Rockstar Research: The Rarefied High Life in Max Payne 3's São Paulo Metropolis
A life of despondency and hopelessness in New York City is left behind by Max for the promise of a fresh start, a new opportunity and a brighter future in one of the world’s most burgeoning foreign markets – São Paulo, Brazil. A chance encounter with an old colleague, Raul Passos, leads to a job offer working personal security for a wealthy South American family – The Brancos – and Max follows a lead traveled by many businessmen and investors over the past decade-plus to the South American powerhouse city that twenty or more billionaires call home.
Today’s installment in our continuing series looking at the research, information and production that went into the making of Max Payne 3 examines the posh life of São Paulo – a city with wealth and power rivaled only by global metropolises of the highest order.
In a series of trips to São Paulo throughout the making of the game, Rockstar developers and Research team members studied the highs and lows of city life to help inform the characters, storyline and situations that befall Max with utmost authenticity. As Max is recruited to work for the rich and powerful Brancos, we needed to make sure the touchstones of this elite and growing segment of Paulistano society was represented appropriately and vividly. São Paulo has directly benefited from some of Brazilian president Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva's progressive economic policies over the past decade, with so much money now floating around (São Paulo alone represents over 12% of the entire country’s GDP), the city’s name has become somewhat synonymous with prestige and power - Brazilian TV even capitalizing on a Real-Housewives-style reality show starring four women from São Paulo. And for 2012, Forbes named São Paulo the top global city for investors after New York, London and Washington DC, in that order.
There are interrelated problems that plague São Paulo however, forcing wealthy residents to live cautiously and adapt. One is a persistently high crime rate (despite encouraging recent gains) deterring many from feeling too free to stroll the streets in certain areas of the city. Reminders of this are a part of daily life in the city, as more than one cabbie informed us that the fear of carjacking leads many drivers to treat red lights more like stop signs after midnight – and the conspicuous presence of extra beefed-up security is a common sight at entry points to virtually all prestigious points-of-interest from hotels to nightclubs to high-end shops.
The other is the notorious traffic that chokes the city at street level – with traffic jams that can extend for well over 100 miles, and where a five-mile drive can take an hour or two. And sometimes the two problems combine with dangerous consequences – the threat of armed, motorbike-riding thieves and kidnappers weaving in and out of traffic (which has inspired not only a spike in bulletproof windows but a proposed law banning moto-passengers) helped fuel the need for an alternative fast and safe means of short-distance transportation for rich Paulistanos. As a result, the elite take to the skies with helicopters – a trend that’s given São Paulo the distinction of having more helicopters than any other city in the world, and has dotted the city’s skyscraper rooftops with helipads galore.
Snapped during an aerial tour of the city and surrounding areas taken by Max Payne 3 developers, helipads are a common sight dotting the tops of city skyscrapers.
Max and helicopter pilot Passos take to the São Paulo skies in Max Payne 3.
That's just part of a way of life for Paulistano elites that you’ll see come into play in the game as Max works armed private security for the Brancos alongside Passos, who also serves as their personal helicopter pilot. Whether helping family patriarch and industrialist Rodrigo Branco make it to his day-to-day appointments on time by eliminating the variable of street traffic – or for when socialite trophy wife, Fabiana Branco, feels the whim to spend the night drinking and dancing away at one of the city’s hottest nightspots and must arrive in style – Max and Passos are relied on to ensure safe transport by heli.
Fabiana Branco and her sister Giovanna skip the line and arrive in style via helicopter to the exclusive Club Moderno for a night of drinking and dancing, escorted by Max and Passos.
On the outskirts of town, the city’s millionaires and billionaires live in sprawling mansion estates.
Fancy VIP nightclubs like the fictionalized Club Moderno that Fabiana and her sister Giovanna attend in the game serve as nocturnal playgrounds for São Paulo’s rich – with bottle service, layout and décor inspired by continental and international nightclubs and ultra-lounges. While our firsthand research excursions to São Paulo were serious work (really!), developers did get a small taste of the city’s lavish nightlife – from finagling entry to private designer parties at Avenue Morumbi mansions to attending the exclusive rooftop lounge scene at the chic Hotel Unique – which all helped to inform the vibe of the Brancos' lifestyle. When not partying, or shopping down the upscale Avenida Paulista or Rua Oscar Freire (known as the ‘5th Avenue’ of São Paulo), the super-rich retire to swank multi-million dollar luxury condos in city areas like Jardins, Alto de Pinheiros and Cidade Jardim – or to sprawling mansions located in the suburban outskirts of São Paulo state as seen in some of the aerial photos above we snapped while surveying local views by helicopter.
Be sure to check out a related article from Joystiq that went up earlier today that contains additional images from our aerial tour and more:
Stay tuned for our next edition in the Rockstar Research series that looks into the making of the game, where we’ll reveal some of the local casting done in São Paulo to create many of the friends and foes you’ll meet in Max Payne 3…