Escape from Butcher Bay was a pseudo movie tie in game that a lot of people figured was going to suck. The movie wasn’t very good but the game turned out to be a very solid stealth game that a lot of people enjoyed. Next week the game is being re-released along with a second game that fleshes out more of the Riddick universe.
Can you introduce yourself and talk about your role on the project? How did you get into the games industry?
My name is Ian Stevens and I’m the Head of Game Production at Tigon Studios, formerly Lead Designer at Starbreeze. Like many other Designers and Producers, I got into the industry as a tester. My first project was Hexen 2 :)
What was the impetus behind the decision to make it a first-person stealth game, as opposed to the more common third person viewpoint? What kinds of challenges does this represent in game play design?
Initially Escape from Butcher Bay was a 3rd person game. But we were interested in breaking convention and so based on some early tests to see how the game might play in First-Person, we eventually decided to go down that road. It was hugely challenging, especially because we wanted to retain the player character (Riddick) instead of the floating head design that was common for shooters up to that point. So we didn’t make it easy on ourselves by any means – but the payoff was that much more spectacular as a result.
The original game was well received, what do you think made the game so special and how did you go about expanding on those things?
We were doing so much within Escape from Butcher Bay and bending so many different genre elements. At least for me, what wound up making that game so special is just how successful we were in doing that, which isn’t the kind of thing you list on the back of a box as a feature, but it was really the combination and the execution of all those different gameplay elements that made EfBB work.
With Assault on Dark Athena we’re moving that focus forward and looking to blend even more variation in gameplay just as seamlessly.
Was there any concern during the time between Activision Blizzard dropping the project and Atari picking up the publishing rights? Did that decision surprise you at all? What reasoning did Activision/Blizzard give for passing on the publishing rights?
Well, we knew we had a special game, but you never want something like that to happen. I’ve spent many years at Activision and know the management team there pretty well, so we could anticipate what was going to happen to some degree, but it really was out of our hands. So as that was taking place we really just kept out confidence in the game’s quality and continued to concentrate on making the best game we could while finding a new home for it.
We've seen a few interviews about how the original game has been revamped and tweaked, can you provide us with a specific example of a change you made to the first game that fixes something that was bothering you?
It will be a LOT harder to get lost in the mines now – that’s an immediate and relevant example. Anything that we tweaked in remaking the game is based larely on community feedback, so it should all hit a positive nerve. And then of course everything that we’ve done to enhance the original gameplay mechanics for Assault on Dark Athena, are retroactively a part of the remake as well. This means better AI, better First-Person Fighting, enhancements to Stealth, etc.
Why include the first game on the disc as opposed to a double-sized new game? Will the games tie together seamlessly or will there be a noticeable jump when you go from the first game to the second? Compared to the original game, how much new content is in Assault on Dark Athena?
Remaking Escape from Butcher Bay was important to us for several reasons, but mainly due to the fact that it couldn’t be backwards compatible on the 360, and also that there’s an entire PlayStation audience that hasn’t experienced it. As far as sacrificing one for the other, always remember this – quantity does not equal quality. The notion of having Assault on Dark Athena be twice as long would not intrinsically make it a better game, so we just don’t approach it that way. In terms of transition, when you finish Escape from Butcher Bay, you’ll then get sent back to the menu, and from there you can start Assault on Dark Athena, which is a brand new fully-featured game that’s just as big as the original, and tells a new story in the Riddick universe.
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