Mike Bithell is a huge fan of Andy Serkis — a massive fan, even, where the word "love" comes into play often.
If Bithell talks to you about Andy Serkis, you're likely to find out that he owned a Serkis memoir (Gollum: How We Made Movie Magic, circa 2003), in which the actor recounts his time as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy; that Serkis' performance as Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes made "every hair" on the back of his neck stand up; and that when it came to his new game, Volume, Bithell sent a friendly fan email to Serkis begging him to come onto the project.
It worked. Serkis is voicing Volume's villain, Guy Gisborne; Bithell hopes his "really embarrassing" email never sees the light of day.
Volume is a modern-day, cyberpunk stealth retelling of Robin Hood heading to PlayStation 4, PS Vita, Windows PC and Mac later this year. Sir Guy of Gisborne, usually a henchman or rival to Robin Hood, has been reborn as a cool, collected businessman who has effectively taken over the country. This isn't the story of trying to stop the bad guy, Bithell said; it's more a tale of trying to annoy the bad guy.
"Gisborne has been in power for 10 years," Bithell said. "He's the established set up. Everyone in the country is just used to this.
"all the best villains [are] not born wanting to be evil."
"So, you are a peasant, essentially, in his new system. He won."
Bithell describes Gisborne as a thug, without question. He's built himself a classy, calm sort of politician persona, but as the game progresses, players chip away at his regal facade. This is a guy who isn't just going to intimidate you; he's going physically hurt you.
But while Gisborne is a villain through and through, Bithell said, Rob Locksley isn't exactly on moral high ground, either.
"There's definitely moments where we encourage the player to side with [Gisborne]," Bithell said. "There's times where he questions Locksley — maybe he's not the good guy of the story.
"[Gisborne is] still a bad guy, and the manner in which he behaves is evil — but all the best villains [are] not born wanting to be evil. They genuinely believe they're the hero. And Gisborne's no different. He's trying to save his country, look after his country. He genuinely thinks he's made a better world, and this dumb kid is ruining it."
With Serkis onboard, Gisborne's role has changed from an evil genius-type of character to something a little more fiendish. Bithell said he spent time watching Serkis' old performances to learn his mannerisms and speech patterns, and rewrote accordingly.
"I write very much for the voice of the actor, because I don't want them to be stretching into my words," Bithell said. "I want my words to make sense for the way they talk.
"That transformation of this quite nice politician man into the spitting Andy Serkis anger that it ends up going to is just so fun."