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Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena

Starbreeze and Tigon on their stealth remake

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So it just wasn't a possibility to do that. You couldn't do it without making a serious effort, and we figured if we're going to make a serious effort why don't we make the whole thing better?

The first game was really well received critically, but perhaps didn't do so well sales-wise. Is Athena going to do better?

Gustafsson: Obviously we are hoping for that. That's one of the reasons we are here I think (laughs).

Stevens (Tigon): The landscape has changed a little bit for us. Pre-orders for Riddick were the hardest I've ever had to deal with. Because nobody cared about Vin Diesel, nobody thought a game attached to a movie - that didn't really have any buzz surrounding it anyway - was really going to be that good.

It wasn't until the game got out there and was reviewed that people came back around to it. So we sold purely on word of mouth.

Zoom

So we kind of have that out there now and Starbreeze has gone and done another game that's been really well received. So I think that gamers genuinely are going to give us a better shot this time around.

Gustafsson: Yeah. I also think when the PC version came out it sold pretty well for us. We're proud that at the time the torrent was the most downloaded one (laughs). People like the game!

Matthies: As developers we can only make the best game that we can make with our time and resources. Whether or not that sells or not is really beyond our control. Obviously we'll take great sales if we get them, but at the same time that's not why we're making games.

Do you think the franchise held back sales of the first game?

Stevens: No. I'll be very honest; we had a really tough time at Vivendi that year. There were two big licensed properties that we were doing; there was Escape from Butcher Bay and there was Van Helsing. They really thought Van Helsing was going to be huge because they had done Mummy Returns and that was big, it had got Hugh Jackman... and they really put all their eggs in that basket.

We got next to no marketing - it was really a failure on the company's part. I think this time around Atari knows what it's got and the push from them has already been quite significant. We don't have a film with us this time around so that'll be interesting but... I don't know if that hurt us the last time around.

Since you've joined Atari where have you focused your extra development time? Are you still on schedule?

Gustafsson: Yeah, we are. Obviously we were supposed to release a bit earlier, but now we've got the chance to polish the game even more. So it's all good for us. On a developer side it's been amazing.

Stevens: The merger's been fantastic. It's very rare that people feed you money and wave you away because they've got something else that they need to do. And for us it's heads down and focusing on making this game as good as it can be. The consensus already in our hallway is that this is the most polished game we've ever released.

Were there any particular areas you focused on when it came to polish?

Gustafsson: You want to improve everything! For Butcher Bay we went back to improve some of the things that people were frustrated about in the old game. We did that really late as well.

Stevens: We continued to focus on multiplayer as well, which is always something you want time to deal with because the balance is so difficult.

We've been really fortunate with this game because moving forward from The Darkness we had multiplayer with Riddick running in the first couple of months of development. We've had a couple of years at this point to work out what works and what doesn't, so a couple of more months to work on that... awesome. It's going to benefit everybody.

How involved has Vin Diesel been in development?

Stevens: He's an emphatic gamer and his career started by his own boot straps writing and producing short films. It was Spielberg that saw a couple of those and gave him his spot in Saving Private Ryan.

His career has come from that personal passion about certain things. His love of gaming was the genesis of Tigon and he wanted to get past this problem where movie games are always bad and actually try to get the movie directors and the game developers in the same room, to figure out how we can intelligently develop these characters and stories.

The guy has got like 18 level 80s that he has played all the way through himself. In his spare time at the weekend he's phoning people up to play Tekken... he's a bit of a nerd (laughs).

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