Saturday, 8 August 2009

The silly season is upon us

Apologies one and all for the slight spot of inactivity here. I will admit that my last blog post does smell a lot like a festering rant but I was rather irritated at the time, as I feel quite strongly about DRM software slowly violating legitimate customers in to tomorrow.

Recently I have been doing a spot of writing for gaming website GhostStorm, which will soon be gearing up for a week of retrospective look backs on some of the greatest game series of all time which will definitely be worth keeping an eye out for.

Of course it is now technically summer in between the various bouts of rain we seem to be getting which generally means the great annual game drought has started before the final quarter release schedule flourishes in time for Christmas. It is a time when many of us go back to the great games of last year, just to relive the greatness that they were and see if the test of time has done well for them. It is also when all the great summer cinema block busters churn out a video game spin off, with the optimistic aim that it won’t stink up a bargain bin in the close future.

The ones that fall in to this category that I find interesting are the ones that try and expand on movie franchises, rather than trying to jam a square shaped piece of film in to a giraffe shaped gaming hole. Some film scripts are clearly not suitable to be adapted to games, and so when the direct film to game projects appear, they often have random shoot outs around parts of the movie that you remember to be very calm bits of dialogue.

One example is the beginning of the Quantum of Solace game which starts at the rather dramatic ending of Casino Royale. Bond is standing over the villain looking quite smug and victorious in the film, but of course this does not transfer well to the game. Instead this moment of victory is replaced with a shoot out around the manner grounds which doesn’t really make sense. In the film, the bad guy had no reason to suspect that he would get attacked, so why is there a battalion of well armed body guards pouring out of every single hole in the wall at a luxury summer manor?

I think the best approach for a film tie in was taken with the Playstation 2 hit, Everything or Nothing, another Bond game but this time it was not based around any movie at all. There were no tight restraints on the story line which tied the player to certain locations or actions, and the likeable cast, music and atmosphere were readily available to be shaped in to whatever masterpiece the game developer wanted. It worked because it developed from a good idea, rather than attempting to copy what worked in a cinema.

It needs to be established to publishers that to make great games from movies, they need to add something more to the back story rather than just trying to replay the movie through a mix of shooting galleries. Unfortunately, movie tie ins are always guaranteed to get a few sales regardless of the quality just because the franchise name is slapped across the box. There are still a lot of people out there, like parents treating their children to games that go along the train of thought that the movie was good, so the game must be surely.

There is also the case that many game developers are probably given movie tie in games as bread and butter work when they are not working on more original titles. The deadlines for these projects will be stricter as they really need to be released at the same time as the movie. For this reason corners might get cut, content not finished 100% and a general hash up of a game is released.

There are also factors like not knowing what to do with a franchise when you get one. The Hannah Montana game for example would probably have worked much better as a karaoke style game similar to Lips, rather than the abortion of a platformer it turned out as.

Maybe one day we will see a surge in quality when film tie ins start getting it right, but in the mean time we just need to accept that the current formula does not work very well. Sure there might be a few laughs to be had in a few of the games that pass as playable, but nothing that can really rank along side the gaming monsters of Call of Duty, Gears of War and Zelda.

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