There was a time, long before starring in the numerous installments of Fast&Furiousin what Vin Diesel he was a small-time actor whose biggest role had been a small part in Saving Private Ryan. Despite working on numerous projects, fame eluded him, until in 2000 he was offered the role that changed his life: the lead in Pitch Blacka science fiction film with a humble budget, in which he played Richard B Riddick, a criminal with eyes modified to see in the dark. The movie was a hit catapulting the actor to fame, who from then on was able to star in many more films; since Triple X to the first installment of The Fast and the Furious, or the sequel to Pitch Black, titled The Chronicles of Riddick.
Coinciding with the premiere of the latter, in mid-2004, Vivendi Games presented a video game based on that universe that in turn served as a prequel to the saga. In it, Riddick himself narrated the events immediately prior to Pitch Black, when he escaped from a maximum security prison. titled The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Baythe game was released on PC and Xbox, which was in appearance a normal First Person Shooter. However, there was nothing normal and ordinary about it. Against all odds the game was a critical success, becoming not only one of the most relevant titles of that year, but also one of the cult video games of the generation. The game seamlessly blended fast-paced action, puzzles, stealth mechanics, fistfights and even a certain dose of RPG, which was often compared to works of the stature of metal gear solid either half life.
Diesel gained some control over the development of the project, participating in both script writing and beta-testing.
Escape From Butcher Bay was much more than a film adaptation. It followed the example of titles like golden eye 007 either Spider-Man 2, which showed that a video game based on a movie could be much more than a mediocre conversion of what was seen on the big screen. Although in this case its developers decided to go a little further, as its producer Peter Wanat explained: “We had a great canvas to paint on, but how do you do it? How do you make a game like that? How do you make a character have stealth, hand-to-hand combat and use weapons? And then there’s the story (…) Well, a lot of the backstory of the character has to do with being imprisoned and escaping, so when we started the game we thought “what if we tell the story how he escaped from prison in a story before Pitch Black?” We have seen this theme a thousand times in many movies, like The Escape from Alcatraz and many more. But speaking of games, nobody had touched the subject. So that was the perfect cinematic story that we could adapt into a game that would be fun and intriguing for the player with just that premise.”
Vin Diesel’s vision
The interesting thing is that one of the main people responsible for this vision was Vin Diesel himself. The game was developed halfway between two studios: the Swedish Starbreeze Studiosresponsible years later for titles such as Darkness either Brothers A Tale of Two Sons; Y Tigon Studios, a newly founded studio by Vin Diesel himself. The director of this one, Ian Stevens, explained in Games Industry: “Vin founded the company in 2002 and he did it right when the production of the film The Chronicles of Riddick began. He did it because we were already in the middle of production on Escape from Butcher Bay, and he’s very geek and very gamer, and he didn’t want to just do the dubbing and approve of his character’s resemblance, or limit his involvement to what tends to be the typical involvement of actors who work in games. In Stevens’s own words, Diesel gained some control over the project’s development, participating in both script writing and beta-testing. The commitment was such that Vin Diesel’s dubbing sessions, which were expected to last no more than a couple of hours, were extended to twelve hours without a break. Says Wanat: “When people tell us ‘hey, the dubbing sounds great and professional,’ it’s because Vin treated it like he would if he were making a movie.”
The team had complete flexibility to work with the original material, something not very common when dealing with licenses
The title was developed in just over a year and a half. A relatively short period of time for a project of such magnitude. Although it cannot be denied that it was neither very long nor did it have a replayable factor. Because it did not have, it did not even have a multiplayer mode, despite the fact that at the time it was beginning to be considered as something imperative to succeed in the market. Moreover, despite the fact that there was an opportunity, the plans to port the video game to Playstation 2where it would undoubtedly have worked in commercial terms much better than in the system of microsoft given its installed console base. What I want to say is that the team was able to focus exclusively on the development of the game without worrying about anything else. Neither conversions to other systems nor forcefully adding a multiplayer mode. Also, the team had total flexibility to work with the original material, something not very common when dealing with film licenses, which in the words of Stevens: “the bigger the franchise, the less flexibility you have”. And it is that although Pitch Black had become a cult film, it was very far from summer blockbusters like Shrek 2 or Spider-Man 2, released that same year 2004. According to its designer, Jens Andersson, Vivendi did not attach any importance to that project based on a movie they didn’t even know, to the point that they were about to cancel it.
The success of the game was very important to Starbreeze Studios, which at the time was on the verge of bankruptcy and closing its doors. The project elevated them as one of the best studios when it came to developing a First Person Shooter, so years later they developed titles like The Darkness, an adaptation of the comic of the same name, and Syndicatea revision of the classic Bullfrog Productions. It was also for Tigon Studios, Vin Diesel’s studio, which a few years later presented The Wheelman, an extraordinary video game set in Barcelona, for which I confess I feel a special devotion, starring, of course, Vin Diesel. In fact, all the production of Tigon Studios has consisted, until now, of adaptations of the films of its founder. Both studies met again, five years later, to develop The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena; a mix between remake and sequel from Escape from Butcher’s Bay, as it retells the same story but with much more material.
The Chronicles of Riddick as a reference
Escape from Butcher’s Bay is still considered today as one of the best film adaptations in history, although in reality, strictly speaking, did not adapt any film. Its developers were very clear about what they wanted. Says Peter Wanat: “We knew we didn’t want to do a watch-the-movie-play-the-movie experience. Because a) it’s been done to the bone in this industry, b) they’re almost always boring, and c) they’re not You don’t want to play the movie, you want to do something that you couldn’t do in the movie, explore the character, or play these characters in alternate stories, or in a different set of stories, so that the player gets a unique story, not something that is a duplicate of what he saw in the movie”. Seen what has been seen, I wish more film adaptations followed guidelines as elementary as these.
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Claiming The Chronicles of Riddick, nobody bet on it and it turned out to be a video game ahead of its time and wonderful – The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena – 3dgames
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