function of the buildings. One game could have a building be a derelict place filled with Thugs, another time it could be another Boss' Brewery.

---

bozz14: Hi team, thanks for taking the time and cannot wait for the release! If it's not too revealing of an answer, do you have a ballpark estimate yet of long the game is hours-wise?

Brenda Romero: It's not a revealing answer at all... just a tricky one. Empire of Sin has such wide-ranging gameplay. There are 14 bosses for starters, 10 different neighborhoods and then a bunch of minor factions. So, you can play a smaller game with a few neighborhoods and bosses or a much longer, larger game.

---

Collected1: Do you have any plans for a future livestream to showcase the game and perhaps some development insights?

Conor Jordan: We've actually been streaming the game on twitch.tv/paradoxinteractive. The next live stream is August 13th :)

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Modding
KakisalmenKuningas: Do you have plans to include modding tools that would allow for user made content along the lines of the Long War mod for Xcom? Tools powerful enough to potentially change even the strategy layer of the game, and not just the tactics layer.

Brenda Romero: Yes, we designed the game to support mods right from the beginning of development. We’re planning to provide almost all the tools we used to develop the game to modders and can’t wait to see what the community do with them!

Release date
Joeonandoff: I was looking forward to the game since last year? Any reason for the delays ?

Brenda Romero: I have two answers: because that's how it goes sometimes, and because we have a great publisher.

I'll explain.
"Sometimes, that's how it goes." At the beginning of game, you make estimates based on what you think the game will be and what you think it will need. As these things come to pass, you realise that you need more of this and less of that. Games are a highly iterative process, particularly when you're trying to make something no one else has made before. So, you do your best, and we as a team have (I'm so lucky to work with so many amazing people, genuinely).
"We have a great publisher." Throughout the development, Paradox has been very involved. I have said publicly a number of times that they *feel* like a development studio that's masquerading as a publisher. I don't think anyone knows their fans or their genre as well as Paradox does. They saw the potential of the game and gave us the time that we needed. Every member of the team is grateful for it.

---

Blaeys: Because you have to know the question is coming:
Do you have a release date - or more refined release date window - you can share?
Really looking forward to this game.

Brenda Romero: Fall 2020. Glad you're looking forward to it. We can't wait to have it in your hands.

Preorder
i_am_fear_itself: Brenda, when can I pre-order? I'm terrified life is gonna get busy and I'm going to completely forget EoS is coming out until it's a year old?
Can you fix this?

Brenda Romero: Yes, I can. Sign up for the newsletter, and you will definitely not miss it. https://www.empireofsingame.com

---

Read the full AMA on reddit here: https://pdxint.at/EoSAMA
 
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Looking good, although I am a little disappointed that they are only going to be 4 types of racket in the game at start.
 
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Looking good, although I am a little disappointed that they are only going to be 4 types of racket in the game at start.

I agree, but not surprising as it's been one of the few things we've known for a while. If the game does well enough, it's one of the easiest DLC-type content to implement. I'm curious on how/why union-skimming was cut. Since prosperity will determine profit and businesses, we can safely lump illegal businesses like card games and dice games in with casinos. Besides union skimming/teamsters, I think loan sharking, prizefights, and counterfeiting would be the ideal additions to rackets.

I'm also disappointed that Gangsters: OC was not an influence. Based on how the game was designed, it makes sense that it wasn't an inspiration. However, I have a difficult time believing people who have been completely fascinated with organized crime, would not have loved that game. It's literally the OG of any crime game.
 
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I agree, but not surprising as it's been one of the few things we've known for a while. If the game does well enough, it's one of the easiest DLC-type content to implement. I'm curious on how/why union-skimming was cut. Since prosperity will determine profit and businesses, we can safely lump illegal businesses like card games and dice games in with casinos. Besides union skimming/teamsters, I think loan sharking, prizefights, and counterfeiting would be the ideal additions to rackets.

I'm also disappointed that Gangsters: OC was not an influence. Based on how the game was designed, it makes sense that it wasn't an inspiration. However, I have a difficult time believing people who have been completely fascinated with organized crime, would not have loved that game. It's literally the OG of any crime game.
I agree; adding this kind of thing in later seems like it would be fairly easy. If I had to speculate, I would say that they're keeping the game fairly straightforward for optimization purposes (the more things you add to a game, the more things there are that can break down).
 
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I agree; adding this kind of thing in later seems like it would be fairly easy. If I had to speculate, I would say that they're keeping the game fairly straightforward for optimization purposes (the more things you add to a game, the more things there are that can break down).

Absolutely, I agree. Also, they have said they want the game, nearly from release, to be modded by the community as they will provide the tools needed. I think stuff like this can be modded by someone pretty easily.
 
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I hope combat system not is like Xcom, because X com, have the "fortune" a "chance to hit" and i am very un luck, i miss with 95% of hit chance. For this motive i avoid game with hit chance.

You'll be disappointed then. It's going to be very similar to X-Com. I believe there will be hit chances on any attack, with some missing depending on circumstances like environment, skill, type of attack used.
 
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You'll be disappointed then. It's going to be very similar to X-Com. I believe there will be hit chances on any attack, with some missing depending on circumstances like environment, skill, type of attack used.
The problem not are miss one time if have 95%, the problem are miss 4-5 time in row with very high chance XD
 
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You'll be disappointed then. It's going to be very similar to X-Com. I believe there will be hit chances on any attack, with some missing depending on circumstances like environment, skill, type of attack used.

So, what is X-Com. Explain the concept to me, please; and feel free to translate how the base concept works in the reality of this game world.

My thanks in advance. :)
 
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So, what is X-Com. Explain the concept to me, please; and feel free to translate how the base concept works in the reality of this game world.

My thanks in advance. :)

So X-Com is a game franchise that began in the mid 90s and was rebooted in 2012 (XCOM). It's basically about an elite organization that fights an alien invasion of Earth. So it is a turn-based combat system, though outside of the missions (i.e. combat), you manage research and finances of the organization so you can have better technology, etc. The turn-based combat camera is top-down 3D (like you see in Empire of Sin). You control certain number of soldiers and your task is to kill each alien that is on the map. The map isn't randomly generated in X-Com but the placement of the enemies within the mission is.

There are a few key elements to keep in mind:

1) Turn-based: So the player and the AI each get a turn to move and attack. Like Chess, you need to prepare yourself by defending in case of being attacked, and vice versa.

2) Every move or action uses up action points. Just like any other top-down 3D, turn-based combat game. Every solider has a unique ability (or more) that can be used on enemies. Moving or finding cover uses up action points, as does attacking. Typically using a unique ability, depending on how powerful it is, will use up most if not all your action points for that turn.

3) Fog of War: So the entire map isn't known to you in the beginning. You have to move to see more of your surroundings. This, in turn, means you can fall upon an enemy. If you use up your action points by moving, then you have to wait until the next turn to fire upon the enemy. However, in between your turns, the enemy also can move and fire upon your soldiers if they have a line-of-sight.

4) Cover System: This is important as it potentially shields your soldiers from enemy attacks unless they flank you. It is important to find cover if you know you won't kill an enemy in your turn.

Overall, the combat is straightforward but very strategic. Each soldier has a certain amount of health and if they die, you can't use them any more in that mission. If you go "guns a-blazing", you could easily find your team surrounded and killed in one, maybe two turns.

Based on our limited knowledge of Empire of Sin, the system will be very similar to X-Com. There are plenty of games that also use this type of system, including Omerta. We already know that each gangster has unique abilities that they can use in combat, as well as passive abilities. When you're not in combat, you are also managing diplomacy and finances. It should be a very interesting take on the try and true turn-based combat method. Hope that helps!
 
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The problem not are miss one time if have 95%, the problem are miss 4-5 time in row with very high chance XD
I actually don't mind rng, although I will admit it does get a bit annoying when multiple soldiers miss a target at point-blank range because of it.
 

Andre Bolkonsky

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So X-Com is a game franchise that began in the mid 90s and was rebooted in 2012 (XCOM). It's basically about an elite organization that fights an alien invasion of Earth. So it is a turn-based combat system, though outside of the missions (i.e. combat), you manage research and finances of the organization so you can have better technology, etc. The turn-based combat camera is top-down 3D (like you see in Empire of Sin). You control certain number of soldiers and your task is to kill each alien that is on the map. The map isn't randomly generated in X-Com but the placement of the enemies within the mission is.

There are a few key elements to keep in mind:

1) Turn-based: So the player and the AI each get a turn to move and attack. Like Chess, you need to prepare yourself by defending in case of being attacked, and vice versa.

2) Every move or action uses up action points. Just like any other top-down 3D, turn-based combat game. Every solider has a unique ability (or more) that can be used on enemies. Moving or finding cover uses up action points, as does attacking. Typically using a unique ability, depending on how powerful it is, will use up most if not all your action points for that turn.

3) Fog of War: So the entire map isn't known to you in the beginning. You have to move to see more of your surroundings. This, in turn, means you can fall upon an enemy. If you use up your action points by moving, then you have to wait until the next turn to fire upon the enemy. However, in between your turns, the enemy also can move and fire upon your soldiers if they have a line-of-sight.

4) Cover System: This is important as it potentially shields your soldiers from enemy attacks unless they flank you. It is important to find cover if you know you won't kill an enemy in your turn.

Overall, the combat is straightforward but very strategic. Each soldier has a certain amount of health and if they die, you can't use them any more in that mission. If you go "guns a-blazing", you could easily find your team surrounded and killed in one, maybe two turns.

Based on our limited knowledge of Empire of Sin, the system will be very similar to X-Com. There are plenty of games that also use this type of system, including Omerta. We already know that each gangster has unique abilities that they can use in combat, as well as passive abilities. When you're not in combat, you are also managing diplomacy and finances. It should be a very interesting take on the try and true turn-based combat method. Hope that helps!

Very Helpful. Certainly a framework where learning how to save early and often will be crucial in the beginning.

We have been discussing the narrative structure for a while, and I am willing to hazard a guess. The player won't fight AGAINST the Outfit; the player will be fighting FOR the Outfit. Ms. Romero essentially said this whole story revolves around the wealth of information they specifically went looking for regarding Capone. Player will form a crew then a Family in his own image with the tacit permission of Capone directly or indirectly. IF player is strong enough to build it. Build it, and they will come and bring all that green money with them. And you will make Big Al smile and that will be the final cut scene, Scarface himself.

Player will have multiple paths leading to Nitti or one of his Sicilian Messenger Boys. Player has a choice of taking one of a variety of contracts which boost prestige with the ruling Outfit. Outfit issues contract and pays it off when it is completed - how it is completed is of absolutely no concern they just want it done. Reverse is true, player needs upgrade in men or material; prestige with the Mob will open up Machine McGurk's twin sister on the front cover. They can do cut scenes for days using this imagery and all the legends that walked through their halls. Take over the brothels run by the old lady and pay us the street tax. Take over the Policy Bank and pay us the street tax. Take over the Irish club weilding guy's breweries, pay us the street tax. Goal will be to be made a Captain in the Outfit. If they sell enough copies, the DLC will build on this as we discussed before.

That's my educated guess this week. Let's see what next week holds.

Good luck and Godspeed, Devs. I think I see where you are now headed at last. If I doubted before, I am on the verge of becoming a true believer.
 
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Vlad123

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I actually don't mind rng, although I will admit it does get a bit annoying when multiple soldiers miss a target at point-blank range because of it.
You not know how many dead troops / failed missions ... i had due to "inherent bad luck", like the enemy catches you even if he has only 10% chance 3-4 times in a row ... ie maybe something like skill would be better .. .
 
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BrotherJonathan

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You not know how many dead troops / failed missions ... i had due to "inherent bad luck", like the enemy catches you even if he has only 10% chance 3-4 times in a row ... ie maybe something like skill would be better .. .
Well, they could try something like what Phantom Doctrine uses, but that has its own issues as well:
 

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Very Helpful. Certainly a framework where learning how to save early and often will be crucial in the beginning.

We have been discussing the narrative structure for a while, and I am willing to hazard a guess. The player won't fight AGAINST the Outfit; the player will be fighting FOR the Outfit. Ms. Romero essentially said this whole story revolves around the wealth of information they specifically went looking for regarding Capone. Player will form a crew then a Family in his own image with the tacit permission of Capone directly or indirectly. IF player is strong enough to build it. Build it, and they will come and bring all that green money with them. And you will make Big Al smile and that will be the final cut scene, Scarface himself.

Player will have multiple paths leading to Nitti or one of his Sicilian Messenger Boys. Player has a choice of taking one of a variety of contracts which boost prestige with the ruling Outfit. Outfit issues contract and pays it off when it is completed - how it is completed is of absolutely no concern they just want it done. Reverse is true, player needs upgrade in men or material; prestige with the Mob will open up Machine McGurk's twin sister on the front cover. They can do cut scenes for days using this imagery and all the legends that walked through their halls. Take over the brothels run by the old lady and pay us the street tax. Take over the Policy Bank and pay us the street tax. Take over the Irish club weilding guy's breweries, pay us the street tax. Goal will be to be made a Captain in the Outfit. If they sell enough copies, the DLC will build on this as we discussed before.

That's my educated guess this week. Let's see what next week holds.

Good luck and Godspeed, Devs. I think I see where you are now headed at last. If I doubted before, I am on the verge of becoming a true believer.

I like your thoughts on this but realistically I think you're going too historical than the devs are doing. I know, I know. That sounds crazy since it's a Paradox game, but they are merely publishing it, not developing it. I am confident that the Outfit will not be represented in the game, at least in the manner you are proposing. Each playable boss has a gang and a name associated with that gang. Just to name a few: Mabel Ryley's gang is called "The Alley Cats", Frankie Donovan's gang is called "The Donovans", Stephanie St. Clair's gang is called "Card Sharks", Sai Wing Mock's gang is called "Hip Sing Tong" (The Tong), and Alphonse Capone's gang is called "The Outfit".

Capone is a playable character in the game, either as your character or as an AI character. I understand where you're coming from, but their historical characters are there more as flavor and pulling from history than trying to recreate Prohibition Chicago, in my opinion. You're there to create your own story using either these historical or fictional bosses and their gangs. So unfortunately, you may actually fight Capone and his gang, The Outfit. With that said, there are story missions in this game. So if you play as Capone, you may have missions that are more historical. However, we just don't know much about the mission stories right now.

Don't mean to be a downer. I think the game can be incredibly interesting and great in its own right, even if it doesn't stay within historical boundaries.
 
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Legrattlyzed

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It is the best game that I like more than other game because Its many feature make stand out from other game on the web. I like its design interface which I can easily to play. There are many tools to run and optimize and also a good empire to want to this
 

Andre Bolkonsky

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I like your thoughts on this but realistically I think you're going too historical than the devs are doing. I know, I know. That sounds crazy since it's a Paradox game, but they are merely publishing it, not developing it. I am confident that the Outfit will not be represented in the game, at least in the manner you are proposing. Each playable boss has a gang and a name associated with that gang. Just to name a few: Mabel Ryley's gang is called "The Alley Cats", Frankie Donovan's gang is called "The Donovans", Stephanie St. Clair's gang is called "Card Sharks", Sai Wing Mock's gang is called "Hip Sing Tong" (The Tong), and Alphonse Capone's gang is called "The Outfit".

Capone is a playable character in the game, either as your character or as an AI character. I understand where you're coming from, but their historical characters are there more as flavor and pulling from history than trying to recreate Prohibition Chicago, in my opinion. You're there to create your own story using either these historical or fictional bosses and their gangs. So unfortunately, you may actually fight Capone and his gang, The Outfit. With that said, there are story missions in this game. So if you play as Capone, you may have missions that are more historical. However, we just don't know much about the mission stories right now.

Don't mean to be a downer. I think the game can be incredibly interesting and great in its own right, even if it doesn't stay within historical boundaries.

I have a solution.

Please contact the developer and convince them to let us have a peek and we can end all this speculation once and for all. ;)
 
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singhharry12

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I'm also disappointed that Gangsters: OC was not an influence. Based on how the game was designed, it makes sense that it wasn't an inspiration. However, I have a difficult time believing people who have been completely fascinated with organized crime, would not have loved that game. It's literally the OG of any crime game.