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GDC: Original IPs can learn from movie games

Developers of original IPs can learn from movie games says Stormfront Studios president Don Daglow

Developers of original IPs can learn from movie games says Stormfront Studios president Don Daglow.

Daglow, whose earliest games were based on the movie Tron and whose most recent games were based upon Lord of the Rings and The Spiderwick Chronicles, understands that many developers have a negative impression of movie-based games.

"I actually heard someone say 'Why would I ever want to work on a movie game? I canât be creative working on a movie game. The creativity is all done.' I disagree with that," he said.

People tend to romanticize the era when a single person did the design, programming, sound effects and graphics — an era Daglow was part of as a member of the original Intellivision team.

"In reality, I think we have much better game design now because we have teams working together," he said.

When a developer says that they want to work on their own property and not someone else's, they may simply be reluctant to give up control.

But Daglow warns against that fear, saying that it doesn't betray creative intent or a desire to say something, entertain or somehow provide value. Worrying about losing control is a defensive position.

He compared a career to carrying a cup of tea, saying that the closer you watch it, the more likely you will be to spill it. But if you are focused on your creative craft and what drives you to create your work, the cup will take care of itself.

Creators should be more willing to enlist the aid of concept artists and the project writers, treating them as allies and not threats.

People will often talk about character development, but then focus on character design.

"The actual idea of character development is why are you still interested in playing that character after 6 hours?" Daglow said.

He noted that non-artists would never attempt to create concept art themselves, yet non-writers will routinely write 30 page story treatments. If we would not presume to do the art, why do we automatically presume to do the story?

Daglow displayed a photo of characters from The Lord of the Rings — which he noted was once original IP - to illustrate the advantages of movie-based games.

The GDC audience knew who the characters were, understood why they were angry and who they were angry against.

He then contrasted that by showing a photo of characters from an unknown original IP. Despite the fact that the same developers worked on both games, no one in the audience knew who they were or what they were doing.

"That is one of the inherent advantages of movie games. We know at the startâ¦We have an intellectual understanding and an emotional commitment to where we are going," Daglow said.

As a movie-based game opens, you already know why you like the heroine, why you hate the villain, why the villain has to be stopped and why the best friend doesn't just tell the hero to shove it and walk out.

As the original IP game opens, you already know you spent USD 60 that you worked your ass off to earn buying this game - and that the bozos who created it had damn well better not disappoint, Daglow noted.

In his opinion, game creators get too hung up on the overidealised idea of original IP.

A good videogame is like a good movie — the audience knows why it likes the hero and why it hates the villain, it doesn't know the outcome but it cares about it, it doesn't know how characters will face challenges but both heroism and tragedy are possible outcomes.

"A hundred years from now, game designers will still be worried about these things," he said.

Why does it matter?

Daglow shared the experience of receiving a letter from a woman who had played his Neverwinter Nights game. She was in an abusive relationship and afraid to leave the house, but through the game she made friendships and was eventually persuaded to escape from a bad situation.

Game developers have a chance to reach out to people in similar situations, creating a potential form of literature that can affect lives in important ways.

"As game designers we can hold the mirror up to life in a way that gives people more than just the occupation of a few minutes.

"It is not about us. It is about [the audience] and how we can make them feel, and how we can influence their lives. Ten, twenty, twenty-five years later, that is what you will care about."

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