If you’ve ever watched AMC’s excellent Breaking Bad, you might remember a scene where one of the characters plays Rage.
The scene in question is particularly memorable because the character, Jesse Pinkman, is playing id’s first-person shooter with a lightgun. The actual game, which released after it was on the show, was controlled with either mouse and keyboard or a controller.
So, how exactly does a cross-promotional partnership with the world’s biggest TV series and an upcoming FPS come to be?
“There was an advertising opportunity and our marketing folks started talking to their marketing folks and they were like, ‘They’re big fans of id’, and we were like, ‘Well, we’re big fans of them’,” id studio director Tim Willits tells me during QuakeCon.
“So we started talking. At first it was sort of game advertisements, and then they said, ‘We’ve got this idea for this vision that Jesse is going to have in this upcoming season and we kind of want to make something. Can you guys help us?’. We were like, ‘Yeah!’.”
The scene appears in Season 4 of Breaking Bad, as Pinkman is suffering from post-traumatic stress in the wake of his murder of Gale Boetticher. It’s meant to show Pinkman attempting to escape his demons, but the game just keeps pulling him back to that moment.
At certain points in the demo, you can see the word “Gale” scrawled backwards in graffiti in the level’s walls.
“So we took one of our areas, the Well map, and fixed it up for them,” Willits remembers. “We left all that content in the game. We just filmed a bunch of gameplay. They told us what pacing and length they wanted. So we sent them tons of takes, they looked at the takes and they were like, ‘Yeah, that works’.”
The art added for the level used in Breaking Bad stayed in the game, so you can still see Boetticher’s address and name immortalised in graffiti around that specific level. The developer also popped in some more Breaking Bad easter eggs to make sure it wasn’t just this one-off weirdness in the Well map.
“In the Sheriff’s office in Wellsprings. If you go back you can see Tuco Salamanca’s teeth,” Willits says.
Detective Hank Schrader in Breaking Bad keeps Salamanca’s teeth in a perspex cube after his colleagues gift it to him following a shootout with the drug dealer. If you look closely, you can also find Los Pollos Hermanos – Breaking Bad’s KFC and meth lab front – cups scattered around the game.
“Once we found out those guys were cool, we just started adding stuff,” Willits explains.