Films and TV shows that would make great video games. Part 1/2

Join That VideoGame Blog as we count down a dozen films and TV shows that would transition well into video games. Part One coming right now!

Taking place in 2517 in an uncharted solar system with no faster-than-light travel, Firefly is a 2002 Space Western focusing on the lives of a renegade crew trying to scrounge a living on the fringes of space. Making only occasional references to Earth, the series established that long before the events of the TV series the world could no longer support such a sizable population and a significant percentage of the population emigrated to a new star system in generation ships.

Managing only fourteen episodes and one feature length film, (not including comics), the Firefly IP is a potential goldmine for a well-developed space-shooter hybrid. Although Serenity explained (albeit briefly) the origin of the Reavers (cannibalistic, nomadic humans that indiscriminately attack settlements), their extended verse, amongst others, offers hours of potential exploration.

In this new universe, core planets are under Alliance control (a unique blend of Western and Chinese cultures as a result of the only two remaining superpowers, the USA and China, combining). This makes Mandarin Chinese a common second language, offering a unique gameplay mechanic for the Western audience; requiring them to learn a language in-game, (first learning common phrases and words like real language acquisition) – think Al Bhed from Final Fantasy X.

Using the show’s opening as the prologue for the video game, in the Battle of Serenity Valley players would take control of an Alliance or Browncoat, (those of the outlying worlds attempting to resist the Alliance’s vie for control) vessel taking part in the space battle above Serenity Valley, (serving to familiarise the player with flight controls and mechanics). For those familiar with Freelancer or EVE, a combination of action and in-depth micromanagement would comprise the flight mechanics of the game.

Upon crashing to earth in an escape pod, players would then familiarise themselves with the third person squad mechanics that make up the other half of the game, (eventually forming your very own NPC crew; think The Old Republic meets Ghost Recon: Future Soldier), culminating in the option of defecting to the opposition, staying loyal to your cause, or opting to remain independent. This decision would not facilitate the future of your character; just as Firefly’s core theme was freedom, your character would be free to do whatever is feasibly possible in the galaxy; smuggler, bounty hunter, transport, mercenaries and so on.

Those opting to remain with the Alliance would receive bounties on those that remain part of the Browncoat resistance, (actual human players), and those that remain loyal to the Browncoats would receive missions to raid and destroy Alliance high value targets. Whilst those that proclaim themselves neutral would do well to avoid both factions, whilst all three would want to avoid dealings with the Reavers, (leaving the possibility to explore their origin story through paid DLC).

Wolf Creek is a 2005 independent horror film focusing on the kidnapping, torture, and escape of three backpackers by a serial killer in the Australian outback. Loosely based on true events, Wolf Creek offers a chilling insight into the potential horrors faced by the hundreds of backpackers reported missing every year, and a very relevant one in the age of the gap year.

Adopting the same mechanics as the movie, the first act could teach the player the controls and in-game mechanics such as carrying items (and potential weapons) whilst making the player feel secure and familiar. This serves to enhance the vulnerability they feel when attempting to escape captivity later in the game. As we have seen in Far Cry 3 and Tomb Raider gameplay, adopting the mantle of an everyday guy over a testosterone pumped hero is a popular theme this generation, and can serve to enhance empathy.

In terms of game mechanics, adopting a tiredness/heart rate system which increases when enemies are near, and even more so when enemies are armed could lead to an adrenaline mechanic that makes attacks more powerful and enables the player to run faster when the player is facing death and overwhelming odds. In terms of inventory the player would be limited to their pockets and what can tuck into their belt, with the possibility of finding a bandolier for handguns later (if the developer opted to include guns). Although you could use bandages to heal minor wounds, realistic damage and a lack of health bar means that if you get seriously hurt you may not necessarily die, but you could be captured or be unable to continue your escape. Smaller weapons such as hammers and machetes could be slipped into your belt (but may fall from the belt when running long distances over uneven ground). Larger make-shift weapons such as planks and pipes cannot be held indefinitely but would be significantly harder to knock from your hands. Concealable weapons such as penknives could be carried in pockets (and used for realistically inexperienced stealth kills).

An enhanced physics engine focusing on the elements would allow water to cling to clothing and drip on surfaces, making noticeable noise in silent environments. Other aspects of the elements such as mud could leave footprints. These in turn can be used to draw guards away, (to slip past enemies or lure them in for the kill). Dust falls from above; being kicked from ledges and cliffs, rolling down mountains and giving away the position of both the character and enemies. Light plays an advanced role, causing shadows to form relative to the time of day. If your shadow falls beyond cover and enemies notice it, they will investigate your presence.

In 2004 LOST took the age old story of being stranded on a desert island and turned it into something unique. An average of over fifteen million people tuned in every week to explore the past, present and future lives of the survivors of transatlantic flight Oceanic 815. Whilst the shows plot is considered complete at the end of the series, the extended mythology, undisclosed mysteries and character development could lend itself well to a video game format… and they have tried.

LOST: Via Domus was an altogether disappointing affair for all but the hardiest of fans. Whilst it offered hours of fan service for those willing to wade through its average mechanics, it provided very little for the gaming community at large to get excited about. With six seasons worth of mysteries and characters to explore, a new LOST title could capitalise on the show’s main plot points, as well as exploring the mysteries left unsolved.

Providing players with all the characters from the show and more, each would have their own areas of expertise; Sayid is a technologically minded interrogator, Jin is an expert in martial arts and firearms, Jack possesses impressive leadership qualities and medical knowledge, Locke is an expert of the wilds and hunting. Utilising each character effectively could be the difference between life and death on the harsh and unforgiving island. However, there is a certain curiosity in wondering what if x did y instead of z? Would x have lived if y hadn’t made that decision? What if x had claimed leadership in the beginning instead of y? With character death final, players would be able to live and relive the tale of the Island multiple times, and for those unsatisfied with the shows conclusion, perhaps bring new endings and consequences to bear.

Survival would be first and foremost upon arriving on the island. Utilising the crash of Oceanic 815 as the tutorial for the games mechanics, players could assign and list tasks for survivors and zoom out to the world map to take direct control of a certain survivor (think the Sims meets Driver: San Francisco). Exploring the island would reveal the substantial map as you go; dynamically filling as it’s discovered. After constructing crude shelter, finding food and a clean water source, players would be set free on the Island. Want to move the survivor’s camp from the caves or the beaches to just outside the Black Rock? You can do that. Want to take every single survivor and try and assault the Others day one? You can do that. Want to attempt to seize control in a bloody overthrow as Bernard with a sharpened stick? You can do that… if you want. It’s all about crafting your own Island tales, making for some great water cooler moments; Castaway meets Mass Effect.

Mel Gibson’s 2006 action-adventure film Apocalypto revolved around one Yutacan Mayan’s journey to escape human sacrifice and save his family after the destruction of his village. With the main storyline focusing almost exclusively of the efforts of one or two tribes and teasing the arrival of the Spanish, (the beginning of Spain’s colonisation of the Americas), a video game could expand upon and capitalise on the unexplored tribes and their meetings with, and resistance towards, their Spanish oppressors. With a distinct lack of games focusing on ancient civilisations, Apocalypto could be for ancient civilisations what Red Dead Redemption was for Westerns.

Beginning where the film left off, protagonist Jaguar Paw returns to the forest with his family in search of a new beginning; the Spanish have arrived on the Eastern shores and the largest tribe of slavers previously encountered are far to either the North, South or West, (from a design perspective it would make sense to sandwich Jaguar Paw between the two factions). The game would begin with Jaguar Paw and his family either taken in by a friendly tribe leader, or banding together a tribe of survivors from decimated tribes (wherein you learn the fundamentals of the game; combat, hunting and gathering, exploring, technology and utilising the environment). Eventually elevating to chieftain of your tribe, you attempt to unite the Mayan tribes to overcome the slavers and rid your lands of the Spanish invaders.

Some tribes will swear fealty, (remaining independent yet offer you their service), some must be taken over through violent means, (becoming their new chieftain and folding their members into your tribe), and some must be destroyed completely, (wherein your tribe will erect new buildings and repopulate the area). By taking over new territory the player will increase his area of influence, (a la Infamous), gaining access to new materials, technology and warriors. Although enemies will still wander through taken over territory, and if left unchecked will attack your settlements and attempt to retake their lands (a la Assassin’s Creed Revelations), their presence in those areas will be significantly diminished.

As in the film, the environment plays a significant role. Jaguar Paw can use the elements to assist him in hunting and combat; coating himself in mud to approach enemies undetected, attacking from the trees, submerging yourself in the swamps as means of avoiding confrontation, leading animals into combat to assist you or leading enemies to an animal’s den and leaving deadly traps for creatures and enemies alike. Damage plays a realistic role in the world. If you are shot by an arrow/musket ball in the leg then that will slow you down significantly and limit your combat abilities and manoeuvrability. Making it back to one of your villages to recover takes appropriate amounts of time, (hours, days, or weeks), wherein the game could bend towards a meta-game; Jaguar Paw giving orders to his tribesmen, as events will unfold with or without his presence.

Running from 1997 to 2007, the sci-fi TV show Stargate SG-1 (based on the 1994 feature film Stargate), revolves around the adventures of the flagship elite US Air Force squad, chronicling their exploration of undiscovered universes through intergalactic wormholes. Over ten seasons, the show moved through three major story arcs and enemies; the pharaoh-esque parasitic Goa’uld, the self-propagating machine Replicators and the ascended, paranormal Ori whilst expanding on ancient Earth mythologies such as Egyptian, Norse and Arthurian Legend.

There hasn’t been a commercially successful console RTS since Halo Wars, or more recently RUSE. Adopting a simple control scheme such as a construction wheel, (or Kinect enabled voice commands), Stargate SG-1 could utilise the split screen interface experienced in Lego Star Wars III to allow both space and land battles to occur in unison. Reinforcements could be requisitioned from Stargate Command through the Stargate itself, (requiring time to arrive), or beamed directly from space. In battles that occur simultaneously, actions in space could aid your troops on the ground and vice versa whereas defeat in one theatre may not necessarily mean failure in the mission overall. When addressing one theatre, troops in the other are able to hold their own; especially if you place them in areas of cover or chokeholds.

With four main races to control; Human, Goa’uld/Jaffa, Replicators and Ori, a solid single player campaign could tell one cohesive story from one multiple angles, culminating with races combining to defend against the main antagonist, (think the final level of Warcraft III), or could retell the most significant battles across the series in retrospective.

In 2009 Law Abiding Citizen combined a financially successful box office opening with dismal reviews. Telling the story of a man hell-bent on avenging the murder of his wife and child, Clyde Shelton systematically and brutally murders both the men behind the murder itself and those from the corrupt criminal justice system that failed him. Considering the lack of both prison games in general and the persistent media coverage of criminals getting considerably short sentences for harrowing and despicable crimes, Law Abiding Citizen’s IP could offer a grounded thriller experience this generation has so far lacked.

Taking an odd nod from Dead Rising, this title could implement a time mechanic wherein the player has an allotted amount of time to achieve a certain amount of objectives. Whether it be returning to your prison cell at the end of the night or making a certain window of opportunity, if the player misses his chance he has to restart the mission/game. Whilst this mechanic may not be for everyone, there are those among the gaming community that ask for a more hardcore experience, (and there remains the option to choose multiple difficulties, think Diablo III’s Hardcore mode). Although the game isn’t even out yet, the gruesome, weighty deaths in The Last of Us are exactly the tone that Law Abiding Citizen should be striving to strike.

The game could be open world or a linear experience once the player escapes from prison, and could utilise the time in your cell to plan the multiple murders of your targets in innovative fashion. For example, killing your enemies in ways that appear to be accidents may grant you more time and therefore more targets, before you are discovered/treated as a suspect. If the player completes his list of targets before being discovered then one ending could have the player getting away with it. The challenge then becomes finding the most innovative and discrete ways of killing your targets, deriving shades of Hitman. Again, this could make for some great water cooler moments if handled appropriately… and if not for the pesky internet not revealing all possible ways of offing your target within hours of the game coming out.

Keep an eye out for Part Two coming later this week! If you have any great ideas for TV shows and movies that would make great video games leave a comment below of catch me directly on Twitter @WallaceMerrett