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February 28 2006

Forget Film, Games do Sci-Fi best. An article in Wired online suggest that Sci-Fi games are now more creative than most movies being created today.

"After all, there have been vanishingly few original, mass-market, sci-fi or fantasy movies in recent years. We had The Matrix and then ... what? (I said "original" movies. Stuff like The Lord of the Rings, I, Robot and Minority Report were all based -- however loosely -- on pre-existing books. The shining exception is Joss Whedon's superb Serenity, a movie that, sadly, tanked at the box office.)"

That's the only mention in the article.

...But Serenity was based on a TV show...

Nice mention though.
For today's youth, the go-anywhere, exploratory feel of immersive worlds is where the cultural mojo resides.

If a Serenity game was done right, it would be huge. You have a vast array of planets, space travel, guns, fighting... In terms of game universes - and this is a personal opinion, but I suspect it's correct - Serenity represents an ideal game franchise material. Often, when you look at a movie (say 'King Kong'), you have a few action set pieces to work with, but that's it. With Serenity, you have this vast universe you can do anything with.

Fly to a planet? Do a hospital raid? Smuggle River in? Have River go mental fighty? Take off, sell the goods? It's all there. Everything you could want in a successful game is there.

I'm amazed Sierra didn't pick it the license. They literally have a huge amount of Browncoats in the bag by default anyway, and if they produce an actual decent game it's going to appeal outside the fan base (at one point the 'Chronicials of Riddick' game for the Xbox was outselling the movie).

[ edited by gossi on 2006-02-28 15:07 ]

[ edited by gossi on 2006-02-28 15:08 ]
You have a vast array of planets, space travel, guns, fighting.

There is a Stargate MMORG in the pipeline.

And I got more pleasure playing Knights of the Old Republic one and two than from watching the last two Star Wars films.
Ditto, Simon. With Serenity, you also have 9(ish) characters with unique skills. Need to get out of a tight spot of violence? Don't use Kaylee. Use Jayne. Ship broken? Vault need opening? Fetch Kaylee. Need to know what the guards are doing the other side of the wall? Get River. River injured? Fetch Simon.

It's all there. You don't have a fan base for a game of 'Valiant', but yet they'll produce a game. Produce a game of Serenity, and people will buy it regardless. If it's good, it'll sell to people who either haven't seen the film or didn't like it - I hated the last 3 Star Wars films, but I own Knights of the Old Republic 1 and 2 as they are fantastic games.
I just haven't got time for computer games of any kind. Literally, in fact.

My the time you factor in spending time with my family and friends, work commitments, the television shows i enjoy and the music i love to listen to finding the time to sit and play on a console is pretty much out of the question.

Personally i was never really taken with the whole gaming thing anyway. For the life of me i will never understand why people want to be sat moving virtual football players about on a screen when you could be out kicking a ball yourself. I know there is more to consoles than that type of game but i still think i'd rather be out doing something in the fresh air with whatever free time i do get.
I don't play football games. I do play things like Morrowind, which is a vast (in every single sense of the word) world. We're talking towns, villages, cities, docks etc. You can walk or swim through the island, and it's massive. And you have day, and night. Fog. Rain. Thunder. And it gets cold. And you die if you freeze to death. Graphically, it's unreal the detail. You can pretty much pick up and use any object you see - and there's thousands.

And what do you do in this game? Whatever you want, pretty much. Want to do honest work? Go for it. Want to steal? Go for it. Stalk people? Become a witch? Wizard? Whatever you want.

I make my own story in that game.

[ edited by gossi on 2006-02-28 15:34 ]
This guy seems to forget that games have the benefit of a unlimited amount of time to relay the story. I mean sure Final Fantasy stories are epic with many twists and turns but it does take at least 20 hours to see the story to completion. In fact most games with a story are derided as "short" if they have anything less than 10 hours of gameplay.

[ edited by war_machine on 2006-02-28 15:37 ]
Gossi, that sounds a lot more interesting than the games i see my nephews playing every bloody time they come visit, lol. If i ever had the time that would be the sort of game i'd probably enjoy.
Not a huge games player but i'd play a 'Serenity' game if it was in the style of, say, 'Conflict: Freespace', an excellent space based shooter from a few years ago. I'd rather have something with missions and a story arc than just a free floating 'Elite' type trader especially given how invested I am in these characters. If it had Jossian oversight and was, therefore, canon (ish) that'd be perfect.

Games like Morrowind or Everquest scare me. That is exactly the sort of thing that could suck my life into a giant, swashbuckly pit of addiction and, consequently, I avoid them. As it is i'm sort of an 'intense' games player in that I can go 6 months without touching one then, once started, generally spend every waking moment for as long as it takes finishing it. I'm what you might call goal oriented ;).

VWaG, likewise, but I sometimes enjoy playing a game on the PC when the air outside is a little bit too 'fresh' ;)

war_machine, that's a good point. The time spent, along with the interactivity, surely mean you're more likely to become involved in a well made game than a 90 minute movie (especially if you don't have any history with the story/characters - possibly another reason, apart from plain old lack of inspiration, why Hollywood likes adaptations over original sci-fi films).

I think what you miss in a game tho' is the feeling of communicating with another human on a very fundamental level that you get from the film going or novel reading experience. When you see or read something that really resonates with you, part of the appeal (for me anyway) is that someone else (i.e. the creator of the work) plainly feels the same way. It's a reminder that no matter how different we may seem, the same things make us tick underneath.

[ edited by Saje on 2006-02-28 16:48 ]
Saje, I get that feeling when I plan some games. I'm not going to claim it happens with all games, but it doesn't happen with all books I read or movies I see either. Sometimes it's just as simple as a puzzle that was very logically thought out that makes me think the creator or level designer was on the same wavelength I am. Sometimes it's a character that reminds me of myself or someone else I know, but it does happen to me.
Was a big MMORPG player, spent much time in a number of worlds and I would have to say that a properly done Serenity-verse MMOG would rock. Finding I don't want to dedicate the amount of time necessary to play these games any more (though I still get in PC gaming time and some console time), but it would be tempting with a Serenity game.
Yes I think the Serenity/Firefly universe could make a great game, especially if done by Bioware or Bethsenda.

I'm not sure if I totally agree with the author of the article, that Sci-Fi is better suited for games, I just think for some reason most game makers have put more effort into their Sci-Fi. I definitely agree that the Star Wars Games (KoTOR specifically) was much better than the recent movies.

I actually think horror is best done with games. I have never really been scared by movies or books. But playing a game on the Xbox 360 - Condemned: Criminal Origins - I was scared out of my mind. I could seriously only play for a half hour to an hour tops before needing a break. Nothing in the horror genre has ever affected me like that. Don't get me wrong, I like some horror movies, but never because they have scared me.

Zeit - I used to be a big MMO player myself. Started with The Realm 2.0-3.0, than UO, EQ, DAoC, WoW. The problem with those games IMO is at the end levels of the game I always get sick on the game, with WoW after level 50 you couldn't play the game unless you were willing to sacrifice 4-5 hours to get anything done. I think a Serenity MMO would seriously sour me on the Universe, if not only because it would lack any type of good story, one of the biggest draws of Serenity/Firefly IMO.

[ edited by Odysseus on 2006-02-28 17:16 ]
I can see that war_machine though it still sounds like that is more an intellectual connection than the gut level, emotional connection you get from the best films or books (I agree not all by any stretch).

I wonder if perhaps the interactivity itself acts to distance us emotionally since you're always to some extent analysing what's going on (especially if solving puzzles). I guess I find it hard to imagine myself feeling anything while playing a game that isn't just a result of adrenaline (e.g. annoyance, exhilaration) and even that is in response to events in the game rather than out of some feeling of connectedness. Maybe i'm playing the wrong games ;).

It seems to me that games and sci-fi go together for many reasons but mainly because games creators are techies and techies, to generalise, like sci-fi (in fact many probably are techies because of sci-fi). Added to this is the lack of even physical constraints in science-fiction and the way it encourages, possibly requires, new experiences and environments and it's basically a natural for games.
I would love it if Bethesda did a Serenity game! I love games and I can definitely see where this writer was going with this. I just finished playing Quake 4 and it was a blast. Vampire with a Gun, think of it as being able to watch a movie but interact with it and control events. And the Morrowind and Knights of the Republic games are great RPGs where specific things that you do with your character determine the outcome of the game.
Saje this is getting way off topic but I have just two words, Tim Schaffer. Tim Schaffer is to video games what Joss Whedon is to everything else. I can't speak for Psychonauts as I've only played the demo, but Grim Fandango and Full Throttle are some of the very best story telling I've seen in a video game, on an emotional level. Maybe I'm just strange though.
Oh, and the Buffy games were a blast - like being in a Buffy episode but you get to be Buffy!
Games like Morrowind or Everquest scare me. That is exactly the sort of thing that could suck my life into a giant, swashbuckly pit of addiction and, consequently, I avoid them.

Exactly my feelings!! I never play computer or video games, at all, but it's just because I know my personality too well. Most are too inane for me to want to waste time on, and the ones that aren't, I know I could quickly get addicted to and have all my free time sucked into hours and hours in front of the computer or TV screen. Hell, even with simple mind-numbing games like Solitaire and Minesweeper i had to trash them from my computer in college, because I'd use them as procrastination tools, and i realized i'd much rather spend my time not writing papers doing something more fun, like hanging out with friends or going on a hike.
I'm fully aware that some of the modern, story-based games are utterly brilliant, and that's why I have zero desire to ever even see what they're about. I procrastinate enough without them :-)
One of the aspects I think lacking in games is the notion of the frontier. As in, the connection that you are there. In virtually any (every?) game, if one of your characters dies, you reload the last save game and start again. The characters return.

Here's a notion: you are there. What you do has consequences. What you do matters. Make bad choices? Your characters die. You can't get them back. You are on the frontier with those characters, and you have to be prepared.
I agree with war_machine about Tim Schaffer. I can speak for Psychonauts. I'm usually not much of a fan of platforming games. But I loved that game, great voice acting, quirky fun plot, good dialogue, vibrant colorful world to explore. Just fun to play. Prince of Persia: Sands of Time was well done too - though the sequels aren't much to speak of.
gossi, I have often wanted a game that realistic (i.e, someone dies, you don't get them back). That was always one of the most appealing factors of the old Oregon Trail game for me.

A Serenity game would be enormous, all of those worlds, all of those could potentially be one of the most immersive games ever made. I really wish someone would make it...
There was a developer a few years ago who started working on a Serenity game. They showed Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion some early work they did with it at E3 at the time... However, then it disappeared. It looks like development get discontinued for whatever reason.

Normally Sierra would pick up the rights to Universal titles, and I have to admit I'm still very surprised a game hasn't officially entered development.
Might try a Tim Shafer game when i'm next in the mood (especially since a lot of them will be available in bargain ranges ;). I can remember friends raving about the Monkey Island games all those years ago. Thanks for the pointers, war_machine and Odysseus.

Re: the fully realistic character life. That strikes me as an idea that's great on paper but really, really frustrating in real life. Imagine playing an Everquest character for a year, gradually building weapons, spells, hit points (or however it works) only to accidentally fall off a cliff while fighting some lowly minion. Mucho annoying. If the game design and learning curve aren't absolutely perfectly pitched, I think i'd be giving up in frustration pretty quickly.
Eh, I would prefer if a game is a made it's because the developer wanted to make the game. Not because a publisher buys the game rights, and hands it to a developer without enough clout to say not to a rushed movie license game (like how some actors have to agree to do bad movies to get a juicy part, some game developers have to agree to make licensed stuff to put out the games they want to make). KoTOR was so good because Bioware wanted to make a Star Wars Game. Chronicles of Riddick turned out so good because Vin Diesel is a big gamer and after a xXx came out that was really bad, he apologized to his fans and said it wouldn't happen again. So he put a clause in his contract that he had to have to input on any game based on his movies. Then he bought a small gaming company. And while the company didn't make the game themselves they did help polish, made sure quality voice actors were hired which added a lot to the game. (I'm not sure that is exactly right, I might be fuzzy on some of the details but it's the gist of it.)

[ edited by Odysseus on 2006-02-28 19:25 ]
Yuhu. It's a concern. I think cliff deaths would have to be a design consideration.

Ultimately, games should be a fun exercise. However, there's nothing to stop games also being exciting, entertaining, enjoyable - which make you think and feel.

Classic example: Max Payne. In that game, you revisit a constant nightmare where you relive the murder of your wife and child. Each time you relive the nightmare, there's differences. For example, one time, when you enter your house and hear your child screaming (it's fairly disturbing), as you run up stairs and down the corridor to your room, the corridor keeps getting longer and longer, and seemingly has no end. You just keep running. By the time you get to the end, your child is dead.

It's disturbing, but it's also kind of beautiful. It's a human look at nightmares, and it's interesting to play.

I really do think one of feelings missing in many current games is emotion.

[ edited by gossi on 2006-02-28 19:24 ]
Oh, they should definitely licence the franchise to Tri-Ace and then have them go at it. I mean, I'm excited about Suikoden V's arrival this month but a Fireflyverse RPG? Oh, I'd be in heaven (even though Tri-Ace wouldn't be my first choice, but Konami might make it into something other then an RPG). As long as Joss gets atleast a rewrite of the script I'd trust those guys to make something good out of it.
Oh my, images are starting to appear in my mind right now... It's so pretty... And now I wanna play it... Stupid imagination...
Anyone ever play "The Longest Journey?" It's an adventure game that came out on PC in 2000, and is probably the most emotionally-engrossing game I have ever played. You play a woman named April Ryan, a regular 20-something art student who gets tangled up in this whole mess, where she's told she's been "chosen" (sounds familiar, eh?) to be the next guardian of the Balance between two, twin worlds of Science and Magic.

The plot gets fairly complex, but there's all these different, unique characters, tons of backstory and twists, and it's very moving, funny, and excellently designed. It's a huge game with lots of dialogue, all spoken and sometimes very adult, and it just draws you into the story and the worlds. I can't recommend it highly enough.

In April (the month), the "spiritual successor" to TLJ--as it's creator doesn't think of it as a direct sequel--called "Dreamfall" is finally coming out. It looks to be every bit as good, and I personally can't wait for the next chapter.

My next favorite game along emotional and character lines, is "Grim Fandango." I still go back and play it to this day. And you know what else? "Kingdom Hearts" for PS2. I'm not a Final Fantasy buff, or that into Disney, but man, I took a chance and fell for that game hard (and David B is in it). Also with a sequel approaching.

[ edited by pat32082 on 2006-02-28 19:44 ]

[ edited by pat32082 on 2006-02-28 20:19 ]
The Longest Journey was awesome. I'm looking forward to the sequel. I'm such an adventure game junky.

I'm glad I'm not the only one with some Grim Fandango love. To this day I will easily tell people it's my favorite game without skipping a beat. I painted Manny on my computer case and I'm about to get him tattooed on my arm.
Whoa, war_machine. That's love right there. Do you have the soundtrack, too? I have the soundtrack.

"Tulips." ;-)

ETA: Oh yeah, gossi. "Max Payne." Excellent head trip of a game. All these other games say, "it's like playing an action movie!" but MP actually delivered. Lotta class and style.

[ edited by pat32082 on 2006-02-28 20:24 ]
Right, I've sent off an email asking about the licensing for a Serenity video game. Let's see who's face I have to get in to get them bought.
I do have the soundtrack. Love it. I just wish I could have gotten one of the Manny bobbleheads they were giving out before the game was released.
I would so play a Serenity game. I don't care if it sucks away every free hour I have, bring it on. Personally, I'd like to see something in an open-ended RPG (haven't been up on games since my son was born, so I don't know any current examples. But I loved The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, which I thought was a great open-ended game). I want a huge universe, with the freedom to go where I want and choose the job I want. There could be a plot thread through it all, that ties up with a wiz-bang ending, but honestly, I think just doing small jobs (that never go smooth, of course) would be enough to hook me. And I like Gossi's idea about how one could use the crew.

Really, Serenity would be a perfect world to build a video game in.
I also wanna be able to wander around the ship during trips and just hang out, too. Cause I'm one of those people who loves just driving around the countryside in San Andreas.

And the times in between the jobs were what Firefly/Serenity was about, so that means much dialogue from the crew.
Oh yeah, lot's of dialogue, so long as it's written by someone who can write (say, is Joss working on anything right now? :)) I also love the idea of being able to walk around the ship. Just make some tea and sit down at the table... sounds cool. Perhaps you could even put a sim element to it, and have to start doing jobs to pay for food, fuel, and repairs.
So....why doesn't someone hire us to design this thing? I can't program worth a lick, but I have design ideas I'd be perfectly willing to be compensated for. ;-)

Like this idea: Greg does the music.

And I've always wanted a GTA-like, open ended Buffy game, where they create the entire town of Sunnydale, and you're free to roam as you wish into any of the major structures we've seen on the show. And you could even have vechicles, like Giles' car, Spike and Dru's car and his bike, Oz's Van, Xander's Uncle's Car, Joyce's Jeep, Xander's Ice Cream Truck...

But in between the main plot missions, you'd just patrol the town, slaying random demons and vamps, and you could switch between characters and do research as Giles, or play with the Dingoes as Oz...

And don't think I'm kidding. I'd totally play it.

[ edited by pat32082 on 2006-03-01 01:43 ]

[ edited by pat32082 on 2006-03-01 01:49 ]
gossi, those people you e-mailed need to get back to you.
gossi, those people you e-mailed need to get back to you.

They have. Phone call later to discuss.

Ultimately, I can't fund it myself (hey, who'd have thunk it?), so I doubt the phone call will last more than about 30 seconds. I suppose really the people will need to have an interest are the likes of Sierra, or indeed Universal's own game company.
Good luck with that phone call...hopefully it'll last longer than 30 seconds!

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