The mad scribbles of a game designer.

Role-playing survival game is willing to take risks

March ‘09
About the Author: This month’s topic turns the literary focus from the medium, to the author. If you submitted a post to either the January or February topics, feel free to write about the process you underwent in converting literary themes into gameplay. Did you struggle with anything in particular? Are you satisfied that your game design(s) communicated what you intended? Have subsequent comments or idea made you wish you could go back and start he process over? And how much does your design say about you and your own interpretation of the themes of the source material?

Alternately feel free to turn your focus to another game designer or to game designers in general. In literature we frequently “hear” the author’s voice in their work. Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, Tom Robbins–these are excellent examples of authors whose voices are quite recognizable. Through reading their works, we feel we come to feel we know them, to understand their philosophies. There are a handful of games where the “author” can clearly be heard through the work. How closely tied is this to the thematic content of the games and how exactly did they communicate these themes to their audience? And should they have, or should video game designer try to remain out of their work, allowing the player to establish their own themes through gameplay?

For this round table entry I’m going to focus on both topics as I’ve had some thoughts I would like to share on them. I’m going to start by looking at my previous entries over the last two months.

Of the game ideas I’ve posted about at that time, Robin Hood and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde were the only two books that I had the game idea first before reading the book. Originally when I was thinking of the Jekyll idea there was going to be more action to it almost similar to the Incredible Hulk game that came out a few years ago. Fortunately for my train of thought I picked up a copy of the story and read it before I set down to right up my idea and decided to make some changes to it. In the story there is actually very little time spent with the two title characters as the story centers around a friend narrating the details of the story. Unfortunately for this theme of good vs evil a game couldn’t really be spent from someone else’s perspective. The other element that I found interesting was that while Hyde was indeed a brute he wasn’t this “evil demon” that other forms of the story present. In the book while he was a foul person his problems also came from society’s view on him as an ugly person. At the end of the story there was fear in Hyde at being exposed which someone who was completely evil probably wouldn’t care about.

I think for my game idea I nailed the concept of the battle of good vs evil that takes place in us all but I don’t think my game idea was the best outlet for it. A game could be released that delves into the themes of the story but I don’t think a traditional game based on the book could work. I did like another blogger’s take on the idea which was used for February’s entry.

My Robin Hood idea which was commented on as being my strongest idea was the one that I’ve spent the most time on even though I’ve never read the original story which I want to do at some point. I think this idea works well as the legend of Robin Hood was a myth in itself which allowed me to create a game based around creating that myth. The character and methods of Robin Hood are easy to translate into a game as he is in some way a medieval Batman plus Garrett from the Thief series. Add an in-depth sword fighting system and the game almost creates itself (not literally of course but you get my meaning).

I’m not going to talk about my Lord of the Flies idea as I’ve gone into way too much detail about using it as a source for inspiration in the past. For those interested in my idea based on the concept here is my first idea.

Frankenstein was an interesting story to create a game around as they are many different paths possible for a game. Even with my ideas for both an action game and the board game I’m working on, I bet you guys can come up with many more. For both game ideas the two main themes I wanted to focus on were the error of creating a living being and the battle between both main characters. For the first point in both game ideas, you as the player would determine how tough the game is by creating the monster. The better you make it the harder a time you will have showing how Frankenstein was so obsessed with creating life that it would come back to destroy him. Second, was the hatred and eventually chase between these two characters. They are stuck with each other until one of them dies and neither one wants to call it quits until they make the other one suffer. Moving on it’s time to talk about part two of the round table entry.

Corvus asks if similar to books by prolific writers, does the game designer’s philosophy come through in their games. I say yes when it comes to some of the higher profile designers. When dealing with people at the height of their craft you can just feel their influence in the title, and can sense it when it’s not there. A few weeks ago I commented on how horrible Ninja Gaiden 2 was compared to Black and one theory I had was that the lead designer was fired after the project was started. I also think that certain design teams can project a philosophy as well not just the lead designer. The best example that comes to mind is Blizzard who has developed a very positive impression among pc gamers. I think that raises an interesting dilemma, who does the game’s success come from, the lead designer or the team?

This is where my ego and I are in disagreement over. As someone who spends most of his time on the subject of game design I like to think that I’ve developed my own unique style and thought process when it comes to creating games. However I understand fully that without a team backing me up that the great game idea I have would be nothing more then an idea. An excellent game designer can create unique game properties that couldn’t be possible without him/her, but a great team is required to turn that vision into a reality.

This has been an interesting three month look at literary sources and game design and I hoped that everyone enjoyed my ramblings on the subject.


  • Not to appear overly self-involved, but might that other take on Hyde have been mine?

  • Yep it was you, since then I finally upgraded to FireFox and could get your post. And the entry has been revised.

  • Well I’m glad you liked my idea, then!

    It’s been neat seeing some of the thoughts behind this year’s BoRT entries.