When we first heard that filmmaker Neill Blomkamp was making a video game, we were very excited. The director of District 9, Elysium and Chappie has a knack for creating gritty worlds with memorable sci-fi twists, which makes his gaming debut Off the Grid a highly promising prospect.
At the Gamescom 2022 conference in Cologne last month, Blomkamp spoke to RadioTimes.com about his shift into gaming. There wasn’t a demo of Off the Grid to play (the game is still a year or so away), but Blomkamp spoke enthusiastically about this latest world he’s helped create. And he also told us that he still hopes to make sequels to District 9 and Elysium.
To start, what made Blomkamp want to get into gaming? Blomkamp told us (and you can watch the interview in video form by clicking into the player above, if you'd prefer): “Before I got into filmmaking, I was an animator, and I've always been obsessed with 3D-created environments. So I like games.
“But I really love, as an artist, building 3D places that people can go to. And really, that's what games are - you drop them into this environment. So when I was directing films, always in the back of my mind, I was thinking, at some point I want to work on a game.”
Working in games “has been very prevalent in my mind for quite a few years,” Blomkamp told us, and eventually, the right opportunity did knock. As Blomkamp put it, “Richard Morgan, the science fiction author, who's also involved with this game, contacted me and he was like, ‘A lot of what we're doing is sort of influenced by Elysium, and do you feel like you'd be interested in working on a game?’
“So I went to Kyiv and I went to Frankfurt, where Gunzilla is based. And I got to meet people. And [the game] felt like a cyberpunk dystopia, and all of the 3D environmental stuff that I felt like I wanted to work on, and it just felt like a good fit.”
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Blomkamp joined Gunzilla as the company’s Chief Visionary Officer, with his involvement in Off the Grid being announced in July last year. It’s a battle royale game that Blomkamp describes as being “more serious” than the likes of Fortnite, Apex Legends and Valorant.
“They may all have a similar shooter Battle Royale vibe to them,” Blomkamp explained, “but I would say that this is a little bit more older-skewing science fiction in the way that it's presented and feels.”
In terms of the story setup for Off the Grid, Blomkamp told us: “The game is set at the moment where, the age-old cyberpunk trope of mega-corporations being more powerful than government - the game takes place at the moment that the balance has shifted, so it's like early cyberpunk.”
You shouldn't expect to see a single-player campaign here, though, no matter how rich the world is.
“The focus is to try to make a really a super entertaining battle royale,” Blomkamp clarified in the interview. “That's the goal. But there's so much world building that has been done, and so much world building that's been sort of fleshed out, that there are lots of interesting narrative journeys that you could go on within what's being built.
"The question is, trying to find a way to bring that into something like a battle royale, which is very complicated, in a way that will be positive for players. And so that's the phase that we're in now.”
We look forward to visiting this latest world from Blomkamp’s mind, but is there any chance of a return ticket to the worlds he’s created before? With the likes of District 9 going years without a sequel, is it by design that Blomkamp has never revisited any of his previous projects?
Blomkamp told us: “I mean, creatively, I would love to go back to District 9 and Elysium. So yeah, I have no problem doing that. I want to go back to them.” On the other hand, Blomkamp seemed fairly certain that his widely-talked-about Alien film will probably never happen.
As to whether District 9 star Sharlto Copley would return for a sequel (despite his character’s fate in the first film), Blomkamp said: “You can’t make a District 9 sequel without Sharlto.” And he added that “we have ideas” as to how that could work.
Copley, who is currently starring in the lion-fighting film Beast with Idris Elba, also told RadioTimes.com recently that he is keen to return for District 10 (or whatever the sequel would be called), but he thinks the film is still “another two years” from being a reality.
In the meantime, then, Blomkamp’s Off the Grid game should tide us over nicely. Ahead of the game’s launch in 2023, you can watch the game’s first promotional short film below.
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