Robber Man – Payday 2 Interview

David Goldfarb has a brilliant name. He’s the game director of Payday 2, a very good game about being a horrible bank robber. It turns out everyone in the world enjoys being an awful person, because Payday 2 has remained near the very top of the Steam’s sales charts since its release, while hovering in and around the top ten most played games list. I chatted to him about what it’s like being a tiny studio with a huge hit.

RPS: Hello! You’re very big right now. Well done. But with multiplayer shooters, things never stand still. What are you focusing on right now?

Goldfarb: In the beginning it was mostly stability and making sure the matchmaking worked. We had some ussues with Steam. Right now we have a separate track that’s working on maps for the first upgrade or DLC. Then there’s a lot of balance stuff. Then there’s all the content stuff, like masks and that sort of stuff. The thing I’m currently dealing with is stealth and making that more consistent. So it feels like we’re basically still just making the game.

RPS: I guess that’s the nature of with digital distribution.

Goldfarb: Yeah. When I was doing Battlefield 3, I think we got the game out and then there were a couple of patches, but we didn’t do ten in like two weeks.

RPS: Has that been affected by how big Payday 2 has become?

Goldfarb: It’s partly that, and BF was much bigger than this. But with us, because we’re such a small team, because we don’t have the gating mechanisms that BF has, where you just can’t get a patch out that fast and there’s a zillion things that prevent that from happening, we’re lucky that we can continue just relentlessly update. Whether it’s good or bad for the people at the studios, it’s generally good thing for the customers.

RPS: Did you expect to be as big as you are.

Goldfarb: Noooo. I mean, I had the same feeling when I was on Bad Company 2 that I had with Payday 2. That it was going to be a big success. I don’t know why. I had this “here we go again” feeling, and I remember saying that. Even though I had the same vibe, I didn’t realise we were going to do quite as well as we did on this game. I think we’re all pleasantly surprised.

RPS: Where you are now, and where did you predict you would be? Is it a magnitude of size bigger?

Goldfarb: We’re way past where we thought we would be. Way, way past. So far past that it’s sort of hard to conceive that we’re that far past it. At this point we’re sort of like: “Well, okay. I guess that worked out. Where’s it going to go from here?” We’d already made back our costs six days before we shipped. If you can imagine that’s kind of how it’s gone for the whole time we’ve been number one on Steam for three weeks, and now we’re staying pretty steady at number two. So it’s been incredibly successful for us already. And it seems like it’s going to continue to be very successful.

RPS: Do you think the internet was starved for a good co-op shooter?

Goldfarb: Maybe they’ve played enough Left 4 Dead? To me, it’s the high concept of a robbery game that’s appealing to people. We imperfectly realised it in the first game, not that we perfectly realised it in the second game cause we definitely didn’t. But I think we got closer to the fantasy in our heads. And I think we got closer to the fantasy in a lot of the consumer’s heads.

RPS: It’s kind of a dark fantasy, though.

Goldfarb: Yeah. Maybe fantasy’s not the right way to put it. In the way that people watch Heat and think it would be cool to be the bad guy, I think there’s an appeal, dark fantasy or not. And as weird as it is, there aren’t a lot of games servicing it in the weird way we are. You’re always the marine shooting guys for some reason or other, but you don’t get to be this or do this thing co-operatively. So maybe it’s hitting a vein that’s been untapped.

RPS: And it’s a co-op game, so even if it is a dark fantasy, you’re almost admitting something to your friends.

Goldfarb: Yeah! But I think it’s implicit that you are a bad guy. We’re just more honest about it, maybe.

RPS: So you said you don’t think you’ve done it perfectly this time around. What’s missing?

Goldfarb: I don’t know if it’s missing. We’d have loved to have had more missions and big stuff. But those are things that we’re planning to do the next year or so. We will be able to add all the things we would have shipped with if we had infinite time and resources. We’re not a big studio, and there’s only 30 of us, so we’re trying to do everything at once. More heists and big heists are the two things that just jump out. Making sure things are as consistent as possible. There things I’d like to improve with stealth and some of the skills, are things we can do in the course of the next year, some of those things are for like Payday 3. And if you want to go way way out, there’s lots of stuff you can talk about. Do we wanna add vehicles? Those sort of things. But they’re like way far away, I think?

RPS: I was going to mention that transition between maps, and I was in a van and waiting to be part of a vehicle shootout, and then it just starts and you’re on the ground. It felt like such a tease.

Goldfarb: I know! We’ve talked about it a lot, and you have to make decisions like: “We can’t do it right now”.

RPS: Are there technological issues? We’re at the end of a console cycle and start of a new one. Pretty much everything you can do with them has been done. Does that stop you from doing things for the PC version that you could have done if you didn’t have to worry about the consoles?

Goldfarb: I think doing stuff for consoles definitely makes things more difficult when you’re blue-skying stuff, but I would say the reality was we have a finite amount of resources, we have three platforms to develop for, and doing stuff like vehicles is a huge chunk of work for us and would take away from aspects of the game that are maybe more important at the time. It was just a calculated decision: “If we do this, we’re not going to hit our date or be happy with quality of the rest of the game.” As painful as it was, because I’d loved to have done something, it was just a decision that we made to get to when we can do it right.

RPS: You ran a beta before it came out. What did you learn?

Goldfarb: That people get mad when you wipe their characters. That was one thing, but there was no way to avoid that because we made so many updates that it would’ve corrupted the save. But it still sucked. The stuff we learned was really invaluable. That stuff that we did for BF it was kind of a mixed bag because usually we were so close to the wire and it took so much time to get the changes done, that you knew shit was wrong that you couldn’t do anything about. And with this team, we’re small and very agile so the stuff that came out of the beta was huge in terms of what it would mean to the stability and long term-quality of the game. We got an enormous amount of really valuable feedback.

RPS: So it was mostly stability?

Goldfarb: It was stability, but it was also game balance, bugs, you know? There were things that we were like: “Shit, we should probably change this”. You don’t want to be led by a bunch of people asking for more, because I think that’s a trap that a lot people fall into, but you also have to listen and be like: “Every single person doesn’t like this.”

RPS: Any examples of that?

Goldfarb: The most vocal objection was about and the way that the hosting was at the time. And although we had a plan to deal with it, we couldn’t go out and tell people we had this specific plan because we wanted to see how things worked. We had to go: “We have the solution, but we’re not ready to deploy it.”

RPS: Was the problem how people discovered games?

Goldfarb: There were several problems. There were problems that had to do with how we set-up our refreshing of the pool, which we patched to fix. There were problems like conceptually with how we expected things to work and how they worked in reality. If we wanted people to be able to host their games, we didn’t want to turn it into just a server browser. It had to fit the fiction of the world and the idea that we had for down the line, which was that it was sort of this biography of stuff that you could interact with. So we didn’t want to, as much as people wanted, we didn’t react and put a server browser in there because people want it. We know, but we had to sort of be thoughtful about the right way to do it. And it can be very difficult because people want what they want.

RPS: Do you think that you’ve fixed that? One of the things I found when I had to review it was that I didn’t find the server browser particularly intuitive at all.

Goldfarb: I don’t think it was intuitive. I would agree. It’s been fixed to some extent, in that we’ve added filters for people, which was a big thing so you could actually filter for jobs and filter by difficulty and so forth. And that took away a good quantity of objection. And then we added the premium contracts, so now it costs a certain amount of money from out of your offshore account to host games [Craig’s note: in-game cash], so that was something that’s part of something bigger, but that was the first step. We’re trying to use that money for all these other things that we’re going to be adding. So I think it’s better now. I’m not going to go out and say it’s perfect, but the furore has died, and we’ve had positive feedback to those changes. I think, generally speaking, we’re going in the right direction. It’s always a scary thing to roll those things out and think: “I hope they don’t burn down the house.”

RPS: So, just thinking about the game as a whole and where you can go with it, did you ever think about letting players play as the police? Or is that too Left 4 Dead?

Goldfarb: We’ve talked about it, and I’m sure we’ll continue to talk about it. The one thing, without going into too much detail, is we made a lot of decisions on this game that were ambitious and risky, and one of the reasons that we were able to get it out on time and make it generally a good game is that we didn’t entertain a lot of stuff that was outside of our core focus, and the core focus is not versus. The core focus is co-op. So when we revisit whatever we’re going to do for the next one maybe that’ll change. When you make a versus game it puts you in a different place, and then your attention is kind of split. And having been on the Battlefield side of things, and we’re doing SP and co-op, and multiplayer and they all kind of suffer in their own ways. It was good that we kept our focus and enabled us to finish this game. Now I’m not going say we would never consider it, but that’s what we did on this one.

RPS: Speaking of Left 4 Dead: how did the crossover happen?

Goldfarb: I can’t say. The story I heard is that the guys met at GDC.

RPS: Was there drinking involved?

Goldfarb: I would guess. But they hit it off, and they were like “Hey, why don’t we do a crossover?” and I think they was a mutual agreement. And we just sort of did the Mercy Hospital stuff and Valve was super cool about it. And we will, I’m sure, we will be dong another thing, but I can’t say what that is. Yet.

RPS: Speaking of Valve, they have the Steam Community now. I don’t think Payday 2 has any mod tools or level editors.

Goldfarb: Not currently.

RPS: I was going to ask about why and how and…

Goldfarb: We will, I hope. We’ll first, I think, release something for Workshop so people can release masks and stuff. But our timeline for that is uncertain because we have not that many people. So we’re trying to kind of do that and hopefully down the line we can do stuff where we can maybe trade stuff and do economy stuff. That’s definitely stuff that we think that’s important and we really want to do, we’re still in an all-hands-on-deck phase.

RPS: Would that include level-creation?

Goldfarb: I can’t say about the level editor. We haven’t really talked about releasing level-editing tools. I can’t say about that, mostly because it’s a proprietary engine and we’d have to do a bunch of stuff that maybe we don’t want to do, but I think in general we’re considering all those things, but I just can’t tell you which way because I don’t actually know what we’re going to determine. We’re definitely thinking about trading and making stuff for the game.

RPS: Thanks for your time.


  1. Gap Gen says:



  2. Drake Sigar says:

    Payday 2, otherwise known as the game I should’ve bought instead of Rome II.

    • WinTurkey says:

      As someone who preordered both, want to know the difference between Payday 2 and Rome 2?

      Creative Assembly didn’t outright lie about the amount of content in the game on release.

      RPS, the next time you do an interview with someone from Overkill, please make sure to ask if promising 22 heists and having 12 on release (with almost half using the same level assets) was a strategy that paid off.

      • Gap Gen says:

        Both games feature you getting some friends and trying to take as much of other people’s stuff as possible while not being killed.

      • Chickenfeed says:

        “Almost half using the same level assets” is abit extreme, but the first time I reached Firestarter day 3 was a huge kick in the face.

        • SIDD says:

          It may be a bit extreme but it’s pretty damn close.
          I think they’ve gotten away a bit too easily with especially the bank heists…if you’re going to have 4 heists that’s almost the same (bank – firestarter, bank – gold, bank – money, bank – deposit box) then at least create two different banks to mix it up a little.
          Hell! Go for the low hanging fruit and reuse the First National Bank map from Payday 1; it was and still is an excellent map … and while you’re at it, Overkill, import the other maps as well. Most of them are plenty replayable!
          The Ukranian Job would be excellent if it at times would require you to run as “Diamond Heist” .. again, low hanging fruit ripe for the picking.

          • darkChozo says:

            Bringing back First National would probably work better as an independent map, if anything; the scope’s a bit different from the PD2 Bank Heist, plus I think it would be difficult to rework the map for a stealthy approach (not strictly necessary but would be nice). It would definitely be good to have a second bank location, though, even if it were just a significant reorganization of the current map or something.

            As for the map variety, I think that’s worsened a bit by the fact that a fair number of the maps are either parts of significantly-lesser-played heists (*coughBigOilcough*) or escape maps that never seem to roll (seriously, why are 80% of escapes either Park or Cafe?).

            Also you forgot Bank Heist: MYSTERY VAULT.

          • SIDD says:

            darkChozo wrote:
            “Bringing back First National would probably work better as an independent map,”

            Agreed … although I think it would be more suitable for the final level of Firestarter … after all, not that many banks would be able or willing to handle $100 mio. in cash.

            “Also you forgot Bank Heist: MYSTERY VAULT.” .. Huh? Enlighten me, please

          • darkChozo says:

            The Bank Heist pro job where you don’t know what the contents of the vault are. Basically boils down to Bank Heist: gold/deposit/cash, but still is kinda sorta a separate heist.

          • stupid_mcgee says:

            I wish they had re-used some of the content from Payday1, too. Especially FNB. But if you think people wouldn’t throw a temper tantrum about re-using content, too, then you’re crazy. “They re-used assets!? What a ripoff! Where’s my 85-bajillion 20-day heists!?”

            Goldfarb never said that they were going to have 30+ missions on release. He said that they had been making a bunch of missions, but he never said that they would all be available at release or even that they had all been greenlighted for final content. People have been taking various statements about the game’s ongoing feature-sets and development way, way, way out of context. People are also clinging to the “where’s my promised safehouse customization!?” line. Except it was never promised to be in the game at launch. They said it was something they are working on. They were upfront about this.

            I can understand the feeling of being underwhelmed, but there is already a lot of content for a $30 game and the game is a huge step up from Payday 1 in every regard. Of course, the forums are still teeming with idiots chirping about how “easy” it would have been to make PD2 as DLC for PD1, all coming from those with onerous amounts of game development experience, no doubt.

            I’m not saying that people who felt cheated or had their expectations let down are entirely wrong in their outrage, but I do think a lot of it is being blown a bit out of proportion.

            -edit- The nondescript, randomized Pro Bank’s loot is, AFAIK, worth more than the regular Gold, Cash, Deposit mission’s loot.

          • darkChozo says:

            Because this is the second time I’ve been tempted to post about it today, here’s a recent relevant post from one of Riot’s lead designers on misinterpreted “promises”. (Disclaimer: I haven’t followed PD2’s development at all, so I can’t judge any complaints on anything resembling a legitimate basis. Just thought it was interesting.)

          • stupid_mcgee says:

            Good link darkChozo, and it really does hit the nail on the head.

            Not to derail too much, but I had quite a split view on the Phil Fish fallout. Partly, that he invited a lot of the vitriol on himself, and the other part was that Marcus Beer is the horrific ideal of the fart-huffing and inanely pious gamer crowd that has become far too commonplace. Interestingly, though, is that both parties severely suffered from a syndrome of, “I’m edgy because I act like an asshole!” Which isn’t true. You’re an asshole because you act like asshole. But both parties exemplified the typically emotionally stunted and horribly immature gamer stereotype.

            Statistics say that most gamers are in their late 20’s and early 30’s, and that may be true, but age does not equal maturity and I’m starting to think that, while gaming may be mostly guys in their late 20’s and 30’s, many of those same guys are suffering from severe arrested development and, mentally and emotionally, still have not left their childhood schoolyards.

          • zin33 says:

            @stupid_mcgee i hope youre not serious when you say “the game is a huge step up from Payday 1 in every regard.”?
            this game feels made for the casual crowd that cant stand to lose and have very short attention spans
            seriously, theres nothing HARD in the game, you actually need to have imagination as even trying the heists as a level 1 on overkill will still be easy
            weve spent ages me and my buddy to try to beat heat street 145+. it took us months of re thinking and trying different stuff, and when we finally did it it was epic. theres NOTHING in payday 2 that comes even close to that. all the levels are stupidly easy and the whole focus of the game came from hardcore action game to casual RPG shit
            i guess you might be one of those guys that feels happy with himself as long as hes not losing? because you actually have to try to lose in this game. it was a borefest and a huge letdown. something that was going to keep us busy for months was done in a week
            seriously what do you after you beat everything? you keep playing to “level up”? level up for what if you have already beat everything? but i guess the “level up” systems are another “feature” that keeps the casuals playing. because every game i see online is people just trying to get everything done asap so that they can level up (the question remains of why bother leveling up when theres nothing to do at high level)

      • DarksDaemon says:

        Also don’t forget that if anyone points the lack of promised content Overkill deny it until you post proof and then are perma-banned from the game.

        • stupid_mcgee says:

          Bullshit. No one has been banned from the forums, let alone the actual game, just for voicing complaints about the game. Furthermore, the only way OVERKILL can ban you from the game is if you get flagged for hacking/cheating from someone directly reporting you. There is no anti-cheat.

          People have been banned from the FORUMS for being rude (throwing around personal insults) and being disruptive (spamming, being overly hostile and trolling, etc), but no one has been banned from the game. Stop spreading FUD.

      • Discopanda says:

        As a person who has played Rome 2 for many hours now, I can tell you that while CA might not have lied about the features they have in the game, a whole lot of these features are incomplete, non-functional, or largely irrelevant.

      • mouton says:

        Why did you preorder anyway? Why are you doing it to us? Why?

  3. Atrocious says:

    Now that they are content with the stability, can they maybe fix the stability instead of adding content?

    Sorry for the bad pun. The game still has horrible connection issues. Especially in the evenings and especially when trying to play with friends. We get a lot of connection losses and sometimes are unable to (re-)join the game. This ruins the whole concept of co-op with friends and is extremely annoying when trying to stealth a mission: One guy drops out while he is in sight of a guard. The whole heist is busted.

  4. Metalfish says:

    Payday 2 can feel rather light on content in some ways, but what is there is very, very good. I haven’t felt so positive about the potential for a game since minecraft. The attitude of the devs is pretty refreshing too; polite and pragmatic, even if, shock, they come across as human and fallible in the face of the torrents of text on the steam forums.

  5. JFS says:

    The man looks like Josh Sawyer’s older brother.

  6. zoog85 says:

    I want them to fix the connection issues. Been playing for weeks and suddenly after one update cannot play any more. Usual fixes don’t work either. I’m a sad monkey, haven’t been able to play for weeks now, and there are many others with those problems :(

  7. nrvsNRG says:

    The lack of content is why i stopped at lvl75, though i had gotten bored of the maps by lvl50; but even without the possibility of new maps/dlc I think i definately got my moneys worth and it would still be fun, even as it is, to pop in every now and then.
    Its one of my favourite games of the year actually and totally took over my spare time in the first couple of weeks it was out. Rigt now, before any new maps are released I would like to see them add hit boxes that cover arms and legs at some point (not really that big of a deal), and add more weapons and increase the frequency of weapon mod drops (sights).

    • hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

      I too got burned out at around the same time (level 80). I stopped playing for good when I saw someone who had run the numbers, and found out that leveling from 1-100, 65% of the total experience required is between levels 80-100, which is just silly. It took me about 100 hours to get to level 80, and while it’s a fun game, I’ve played all the heists to death and there’s no way I am putting in 200 more hours to finish the level grind.

  8. GameDreamer says:

    I found out collecting money makes more cop come.

    Free CD Key

  9. Yaksha says:

    Next time you should ask them if they like banning people randomly for asking in a polite manner to fix a bug. They throw around Churchill quotes like candy but if you confront them they turn into a communist dictator and without proof or explanation you will get banned.

    And the fact that they outright lied on promised release content, might be from working at EA too long.

    • stupid_mcgee says:

      Strange. The only people I’ve seen banned from the forums are people going out of their way to call the developers names, insult them, act like spoiled caustic brats they truly are, and then put on a sad, pouting face when they finally get banned for being atrocious asstards. Even then, they’re only temporarily banned from the Payday 2 forums, not the game and not the entire Steam Community forums.

      • BruceFnLee says:

        Read developer twitter feeds. They believe that the entire payday 2 community thinks their game is awesome and that we’re all super grateful for them slowly finishing an unfinished game.

        Payday 2 devs are rather dishonest overall IMO

        I’m disappointed in RPS for posting such a weak interview that lacks any hard hitting questions that us pc gamers want answered.

  10. jonahcutter says:

    I’ve been really disappointed in Payday 2.

    The sense of epic, balls-to-the-wall fun from the first game is gone. Replaced by labored rpg-elements, short and uninspired levels that offer “choice” but are generally just min/maxed by players anyway, big weapon balance issues, the truly annoying crimenet interface, and a large lack of promised content.

    There was a very light player advancement element in the first game. But it was peripheral and didn’t take the focus away from the core of the game: The rush of the heist-gone-bad trope. Now every approach and player-build is so min/maxed it either runs like clockwork (boring after one play) or players tend to just boot/restart if things go wrong or you have a build they don’t like. As well, a lot of players play to grind xp and weapon-mod drops, not because they are having fun running the heists themselves. This creates huge strife within the community.

    And they ought to be ashamed of themselves for recycling maps and calling them new missions.

    Overkill themselves seem to have lost the great player-orientated approach they had during the first game. They don’t seem the same since being bought by Starbreeze.

  11. zin33 says:

    as a fan of payday 1 i hated payday 2
    after only 10-15 hours of playing the game we literally beat everything there was to beat on overkill and we werent even level 20
    the difficulty which was a huge focus on payday 1 is non existent here and so we finished the game in less than a week. payday 1 took us like a year and a half (2 manning heat street on 145+ wasnt easy)
    whats sad is that despite this game being so casual and dumbed down it was way more successful than the first
    i guess it is true that successful stuff is usually bad

  12. abbieray says:

    my neighbor’s step-mother makes $85/hr on the internet. S
    he has been laid off for 6 months but last month her check was $20804 just
    working on the internet for a few hours. he said ……………link to

  13. BruceFnLee says:

    Guys, this was a really weak interview.

    There are many serious questions that need to be asked and I didn’t see any of them asked, such as:

    Why does the game not match up to advertisements and promotions? Why were we mislead? Where is the safehouse customization that Bain talks about in the game itself? Why are the maps even smaller than payday 1 maps? Why was the game released unfinished?