Tuesday, May 16, 2006

IP fueled creative game design

A friend of mine have sent me a link to an article from ComputerAndVideogames.com about the use of film IPs in the game industry. Here is a passage from it:

Fact: licensed property sells. Take a glance at the Top 10, stocked with such hippo poo as Harry Potter and Narnia, while works of genius like Beyond Good & Evil are left convulsing in the gutter.

If licensed games are so likely to sell that much, I wonder why studios don't risk more, implementing creative, original game design into that products and using established franchises as a lab. I guess some of the reasons are time and a conservative position from people holding the rights to the IP (but maybe that's something naive for me to say).

Take the Harry Potter franchise, for instance. Why can't there be a game set in Hogwarts, based on interpersonal relationships between the students? Maybe it could explore the tensions between Harry x Hermione X Weasley. Of course, I haven't read any of those books, so I don't really know what I am talking about...

Or let's take a look at some Batman games, or any super-heroes game, for that matter. Why there are not game modes where they have to protect their secret identities? Why can't we play Bruce Wayne, throwing parties and building a reputation capable of hiding the fact that he fights crime wearing a bat costume? Why not explore the mutual hate between Hulk and his alter-ego, Bruce Banner?

Still on graphic novels, V for Vendetta is a franchise that could have a game a la Republic, with stealth elements, based on it. And maybe the original Alan Moore's story, for its complexity, could be better translated into a game than into the movie they made based on it.

Plus, even more than We ♥ Katamari, I would ♥ to play I ♥ Huckabees. Not that this particular franchise could sell, though.

Of course, there are exceptions (SW:KOTOR, Lego Star Wars, etc.), but franchise-based games are, more often than not, uninspired. Or is this changing already? What do you think?

(thanks Hugh for the link)


Patrick Dugan said...

Well, since the IP liscence holders aren't going to innovate, we scratchware autuers might as well. Right now I'm trying to figure out a rule-set/scripting system that will functionally operate in the way your Harry Potter example suggests.

chico queiroz said...

Good luck! By the way, maybe you should implement something like that into Magic Circle (if that's not the plan already).

Hoofin Dan said...

I've never thought about it in this way but it's right. A solid IP should be viewed as a licence to innovate. To throw in something new from a position of relative security.

It's amazing how such rich source material as The Godfather can be reduced to such a banal and generic GTA clone.

A games conversion of Catcher in the Rye would probably end up as Lemmings.

chico queiroz said...

I think the Godfather analogy is even better as an example than Batmen and Potters.

After all, it is expected from a game like that a certain degree of innovation. A more mature audience would certainly enjoy it.

Chris said...

My essay on chreodes and the game industry, republished as the final chapter in 21st Century Game Design, makes the same argument: licensed games (with the greater risk protection that brings) are more logical places to innovate than in original IP.

However, the bottom line is that the required skills to create an innovative product are substantially greater than recreating an existing design. Most developers do not, in my opinion, have what it takes.

chico queiroz said...

Here is a quote from the book:

"The obvious candidates for such originality (from a publisher's perspective) are licensed games, ironically the traditional reserve of the most conservative of designs. Because these games already have a certain expectation of audience from the appeal of the license itself, they are great opportunities to pursue originality. However, this is only the case when the license materials suggest a new form of gameplay."

That's pretty much the point I was trying to make (just written better and before :))

Godfather would have been a right choice, then. Batman, not so much.

Copyright, Chico Queiroz