Liveblogging the Los Angeles Games Conference — Part 1

[Jeff's Note: Okay, I'm sitting here at the Los Angeles Games Conference and we're going to give this liveblogging thing a shot. Dunno if I quite have the stamina for it, but let's see if it works  What follows is a paraphrased, blow-by-blow assessment of what's being said during the conference.  The first session we're covering is "Extending Entertainment Franchises Through Games," with folks from Vivendi and Universal, who have successfully paired on the Chronicles of Riddick and Scarface to produce games based on movie franchises.  Enjoy! — J ]

Extending Entertainment Franchises Through Games

Tom Rosseau – G4 Television
Bill Kispert, VP, Interactive, NBC Universal
Peter Wanat, Executive Producer, Vivendi Universal Games

Bill – Pre 2000, games were not part of the thinking overall for studios. No cross-marketing.  That certainly lead to the theory of licensed games being perceived as being bad.  Games were greenlit early on from a licensing perspective.  Mugs and t-shirts.  To get a game done in time for a movie…

[ Tom makes a joke about how hard it is to make a good game at Acclaim.  Heh.]

Pete – It was pretty clear from a design standpoint… we’re going to have another 2d side scroller, but we’re going to put in the characters from the movie and we’re going to release it in time for Christmas.  And that’s what lead to the idea that games based on films are perceived as crap.

Tom – So, it doesn’t really matter where game folks sit inside of a studio group, what matters is their access to assets.  How do you create games that are more than just merchandise?

Pete – A lot of it, in the beginning, was just a huge business descision.  Rarely were the people who ever made the games consulted on that process.  The move is set for an ’08 release.  You can sit down and plot out what the game will be like.  In the last couple of years, we’ve seen game designers pass because, even though they like the film, they don’t have the time to do it and to do it right.

Bill – The same is true from a studio side.  If we have a great film, but we don’t have the time to put in good game development, we don’t have time to create a quality product.  Miami vice was a good example of this.

3:14 p;m.

Tom – in that line of thinking, why not do a beat for beat game version of the film?  Why scarface or Riddick?  Why extend it from the basic plot of the flm?

Bill — The gamer has become more sophisticated over  time.  They don’t want ot just relive the same story line as the film any more.  We’re being looked at more as instead of just reitering the content to creating new story lines, new mythology.

Those characters can show up later on in a comic book or a direct to DVD cartoon.  We can make big budget, special fx-laden films in 2 years, but to make a big budget game, it will take 2.5, maybe three years now.  The production times are going in opposite directions.

In 2004, when we released the chronicles of Riddick film, we had the Riddick: escape from butcher’s bay. We had the online, hunt for Riddick game… these were five different story lines all available for that true Riddick fan to get an experience from.

[More Chronicles of Riddick game development Information Here.  I missed writing some of it down because of record-keeping.  They did mention that it was hard to coloborate on games because writers on both sides of the spectrum don’t like being told who lives or who dies or what plot developments need to occur]

Pete – It was never the case that we went to universal and they said, “No.” It was more like they said, “That’s a great idea… can we add this in too, though?”

Bill – I think some of the lesson is that we need to be a little less precious with our intellectual property rights.  I mean, in this respect, to water down this bad-ass character would have aliented the gaming consumer.

Tom — That brings up another point about cooperation that can occur when one person is signing the checks for both companies involved in the process.  Vivendi & Universal, LucasArts as a division of Lucas Films…  Is it a lot easier to get done when it’s being done under the same roof, or is it something that people are just waking up to doing?

Bill ­– In a sense, yes. If I had an in-house production team, which I don’t, it would be really easy.    It’s also nice because

Pete ­– From the game side, when you work with a licensor who doesn’t want you to change anything at all about their I.P., they’re not thinking about how their I.P will work well in the world of games.  Sometimes, it’s almost like we’re the kids and the parents are going through a divorce.

Games need to be different.  You need to find some leeway with your I.P. so we can make the best game possible.  Your I.P. may have worked really well for your film, but it might not for the game.

Tom – One of the things I found really interesting about King Kong was that the creator of the film, Peter Jackson, hand-pickjed the creator of the game based on a gaming experience he had had with that person’s work.  Does that change how the work is done?

3:29 P.M. Scarface:

Pete — We didn’t want to make a prequel… Playing Tony on the refugee boat coming over can only be so exciting.  We wanted to have the player fulfill the American dream that Tony personifies, but we wanted to allow players to expand on this mythology.

Bill – It would have been hard to create a game where players knew that their character that they put all this emotion and work into was going to die at the end of the game. That would have been a really hard sell.  So, we knew we had to allow a little leeway…

 3:39 —

Tom — So, where is this all going?


Bill — Back in 2004, we started to put codes on the DVDs of our films that applied to the games derived from that DVD. Now that people can download films and video directly to their gaming console, we're really excited about the possibility that this could be built in to the system.


Pete — As soon as we have the ability to do downloadable content, it really


Bill — Certianly most people have heard of machinima and mobisodes.  Now we can tell some of the backstory through these types of experiences.  It has several benefits because we can use it for practical marketing by showing people a background video before the film is actually released, but we can also create demand for the game by displaying the actual graphics engine that it's going to be using.