Following our recentof The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena, the game’s lead designer (and apparent fan of brevity) Jerk Gustafsson kindly answered our questions about the upcoming stealth action title.Why did you decide to remake Escape from Butcher Bay for the current generation of consoles?We initially wanted to remake Butcher Bay because the game didn’t work with the Xbox 360’s backwards compatibility. We also really wanted the game to be available to the Playstation community. We actually had a PS2 version up and running but unfortunately it never saw the light of day.
How did Assault on Dark Athena come about? Was it your intention to build a whole new Riddick adventure from the beginning of the development process?
We began the development with the intention of remaking Butcher Bay on our current Starbreeze technology combined with a multiplayer component and a five level (three hour) extension called Dark Athena.
Did you ever doubt that the game would be released, following the Activision Vivendi merger?
No. At the time of the merger the game was pretty much done and it looked really good. During the period when the game was out on the market we just continued to polish and add to the game. Later when the Atari deal was done we even got the opportunity to add two levels to the campaign which I’m really glad about since they add a lot to the experience.
How does the story in Dark Athena fit in with the established Riddick canon? Is there any crossover?The story in Dark Athena is very true to the Riddick universe. We are also introducing the Ulaks (knives) and the mercenary enemies which both figure in the Chronicles of Riddick movie.
Why did you choose to set the majority of the game in space? What gameplay doors did that open up for you?When Riddick (and Johns) escape Butcher Bay they take off into space. From the beginning we wanted them to be captured by a space ship so the setting came pretty natural. It also works extremely well to sneak around within the environments that a space ship provides.
Can we expect to see any other environments? Will there be any Terra Firma?There will be a lot of interesting variations in environments.
A large part of Butcher Bay’s appeal was the compelling mix of close quarters stealth action and full-on gunplay. How has this evolved in Dark Athena?I would say that combining various gameplay elements has become the Starbreeze style of creating games. By blending close quarters combat, stealth and gunplay into each other we have something that is great fun to play. For Dark Athena we have tried to integrate them even more with each other. We have an enemy in the game called a Ghost Drone. These Drones have their weapons attached to their arms. When such a Drone is dead the player can pick up the body and use its gun (and at the same time use it as a human shield). This is an example of how we have integrated close quarters stealth with gunplay.
How have you improved the Starbreeze engine, last seen in The Darkness?We made it better, faster and stronger. The latest version of the Starbreeze engine is one of the most powerful game engines today. Assault on Dark Athena will definitely prove that.
There is no Riddick film to tie in with the game’s release this time around. Do you think the last film’s less-than-stellar critical reception harmed sales of Butcher Bay? No.
How have you found working with publisher Atari on this project?I’m really glad Atari decided to take up and release Dark Athena. The improvements and polishing we’ve done together since has added great value to the game. I think Atari have something really interesting going on and definitely will be a publisher to count on in the future.
Assault on Dark Athena is the first Riddick title to feature multiplayer modes. What is unique about the multiplayer options in Riddick? We have two unique multiplayer modes in the game. The first one is called Pitch Black where you will be able to play as Riddick against other players figuring as mercenaries. Like in the single player – Riddick can see in the dark. The Mercs can’t see anything unless it’s within the spotlight provided by their weapon flashlight. The player that kills Riddick will be Riddick in the next round. The other mode is called Butcher Bay Riot, a Capture the Flag variant that mixes in three teams and an economy system.