How to make better game adaptations of movies

Iron Man sucks. I was hoping it would live up to the hype and not become another poor adaptation of a comic book icon. Instead, it was a huge disappointment. Oh, I'm not referring to the movie (which was great). I'm referring to the recently released Iron Man video game (which Norm calls a "bad PlayStation 2 port"). Yikes.

There have been many articles written about videogame and comic book film adaptations, but I've noticed there are very few discussions about what makes a decent game adaptation of a movie. Why do we expect so little of game adaptations? Can the game ever be better than the movie? In order to make game adaptations of movies better, here are my humble guidelines...

1. Start development earlier.
Let's assume, for the purposes of this article, that games take as long to develop as movies. This may seem like a big leap of faith, but big budget movies are planned years in advance. Marvel recently announced their calendar of movies that will be released in the coming years, and if they're smart, they'll have developers starting on the gaming projects now. Sure, the Thor movie might bomb, but if you hired a decent game development team, maybe you could make a great game.

2. Don't be held back by the plot.
Don't let the crappy screenplays of the movie hurt the game. Only having one villain and their henchman doesn't really cut it anymore for computer games. Inversely, movies that have more than one villain tend to do worse (see "Spiderman 3"). Every movie that becomes a game usually has a compelling world and background. Explore it. Talk to the writers/directors/sources to flesh out the story more. Movies get three hours, tops, to let their stories enfold. If your game is less than ten, gamers consider it too short.

3: No more hack-and-slash action games, please.
Movie studios and corporate executives think that the gaming genre is simply FPS games and fighting games. More movies could become games if executives got their minds around the idea that the gaming world is more than just these genres. Imagine, if you will, "There Will Be Blood: the RTS." Build an empire of oil, use diplomacy or force to pacify priests but be careful not to forsake your child. Or how about "No Country for Old Men: The Adventure Game?" Use your tools to interview witnesses, find clues and prevent more bloodshed. The game ends in failure. Imagine the popularity of the "Made of Honor," puzzle game. Your girlfriend wants you to see the movie, and the game challenges you to figure out clever ways to not have to see this movie. You lose if you see this movie.

4. Don't ship half-finished games.
Yeah, I know companies want the tie-ins to launch the same day as the movie, but would it kill them to wait a week to make the game less buggy? People delay movie releases for all kinds of reasons- competition, current events, giant locusts, etc. If your movie needs the game to release the same day, then delay the movie until the game is good and ready.

5. Cast Bruce Campbell in everything.
This man needs more work. Hire him as your narrator. Cast him as the voice talent for a character. Heck, just make a decent Evil Dead FPS and make me happy.

May 21, 2008