I think that was one of the things that worried Japan; that we wanted to keep our creative freedom, and we stuck to that throughout the pitching process. We didn't really want anyone looking over our shoulder telling us, "You can't do this" or whatever. We needed to brave and make decisions to do things slightly differently.
The great thing about Kojima Productions is that they gave us that freedom, and they helped advise us. But they really were clear that they weren't going to interfere with the development. I've known Kojima for many years and he said, "I'm going to help you and advise you. Kojima Productions will be there to assist you whenever you want." And that was amazing. Just having that backup. That really did help us, in many aspects -- many technical aspects, design aspects.
Is there a specific anecdote you can share about the collaboration with Kojima?
One thing that really stands out is Gabriel himself. I designed him very much as a barbarian, much like the original Castlevania
character. I went to Tokyo and met with Kojima and he told me to look at Gabriel again. I told him that I'm really happy with the design. He told me, "No, you really need to rethink Gabriel."
He told me that "we designed Snake, and we were tweaking Snake right until the final submission. Little things: eyebrows, eye color, anything. You need to make sure that you're continuously looking at Gabriel as a main character. If you're trying to tell this tragic story of love, but you have this meathead character that nobody can identify with ... " So that made us go back and rethink Gabriel, and I'm so glad he did that. I don't think the game would be the game it is now if we didn't rethink Gabriel as a character. I think now he's far more appealing right now, far more nuanced -- he's not a one-dimensional action hero anymore. He's a real character, a real person.
Far more introverted than Kratos, for example.
"We didn't want to remake Castlevania." - David Cox, producer
Yeah, at no point in the game does he say, "I'm going to kick your ass" or anything like that. He's very much a real person. It's a sad story, and Robert's portrayal of Gabriel really helps bring that character alive.
Speaking of the voice of Gabriel, Lords of Shadow features some pretty high-profile actors. How was the casting done?
We knew we wanted to tell a story and do it in a way that was believable, in an emotional way. We knew that at the beginning that we wanted to have high-caliber voice actors to do the roles. Originally, we wanted Gerard Butler to be Gabriel, but he was very busy at the time so he couldn't do it. So someone suggested Robert Carlyle, and we approached Robert about the role and sent him the script.
We weren't sure whether he was going to go for it or not, but he was keen to get involved. He loved the script. He really enjoyed the story. He saw what we were trying to do, and it interested him as an actor. He never did a video game before, so that's another thing he wanted to do. All the actors were like that, even Patrick [Stewart] was quite difficult to nail down. We knew we wanted to do Patrick, we wanted someone of his caliber. We got the script to him, he read the script, and got back to us and said he's interested, and here we are.
It was really cool because we hadn't actually done any of the cutscenes at the time when we did the voice overs. There was a certain amount of freedom we could give the actors; something the actors probably weren't expecting. So they did change some lines, and they did things a slightly different way than we originally envisioned. But it brought a richness to a role that wouldn't have been there if we just did the cutscenes, and they just had to lip sync to it. You know, some things didn't work, so we had to get them back to do rewrites. But, I think if the actors are interested in doing a role, in a performance that's going to push them in doing something they haven't done before, then that's better than having someone that's just there for the money.
And who wrote the story? Since this is a Castlevania game, was the writer bound to the lore of the past games?
The only way we were bound was by what we wanted to see within a Castlevania
game. There was a lot of creative freedom. The story was written by the main studio head at MercurySteam; but from that original concept, myself, Rick and two friends of mine that own a comic book company in London wrote the dialogue.
We wanted to have elements from previous Castlevania
games appear in the game. But we didn't want to be bound by its 26-year history. We really wanted new players to not have to know about the characters or anything. But at the same time for fans, we wanted to tell the story of the Belmonts and why they're hunting the creatures of the night. Why are they special? How did it happen? We wanted to address that in the game, and we do, for sure.
But the only boundaries we had were our own. We wanted to stay true to Castlevania
, but we wanted to take it to new directions. I think that's important. You look at Batman
, for example -- it's had so many other people giving their vision and it really enriches the character and the world. I think Castlevania can have that. I don't just want to be on Castlevania
for the rest of my life. I want to share with people our vision of Castlevania
. This is a European vision; a Spanish developer's vision; my vision.
There's no reason why we can't have other people's visions of Castlevania
as well. Why can't it exist in different iterations? I think that's what makes comic books so much fun. I think there's something about this Castlevania
-- if you keep an open mind, you can come to this and enjoy it for what it is, but you'll also get some new things, which I think is really cool.
So it doesn't fit into the existing time line at all?
No, that was a very early decision we made. We weren't going to try to fit into the time line in any shape or form. We were going to do our own thing, kind of like "Marvel Ultimates" -- outside of existing canon; something that stands alone if need be. To be perfectly honest, we haven't really looked past this game for sequels or whatever. We just looked at this and just said, "We want to tell this story within our Castlevania
world." If we do another one, I don't know. That's a decision higher up the food chain.