How to make games from movies

February 15, 2010

We've all played them... hated most of them, games based on movies. I recently wrote a post about The Lovely BOnes and how you CAN make a game from any TV or movie.  But the real question is, should you?

Lets take a look at this interview: Ubisoft CEO Guillemot

Having been though this many times, I'm sure the CEO of Ubisoft made a great deal for the rights to Avatar.  Het sent a meno to his head of production informing him of the great rights he has secured, and that the game must come out the same day as the movie.  His next act was to order lunch.

I have seen these deals done correctly, and I have seem them down stupidly.  I worked on "Sahara" at TKO Software. The CEO signed a contract to publish the game in 9 months, with no engine written. The script had almost weekly changes and that made it impossible to put a serious schedule together.  We took the wrong route with the game.

When I was at SEGA I was the producer on Taz for the Game Gear. I was lucky to be under the guidance of the producer of the Genesis version, Scott Berfield. Scott realized that to make a good Taz game, he had to use the art and themes of the show, but not the exact scenes.  This may have come about due to the fact that Taz was a weekly show, at the time, and there were just too many scenes and they weren't all connected anyway.  For whatever reason, this worked out well. 

Games from movies fall into two categories: 

   1 - Follow the movies exactly (Sahara)
   2 - Use the characters and theme's from the movie (Taz)

Given the usual shortness of the time between contract signing and movie release, option 2 is usually the best route. The obstacles are the upper management who think games have to follow the movie exactly, and the original licensor who doesn't want you messing with their characters.  You have to get past them. If you don't, you'll end up with games like Avatar, or The Hulk, or Iron Man... or... I could go on and on.

Here's the secret:

Design a game using the characters and themes that has a development time significantly less than the time alloted.  With additional features listed as "Time Allowed".   I have been in these meetings, showing the product plan to upper management.  When theysee what they can get IF they give you time, they'll give you the time.  If they're happy with the original design, you're making a game thats fun and will hit the dates. Either way its a win-win.

Can you name a game based on a movie that you liked?



Chantalle said...

Mac, you asked for a game based on a movie that I liked... well, no. I don't think there is one! But one that I hella didn't like was "Titanic," a really lame game/design-your-own-doomed-ocean-liner that just didn't work. It was criminally boring, which is my primary response to most movie-based games. They remind me of those old Milton Bradley board games, based on sit comes. How many hours did anyone actually spend playing "The Brady Bunch Game" or the "Growing Pains" game? They were all basically versions of either Candy Land or Chutes & Ladders, each of which needed no further elaboration.