The studio behind Wesley Snipes' upcoming game has said the jailed Hollywood actor is not needed for the next eight months of development – but still plans to meet with the Blade star while he's behind bars.
Snipes is a month into his three-year jail sentence for tax evasion, but that hasn't stopped Finnish developer Lapland Studio from cracking on with action puzzle game Julius Styles: The International, due out this June for iPhone and iPad.
"We're doing a lot of the game testing and work on game mechanics and how the gameplay will look and feel," CEO Ilkka Immonen told Eurogamer this afternoon.
"At this stage we don't need his involvement so much. I don't know how long his sentence will be, but I'm hopeful he will get out by the time we need him again. But what we're doing at the moment, we can get on with it without him for, let's say, at least six to eight months. What happens after that, I don't know. We'll have to think about it then."
The Julius Styles character is Snipes' creation. A year ago, when Immonen and the UK-based Elstree Studio approached the actor with the idea of creating a game, Snipes suggested Styles as the protagonist.
"I don't think he thought he was going to do a Julius Styles game, but when we approached him to say we would like to do a game that involves his character, he said, could this character be Julius Styles, who could do these things?
"We said yeah, no problem. I guess he had the idea of doing the Julius Styles film, but I'm speculating."
While Snipes plans to begin work on a Julius Styles film after his release from prison – in 2013 – the current focus is on the videogame. And Immonen will seek to meet with Snipes while he's behind bars.
"We have people to meet him and discuss things," he said. "Our representative in the US is able to meet with him. We are not just outside."
He added: "We knew this might happen. I explained to him what I was going to do. I got him to trust me with what I wanted to do and what I wanted this to be. We are in the clear on what's happening now. He knows what I'm doing and he trusts me."
While a meeting is yet to be scheduled, Immonen hopes his representative will talk to Snipes "maybe sometime during this year, maybe spring time".
"We didn't think about it too much. It did happen, but we weren't so shocked, like now the s**t is really hitting the fan. We were just like, okay, now this happened and we thought it might happen. We were just sad for him and his family that he needed to go. We were prepared, subconsciously."
Snipes is not a hardcore gamer, according to Immonen, but "he knows about the gaming world". He plays games with his children "a lot".
As for Julius Styles: The International, an announcement on the planned Xbox Live and PlayStation Network versions is expected in the spring. Immonen was unable to talk specifics about the game, but promised to show it off at the Game Developers Conference next month.
"Before we started this I said to everybody, I'm not going to be the guy who will be remembered as taking Wesley Snipes' name and his face to some sh***y game," Immonen insisted.
"Our main target, our main idea here is to make a very good game. It doesn't matter what the name is. The game should be fun and entertaining and addictive. That's our main focus. Then there is Wesley Snipes and the added value he is bringing to this.
"I agree with those who are sceptical because I have been. There have been a lot of games that have just tried to get some marketing value. My idea is not to just get a big buck from this. I just want to create something that's in the gaming world is good and maybe in the future do a good game with it and relate it somehow into an actor or actress. The game is the main point here."