Having played the latest installment of the Spider-Man game franchise, dove-tailing neatly into the end of the Amazing Spider-Man movie and adding to the story with a phenomenal set of game mechanics and exciting gameplay scenarios, I can say quite confidently that it’s possible to release a great game in tandem with a blockbuster movie release. Nor is that the first or only example of such. Spider-Man (and the studio that’s developed the game franchise alongside the movies, Activision) is a shining example of just how good a console franchise can be in terms of entertainment value and increase the overall revenues from a movie release. Batman, to a lesser extent, capitalized on successful movie franchises with the Arkham Asylum/City games even if they weren’t tied into the movies directly. The release dates banked on the success of the movies, and since they were well-developed games, they had huge sales. Even the Hulk had a successful game release to go along with the Edward Norton iteration of the character, featuring what is arguably the best-executed game featuring the character ever made. By contrast, the slapped-together, under-funded release for Iron Man after the first movie (actually voted the “Worst Game Played By Everyone” by GameSpot) is a great example of what not to do for a video game release. Terrible graphics and poorly-conceived control set ups made it a lack-luster showing for the potential available.
Now fast forward to today’s movie/game cross-over industry. Iron Man 3 sees a release on iOS and Android. Man of Steel is slated to receive the same. Avengers (the highest-grossing movie of all time), got a few skin upgrades to existing games (which themselves were already less than popular). Where is the love for the console gamers? We, who faithfully lined up on release day for games like Marvel: Ultimate Alliance and screamed “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!” to clerks who looked scared behind the flimsy glass security doors held locked until the highly-anticipated Midnight Madness release events. We, who salivate for the movies that feature our favorite comic book characters, and also cannot wait to don the mask or cape or web-shooters and climb into the cockpit of our heroes’ heads and take control after we come home. We, whose wallets literally burn in our pockets to throw huge piles of money onto well-executed games by accomplished studios that glorify all the shoot-em-up-power-happy-moralizing we already threw huge piles of money at at the movie theaters and bluray stores.
Now, those of you who have followed the history of the Superman games might breathe a small sigh of relief to hear that no major console release for Man of Steel. Generally, the Superman franchise has been poorly executed. However, the same was true of the Batman franchise prior to the Arkham releases. Those two games are living testament to the fact that a studio motivated to create a proper experience for fans can turn a flagging franchise around. Man Of Steel’s theatrical or dvd/bluray release would appear to be the perfect opportunity to turn this franchise around while banking on what will (very likely) be a good reception for the film release.
At any rate, as a fan of Superman (less so of the New 52 iteration, but that’s a rant for another post), I was extremely disappointed by the news that there would be no console release to accompany the film release.
Well, this marks the second foray into blogging that I’ll be trying. I suppose this is mostly just an attempt to one-up my wife, in order to encourage her to continue her blog (southerngeekygamergirl.wordpress.com for those interested in checking in with her as well). Nonetheless, I will endeavor to be at least mildly and occasionally entertaining.
Gaming, of many kinds, is a principle interest of both of ours so I’ll begin this blog with content that will likely feature heavily going forward. Mostly, a brief ramble about a tabletop role playing game I’d love to develop and play. It’s an idea I’ve been kicking around for a couple of years now, and one that keeps coming back to the fore of my musings. I’m firmly of the opinion that if such an idea recurs so frequently, it’s usually worth pursuing.
I’m a huge fan of the Dark Tower series by Stephen King. I could have the audio books running as background noise for my life on repeat for all eternity and I’m pretty sure I’d never get tired of them. The development of the world presented in that series is phenomenal, and the characters enthralling. More, the potential for enthralling characters is literally limitless and really, what more do you need as a backdrop for an RPG than an opportunity for limitless character concepts to explore and portray?
Thus I find myself pondering the mechanical systems necessary to handle the occasionally strange and mystic world shaped around Roland of Gilead, last of the line of Eld. How, for example, could the strange slipping of time be handled? On many occasions in the series, particularly during the ka-tet’s story telling, time slips and stretches, or rushes forward far too quickly than would seem possible. Now, generally, that sort of thing would probably be easiest to portray through description by the Game Master. However, in the Dark Tower series the slipping and sliding of time works in conjunction with the action and pacing of the stories. Sometimes, such as in Wolves of The Calla, the time shifting becomes particularly important when moving between levels of the tower through the doors. It’s a tricky and important mechanic to nail down.
Then comes the standard class considerations of an RPG. It’s made clear throughout the series that Gunslinger is more of a catch-all term than a specific title. Take Alain from the Wizard And Glass book, or Jake from the ka-tet. Both are heavily gifted with The Touch, a kind of mental telepathy/prescience ability that not all Gunslingers are able to access to the kind of level they can. Then consider Cuthbert and Eddie, who are sometimes described as “ka-mai” or “the fool of ka.” Both characters have a kind of DnD Bard-like ability to bouy the ka-tet, or take their devil-may-care attitudes and accomplish incredible feats simply because they cannot find a force of fear or despair that can overwhelm their high spirits. A ka-tet would need a balance of “classes” within the gunslingers that make it up.
Then, speaking of ka-tet, there’s the fact of keff, the sharing of personalities, almost a hive-mind really, that waxes and wanes in a ka-tet as it draws closer together or the gunslingers that make it up pull away from one another. In Wastelands and Wizard and Glass, the keff of Roland’s ka-tet is so close that they can speak to one another across great distances and with great clarity, but by the time the series progresses to Wolves of The Calla the keff of the ka-tet has faded to some extent as the gunslingers begin to work and think more on their own. Such a mechanic could easily break a game’s balance if it weren’t handled delicately.
The dynamic of the ka-tet itself is pretty critical as well, especially as central as it is to the stories told in the world of the Dark Tower. How is Dhinn, or the leader of the ka-tet, decided? Is it a class of its own? Or is it more of a thing that evolves naturally amongst the players and characters? A tricky decision, especially if multiple players want the role in a given story. Though, I suppose in the end the dissolution of a ka-tet because the gunslingers within it can’t work together is a dramatically impactful event in and of itself.
I almost wish there was something like a Silmarillion for the Dark Tower series, but the books themselves are so detailed and deep that it’s almost unnecessary. Still, much of the history of the world is only hinted at, or given in brief glimpses in the novels. Enough to make you feel like there is a great weight of history before the tale begins, but not always enough to extrapolate all the details to a full “setting.”
Well, that ended up dragging out a bit longer than I expected for a first post. Perhaps I’ll come back to this topic as the idea develops and lay out my progress on the creation. Who knows? Maybe Stephen King will even find it interesting enough to endorse it for publication, and a game studio will like it enough to get behind it. Whether it does, or whether it doesn’t is in Ka’s hands now.