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A Hollywood Tale - Part Two

Tigon's Ian Stevens looks further at the film-game relationship, deal-making and development, and publisher transitions

Following on from the first part of the interview with Tigon's Ian Stevens, in which he offered some insight into the behind-the-scenes relationship between films and games, here the former Butcher Bay and Call of Duty producer looks at some of the business decisions involved, talks more about how Tigon works with others, and looks back on tricky publisher journeys with both Dark Athena and The Wheelman.

GamesIndustry.biz Talking more about the problem with translating films to games, fundamentally it's the difference between interactive and passive entertainment, which is incredibly difficult to quantify because it's experience-based - a lot depends on the individual as well, and what they bring to it. But it seems a genuine shame that five years on from the original strong film 'conversion' of Riddick, there really hasn't been that many other really good film-game tie-ins... Is that because Hollywood doesn't understand the language?
Ian Stevens

They don't, and the set-up is so horrible. It is a business for them - the studio goes ahead and slates the films for production in the next couple of years, and part of that revenue stream is licensing and merchandising. For a lot of those guys over the past twenty years, making videogames has been the same thing as making action figures, and putting your characters on cereal boxes, or making pyjamas. And that's been a very successful model.

But games hasn't really had its own model, and the onus has been on the game-makers to force that shift, because for those guys there's no problem. So often the starting point pre-determines that these things will be bad, because depending on how long it takes for that film studio to get that license deal made, you often get a really talented team that's then told: "Okay, you've got twelve months, make a game - and by the way, the date is the most important thing, so whether or not it's good, do your best."

Actually, that's not what they really say... they really say: "We want the next Gears of War, but we're only going to give you twelve months, and you can't move your date, and you gotta make something that isn't intrinsically fun, fun."

At some point I'd love to give a lecture about how some of the most talented people in the industry are the guys who we tend to respect the least, because they're actually making decent games out of impossible situations. I'll tell you, as much as people might have complained about Wheelman, if you gave that team in Newcastle - through all that they've struggled with, technology, corporate business, all these different things - the kind of opportunity that someone like Valve has...

Most often what I'm trying to do is give health to the set-up. I do a lot of day-to-day design and production, but a lot of the time I'm involved in business development too - I'm trying to just give these guys an honest shot, and get parties to agree that 12, or 14, or 16 months is probably not in the best interests of building on their brand.

It's hard, and there aren't many examples, because the models are stagnant and unhealthy and haven't changed. That's shifting slightly - I think Wanted, which Universal did, as an extension of that franchise is interesting, because they funded it themselves, there's no film tied to it. I applaud them for that, regardless of how it reviewed and sold, because they're trying. And we tried with Wheelman, we tried to go out there and create an IP that would exist as a game and as a film, and would have the time and resources.

Inevitably things happened to make that difficult for us, but all the same, we tried. That wasn't something that was happening even two or three years ago.

GamesIndustry.biz It's interesting to note that games don't generally seem to transition that well into film properties either, so maybe it's a little tough to take the moral high ground...
Ian Stevens

Yeah, but it all happens for a reason. There are no analogues - it's really hard to take something that's native to a certain medium and just draw a line, which is what people are usually trying to do... and what they're encouraged to do.

I remember, with Butcher Bay, being told explicitly that it was a movie game - that these ideas about making it a first-person shooter were crazy. Just make a third-person action game about a guy that can see in the dark, find something that's good enough... Splinter Cell... it's done!

I just think a lot of people don't want to try either, which is another problem.

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