Although Quentin Tarantino’s suspense action movie, Reservoir Dogs didn’t become a cult favorite until the director’s breakout success, Pulp Fiction, hit theaters two years later in 1994, the movie is seen today as a kind of masterpiece of cinema. The movie is beloved for a long list of reasons, including its nonlinear storytelling from multiple perspectives and flashbacks, where the story reveals itself over time. Then there’s the witty dialogue (marked by an explicit three-minute monologue about Madonna’s song, Like a Virgin at its start) and unforgettable performances by Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, Steve Buscemi, and Tim Roth. And yes, let’s not forget about the violence, which includes Mexican standoffs, a character bleeding out from a bullet wound throughout much of the film, and another who has a body part cut off while being tortured.
However, cult success doesn’t always translate into great video games, as demonstrated by ill-received PlayStation 2 era third-person shooter game based on Reservoir Dogs. But the Barcelona-based studio, Big Star Games—with members who have worked on blockbuster hits such as Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Payday, and Split/Second (along with the independently developed Biblical zombie beat-em-up comedy, Fist of Jesus)—is looking to change that up with Reservoir Dogs: Bloody Days.
The game is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the movie by launching for the PC later this year with an Xbox One version to follow sometime after, and it has an unexpected twist: it’s neither a first- nor third-person shooter. Instead, it uses a top-down perspective, where players look down on the action and control Mr. Blonde, Mr. Blue, Mr. Brown, Mr. Orange, Mr. Pink and Mr. White on a series of heists that precede the big jewelry store robbery depicted in the movie. Furthermore, the game plays with the movie’s sense of nonlinear time with the “Time Back” mechanic, which rewinds time to the start of the previous turn when the point-of-view switches to a different character. The new character is then tasked with changing the outcome before the time limit runs out. So, a character that initially gets gunned down may end up surviving without a scratch after his teammates make their moves.
Liam Patton, CEO of Big Star Games, sat down with [a]listdaily after a live demonstration of the game at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) and said that making the game came from a tremendous love of the film. He then talked about making a tactical shooter based on the famous Lionsgate movie, with an emphasis on innovation to give gamers and fans a new experience.
What are the challenges of working with an IP as well-known as Reservoir Dogs?
It’s definitely not straightforward. We’ve spent many hours working with Lionsgate on a weekly basis. They’ve been super supportive, but the challenge is in not making a derivative story out of the game because there are rights that we need to look out for. So, we need to be super communicative with our licensor and be disciplined so that we don’t fall out of the legalities of the property. But it is a very positive challenge.
How do you keep a sense of freshness to a game based on such a popular movie?
What we always have in mind is: who is our target audience? Our audience could be a 20-year-old gamer or it could be a 40-year-old gamer, who both love the movie and playing with the six criminals who don’t know each other very well as they complete the missions that Joe Cabot is giving to them. Part of the freshness is through the art style, which is stylized with a touch of anime. We integrated a lot of the dialogue and the style that Tarantino put into Reservoir Dogs and I think the word “fuck” is in there about 85 times. These are not “white glove” criminals. These guys are rough. We use random heists in the Los Angeles area with scenarios from the movie. We keep things fresh through innovative gameplay, but we have all the atmosphere that you expect from Reservoir Dogs.
How will the movie’s signature dialogue be represented?
We have quotes from the movie, but we try not to force the dialogue into the game if it doesn’t make sense. But the characters bark to each other in character during each mission. They’re always arguing between themselves. Many of the movie’s situations will be reflected, but this is not a narrative game—it’s an action game with a strategic layer. Also, there are some surprise references to the movie, but even if you haven’t seen the movie, we believe you’ll still have a lot of fun.
How do you think fans will take to the styled characters, especially since they’ve gotten used to the looks of the actors?
We do not have the rights to the likenesses of the actors, but we’ve run through more than a hundred interviews showing the art style that was approved by Lionsgate, and it’s not a nuisance toward enjoying the game. Fans will understand that there are limits to everything, and they will definitely have fun playing with Mr. Blonde, Pink and Orange and their personalities. We’ll put their personalities into the dialogue and character skill sets. We try to be very close to the movie but there are limits that the fans will understand.
The previous attempt at a Reservoir Dogs game wasn’t received well. Do you think that there’s still a stigma against movie-inspired video games?
We are gamers, and we’ve played the Star Wars games along with Mad Max, which is a great example of a good game made out of a movie, in addition to Shadow of Mordor. There are very good games made from movies, but our approach has been to be gamers first. This is a game. This is an interactive experience where you can take control of your actions. This is not a passive consumption of content.
I cannot comment on other games or the previous game made from this property, but I can comment on our experience as a studio making games out of licenses. If you think specifically about your target user, you will be more successful than forcing several scenes from a movie together. Our first target for this product is gamers, who love and enjoy it. If you’re a fan of the movie, you’ll appreciate all the references, but you have to be a gamer first. That’s how we’ve approached the innovative gameplay with this product.
How are you getting the word out to gamers and movie fans about the game?
First, we’re doing interviews like this one. We also believe that this game will help YouTubers (influencers) enjoy the experience because the way you resolve the heists in the game is very unique. Every single game will play in a different way because of the layer of strategy. There’s no one single way of solving a level. We’ve seen people play for hours and hours and they’ve solved every single scene in different ways. So, we believe that YouTubers will brag about showing off their choreographic moves as they switch between characters to the solve levels. You could be cautious and go step-by-step or you can be very courageous. The game allows for a lot of showing off.
We also have a media plan in the works, and as an independent developer, we’ve reserved some money for that. Here at GDC, we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback, which will help us over the next few months. We’re also getting support from Lionsgate and their social networks as soon as we have more to show and get closer to the launch.
Lionsgate is very proud and happy with the product. They’ve been giving us a lot of support since we gave them to the concept a couple of years ago. They’ve remained a great partner, and as we get closer to launch, they’ll be supporting us with their channels to communicate that this product is out.