Thursday, December 31, 2020

Convos With Creative People | Dan Vondrak: Talking X-Men Origins: Wolverine at NYCC 2009

Convos with Creative People is a podcast about creative paths and processes. Each episode features interviews with creators of all genres and mediums, and discussions on writing, art, design, marketing, music, podcasting, and more. Hosted by me, Brian LeTendre. 

In this episode I dug into the 2009 archives of the Secret Identity podcast for an interview I did with Raven Software’s Senior Creative Director Dan Vondrak, about the X-Men Origins: Wolverine game. 

Why am I pulling up this interview now? Because Dan Vondrak directed the campaign of this year’s Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. I am loving the campaign, and what is kind of incredible about it is that much of it was created remotely during the pandemic. 

IGN did a fantastic video about the campaign’s development, which you can watch below:

The idea for this episode came from the first time I booted up the game, as I got hit with a wave of nostalgia. Not because the game itself is set in the ‘80s (though that is a big deal for me as someone whose formative years were that decade), but because of the studio logos that are emblazoned on the screen when it starts. In addition to lead developer Treyarch, there are a slew of other studios who worked on the game, including Beenox, High Moon Studios, Sledgehammer, and Raven Software. 

I could write an entire series of blogs on the work of those studios (and I likely will at some point), as they created some of my favorite games of the Xbox 360/PS3/Wii generation. Just in case any of those names don’t ring a bell:  
  • High Moon Studios brought us the awesome Transformers games War for Cybertron, Dark of the Moon and Fall of Cybertron.
  • Beenox created Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions and Spider-Man: Edge of Time, featuring my two favorite Spideys--Peter Parker and Miguel O’Hara (Spider-Man 2099).
  • Sledgehammer Games was born out of Visceral Games, creators of Dead Space, one of my all-time favorite series.
  • Raven Software was behind X-Men Legends I & II, Marvel Ultimate Alliance, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, among many others.
Which brings me to today’s blast from the past. Back in 2009, I was in the middle of my game journo stint, covering games for Comic Book Resources. The Secret Identity podcast was also going strong at that time, and NYCC was the place where we would get almost an entire year’s worth of interviews done for the show. 

It was at NYCC 2009 that I got to interview Senior Creative Director at Raven Software Dan Viondrak, who was the project lead on X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a game that was released alongside the upcoming movie. 

The game featured a story written by Marc Guggenheim, who you may know from a variety of comic-related projects, including his run on Wolverine of course, as well as runs on Flash and Amazing Spider-man, and his development, writing and production work on the Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow TV shows. 
X-Men Origins: Wolverine received good reviews at the time, and most agreed that the mechanics were the strong point. It felt great to play as Wolverine, and the game really captured the brutality of his combat skills, and how far he could push his healing factor. 
Sadly, unless you own a copy of the game and a console to play it on, you’d have a tough time playing X-Men Origins: Wolverine today. Thye license expired and it’s not available digitally. But there are plenty of used copies floating around out there, and it’s definitely worth checking out. 

Raven made a Wolfenstein game that was released later that year as well, and also the underrated Singularity in 2010, before working on the Call of Duty franchise for the past decade.
Here are links where you can find more about X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Raven Software: 

Raven Software: 
X-Men Origins: Wolverine game trailer: 
X-Men Origins: Wolverine full playthrough: 
X-Men Origins: Wolverine game on Wikipedia: 

As always, you can follow me and keep up with my creative projects on Twitter @seebrianwrite.

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