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A great number of studios develop games based on movie licenses. For the most part, the constraints on these projects make them difficult proposition. High Moon Studios -- creators of the ambitious, if flawed, Darkwatch -- were founded on the promise of developing triple-A original IP.
The studio has been acquired by Vivendi, and is currently working on a game based on Robert Ludlum's spy character Jason Bourne - as recently showcased in a series of popular action movies starring Matt Damon.
This opens the question -- how do you design a triple-A, next-generation cinematic gaming experience based on someone else's ideas? VP and design director Paul O'Connor answers that question, joined by Meelad Sadat, the studio's director of business relations.
I am really curious about
how you handled the license with The Bourne Conspiracy,
because you and I both know the predominant perception of licensed games.
Paul O'Connor: It's entirely deserved.
There was quite a lot of stuff when
Darkwatch was coming out about how
your studio was geared toward coming up with exciting new IP. This is
sort of an about-face in certain ways, isn't it?
PO: Yeah, what happened? Why aren't
we doing original IP? Well, we're still doing original IP, and I'm going
to be talking about that stuff. The thing about Bourne... is
that I've worked on licensed properties in the past. We wouldn't have
taken it at High Moon if we didn't think we could learn from it, and
if it wasn't something we thought we could do and do well.
Speaking for the development staff, I was on the game from the very beginning. I was co-creator on Darkwatch. I love Darkwatch. That's why we founded the studio, was to make original properties. We treated Bourne like an original property.
By that, I mean that we found a way... I've worked on original properties in the past where all the things that you know about are happening. Fixed end date, no cooperation from the studio, a serious set of restrictions in terms of what you can and can't do with the content, and, "We have to turn this thing in nine months. Just get it out there. We'll get sixty, and we'll sell a few when it's done."
We didn't approach the product in this way. We looked at it as an opportunity to create a new property that fits into that Ludlum world. When you're doing a virtual property, you have to define the guardrails for yourself -- what that world, character, and space is going to be about. When you're doing a licensed property, the guardrails are established for you, but there's still a lot of space inside to innovate.
The way we look at it -- and I'm going to steal Meelad's thunder, because he's probably going to give you this analogy -- is we figure that there's three shelves in the Ludlum library. On the top shelf, you have all these books, and if you look on the other shelf, you have movies, and we like to think that there's going to be a third shelf full of video games.
That's kind of how we kept our creators engaged, by telling them that they weren't just doing an interactive version of somebody else's movie, or somebody else's vision.
they were handed the character bible and a world -- a self-consistent,
interesting world for the characters and adventure -- and now we're
going to tell stories interactively inside that space. In that sense,
it wasn't much different from what we did on Darkwatch. We just
had the bible on hand, instead of making it ourselves.