The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena
- Diesel Powered
"Vin Diesel was a lot more hands on when we did Butcher Bay, in terms of project reviews, the direction we were heading in and so on. His company, Tigon Studios, is headed up by Ian Stephens, who's a former Starbreeze employee, so we have really good connections there. He was actually part of this project before he started with Tigon, so he's got very good insight into where we are heading and everything.
"So, Vin knows that we know the framework, but he has his favourite writers who have helped to refine the dialogue and make some final touches on the script. Vin has been involved all through the project, even though we communicate straight through Ian.
"This time out, Vin hasn't done the motion-capture work or things like that, as we used a stunt actor for this, but he has of course done the voice recording."
- Sequel-It Is
"Making a direct sequel to Escape From Butcher Bay was definitely on the table to start off with. When we started off this project, we had some discussions on where we should go with this one and there was a question, a concept about making a sequel type of game. This would almost certainly have been different from Dark Athena, though that doesn't mean it would have become a better game, of course.
The first direction we were given was to make more out of Butcher Bay and then add some content, and this is what became the embryo for Dark Athena."
- Cutting Room Floor
"There were lots of things in the sequel design that didn't make it into Dark Athena, but then again they're two completely different games. One of the ideas was to have jetpacks that you fly around in and stuff like that. During the course of making a game, there's always lots of stuff that doesn't make it, that would take a lot of work but wouldn't provide the value that we needed, so you do a lot of cutting. But yeah, the jetpack was one thing we came close to putting into Dark Athena. We had a good concept for them, actually were supposed to fly around in first-person view cmd see your handles, steering them in first person. It would have been awesome, we think."
- Planetside Problems
"The planet parts were the second extension of the game, and we've realised there are some things we would have liked to improve, like adding a hub, where you could meet and talk to some civilians, do some side missions and fighting there. There wasn't really time to do that, but I still think the planet bits were really fun. We believe that, when you release a game, you have at least 300-400 items you want to fix in the game.
"It's a bit different from the ship parts, so it feels like a second act, but yeah, we could have done a lot more there. After you get the SCARR gun we probably should have had more elements of stealth, but, well, lesson learned and all that. Having said this, I wouldn't say we were dissatisfied with the planet, as there are a lot of interesting moments there."
- Action Hero
"The way we set up the Dark Athena project was that maybe it would be a short expansion, three to four hours to expand the gameplay. Originally, we were looking to focus more on the action segment, but as we proceeded to make the game, we realised, yeah, the stealth element was a bit lacking in some ways, so we added two levels where we focused more on exploration and stealth.
"One of them is the first level on the planet, where you use the stealthy approach far more, before moving onto the action later. So yeah, it was a bit of a conscious decision there. We decided that we wanted more action, but, that being said, the planet also grew in size. It started out being three levels, but it grew to seven levels in the end."
- Scarr Tissue
"The SCARR gun, actually, has a lot of tactical elements to it that most players will miss out on, because people tend to use it only because it has unlimited ammo and everything. The thing is, it's a weapon that gives the player a huge disadvantage in most firefights, so you should switch to hand-to-hand weapons if you get to close range, for example. I think most people will find it annoying because they die because they're not changing weapons, but if you use it tactically, it is going to be a lot different. We did a lot of testing with that and the spider drones.
"We think they are going to be one of those things that people vary in their reaction to them, but the reason they are there on the planet is to force players to sneak around a bit, to be more careful. You have to be a bit more tactical, which replaces the stealth element."
- Killing Fields
"We've a few variations of killing animation in there. With all the weapons included, there are probably 40 or 50 different finishing and counter-moves. Probably closer to 80 if you do all the animations for all the different weapons. I can't recall how many we scrapped, but there were probably a few that we just couldn't get to work, so let's say we cut 10 to 15 of them. But yeah, the bulk of them are in the game. My favourite one is probably where you have the Ulaks, and you totally go berserk, stabbing and stabbing for like two or three seconds. That one is gruesome, but initially we had a problem with that animation being so long, so we had to pause the AI while you do it, so you don't get killed while stuck in a stabbing frenzy. Hie hairpin through the eye is also a pretty nasty one.
"The Ulaks are the signature weapons for Riddick so they were always going to be the ones players used the most, but there are definite tactical advantages with the other weapons in certain situations. The animations are a different speed and also you can do more damage with the club, which is useful against harder opponents like Iron Lord. The knife is also very good against him too, using the hit-and-run strategy - get in close, stab him then back off."
- Back To The Bay
"Butcher Bay, back in 2004, was one of the best-looking games around, and we were very pleased to get lots of positive comments from critics and fans. But when you remember a game from five or six years ago you idolise it and see it through rose-tinted spectacles. If you go back today, it doesn't look good. A couple of years have gone by and even though it was a good-looking game then, now it doesn't really match up. So, we've gone through all the textures, improving their resolution, reworking floors and everything to make them more visually appealing, and we've worked on the audio.
"If you look at the games side-by-side, there are clear improvements. Veterans of the game will instantly notice it's a lot better. We've had five years of engine, AI, gameplay and finishing moves improvements, all of which have been incorporated into Butcher Bay. We've also fixed a few quirks noticed by the community, like it was very hard to find your way through the mines, so we did some restructuring with the level design to fix that, plus fixing some problems with a few quests."
- Character Study
"Personally, I loved Exbob and his animations. The guy who played him had a lot of freedom to do his interpretation of a crazy madman, so most of the dialogue is basically from him. He just stood there for a couple of hours coming up with these crazy movements, it is so hilarious to watch him do that when you see the reference movies we have internally. I think he came out really well in the game as well. As for the major characters, I'd probably stick with Dacher. Of course, Lance Henriksen is brilliant - he gave such a good performance - and Jaylor as well, he's really good. Senate is an interesting character too, the guy doing that was actually in Butcher Bay as well, if I'm not mistaken. He's a classically-trained actor with a Shakespearean background."
- Best Of The Best
"I liked the variation, although yeah, I loved the cell decks. The performances we got from the actors was great. I also liked the introduction of the first Alpha drone, when he comes out of the bazaar, when he comes crushing out the door.
"The first all-out action level is good, and the level where you start on the drone track and you drop down in darkness, before taking out some doctors, fighting the Revas-controlled drones and then the mech. It is a hard one, but I liked it, has a lot of variation. It'll take a while for most players to figure out what to do, but we tried it in testing and, of course, people died there, but we think it works like that."
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