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Originality Vs. Established IP In Games 71

Posted by Soulskill
from the where's-my-known-space-mmo dept.
Ten Ton Hammer has an article about the differences between developing a game based upon existing intellectual property and the creation of an entirely new story and setting. They make the point that while doing the former may result in an easier time building a fan base, those same fans will often be the hardest to please. "By creating a game based on a popular IP, the company in question has a huge responsibility to 'do it right.' Unfortunately, not everyone realizes the reality of one little secret — every single fan out there has a different idea of what 'right' is. ... Lord of the Rings is a perfect example. For a person that may be familiar with the movies and little else, it's a great game with an impressive amount of depth and attention to detail. For the mass of fanatical fans that have spent more time poring over every book Tolkien ever wrote than even Tolkien himself, any deviation from the lore of his world is paramount to sacrilege on the most horrific scale."
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Originality Vs. Established IP In Games

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  • If something transitions from one medium to another, whether it's from novels to movies, from movies to games, etc, it doesn't matter.

    If it's faithful to the original, I will disdain the transition for being unoriginal.

    If it tries to be original, I will blame it for straying from the source material.

    *sigh*

    I guess I'm really just an awful person when it comes to these things.

    • I'm the worst person to try to please

      That's what she said. That and "It happens to a lot of guys."

      • by ndogg (158021)

        Yeah, I was warned about her. A lot of other guys said she was bad in bed, but I didn't believe them.

    • by gbulmash (688770) *

      A game that doesn't let you break out of the original plot is just a bit of an animated storybook in a way, but if it does, it's not true to the original book. In the long run, games must adhere to the spirit of the material, not the letter, or they;re just going to suck. And any hardcore fan who screams about it not adhering to the letter probably doesn't "get it".

      • Or you can tell another story in the same universe?

        • by vux984 (928602)

          Or you can tell another story in the same universe?

          What would be the point?

          Seriously. They always suck. They invariably feel like someone is just trying to milk the name of the franchise or worse its bad fan-fic. Like the non-Asimov foundation books. People who buy those, I don't know, I just don't get it... I mean I get wanting more Robots/Empire/Foundation novels... but there aren't any more. Deal with it. That's all there is.

          I walk into a bookstore and see a wall of Trek, Star Wars, Dune, etc books, and

          • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            The one exception to this rule is the Blade Runner computer game. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blade_Runner_(1997_video_game) [wikipedia.org]

            This is the BEST other-media IP translation I have ever seen. A wonderful game. Would have been so much worse if they had just made a translation of the movie/book.

            Good graphics too - especially for the time. Cut scenes were pre-rendered, so close to modern Final-Fantasy graphics quality (but more realistically shaped people), and live-action parts are rendered with voxels, so provide

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Swizec (978239)
      Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a marvelous example of just how wrong you are. Both the book and the movie are exactly the same and yet it's impossible to decide which is better or more original. It's quite a unique situation I believe.

      Watching the movie feels exactly like reading the book, except better because you can see the crazy visuals, and reading the book is exactly like reading the movie script, except better because you get to imagine the crazy visuals and make them crazier.
    • I take it you hated the book called "The Htchhiker's Guide Guide to the Galaxy [wikipedia.org]"?

  • by lee1026 (876806) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @03:48AM (#27804301)

    They are a extremely small part of any fan base for a certain IP.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Azzmodan (96691)

      But they are also a very vocal part, that gets seen by others.

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      How about the "unfaithful" that screams simply because the Game devs focus on "getting it right" and forget about making the controls not suck or gameplay.

      EVERY SINGLE MOVIE GAME sucks in a big way because important parts like making the controls great and gameplay great take 3rd banana to visual bling and graphics/other junk that is useless.

      A game like castle crashers is far more fun to play and has way better controls and gameplay than any of the Lord of the Rings games.

      • I've always been baffled by the need to make every franchise game SUCK. :-/ I don't get it. Seems like you could get a reputation for doing good franchise games and make lots of money if you actually made good games.

        • I think the biggest problem with games made from movies, is that the releases have to coincide. So, if the game isn't ready, too bad, shrink wrap it and ship it to Walmart.
  • by icebike (68054) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @03:52AM (#27804313)

    Gee, this seems rather obvious.

    Do we really need a slash dot story telling us that if you set out to make a movie, game, coloring book, lunch pail, or Barbie dress based on a theme from some outside source you generally make a commitment to have at least a passing resemblance to said source.

    Won't Slash Dotters look at this and express their deep disappointment that there is really nothing behind this story, and it doesn't even bear the tiny-est resemblance to an actual Slash Dot story?

    Nah! What was I thinking.

    • A bit of intresting trivia. Ever wonder why some action figures of real people don't look all the real? Because they don't want to be. Look to much like the real person and you got to pay for the right to use their face. So, the commitment you mention is not actually always there. So now you know why some action figures are minitature statues and others all have the same face, men, women and aliens.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by rawls (1462507)

      Gee, this seems rather obvious. Do we really need a slash dot story telling us that if you set out to make a movie, game, coloring book, lunch pail, or Barbie dress based on a theme from some outside source you generally make a commitment to have at least a passing resemblance to said source. Won't Slash Dotters look at this and express their deep disappointment that there is really nothing behind this story, and it doesn't even bear the tiny-est resemblance to an actual Slash Dot story? Nah! What was I thinking.

      That's not what the article is about at all. The article says that you can't make a game that everyone considers faithful to the original IP because different fans have different interpretations of it. Furthermore, the best you can do is concentrate on making the game as enjoyable as possible in its own right, rather than being overly concerned with making it true to the IP.

  • by AuMatar (183847) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @03:54AM (#27804325)

    You're talking about a guy who spent 50+ years writing the Silmarillion (and died with it unfinished) and would rewrite passages dozens of times. I don't think anyone is quite that obsessed with his work (mainly because someone that obsessed would almost need to stop eating and sleeping to fit it all in).

  • You really can't get any more diversified with conflicting viewpoints than Touhou lore.

    Then again, ZUN did state in official material that Gensokyo is what we make of it effectively giving creative interpretation of it over to the fans with him just creating the basic layout and characteristics of each character.
    And looking at the size of Touhou fandom I'd have to admit it's not that bad of an idea. Although if someone would try to make something similar to his style, most of the fandom would more than
    • by lhoguin (1422973)

      The interesting part of Touhou, related to this story, is that the lore isn't really created by the author. As you said, he only makes a basic framework, and then the community builds upon it in the fanworks (which aren't restricted at all and can be sold freely, as opposed to other IP). The community creates various meme about the characters and the world itself which are sometimes taken back into the following games. The fans are contributing to the canon story.

      The IP from TFS are usually entirely control

      • by Neko-kun (750955)
        I only mentioned Touhou as an example of a fandom that has thrived around fan created content and how I like that ZUN's line about Gensokyo being whatever you want it to be, pretty much was a way to stop arguments about what is 'true'.

        Now, IP being controlled by their owners is nothing new and the rights-holder, usually the creator, can do whatever they want with it.
        Most of the problems though rise from lack of attention to detail.
        To use an old example, why don't we shove a person in a room filled wit
  • Meh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @04:20AM (#27804437) Journal

    Existing IP was an original creation as well at one point. How do you tell a bad movie/book? When it doesn't even respect its own IP from before the break/previous chapter. We call them plotholes.

    Whenever you create a world, which is really what any writer does, the visitor is going to expect at least some kind of continuety. That the middle follows the beginning and the end connects to both. If you start the journey with "A long time ago..." you don't expect space ships do you? That would be silly.

    Lotro has us expecting certain things. There should be elves, a force of evil, dwarves (only male) and hobbits. Lotro provides that. But how far do you go? Some people complain about the new Rune-keeper class, which fills the role of a glass cannon which Lotro really didn't have. Fans claim the game was fine without a glass cannon and breaking the lore to add a class just to appeal to WoW players is a bad idea. The problem is the entire game breaks the lore.

    Females, in battle. OOPS!

    Hobbits, fighting. No no.

    Dwarves, out of the mines.

    Elves, fighting on the front in numbers.

    All races being roughly equal while according to Lore, Elves would be the absolute top, dwarves second, man (Aragon is NOT a man), a distant third and hobbits trailing way behind.

    Elves starting story line being several hundred years before anyone else, yet when you emerge in the game world proper, you are the same level as a young human.

    All of the above is "needed" to make Lotro a game. You can't have Elves be real elves because they would be impossible to balance. People are going to want to play dwarves so screw them being holed up in their mines. Hobbits not leaving the Shire? It is a beautifull area of the game but you could hardly expect people to spend 2+ years there.

    But with all the problems, using existing IP has a HUGE advantage.

    As a player you don't have to sit through a huge amount of drivel as the creator tries to explain the world to you. Ever tried an Asian free MMORPG? Apart from the simplistic gameplay I am often turned off by trying to understand what the fuck is going on and why I should care. Each race, each class has some kind of really bad Sci-Fi wannabe tearjerker background and after having been introduced to new words for everything I just can't keep up. Existing IP gets rid of that. Somebody else established the currency, the political make up, the names of races and classes. You no longer need to do that.

    Do you know why existing franchises keep on ticking? Because creating a new world is insanely hard. Only a few can do it. Gene Roddenberry, father of the biggest franchise of them all, only created 1 succesfull one, despite several other tries. An existing backstory allows a new story to get right down to business. No new star wars needs to explain about hyperdrive, the force or the sith. We know them and you can just skip to the good bits. The ewok songs!... what? Why are you looking at me like that.

    • Re:Meh (Score:5, Funny)

      by B1oodAnge1 (1485419) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @04:57AM (#27804555)

      If you start the journey with "A long time ago..." you don't expect space ships do you? That would be silly.

      er... really, really bad example. O.o

    • Hobbits not leaving the Shire? It is a beautifull area of the game but you could hardly expect people to spend 2+ years there.

      People have played in a single town in Nintendo's Animal Crossing for longer than that. And people used to play The Sims Online.

    • As you already pointed out, the final MMORPG usually changes things or introduces completely new elements to balance the game. At this point, the original IP does not really explain the changed world anymore.
      Besides, a huge amount of drivel is not necessary to explain the background. One page of text per faction will do, and the details of gameplay need explaining anyway, even with existing IP. If you have a passable author that will write a lengthy background story, fine, but that is strictly optional.

      But

    • by wallah (1107725)
      Great post.

      One of my friends at work, (an EVE player) who was considering LOTRO wanted to know how much it adhered to Tolkien Lore before he tried playing it. It was a question I couldn't really answer, as I had only read The Hobbit as a youngster and more recently, seen the films.

      I can't imagine an MMO surviving as a business that required new players to haul in a lot of High Art intellectual baggage before they play. If the story was any good it on it's own merit, it would have been popular art to be

  • Depends on the IP (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DreamsAreOkToo (1414963) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @04:35AM (#27804485)

    Some fans are die-hards. Comic book and trekkie fans spring to mind.

    But other fandoms are retarded, blind lemmings in a blender. I don't want to be pointing fingers, so I'll make up an example. So lets say some guy makes a couple really good movies. A couple good related books and games come out. Later, lets say about 25 years, this dude comes out with a prequel movie. It's pretty awful, and only has brand recognition going for it. Regardless, they decide to make even more movies. A bunch more related products come out, and most of them suck. HOWEVER, it ALL sells tremendously well and people act as if it's the second coming of Jesus. Just to top it all off, the guy refuses to release the original movies on DVD, but has a dozen different "Director's Cut" editions, which fans always buy the latest version of.

    I know my example is over-the-top exaggeration and nothing could possibly be *that* asinine, but some names are worth millions of units sold, regardless of the product's quality.

    Literally, owning some brands is like owning your own private mint.

  • I'm getting sick of playing game adaptation because of the inaccuracies. It can totally ruin the gaming experience. I was quite disgusted with the inaccuracies in this game [wikipedia.org]. It has left a sour taste in my mouth. I don't think I will play a movie adaptation again.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      I was quite disgusted with the inaccuracies in this game. It has left a sour taste in my mouth.

      The sour taste was added for extra realism.

      Don't ask the game developers how they found out.

  • ... depending on how recent the IP is. The thing with tolkien and the lord of the rings is, the books have been around forever. But any game would most likely be targetting the lukewarm middle that doesn't read very much, any game appealing to tolkien's world doesn't necessarily have to be 'perfect' and I think most sane people realize that. I really think it's a minority thing to get crazy about adaptations of movies or established stories to games.

  • Popular IP? (Score:5, Funny)

    by the_other_chewey (1119125) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @05:00AM (#27804573)

    By creating a game based on a popular IP [...]

    Like what?
    Kevin alone at 127.0.0.1?
    The Hostmask?
    Destination Anycast?
    Don't Loop Back?
    The Last Broadcast?

    Now those are movies I would watch...

  • by kailoran (887304) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @05:02AM (#27804585)
    Why is everyone using "intellectual property", a catch-all phrase for trademarks, copyrights etc instead of just saying "ideas", "stories" or "settings"? I don't want to sound like RMS but it's really a dumb use of the term. The LoTR game is not based on IP, it's based on a story that happens to be protected by copyright.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      this is particularly interesting since every relevant legal doctrine agrees that general ideas can't be protected.

      in the US:

      copyright attaches to a nonfunctional original work of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression.

      trademark protects nonfunctional arbitrary, fanciful, or descriptive (where secondary meaning exists) terms/logos/devices which serve as source identifiers and thus prevent consumer confusion.

      patent gives an exclusionary right to the inventor (or discover-or) of new, useful, nonob

  • Ambition (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anenome (1250374) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @05:23AM (#27804641)

    It's a matter of how ambitious you want to be. There have been studios that made a point of owning their IP, and began their game as the beginning of a brand, a mascot, intended to become popular. Look at Mario, has more name recognition than Mickey Mouse. To do this sort of thing you have to be a triple-A studio backed with a ton of financing and development freedom.

    The last developer that notably got to this point, after years of doing work for other people's IP is Factor 5. Unfortunately they tanked with Lair, mostly not their fault, who could've predicted Sony would release at $600 :| But the game wasn't amazing either. You could mention Silicon Knights as well. Too Human in development for over 10 years, at least conceptually. While the story was ambitious it somehow didn't quite resonate, and had that miserable E3 debut.

    So, if you're an up&coming developer and you catch the eye of a publisher, do you say yes or no to that Matrix derived console port? You say yes, of course. You want to work, you bide your time, pay your dues, and store up the cheddar for your shot.

    Sometimes their day comes and fizzles, and sometimes it's a home-run. Sometimes it's Daikatana, sometimes it's Deus Ex. Lol, same studio (name anyway), but Romero was running the one that tanked like a fish. (One wonders if Romero still wears his 'Design is Law' t-shirts around the house... or do they even fit anymore?)

    Sure, doing a game adaptation has its pitfalls, that's clear. The biggest pitfalls fall in areas that can be the hardest to get right. It's damned easy to create the world's visuals. No one cares anymore. You have a hi-rez texture-map of Trinity's face for your Matrix game and know enough code to slap it onto a wireframe (mirrored), whoop-dee-do. Let's see a trick learned in your sophomore year of college. The real trick is matching tone, mood, atmosphere, scope -- those things that movie-makers try so desperately hard to build into their films, and if they're done right are so subtle that you only feel them, never mechanically note them. After that there's the question of whether the game-play is slick or not, and that can be tricky too. The master of gameplay is Nintendo. Miyamoto's made how many Mario / Zelda / Metroid / etc., etc., etc., etc., games now? And yet each one sells like crack? That's because the story is only a frame, the game is in the gameplay, the control mechanics, that feedback of visuals and control. The answer to the question: what is a game? Miyamoto knows it, and you play it in his games.

    The last major pitfall: running out of time and financing. When they rely on the name more than the game. We've all played stuff that was an adaptation that was utter sh!t. Going all the way back to the industry slayer: E.T. the Extraterrestrial for the Atari. I played that goddamn thing left and right, and it was annoying as hell. Or take that Little Mermaid game for the NES my sister talked my little brother in purchasing one Christmas long ago, though I warned him about it and he later was quite upset.

    There's always gonna be some stuff that just should not be adapted. Who's gonna try and make a game out of "Pride and Prejudice", or "Angela's Ashes"? There's just not enough action. And dating simulators never really took off in the States (thank god, that's a new level of pathetic :P).

    • Look at Mario, has more name recognition than Mickey Mouse.

      Even more interesting, is the fact that Mario only came into existence because Nintendo couldn't get the rights to use "Popeye the Sailor" in a game. The concept would later be remade into what we now know as "Donkey Kong".

      • by Anenome (1250374)

        Omg, you're talking about this game, aren't you: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6352241601171351571&ei=JAT-SdDKDpayqAOo_I3uDg&q=popeye+colecovision&hl=en&client=firefox-a [google.com]

        I played that thing often. It was a Colecovision game, Popeye the Sailor, somewhat Mario-like, for sure. Definite parallels. Then, of course, Nintendo skated by using the word 'Kong' in Donkey Kong and was sued by Universal, but ended up winning the lawsuit in the end.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Bones3D_mac (324952)

          Omg, you're talking about this game, aren't you...

          Actually, no... that game came much later on. (Donkey Kong came out in 1981, while an "official" Popeye game came out in 1983.)

          If you look at Mario's earliest character designs, his outfit strongly resembles those worn Popeye and Bluto in the old animated Popeye the Sailor shorts, short of a minor color palette shift. Much of Popeye's influence on Mario is still retained in both the red/blue/white coloring and the trademark hat style shared by both character

    • by ifrag (984323)

      E.T. the Extraterrestrial for the Atari. I played that goddamn thing left and right, and it was annoying as hell.

      Yeah, you might be right about that, but how is that different from any other Atari game? Ever try the Indiana Jones game? I've seen E.T. referenced about a dozen times for how annoying it was, but there were a lot of bad, annoying, difficult games back then. I'll admit, there are a few gaming gems in the Atari library, but if you kept playing it, was it really that bad?

  • by DrXym (126579) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @06:28AM (#27804857)
    Since Lord of the Rings is mentioned... recall that when the movie trilogy appeared there was a fair amount of fuming and ranting from certain fans that their favourite minor character had been excised or composited with another, or that the timeline of the episodes was modestly different, or that new or changed events appeared in places. Guess what effect all of that ranting had? Nothing. The aspergers level of ranting over minutiae was for naught. The movies clearly tried their best to follow the books without being slaves to them and the result was something that a mainstream and the reasonable fans could appreciate.

    In the video game domain, Fallout 3 is another example of a game where a small and vocal minority wigged out that Bethesda DARE change anything about their beloved isometric franchise. Even so, Fallout 3 was able to strike a balance between offering a modern realtime experience while adhering fairly close to what came before. The ranting of more obsessive fans had no impact on the game's popularity.

    I'm sure games franchises do benefit from fan approval but it isn't necessary to make every last one happy, especially the fanatics.

    • In the video game domain, Fallout 3 is another example of a game where a small and vocal minority wigged out that Bethesda DARE change anything about their beloved isometric franchise. Even so, Fallout 3 was able to strike a balance between offering a modern realtime experience while adhering fairly close to what came before. The ranting of more obsessive fans had no impact on the game's popularity.

      IMHO, F3 did fail at capturing the feel and play style of the previous Fallouts, but not because of the new c

    • by Acrid89 (1546705)
      OP was right, the companies have to worry about the actualy consumer. A great example of this is also many games modeled after Star Wars. To be specific Star War Galaxies, an MMORPG. In this game there are way to many wookies and jedi, according to the story. However people still play it
  • by SlappyBastard (961143) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @11:38AM (#27806525) Homepage
    I don't recall the 95 successive scenes in the film where E.T. fell into a friggin canyon.
    • I'm pretty sure I remember him falling into a bunch of canyons and finding a piece of a telephone in one of them, then extending his neck and making sounds like an electric cow so that he could fly back out. But it's been a long time since I saw the movie...
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      I don't recall the 95 successive scenes in the film where E.T. fell into a friggin canyon.

      I don't remember Indy parachuting into a cave under a tree, or spending a lot of time running away from tsetse flies, yet somehow Raiders of the Lost Ark is hailed as one of the best VCS games of all time and E.T. the Extra Terrestrial is one of the most hated. I had both games, and I only beat one of them, and it wasn't Raiders. On the other hand, I think we can all agree that Star Raiders really was the best game you could get without turning the Atari 2600 into a video card...

  • You have three games with any new game before it gets old. After this you either have to completely reinvent (Resident Evil 4), or you are doomed to stagnation (Megaman) or else will run the series into the ground (Sonic the Hedgehog). You have one game to introduce things(Sonic 1/Crash Bandicoot), one sequel to experiment with and ramp it up a notch(Sonic 2/The Wrath of Cortex), and number three is the to release the perfected, definitive work(Sonic 3&K/ Crash Bandicoot Warped).

    With this in mind, new I

    • You have three games with any new game before it gets old. After this you either have to completely reinvent (Resident Evil 4), or you are doomed to stagnation (Megaman) or else will run the series into the ground (Sonic the Hedgehog). You have one game to introduce things(Sonic 1/Crash Bandicoot), one sequel to experiment with and ramp it up a notch(Sonic 2/The Wrath of Cortex), and number three is the to release the perfected, definitive work(Sonic 3&K/ Crash Bandicoot Warped).

      ... and in the darkness, BIND them.

  • "For a person that may be familiar with the movies and little else, it's a great game with an impressive amount of depth and attention to detail. For the mass of fanatical fans that have spent more time poring over every book Tolkien ever wrote than even Tolkien himself, any deviation from the lore of his world is paramount to sacrilege on the most horrific scale."

    Seems to imply that there are few people that have watched the movies and little else while many more people read all of the books in a fanatical

  • IMHO, perfect example of "IP" MMO done right: LoTRo. Great game and had lots of fun. Perfect example of "IP" MMO done wrong: SWG. Good idea, but, went south. Looking forward to Stargate and KOTOR...

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