GWJ Conference Call Episode 623

Spider-Man, Shadow Of The Tomb Raider, Donut County, Two Point Hospital, Why Is It Hard to Make Games From Famous IPs, your emails and more!

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This week Allen, Julian and Sean talk about what makes bringing a famous IP into a gamespace tricky, and why the good ones are both so rare and so good.

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Comments

00:01:38 Spider-Man
00:09:14 Two Point Hospital
00:15:29 Donut County
00:16:49 Twilight Struggle
00:18:26 Shadow Of The Tomb Raider
00:23:52 Why Is It Hard to Make Games From Famous IPs?
00:38:11 Your Emails

Wait, someone on the confeeence call talks about finishing Duke Nukem Forever and it’s not me?

Gob. Smacked.

For the record I’ve finished it twice, and beaten the single player DLC, and I’m about halfway through my third play through. (I’m not sure why I wanted that on the record, but there it is.)

Also for the record, the worst game I’ve ever beaten that wasn’t the Atari 2600 version of Superman or E.T. was Bethesda’s Rogue Warrior. I just couldn’t stop playing it, and I finished it. I may play it again sometime, when I decide I need more Mickey Rourke F-Bombs.

Regarding the topic, I don’t think IP crossovers are harder to make than any other type of game. The problem with them is that they’re usually made with low budgets and short timelines to cash in on some marketing synergy.

The reason why Spider-Man, Batman, Shadow of Mordor KOTOR and others were good is because they were made by people who like the franchises, and who had time and money to make good games.

Arkham Asylum wasn’t trying to cash in on a Batman movie, and neither is the new Spider-Man game. They were made by people who had access to the IP and who wanted to make good games, and had the resources to pull it off without having to hew to a Box Office release date.

Shorter version: shovel ware and rush-jobs suck. It has nothing to do with the IP.

Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay will always be the granddaddy of licensed games for me. Not only was it a licensed movie tie in game, it's way, way better than its movie.

It sounds like nobody on the podcast played Star Trek 25th Anniversary, which

a) had you play as Kirk and
b) was great.

Agathos wrote:

It sounds like nobody on the podcast played Star Trek 25th Anniversary, which

a) had you play as Kirk and
b) was great.

Agreed on all counts.

I played it on the NES. They did a reasonable job with the canon (FIZZBIN REFERENCE! OMG!), but a phenomenal job of making the game feel like an extended episode of the original series.

doubtingthomas396 wrote:

Shorter version: shovel ware and rush-jobs suck. It has nothing to do with the IP.

If only Duke Nukem Forever got more time...

Jayhawker wrote:
doubtingthomas396 wrote:

Shorter version: shovel ware and rush-jobs suck. It has nothing to do with the IP.

If only Duke Nukem Forever got more time...

Duke Nukem forever didn’t suck. Everyone else is just wrong.

Crossover IPs: why did no one discuss The Witcher series? Because of lack of regular host?

I very much enjoyed E.T. on Atari, perhaps because I knew others hated it so much. Yes, you could finish it, but the controls of getting out of pits somehow eluded people despite having just a single joystick and single button. Of course, I haven’t played it in 30 years, so maybe part of my enjoyment was not knowing better. It’s not like the NES had hit me yet.

doubtingthomas396 wrote:

Regarding the topic, I don’t think IP crossovers are harder to make than any other type of game. The problem with them is that they’re usually made with low budgets and short timelines to cash in on some marketing synergy.

The reason why Spider-Man, Batman, Shadow of Mordor KOTOR and others were good is because they were made by people who like the franchises, and who had time and money to make good games.

Arkham Asylum wasn’t trying to cash in on a Batman movie, and neither is the new Spider-Man game. They were made by people who had access to the IP and who wanted to make good games, and had the resources to pull it off without having to hew to a Box Office release date.

Shorter version: shovel ware and rush-jobs suck. It has nothing to do with the IP.

I think this really hits the nail on the head. I listened to the podcast yesterday afternoon, and all through the afternoon and evening I was thinking on NES and SNES era games that were based on IPs and that I enjoyed. I can come up with a bunch off the top of my head, and I think they span several different genres:

Ducktales (NES)
Chip & Dale's Rescue Rangers (NES)
G.I. Joe: The Atlantis Factor (NES) [I never played the original]
Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (PC)
Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage (SNES)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise (Arcade, NES)
Marvel vs. Capcom franchise (Arcade, PS2)

Beyond these, I think there were a handful of Spider-Man, X-Men, and Avengers games that were pretty decent but I don't remember specific titles. And there were a lot of Star Wars games that were pretty good, some even very good. Those spanned multiple genres: flight sims (like TIE Fighter), RPGs (like KOTOR), 1st person (the Kyle Katarn stuff), side-scrolling action / platformers (Super Star Wars, etc.), 3rd person action games (Shadows of the Empire), real-time strategy (Empire at War), 4X (Rebellion -- which, I understand, a lot of people think is terrible, but I thought it was pretty good and ambitious for its time), and flight games that aren't quite sims (the Rogue Squadron games).

I think it's partially right that these games succeeded because they explored content beyond the movies, but if I recall correctly, the stories from a lot of these games became canon back before Lucas sold Star Wars to Disney. That makes me think that the stories were subject to the same level of editorial control and oversight that authors would have experienced when writing books in the SW Expanded Universe.

I also suspect that, to the extent that LucasArts was involved in these games, they were successful because LucasArts was a legit video game studio that knew how to make a good game. This isn't a Star Wars example, but it's no surprise that Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis would be very good when the same studio was responsible for Maniac Mansion, Day of the Tentacle, Curse of Monkey Island, Sam & Max Hit the Road, etc.

Quick point on Shadow of the Tomb Raider: the writers did take liberties with historical lore, but there is a story reason why there are Maya and Aztec artifacts in the Amazon.

And some not-so-quick details...

I do agree there are minor things about the gameplay that are just off. In addition to the weird stealth attack positioning issues mentioned, some of the new gameplay features don't feel fully baked. The new hook swing and wall hook maneuvers are not forgiving enough with timing. Some of the extended swimming areas don't seem well planned - they are missing affordances for easy navigation, it can be easy to get turned around underwater, and in some cases air pockets are few and far between. Speaking of air pockets, the single animation every time Lara takes a breath in an air pocket just looks lazy. Same angle, same sound, same facial expression, nothing changes even if you are very out of breath when you hit an air pocket. At least it shows the appropriate costume? Also, there is a lot of crafting and skill stuff dedicated to combat, but there just isn't all that much combat in the game.

But in the grand scheme of the game, those are all really minor issues. It's a lot of fun, the tombs are way better than the previous two games, and I'm enjoying the expansive hub areas with more side quests and story tie-in collectibles available.

LastSurprise wrote:

[Star Wars]4X (Rebellion -- which, I understand, a lot of people think is terrible, but I thought it was pretty good and ambitious for its time)

I very much hope you have listened to the Three Moves Ahead episode on that several years ago (well before their episode on the board game), because it's a great back and forth.

I’ve actually never listened to that podcast. I’ll check it out!

Spiderman plays like my memory of Spider-man two!