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The crowd erupted in applause as some of the most popular faces in video games entered the stage during NYCC 2019. Host Alanah Pearce moderated a panel about the John Wick: Hex video game with creator Mike Bithell, composer Austin Wintory, and voice actor Troy Baker.
After some banter, the Mike Bithell detailed the origin of John Wick: Hex, his very unique video game reimagining of the film series. Bithell said the licensors must have sought out the strangest, weirdest game director they could and that led to him.
Bitchell’s team had a week to pitch their vision for the game. He always delivers very weird ideas with with the expectation that no one will ever let them make the game they propose. Much to the developers’ surprise, the owners of the John Wick license loved their ideas and suddenly they had to make a John Wick game.
Bithell Games discussed how to best translate John Wick’s unique stunt choreography into gameplay. The team landed on the strategy and tactics genre, developing a title in which the player controls John Wick in slow motion, given enough time to nail the kind of action John Wick performs in the movie.
Troy Baker is inarguably the most popular voice actor in video games, and his name adds a lot of legitimacy to John Wick: Hex. He loved Thomas Was Alone, the title that made Bithell a big name in the indie games scene. Baker convinced his wife, who doesn’t play video games, to try it and the title’s poignant story made her cry. Given all that, Baker was really excited for the opportunity to work with Bithell.
Bithell was hesitant to admit that Baker was his third choice, but he quickly realized how well Baker fit the character he had in mind. Baker was happy not to play John Wick, a character so clearly defined by Keanu Reeves in the movies. He’s still the titular character, though, playing the game’s antagonist Hex.
Austin Wintory said that he and Bithell have tried to work together for a long time, and John Wick Hex was finally their opportunity. He was really surprised to be offered a game heavy on action. He’s more known for emotional, intrinsic, and lonely music, and John Wick is none of those things. Developers don’t take chances on that kind of thing, so he really appreciated the opportunity Bithell gave him to try something new.
Wintory is friends with the composer of the John Wick movies and didn’t want to simply imitate the score in the films. John Wick has a very specific vibe, downtempo and not extremely loud. Wintory starts with that and the music goes in its own direction from there.
Bitchell pointed out that there aren’t really gaps between the John Wick movies. The only period separating the first and second films is the time he spends looking for his car, and the amount of time between John Wick 2 and 3 is even shorter. Because of that, Bithell decided to go further back in Wick’s history.
John Wick: Hex presents the world of John Wick before Helen came into his life. In the game Hex kidnaps Winston and Sharo and believes he has an honorable reason for doing so. The player controls the largely silent John Wick, trying to free his friends and take down Hex.
Hex is a character who believes he deserves more and, unlike the majority of characters in John Wick, eschews the rules of society. Baker doesn’t like to refer to Hex a villain, believing the term to be too simplistic for such a layered character. He refers to Hex as the game’s antagonist.
The panel was a ton of fun. The panelists clearly had a lot of respect for each other but also comfortable enough with one another to around. Baker suggested that the game should end with Hex telling John Wick he should get a dog, resulting in laughter from hundreds of audience members, myself included. It was a jovial event and one of the most memorable panels of NYCC 2019.