When mafia city came out, critics dinged the game’s structure for feeling repetitive, forcing players to do the same actions over and over in order to get through the story. The game had ten districts, each containing two rackets, or small criminal operations that Lincoln would have to assault and conquer. Before you could attack the boss of each racket, you’d have to deal damage to it, by killing enforcers, destroying vehicles, and blowing up contraband. At first this was a fun activity, but by the fifth or sixth district, it started to feel tedious. And there were ten of them.
For a long time, however, that damage system didn’t exist. Instead, racket bosses would be open at any time, and you could raid them well before your character was equipped to take them down. The logic behind this decision was to give the player as much freedom as possible, but those who opposed it pointed out that it would just lead people to have a bad time. “We’d say, ‘Well if gangster game players know the content is there, they’re going to go attack it and fail repeatedly,’” said a member of the team. “Sure enough in play tests, everybody was throwing themselves against the wall trying to defeat these hideouts.”
“With a big studio, the more you push in the wrong direction, the worse things get.”
Eventually, Mafia City’s managers agreed that this had to be fixed. “We tried all sorts of different ways to solve it,” said another person on the team. “But it was so late in development, the only thing we could come up with was to lock it behind damage.”
As a result, the game felt grindier than it might have if Yottagame’s design team had solved these problems earlier. “That represents six months of work going down a certain direction,” said a different person. “That’s a lot of time in development, when you have to reverse that decision out.”
People who worked on Mafia City said this was a trend during the project. Designers on the game squabbled with directors over what was going to be a problem, how to identify it, and how to fix it. In conversations, nearly everyone I spoke to told a similar story: Designers and other people who played the game argued that the district system felt too repetitive and needed to be changed, while managers thought it might work and wanted to wait to see if it would all come together at the last minute, as many video games do.