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Commentary: Movie to Game Development

Welcome to my new commentary feature, where in this article I shall discuss movie to game development. I love movies and I love games. However, there’s often a feel of disconnection when you put the two together, either a game following a movie or vice versa. Because no matter how great the one medium, the tie-in alternative just seems to go so horribly wrong or just seem ‘almost’ decent.

This summer I have seen all the blockbuster hit movies from Star Trek to Hangover and recently Transformers 2. In comparison to games on the otherhand, I can say that I’ve only played just two that have been recently released ‘Prototype’ and ‘Wolverine Origins’. It may seem therefore that I like my movies more than my games, but games are more expensive whilst movies are something you and your girlfriend can do together (unless you have God Mode turned on and your girlfriend happens to play video games too). In the meantime, following the hits of last summer such as Wall*E (I’ve seen it) so many games have been released to try and match the hype.

I would just like to know this, maybe someone can answer me “Who buys these game-after-movie tie-ins?” When I saw Iron Man, I thought that was a crazy cool movie and then I later found out there was going to be a demo for the game on Xbox Live. I also remember reading a Game Informer article on the said title which piqued my interest. Following the release of the movie I downloaded the demo, eagerly anticipating an expanded universe not confined to the one way direction of a movie, but that of ‘my’ way. What followed was a disappointment! Then I read the reviews and I don’t mean by professional reviewers, but the kind you find in game forums where people have actually played the game, saying whether it was great or if they hated it, and what was good or what went horribly wrong with it. These are the reviews I read if I’m iffy on a game and it’s better to trust those who have played and given an honest opinion, which combined with a poor demo had put me off purchasing.

I loved The Incredible Hulk, I thought that was a better movie than Iron Man, yet the game tie-in was even worse than Iron Man in terms of graphics, controls and overall game play, yet this wasn’t even a demo but instead the real thing - shocking!. A friend of mine had actually bought it and through sheer force of will managed to beat it as I couldn’t even stand to look at the game, let alone play any more than I need too. If not for the two examples, then we can always say that no matter what iteration, Terminator games are the De Facto Sucko. The only game tie-in that I have only ever been really happy with was Enter the Matrix - more on that later.

On the other side of the field, we have had our favorite games turned into movies and those movies have all sucked as well with the exception of in my opinion, Resident Evil 1 and 2. I never really played a lot of Doom, but I have explored its pixelated levels briefly so I got the gist of the game. Eventually I saw the Doom movie too, which regardless of the game it followed was just horrible on its own where (I think) Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is still embarrassed about it. Need I also mention that Dead or Alive was also a movie title! The only movie that I have ever been satisfied with that followed after a game was Hitman, simply because it did everything right by me and I walked away happy.

Now before I continue, I concede that the examples I have provided do not seem to really do me any justice whether by number or merit. Just the mention of some 11 movies and eight games, but I’m sure you can find a full list of movie to game tie-ins somewhere on the internet as I wouldn’t want to clutter my article any more with stuff one may already know or readily find.

The problem we have here is that our favorite title on either medium has a hard time translating from Pilot seat to Backseat and vice versa. So I’m going to lay down a few rules to follow that I feel could make future game and movie adaptations better.

Games – Rules translating a movie to a game:

  • Different angle, expand the story – I watched the movie, I know the what, why, when, how, and the end. If there is a game adaptation then the game should expand on the story instead of recreating it (with the exception if a movie can do both, of course). If I were to play the main character as in the movie, give me the filler in-between the movie whether it’s an origins story such as what Wolverine Origins did. Another plus to expanding the story would be to play integral characters with a plot that run parallel to the movie, a la Enter the Matrix.
  • To make a movie, it normally doesn’t take more than 2-3 months of initial filming followed by months of editing and other special affects to be added before you have a finished product. Games don’t have the same pattern, a quality game looks polished, is bug free (at least eliminates the obvious ones) while tackling the AI programs and other things. This kind of game takes a good two years at least, if not more to develop, so I’ll forgive if I have to wait a while (no more than 6 months after first release of the movie) before the game is released. A rushed game shows its rough spots, and often some pretty big ones.
  • The gaming industry is a multi-billion dollar industry, so treat the game as you would treat the movie and give them both their due.

Movies – Rules translating a game to a movie:

  • I already played the game and I probably beat it on Normal, Hard and Veteran. I probably played the campaign once or twice with my friends where every time was a different experience. When watching the movie version I don’t want to watch someone else play the game for me no matter how much nicer or cooler it may be. Again, as with movie to game translation, different angle, different story works.
  • In the event that a movie is going to be developed after the game, listen to the fans because they are the ones who love it for a reason with a passion. A movie exec may look for a quick buck, but we’re looking for a quick and alternative escape, so if we’re not happy, then no money - and no money means a potential dies early. So check the polls and forum threads, if millions of dollars are spent developing a movie it wouldn’t hurt to browse over any particular thread relating to the game in question.
  • No matter what the format if a movie is going to follow the original Protagonist, then the movie version should follow the original as close as possible. Rule above helps find a close resemblance in case live actors are used.
  • Common Sense. A hack’em, slash’em, shoot’em up genre with little to no story is a waste of my time and money. The game is different; I play the game, I don’t play the movie, simple. Use common sense to figure out that maybe a Beach Volleyball movie-after-game is not such a great idea.

It’s not rocket science, it’s simply taking a step back and just realizing the potential to make or break a huge title. A perspective that relies on a little creativity, patience, and financial investment that pays off in the long run if done right - wouldn’t you agree?

Why not share your views and have your say on this subject below?

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3 comments on 'Commentary: Movie to Game Development'

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I’ve got TombRaider, King Kong and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles… - King Kong was surprisingly a great game. Movie to game tie-ins I think are commonly known as crap, the only one I want to get my hands on is Ghostbusters, but its PS3 exclusive here at the minute and I can’t download the demo from the US marketplace yet either until its for silver members next week!

Comment by H34RT 4TT4CK on 2009-07-10 21:56:03 | Reply

There are a few gems out there, but there could be more though. I’ve heard nothing but good things about Ghost Busters, might be a rental for me.

I think because I have been restricted by Sony for playing it makes me want it more :)

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