Inside Bulletstorm Writer Rick Remender's Head
Comic scribe Rick Remender, best known for his original pulp sci-fi series Fear Agent and his work on Dead Space, is writing the saga of Bulletstorm protagonist Grayson Hunt. Remender took time out of his busy comic/film/video game schedule to answer our questions about his body of work up to and including Bulletstorm. Read the full interview below.
(artwork courtesy of Remender's official website)
Game Informer: How did you first get involved with Bulletstorm?
Rick Remender: I was contacted by Epic this time last year. They had a sci-fi shoot ‘em up in need of a writer. There were some Fear Agent fans on the team so they came to me. Their mistake. I went experimental here and turned the game into a naked dude with long blonde hair named Wongdingo who rides a super cute unicorn and feeds the sky-babies fluffy sugar clouds. Not really. But that would be a good follow up game.
What is the working process like with People Can Fly and Epic? Is communication tricky since the developer is in Poland?
Not at all. They flew me out to Warsaw for a week and we all locked down the story together as you would in any writer’s room. We tore it up, everyone had great ideas, by the end we’d written our dream sci-fi movie. It just so happens that it’s also a groundbreaking video game. It’s been a great production; they are equally as invested in story and gameplay in a way I don’t see that often. Working this way has set apart the better games of the past few years, just never in a FPS. It achieves total immersion. So, no communication issues, so far the process has been a dream.
How is writing Bulletstorm different than when you were a writer on Dead Space?
On Dead Space I came in after Warren Ellis and the EA team had the building blocks in place and I fleshed it out – wrote out scenes that were bulletpointed, added new scenes, and did a good few rewrites before it went to Antony Johnston. It was a collaborative effort with other writers passing a thing down a line like a baton. Bulletstorm is just the game team and I. They had the basic pitch, a great starting point with some terrific ideas, and I took it and smashed it, reworked the focus and setup, did character bios, created the universe stage, and wrote a three-act story that we all spent weeks working on to fine tune. I’ve had a tremendous amount of input, which helps me stay excited and keep mentally invested in the story more than if I was just hired to add chatter or write a few cinematics. It’s been very collaborative while also allowing me a great deal of freedom.
Since Dead Space was a collaborative writing effort, what scenes or story threads in the game should Rick Remender fans look out for?
Most of my ending is still there. Lots of other stuff too, but when you work in that fashion, with writers handing it down the line, it’s a mishmash of everyone. It’s impossible, and in bad form, to think of any one thing as “yours”. You might have come up with “your” idea based on an idea laid down by the guy before you. I leave it to fans of my stuff to discern where my influence can be seen in the game.
Grayson Hunt seems to have several things in common with Fear Agent protagonist Heath Huston. Both guys are drunk space adventurers with a devil-may-care attitude and a smart mouth running away from a traumatizing past. What traits do you think they share and how do they differ?
Heath is a bleeding wound, once a normal family man thrown face first into chaos. Grayson is a soldier, a mother$%@*er of doom, a member of Dead Echo, the most elite black ops team in the confederation. His life is turned upside down as well, but in a very different way. Gray is also a hardened killer when it all goes sideways on him. So his reaction to the turn of events is very different. Whereas Heath is a bleeding wound drinking away the pain, Gray becomes a calloused hard-as-nails space pirate who sinks deep in to debauchery and acts of revenge. There’s not a reflective side to Gray as much as with Heath. He’s a tough son of a b*tch who gets tougher, and then we get to see the consequences of such a mindset. The consequences of his downward spiral – that’s the meat of the game, that’s where things turn for the crazy and we go on an unexpected ride. Heath took more of a “go hide in a corner” approach to his misfortunes.
What can you tell us about Grayson’s cyborg sidekick Ishi?
Samurai Spock is the joke we’ve been throwing around. His arc has a lot of meat on the bone story wise. I don’t want to give it away, but we lean into some very interesting ideas about the unnatural duality in Ishi’s character and even let them drive the story in a very unexpected way. The goal is to ensure the player never knows where things are going, never knows what to expect. Ishi and his arc exemplify that strategy.
Just how evil is General Sarrano?
On the “mustache-twirling-evil” scale, he’s a solid 9.5. He’s a classic psychopath – winning is the goal, highly intelligent mercenary, manipulative and always, somehow, in control of everything. You really want, nay need, to see this guy die, as he piles his malicious acts on top of each other like a well-crafted Machiavellian layer cake. Every time you think he’s going down, well…it’s a lot of fun to make players hate someone this much. And his motives worked perfectly to write him as this just incredibly evil guy. Usually I want to temper that instinct, to make the villain just a shade away from the protagonist, almost relatable, in order to confuse the emotions. Sarrano was an exercise in fighting that urge and writing pure evil.
EA is known for doing comic book side-stories for their games. Any chance you’d be involved with a Bulletstorm miniseries?
If it happens I won’t have time to write it, but I imagine I’ll be involved.
What’s the latest on your comic/film project The Last Days of American Crime? Congrats on landing Sam Worthington, by the way.
Thanks. It’s been crazy great to see the reaction to The Last Days of American Crime. I turned in the first draft of the screenplay last month and it was very well received. I did a story session with the producers, polished it up and that night we met with Sam. He’s a terrific guy, no pretense, like a guy you grew up with basically. He’s going to be so amazing in this and with the other cast members we’ll be announcing… it’s going to be a big film. The comic is coming along splendidly as well; Greg Tocchini is a powerhouse talent, the pages just get better and better.
For people who are out of the Punisher loop, Frank Castle’s had a tough time during your run on the series. He was killed, chopped to bits, pieced back together, and now he’s ready for some payback. How has this project been for you, and what are you excited about going forward?
I’m having as much fun as I’ve ever had. It’s been a dream, getting to work with top notch artists like Jerome Opeña, John Romita Jr, Jason Pearson, Tony Moore, Dan Brererton just to name a few and to be able to cut loose and take the character to dark new places infested with classic marvel monsters and long dead supervillains. It’s a dream job. Going forward we finally have the stage set for the thing everyone wants most – Frank Castle powered up and hitting the streets of the MU in a bloody mood and looking for payback.
Obviously, you’re a very busy guy these days, but is there any chance we’ll see more Fear Agent anytime soon?
The final arc of Fear Agent launches in July. We have Mike Hawthorne, Tony Moore, and John Lucas on art, and it’s spectacular. I’m happy to be able to get to the final chapter of the story as it was originally written six years ago. We have the first three issues of it done now, and it’s looking to be the best of the bunch.