We recently had the opportunity to do a one-on-one phone interview with Vin Diesel, the star of the upcoming The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena. If his role in this remake-turned-expansion of the 2004 critical hit The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay doesn't ring a bell, then surely his work in movies like Saving Private Ryan, Iron Giant, and The Fast and the Furious does. As an avid gamer, Diesel even created his own development company called Tigon Studios in 2002 to help work with the developers and publishers of games bearing his likeness. (Tigon is currently working alongside Swedish developer Starbreeze, the studio responsible for the bulk of the work on both Riddick games.) Here's what he had to say about his role with Tigon, what it's been like working on this remake, and if there's any chance he'll be popping and locking in a video game any time soon.
GameSpot: A lot of people know that you founded Tigon Studios, but they're probably not too sure with what you do with them on a day-to-day basis. Can you explain your relationship with Tigon?
Vin Diesel: I created Tigon as a game developing company, as a publishing company, that could exploit my access into the film world--my position in Hollywood. The objective for creating Tigon was to be able to create video games that set off the core intentions and designs of the films. Meaning, some of the games that were adapted to movies until that point were licensed off to game companies and there was never any kind of relationship between the game company and the film company making the movie. And in my estimation it made for poor games. My objective was to open up the door to the director of the movie, to the actors in the movie, to writers involved in the film, and try to make a video game that is so true to the movie experience that it could ultimately enhance the movie experience.
I really created the video game company as a way to take all of these resources that were provided for me in making the movie and make them available for creating the video game. That was basically the objective. To create video games that had that sort of cinematic attention. So, it's fascinating when you ever hear an in-house Tigon production meeting... it's not unlike a film production meeting. We'll bring in cinematographers just to talk about camera angles, and constantly push the envelope in giving you that experience like you're in a movie and get to decide what happens in the next second. It was kind of a harmonious thing--harmonious marriage between my involvement in movies and my involvement in film. I think we've been successful in creating games that enhance the movie experience, or enhance your appreciation for the IP.
GS: How has your experience changed working on Dark Athena compared to Butcher Bay? Obviously things are going to be different now that you've got a few games under your belt, but you've also got that confidence knowing the first game was so well received by critics.
VD: One of the big things that I felt really ambitious about--and I can remember being at Starbreeze a couple years ago and talking about this early on, and at first people kind of looked at me sideways when I said, "We gotta get multiplayer. We gotta get the multiplayer component here." Because this game is too rich to only be able to experience it by yourself. You want to be able to apply your expertise in a competitive situation. So the multiplayer online aspect of it was very, very import. Very ambitious, I think, for first-person shooter games to try and accomplish--especially when your first-person shooter game is so heavy in melee hand-to-hand combat like Butcher Bay is and Dark Athena is. So for me the big coup, the big victory on this is the fact that you essentially beat the s*** out of your friend in another country online... as Riddick [laughs].
GS: That's always appealing!
VD: Yeah, that's pretty damn cool. The idea that you can play--all the work that you put into becoming a master in this game you can apply in a competitive sense with your best friend who's also doing the same thing.
GS: The current state of a third movie in the Riddick series seems a little uncertain to the casual fan right now. How does that affect the writing and story explored in the new Dark Athena content? Does it sort of give you guys more room to explore this fiction, or does that change anything about how you've approached this game?
VD: Good question. Maybe we're too tight-lipped about the next Chronicles of Riddick film, and I think circa the release of [Dark Athena] that's probably when you'll start hearing more about the next Riddick film. It is underway and I almost think it's a coincidence that we haven't heard anything, that there hasn't been a lot of public stuff on the Riddick movie.
GS: So it hasn't affected the way you've explored the story in Dark Athena at all, or at least the writing team on the game?
VD: No, one of the important things we did early on in the process was really, really, really try to get every developer, every person working, every graphics designer working on this game to understand the mythology of the film and the IP as a whole. So there were bibles being created that talked about what can exist in this universe and what can't exist in this universe. So I'm actually proud about the fact that everyone is a Chronicles of Riddick expert on the game side. I think that adds something special to the game, and it definitely alleviates any concerns about where the story goes in the game. Because I feel like they've all committed so much to the franchise that everything they do only enhances the universe.
But it's interesting that you've made that comment. Maybe we've been too tight-lipped about the movie, and you'll probably hear a lot more about it as this game is released. I think we were so adamant about knocking this game out of the park that we've been doing a lot of late hours--the overtime's on the game at the moment while [Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick screenwriter] David Twohy is finishing up the next script.
GS: So now that we've seen a few games based on your work as an actor, Vin, could we possibly see any games based on your early days as a breakdancer?
VD: [Laughs] That's a good one, I should do one!
GS: I would like to see it.
VD: What was the other dance game? [Unnamed Diesel associate shouts, "Dance Dance Revolution!"] That's a good one! You know, Shaun, that's not a bad idea. And I'll tell you what, if I ever do--that's actually a really damn good idea now that I'm thinking about it--if I ever do my breakdancing in the streets of New York making money for some French fries and chocolate shakes and McDonald's, running from the police, working in subways, the whole nine yards... there could be a really fun game there. I mean, Tony Hawk did it! Let me think about that! Don't come after me if you see it on the show.
GS: We would love to cover it on our website, Vin.
VD: You got it. Believe me, I'm gonna give it thought. Good idea, you might have just created the next IP.
GS: My pleasure. Thanks a lot.