Even though it looks like there won’t be a new James Bond film for some time, 007 fans can find some solace in the two upcoming videogames starring the superspy.
We have already spoken to Bizarre Creations’ Neil Thompson, Art Director on Blood Stone(see link at the bottom), but we also had the chance to chat with Bruce Feirstein, an experienced writer who is no stranger to the series, having worked on the screenplays for GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough.
He’s penned the script for both Blood Stone and the revamped GoldenEye, so we were dying to ask him how videogames fit into the Bond franchise, how writing a game is different to a film, and how the new GoldenEye has changed in the shift from Brosnan to Craig.
You’ve pretty much worked in every form of writing, from prose to screenplays. How does writing for a videogame fit into that? Is it different?
I started as a journalist for magazines in New York City, so it was always storytelling. And moving into movies was a natural transition. I had grown up loving movies and had always wanted to write them.
At heart, in games, you’re talking about a narrative, and a narrative that involves the player over ten or twelve hours. So, once again, you’re just telling a big story. So, the form may be different, but the goal is the same.
Are you brought on quite early in the project? Do you have a lot of conceptual input, or are you tasked with tying together ideas that have been already dreamed up?
In the case of Blood Stone, the producers, EON, Michael Wilson, Barbara Broccoli, David Wilson and Gregg Wilson, had an idea for a story, and had a lot of it done. And I came in, worked with them, fleshed it out.
You work with Activision, the developer, knocking back and forth ideas. And you’re on it for the whole thing. Two weeks ago, we were still working on lines of dialogue, the multiplayer elements of the game. You build on each other’s ideas about action sequences, about locations. It’s a long process, and you’re on it for a long time.
How do you think Ian Fleming would have perceived videogames?
That’s an interesting question. I think that, in his time, Fleming obviously had connections to what was the OSS [Office of Strategic Services] back then. And he had worked in it, and I think that if you look in the Fleming books, he was very interested in technology, although it wasn’t called technology back then.
But he was a forward thinker. And in the same way he embraced movies, I think that probably he would have embraced games. It’s the most up-to-date use of technology.
I think it would be fair to say that, today, Ian Fleming would have been writing on a computer, and would find all this kind of interesting.
Do you play computer games? Do you appreciate that whole scene? Yes, I play computer games. I think you’ve got to embrace the latest technology. For someone to dismiss games as not important would be the same as saying the Internet is not important. All these things are out there, and I think that, as a writer, or as a member of our culture, you need to embrace these things. You need to look at it, and see what’s there, what’s interesting.
And I think what has happened over the last couple of years, where games have become such a high level of entertainment, it’s natural that you would want to play them, that you would want to find out what this is all about. And what you find out is that this is a whole fascinating new world. And to not know about that is to have a gaping hole in your knowledge of contemporary culture. And they’re fun!
Here, you’re writing Bond for Daniel Craig for the first time, both with Blood Stone and the remake of GoldenEye. Have you had to adapt at all, and with the change in Bond for GoldenEye, how have you reworked the original script? In the case of GoldenEye, they wanted to update and refresh the game, yet stay true to the story. So, for example, when the [original] game came out, we were talking about ex-KGB agents. Well, ex-KGB agents today would be 85 years old.
One of the central plot-points in the movie was that the character of Trevelyan, his father was a Lienz Cossack, who was massacred in World War II. Again, that character would be 80 years old today. So, why should Trevelyan turn against the UK? Why does he want to destroy the British banking system? We modernised that, and gave it a very plausible reason that connects to real events.
Can you fill us in on that?
Sure, I can tell you some of the ways it’s changed. One of the things we did, without getting into the specific plot-points… the character of Zukovsky, who in the previous game and the movie was an ex-Russian spy in a run-down Moscow nightclub. Well, that character is not like that today. That character now owns a nightclub in Barcelona and would actually like to own a British soccer team.
And we have a whole sequence in a Dubai arms fair where the world is showing off its latest weaponry.
The challenge writing GoldenEye was, it’s a new world. And 15 years on, the challenge of updating it is continuing with, again, that it is a new world, where there are new threats.
Bruce Feirstein, thank you very much!
Blood Stone is set for an autumn 2010 release for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360, while GoldenEye will be available for the Nintendo Wii on 5 November.