Sunset Overdrive has two very interesting toggles inside the settings menu. One will turn off the profanity, or at least beep out the “bad” words, while the other will tone down the title's gore.
It’s an interesting combination of options for a game that tends to feel more slapstick than violent.
"The gore filter came about earlier than the profanity filter. It is something that is built into the DNA of Insomniac," Marcus Smith, the creative director of the game, told Polygon.
What's interesting is that the systems for isolating gore and violence already existed in the game. This habit began when Insomniac published games in different regions, and found the ratings systems could vary wildly.
Games in the Resistance series, for instance, may have a different rating in the US and Europe than it did in Japan. The game showed certain levels of gore in one region, and those settings would be changed for another region, depending on the rating of the game and the area's cultural expectations.
The ratings systems could vary wildly
"We’ve had this system built in where we could do things like remove all the blood or remove blood particle effects and things like that," Smith explained. "We had that already and rolled into it. We weren’t pushed into it by any stretch of the imagination. It’s something we had to do out of necessity in the earlier games. We decided to just go with it."
The game was never gory to begin with, and this wouldn’t change the ESRB rating of "Mature," so there were a few judgment calls. The gooey energy drink that explodes out of the game’s enemies was kept even if the toggle is turned on, as it’s more silly than disturbing, but the blood from human enemies was removed.
Explosive weapons would also no longer cause human enemies to blow into piece with the gore filter engaged. A scene where a character is beheaded couldn't easily be changed, so they simply placed a "sticker" over the worst part of the image on the screen.
The language filter was an issue
The larger problem was the profanity filter, which "beeped" out curse words in the game.
"We had the UI for being able to enable the filter, but when we did the localized languages, the people who did the localization, they knew that we were a mature title, and they decided to kind of … we gave them the freedom to translate however they wanted to, but they put in some additional naughty words that we didn’t catch until it was pretty late," Jon Paquette, the game’s head writer, said.
There were other issues. What if a sign in the game’s world included profanity? In some cases they had to create or adjust the in-game assets. There were also many judgment calls: Is "ass" a naughty word? These words also had to be removed from the subtitles. The profanity filter, oddly enough, was much more work than the gore filter.
Polygon was told these filters will likely find their way into future Insomnaic games, with a little extra planning put in place during the beginning of production to avoid the rough patches that were found while implementing the toggles in Sunset Overdrive.
The game still isn’t exactly the perfect choice for younger kids — and these toggles don't impact the ESRB rating — but this may help parents feel a bit more comfortable playing the game with children in the room.
"I couldn’t in my parental guidance book advise anyone playing the game with a small child," Smith said, "but with the profanity and the gore filter I feel better about letting her see the game, at least."