Thanks to Tassanee over at CoJFans, whom personally knows Haris Orkin (one of the two writers of Call of Juarez, Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood, "That game", and Call of Juarez: Gunslinger), we managed to get a second interview with him. You may recall our list of Confirmed Facts, that was actually our first interview with him. Because of the somewhat sensitive nature of our trying to get in touch with him (Ubisoft's BS with that Family Tree for... that game), and the way we were all agreeing how stupid Ubisoft was, I decided for the time being it was best to have him remain anonymous. It probably wouldn't have mattered, but it seemed like the logical course of action at the time. Here is the interview:
Foreborn: Hey Mr. Orkin, Foreborn here, I run Project McCall, the Call of Juarez Wiki. You might remember me from the time we spoke before, through Tassanee. You may also remember my right hand, "Eagle-Eye" 11Morey. Recently we added -overlord- to our team. First off we'd like to thank you for doing this interview, and the one before (which was very helpful by the way). We've constructed a list of twenty questions, but before we get into that, would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself, how you came to work at Techland and on Call of Juarez?
Haris Orkin: I was a playwright and screenwriter working in Hollywood who happened to love video games. I also had worked in advertising and animation and was often hired as a voice director. Around 2002, after playing and loving Half Life and Command and Conquer Red Alert 2 and Starcraft and a bunch of other games, I decided to investigate writing for video games. I was playing a lot of Counter Strike and Soldier of Fortune 2 online and ended up being recruited for a top clan for SF2. (I was one of the top fifty players in the world for a while.) I met the writer of the Soldier of Fortune and we traded contacts. (He wanted to get into screenwriting.) I took people out to lunch and picked their brains and eventually was hired by someone I met to write Dungeons and Dragons Dragonshard.
I was attending Game Developer Conferences and E3’s and meeting everyone I could. And that’s where I met the folks at Techland. At E3 2003. I had played Chrome and loved the game play, but not the writing and voice acting. (At least in English.) They had a demo of a new game there. A western. Being a huge western buff, I told them they should probably hire an American to help them write the game. I guess I impressed their CEO, Pawel Marchewka, with my ideas, because he hired me to help them. I collaborated on the first three COJ games with Pawel Selinger, their lead art director. (An excellent writer.) But games are a very collaborative medium and everyone contributes to the story. My job was to help shape the characters and the plot, write and rewrite all the dialogue, and then cast and direct the voice talent. On Gunslinger, the other writer was Rafal Orkan (No relation.) We worked out the story together along with some others on the team, including the producer and lead designer. I created the characters and wrote all the dialogue, cast, and directed the voice talent.
- 1) Many people including myself (before I had played through Call of Juarez), mistook Billy Candle for being Native American when his heritage is fully Mexican, due to his always being shown with a bow and feathers in promotional material. What was the reason for Billy's appearance, was he originally intended to be a Native American? Or did he just like collecting feathers?
Haris Orkin: I didn’t have any input on the art or character models in the first game. Later on, I would give my two cents, but the final result was never up to me. I think the idea was that Billy had an affinity for Native American culture and may have even spent some time with them. In Mexico and South Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, a lot of people have native blood in them. (My wife is part Native American.) So even though Billy was of Mexican ancestry, I’m sure he had some indigenous blood.
Foreborn: So, “Billy Candle had an affinity for Native American culture and at some point spent time with them, which is why he wore feathers in his hair, in a similar manner to many Native American tribes” can we put that on the Wiki then?
Haris Orkin: That’s fine with me.
- 2) Many people also cite similarities between Billy Candle and Billy the Kid, both being fugitives at young ages and (according to whom you believe) both wrongfully accused and forced into a life on the run. Was Billy the Kid inspiration for the character of Billy Candle?
Haris Orkin: Not really. Though because of Billy the Kid, the name resonated and felt authentic.
- 3) Ray McCall is of course the most iconic character in the Call of Juarez series, taking the leading roles in both Call of Juarez and Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood. Can you tell us the inspiration behind this character? 11Morey has taken notice that he shares many similarities with the notorious outlaw Killin' Jim Miller.
Haris Orkin: There’s kind of tradition in Westerns of men of God who were former gunslingers. The idea of Reverend Ray was Pawel Selinger’s idea and I loved it and totally embraced it. I don’t know if Pawel knew of Deacon Jim, but in my case his existence informed Reverend Ray’s creation. Other influences for me were Clint Eastwood’s characters in Pale Rider and Unforgiven. Also, it wasn’t a western but Robert Mitchum’s character in Night of the Hunted. And Cort in The Quick and the Dead. I put a link below to another interview we did with Gamespot where we talk about our influences.
- 4) Perhaps I am alone in my way of thinking in this next question, but having first played Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood and then Call of Juarez, I noticed a great change in Ray McCall's character. In Bound in Blood he went from a decent Southern fellow, to a cold and violent outlaw and then finally to a humble preacher; and then to an arrogant, self-righteous man in Call of Juarez. Can you tell us anything about the transition of Ray from the man we hear in the Epilogue of Bound in Blood, to the one in Call of Juarez (17 years later), or is that to be saved for a midquel (Haha?)?
Haris Orkin: For me, I think Ray always had that arrogant, self-righteous side in him. And even when he embraced religion, eventually it hardened and solidified into something rigid and hard. In the real world, you often see religious people who walk away from the core of the belief and use it to justify their own ends. To some extent that happened with Ray. I don’t think he ever got over the fact that Marisa chose his brother over him and that anger festered even as he tried to cover it up. (I do like the idea of a midquel though.) Ray does come to some understanding of his arrogance and actions by the end of the first Call of Juarez. (Which is why he sacrificed himself for his sins.)
- 5) Similarly, Thomas's character as described by Billy Candle (and seen in the comic that takes place between Bound in Blood and the original game) is different from the Thomas McCall we see in Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood. It is known that he beat Billy daily, and that he also beat Marisa as well (this is heavily implied by Billy Candle's reaction to Marisa's scream in Episode I). How did his personality change so much?
Haris Orkin: Remember that when we wrote the original Call of Juarez, we had no idea we would write a prequel. But once we decided too, we kind of had to work backwards. Often people do change over time and often people marry with the best intentions and eventually it all goes to hell. In Thomas’s case, I don’t think he was someone who should have settled down. He was a Lothario and loved the chase, but didn’t have it in him to stay around for the long haul. He couldn’t leave her without enraging his brother, so he stayed. I’m guessing the life of a farmer was pretty dull for him. On top of that, every time he looked at Billy, he saw Juarez…as Thomas wasn’t his father and he knew it. Also in those days, beating your kids or wife wasn’t considered beyond the pale. He thought he was disciplining Billy the way his father disciplined him. His being an alcoholic just added fuel to that angry and abusive fire.
- 6) Who wrote "Call of Juarez" on Thomas and Marisa's barn door in Call of Juarez (as we see in Episode II)? Was it Tom Manson/Ty Stewart or one of the McLydes under the orders of Juan Mendoza, or did Thomas/Marisa do that with their dying breath as a signal for Ray?
Haris Orkin: In my mind it was either Thomas or Marisa, who did it before they died.
Foreborn: So that would have to be Thomas, because Billy (who is close to their farm) hears Marisa’s scream and when he arrives Manson, Stewart and the McLydes are already gone. Marisa wouldn’t have had time to do that, but if Thomas was shot first minutes earlier he would’ve. It makes sense that him being fatally wounded and without a way to access a weapon, and with the murderers… Otherwise occupied with Marisa (as Juarez tells Billy later on), Thomas would’ve had the time to leave the signal for Ray. So can we label that as what occurred on the Wiki?
Haris Orkin: Sure, that’s fine, but realize that some things in fiction aren’t always spelled out. They’re meant to be mysterious or ambiguous. That’s a logical interpretation you’re making, but someone else might have a different one. (The bad guys may have put it there to taunt Ray, for instance.) Remember we’re playing from the point of view of the characters and the characters only see what they see.
- 7) Would you mind giving us birth dates for Marisa, Thomas, William, Silas and Juan "Juarez" Mendoza? It's for the Wiki, of course.
Haris Orkin: We didn’t work this through in detail for the first one, but just based on when the story takes place, what you have on the wiki is probably correct. There’s no exact birth date for anyone to be honest. If we knew there would be a prequel, Reverend Ray would probably have looked a little younger in the first one. From my point of view, these dates make sense.
· 1827 for Ray
· 1831 for Thomas
· 1842 for William
· 1837 for Marisa
· 1830 for Juarez
· 1848 for Silas Greaves
- 8) What is the whole backstory on Juarez's Alcazar, how it came to exist, how it became abandoned (before Juarez used it as a fort), and what happened to the fort between the events of Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood and Call of Juarez? In Call of Juarez it appears much worse for wear, were Juan Mendoza and his gang attacked by the Mexican government?
Haris Orkin: There really isn’t backstory for this to be honest. It’s much bigger than I imagined it would be, but for level design and game play purposes you want something that’s impressive to break into.
- 9) Has the medallion been lost forever, or is there a chance we may see it again in a future title?
Haris Orkin: Never say never.
- 10) In the McCalls' mansion in Chapter II of Bound in Blood, there is a painting of a young man in attire circa 1820s-1830s. Is this the father of the McCall brothers?
Haris Orkin: To be honest, I have no idea. That’s probably a question for Pawel Selinger.
- 11) What are the names of the McCalls' parents?
Haris Orkin: We never gave them names. I love the that the story had such a profound effect and caused you to examine all these details.
- 12) Is there any possibility of a future game explaining the fate of the unnamed deputy from the Extra Missions from Call of Juarez, or is his story intentionally left open ended? And what is his actual name?
Haris Orkin: To be honest, I had little to do with that. I came at the last minute and helped to rewrite it, but I don’t think a lot of thought was put into the narrative for those extra missions.
- 13) What was it like working with our favorite Cardassian/Gunslinging Preacher (Marc Alaimo)? He's got a voice Sean Connery could be jealous of.
Haris Orkin: I love working with Marc. I friend of mine recommended him, when I told him what I was looking for in terms of Reverend Ray. He totally embraced the character and spent a lot of time working on the script before he showed up to the studio. I’ve been to his house and we struck up a friendship. He’s an excellent actor. Perfect for the part. He rides a Harley and lives in the hills near Malibu and does a lot of work on his own house. He’s quite a carpenter and craftsmen. He’s a tough-looking guy and he has a “don’t fuck with me” edge to him. I’m just surprised he doesn’t try to do more VO. I’d love to bring him in again for a COJ game, but he’s so identified with Ray at this point. If a Call of Juarez movie was ever made, he’d be perfect casting for Reverend Ray.
Foreborn: I don’t suppose you could convince him to do an interview with us as well? :P
Haris Orkin: All I can do is ask.
- 14) Has it ever been considered to create novelizations of the games? It would be rather cool to be reading Call of Juarez books.
Haris Orkin: It hasn’t, but I would love to do that. If Gunslinger’s a hit…maybe I can suggest that. Ubisoft is the publisher though, so they would have the say so.
- 15) Would you say there's ever a possibility of a midquel between Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood and Call of Juarez, or a sequel to the original Call of Juarez starring Billy Candle as the new Badass-McCall?
Haris Orkin: That isn’t up to me, but I would love to see it happen.
- 16) What about a remake/remastering of Call of Juarez on say, it's fifteenth anniversary? Totally out of the question?
Haris Orkin: That’s not up to me at all. But something you could ask Techland about. It would be extremely expensive for them to do it though and I’m not sure it makes a lot of sense financially.
- 17) Why was the decision made to take Call of Juarez to the "New Wild West" in the last title?
Haris Orkin: To be honest, I’m not sure who made that decision. I will say, I was sorry we didn’t keep the story in the old West.
- 18) What can you tell us about Call of Juarez: Gunslinger?
Haris Orkin: Not much more than you’ve seen in the previews. The slight cell shading adds a certain crispness to the art design. It still looks very real though and isn’t anything close to Borderlands. The shooting and movement feels pretty similar to the original and is very satisfying. The level design is brilliant. There’s an ability to modify Greaves character and improve certain abilities similar to what you can do in Dead island, which is really cool. The world can literally change as the story changes. There’s a mystery that pulls you through to the very end. I think the narrative is just as strong as the one in the first two games. You meet many famous characters from the West.
Foreborn: Can you tell us anything about Silas Greaves? His personality, morality? And this new “comic book” style isn’t going to become the new norm for the series, is it? It’s a big step away from the first two games, but perhaps even more important than that, if say, this new style were used in Call of Juarez 5, it seems that would take away from the uniqueness of Gunslinger’s narrative.
Haris Orkin: Honestly, I’d rather have you discover who Silas is by playing the game. Who he is exactly and why he does what he does is the mystery that pulls you through the story. Once the game is out for a while, I’d be glad to get into Silas’s character in more detail. I don’t think anyone at Techland has decided what’s next for the franchise.
- 19) What kind of connection does Gunslinger have to the previous games? Any callbacks/cameos, perhaps Billy Candle attempting to climb on something and falling to his death in the background at some point? (I'm sure anyone who has played CoJ will get that reference.)
Haris Orkin: There is a connection, thought I can’t say what is right now.
- 20) Our last question, I know it's vain but I've gotta ask, does anyone at Techland including yourself ever visit Project McCall?
Haris Orkin: Of course. I can’t speak for the folks at Techland, but I’m guessing everyone has looked at. I’ve checked it many times. It’s flattering to have such rabid fans. So here’s a question for you guys. Who are you? Where do you live? What do you do? I’m just curious.
Foreborn: Hm, well no pressure on us then :P
I’m from the state of Alabama in the United States, and I’m currently still furthering my education. Truth be told, I have a similar kind of “Don’t mess with me” personality as Marc Alaimo. I’d suppose that’s why I like Ray McCall best. I fancy myself a writer (as a hobby, not a profession, at least for now) and I suppose that’s a very big reason I love great stories like Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood’s. Back in January 2011 I discovered the Call of Juarez Wiki, which back then was in pitiful condition. A couple of articles with barely any content.
Because of my love for Bound in Blood I became dedicated to making the Wiki the best it could be. Later on I’d play the original Call of Juarez, which only added to my passion. I became an administrator fairly quickly so that I could work on the Wiki’s more technical aspects. My predecessor Ausir, who taught me about a lot of the aforementioned technical aspects left a short time later and I became the leader of the Wiki. Frozen Jese was an administrator who, along with Ausir helped me get started though he left quite some time ago, only visiting occasionally since then. 11Morey and I became a team in mid-2011. More recently here in 2013, -overlord- joined the group as an administrator as well. I still work to improve Project McCall out of love for the series, alongside my fellow admins.
Haris Orkin: I appreciate your dedication and I’m really pleased you love the games. We put our heart and soul into them and we’re all very happy with how Gunslinger turned out.
11Morey: I'm James Shields from North-Central Pennsylvania, college freshman at Lancaster Bible College. I am currently studying at Lancaster Bible College, majoring in Pastoral Ministry. I had gotten the original Call of Juarez for the Xbox 360 back in Christmas of 2008, and I thought it was really fricking cool.
Haris Orkin: I was born in Lancaster, PA. But grew up in Chicago. My dad went to Franklin and Marshall College.
-overlord-: I’m from Finland, studying environmental engineering. I played the demo of the first CoJ back in the 2006 and loved it. Story and atmosphere have always been great in Call of Juarez games. I really like Wild West settings and western movies.
Haris Orkin: It’s an international team that makes the game and an international fan base that enjoys it. That’s really cool to see.