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Turning Classic Literary Works Into Games

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the meet-william,-my-level-80-bard dept.

Games 93

Adventure Classic Gaming is running an interview with Chris Tolworthy, an indie game designer who is working on a project to make video games out of various literary classics. His decision to develop these kinds of games was sparked by a desire to reach out to gamers who want more "serious" subject matter, as well as finding an audience among people you would find in a book store, rather than a game store. Tolworthy has already released one game, an adaptation of Les Misérables, and has almost finished Dante's Divine Comedy. After that is done, he'll move on to other works, including Theogeny, by Hesiod, and Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, aiming for two or three releases a year. He said, "I try to keep as close as possible to the original text. When I create a game I simply go through the book and adapt it chapter by chapter. As far as possible all my puzzles are based on ideas in the original book. So my Dante's Inferno is a lot closer to the book than EA Games' Dante's Inferno that changes Dante into a warrior with a giant scythe! Although I stick closely to the story, I would find it boring to only give the straight text, so my games always give a different twist. For example, I show Les Miserables from the point of view of a minor character who dies early on. In my Divine Comedy I show other points of view as well as Dante's, and they don't see things the same way. Really, what I'm doing is what theater directors do when they put a Shakespeare play into a modern setting. It's the exact same story, but presented in a new way."

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93 comments

Hot property. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28924807)

Dante's inferno "I'm melting!".

Spoiler: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28924825)

Caesar Dies!!!

*SCNR*

Spoiler? (3, Insightful)

tygerstripes (832644) | more than 4 years ago | (#28924833)

Kinda ruins the game, already knowing the ending and major plot-devices, doesn't it?

Anyway, it'd be great to see games dominate the popular iconographic imagery of literary classics in the same way that films have. Will Frankenstein be perceived as a beautiful artifice once again, I wonder...?

Re:Spoiler? (3, Insightful)

noundi (1044080) | more than 4 years ago | (#28924885)

Kinda ruins the game, already knowing the ending and major plot-devices, doesn't it?

"No, but I've seen the movie" becomes "No but I've played the game" when "Read a book" becomes "Watch a movie". Strange times we live in.

Re:Spoiler? (3, Insightful)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#28925401)

"No, but I've seen the movie" becomes "No but I've played the game" when "Read a book" becomes "Watch a movie". Strange times we live in.

If you really want to appreciate some literary work, try translating it into another language while giving back the full literal meaning, the full meaning in context, and preserving the author's style. You'll know it's a good book if you give up on page one, or after the second line in a poem.

That's something no movie or video game could ever give back. Examples: The Count of Monte Christo, The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy, and pretty much everything Endre Ady ever wrote.

Re:Spoiler? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28925513)

I tried translating the Hitchhiker's Guide from British English to American English once. The people I gave it to who read it could better sympathize with Arthur's desire to find a good cup of coffee, but they kept asking why there was now an Andrew Dice Clay character in the story...

Re:Spoiler? (4, Insightful)

Swizec (978239) | more than 4 years ago | (#28924991)

Kinda ruins the game, already knowing the ending and major plot-devices, doesn't it?

Anyway, it'd be great to see games dominate the popular iconographic imagery of literary classics in the same way that films have. Will Frankenstein be perceived as a beautiful artifice once again, I wonder...?

Why would it ruin the game? Were the LOTR films ruined by the previous publication of the book? And many other examples. If the game is made well and interesting, knowing hte story won't ruin it, knowing the story will make you more immersed and will let you experience the story in a whole new perspective.

I think it's brilliant, just imagine what fun it'd be to experience the chilling effect of The Pit And The Pendulum in something as immersive as a game, or, I dunno, fighting lobstrosities on a forgotten beach yourself instead of just reading about it.

Re:Spoiler? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28925045)

This. I really don't understand the (fairly recent, I think) pop culture obsessive fear of "spoilers", as if knowing the plot beforehand utterly invalidates the experience of seeing the film or reading the book or whatever. Only cheap mystery stories and Dan Brown-style trash work that way. Most everything else, anything with lasting value, is enjoyable regardless of prior knowledge.

Re:Spoiler? (4, Insightful)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 4 years ago | (#28925207)

It's because many films released nowadays have no substance besides the plot and big explosions. Once you know the plot and seen the explosions there's no reason to watch it again. No moral lessons to mull over, no questions left unanswered, no bits you might have missed that require a second watch, no scenes that rocked you to the core that you just *have* to see again.

Movies with twist would normally require more than one viewing just to 'get' everything - revealing the twist would ruin the film if all the film was relied on the twist. You'll get one viewing out of it (if that) and it'll basically be your second viewing, having missed out on that Raw viewing you have when you don't know what's going to happen. The fun of guessing to yourself through your first viewing. Even KNOWING there's a twist at the end may spoil a truely Raw viewing. I remember watching the Usual Suspects for the first time, years after it came out on DVD, expecting a crime thriller like The Untouchables, but got something truley exceptional - which is why it's one of my favourite films, and one I can watch again and again. Once you have watched that film, and got the twist, even after the second viewing, when you're watching it for the third time, it's still an excellent Crime Thriller.

Or take a film like Watchmen, something that's so layered with plot that you might come out of the cinema underwhelmed and confused. But underneath it is some hard truths about our own society, more than enough morality moments, every plot thread within it having it's own twist revealed was something brilliant.
Even if people say 'it wasnt as good as the comic' - it was still excellent for a movie.

A film that's enjoyable with prior knowledge is a rare and fantastic thing. Films like that are also usually more enjoyable that first time round, when everything is a surprise.

Re:Spoiler? (5, Insightful)

thisnamestoolong (1584383) | more than 4 years ago | (#28925287)

Agreed -- I would just like to expound on you argument here and state that a properly executed plot twist (Memento, Usual Suspects, etc.) will often encourage repeat viewings, especially when you were blindsided by it the first time, to see what sort of clues are left to the viewer as to the eventual twist. I know the Usual Suspects in particular demands many repeat viewings to pick up on all the subtleties.

Re:Spoiler? (2, Interesting)

mjm1231 (751545) | more than 4 years ago | (#28927395)

I agree in principle that any book/movie/play whatever is worth experiencing again, and therefore is not ruined by knowing the ending, though I think most people prefer their first experience of the ending to be firsthand.
However, I disagree with the case of Usual Suspects. The ending basically undoes the entire movie. What you just watched was completely made up by Spacey's character. A slightly more sophisticated version of "and then I woke up." At the end, if the interrogating officer is left looking like a fool for falling for it, what does that make the audience?

Re:Spoiler? (2, Insightful)

thisnamestoolong (1584383) | more than 4 years ago | (#28928055)

"At the end, if the interrogating officer is left looking like a fool for falling for it, what does that make the audience?"

Strange, this is not the impression I walked away with at all... I was impressed by the Spacey character's ingenuity in fooling his captors, I never felt that his captors were fools for believing him. And I think that knowing the ending makes it more enjoyable to watch the film again through the lens of knowing the ending. It does not seem that there were that many clues left as to the actual identity of Keiser Soze, but it does seem very clear through the telling of the story that all is not as it seems, due to various inconsistencies. Not sure if this was intentional or not, but it is definitely fun to try to pick it apart.

Re:Spoiler? (3, Funny)

OglinTatas (710589) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930211)

I know the Usual Suspects in particular demands many repeat viewings to pick up on all the subtleties.

you don't really need to watch it repeatedly. Go to Menu --> Subtleties --> English=ON

There. All subtleties exposed.

Re:Spoiler? (1)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 4 years ago | (#28926249)

A film that's enjoyable with prior knowledge is a rare and fantastic thing. Films like that are also usually more enjoyable that first time round, when everything is a surprise.

Yet even those films which are enjoyable on repeat viewings have an additional joy the first time you watch them. No matter how good a movie is on repeat viewings, I still want to be surprised the first time.

Re:Spoiler? (1)

MogNuts (97512) | more than 4 years ago | (#28926339)

Gotta call you on the Watchmen movie.

*** That was the worst movie, I have EVER seen. ***

It was so bad I couldn't take it. I just finished it because "supposedly" it was so good, according to sites like /. and Digg. I'm so glad I rented it, because I refused to give them any money due to the just ridiculous amount of spam adverts thinly disguised as stories on ./ and Digg.

1) Rorsach or whatever the hell his name is was so cheesy. His voiceover stuff in the beginning sounded so cheesy and lame I couldn't believe there were people saying his performance was as good as Ledger as the Joker.

2) The movie just dragged and dragged. I felt like I sat there for 5 hours. It wasn't even close to that long, but it felt like it.

3) The plot made no sense. It was just superheroes running around. There was no direction or goal, and if their was, it was so poorly done I couldn't find it.

4) It was just plain dumb. I could give so many reasons, but to waste any more time of my life on that would be ridiculous. I just want anybody thinking of seeing it, that it's not even worth watching it FREE on like HBO or Showtime.

I rank this movie as bad as that loser film (with the guy from american pie) and van wilder (with that indian guy). I got up in the theater and walked out of both.

I usually respect the opinions of the people on this site, but this is one case where I forgot we're nerds, and many times nerds *don't* have good taste.

Re:Spoiler? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28927457)

If I may offer a few counter-points:

1) The idea with Rorschach is that his moral core has become so messed up from all of his experiences that he is almost a tragic character. His journal is supposed to be the ravings of a shattered psyche; those who compare it to Heath Ledger's Joker are really missing the point. On a side-note, it is interesting that you brought him up as your first point, because Watchmen as a whole (whether the movie or the comic book mini-series on which it is based) is a Rorschach test for the viewer/reader. If you go in thinking it's going to be like Batman or X-Men, you will be disappointed.

2) Keep in mind that the directors are attempting to fit as much of a 12-issue comic book series as possible into a movie. If you think of the comic books as a storyboard for a movie, a shot-for-shot recreation would be about 5 or 6 hours, maybe more. That they condensed it into a nearly 3 hour movie is remarkable in itself. If you also consider that most of the comic is dialog, and the action scenes are few and far between, it can seem to drag on for a while.

3) Unfortunately, the plot was distilled to a point that, if you had no familiarity with the source material, you would be lost. I can only assume that you hadn't read the comic book or even heard of it before you watched the movie. I was able to enjoy the movie without having seen the original work, but I had a passing knowledge of the back-story without knowing the reveals at the end. That back-story is what the opening montage (the one with The Times They Are a-Changin' playing over it) was trying to convey, and I admit that going into the movie completely raw, the significance of that montage is lost.

4) I am not going to argue taste, because there really isn't a right or a wrong here. However, I think you might be doing yourself a disservice by watching that movie with the expectation of the other comic book movies released over the past 5 to 6 years. Watchmen is available in graphic novel form, and I would suggest familiarizing yourself with the overall concept of the work, reading the novel, and then re-watching the movie. If your opinion has not changed, or you were so turned off by the experience that you don't want to try, then I can understand your hatred of the movie. However, I personally thought it was brilliant.

Re:Spoiler? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28931761)

If you also consider that most of the comic is dialog, and the action scenes are few and far between, it can seem to drag on for a while.

My memory from reading the graphic novel was that a large amount of what gave the story and characters actual substance was found in the large text excerpts found at the end of each chapter/issue (and not too surprisingly, those very important pieces are what was cut from the movie). Ironic that the one graphic novel that's hailed as the most literary graphic novel only achieves that distinction due to relying more on the "novel" portion and less on the "graphic" part.

Re:Spoiler? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28933995)

I agree. The Watchmen was a terrible movie. It's hard to describe just how bad it really was. Sure, it was interesting in a few parts but only for a few minutes. It was very long and I usually like long movies.

Re:Spoiler? (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#28926447)

Or take a film like Watchmen, something that's so layered with plot that you might come out of the cinema underwhelmed and confused.

I didn't think Watchmen was as bad as some of the reviews it got. Also, it looked like a movie that had been edited to please a studio.

I'm betting that when the Director's Cut comes out, it will be even better. I'm not saying it was a masterpiece, but it wasn't as bad as some said.

And yes, I'm a big Alan Moore fan.

Re:Spoiler? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28925449)

The element of surprise is an acknowledged storytelling device, nothing recent or pop culturish about it. A character death has a completely different emotional effect when you didn't saw it coming, and you may have avoided getting 'attached' to the character if you did. If you know the author is willing to kill off popular characters, reading about a tight pinch can actually have an exciting aspect of uncertainty, not just merely "Oh, I heard about this, this is where she dies."
A lot of reread value is added by being able to go back and pick up the subtle interactions that you didn't catch the first time, because you weren't aware of the character's motivations.
Though if we are to concentrate on pop culture, there's some extremely well-known plot twists (e.g. "Luke", "Soylent" and "Apes" should sound familiar) that seem to be acknowledged as having been pretty "wow" when you first found out.

Re:Spoiler? (2, Informative)

Ksempac (934247) | more than 4 years ago | (#28925635)

Sorry but that depends on people. I've been a book lover since the age of six, but if you tell me the end of a book before i finish it, you almost kill the book for me. It will be hard for me to finish reading the book.
What i like in the book is to see things unravel one by one in a process that leads you from a starting situation till the unknown final situation. I like to ask myself "hmm this will probably ends like this", "will that character survives ? I'm not sure", or "can the character get out of this pinch ?". It doesn't need to be a major plot twist, it happens for every book from great classics to cheap moderns thrillers. Sure you have violent deaths, plot twists in any spy book, but you also have character/relationship evolutions in War and Peace.
If you tell me the final situation before hand, I won't care anymore about what happens, because I don't think "I'm at instant X with the main character, what happens next ?" anymore, I'm already at the final moment, instant X is past and no longer relevant.
That's also why i can't read the same book twice, or why i hate flashback books (Dark Tower IV, i'm looking at you).

Re:Spoiler? (1)

MrHanky (141717) | more than 4 years ago | (#28929393)

No, the AC you replied to is correct. You read stories for suspense, which really is an invention of mass consumerism. In contrast, all Shakespeare's plays, and all the great Greek tragedies, were based on stories and plots that were already well circulated, and known to the audience.

Re:Spoiler? (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 4 years ago | (#28931801)

Don't forget that plays were often preceded by dumb shows to give the audience a quick preview of what they were about to see.

Re:Spoiler? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#28926083)

Were the LOTR films ruined by the previous publication of the book?

No, they were ruined by the extremely poor characterisation, the gratuitous extraneous plotlines, and the over-reliance on CGI at the expense of acting.

Re:Spoiler? (2, Interesting)

SailorSpork (1080153) | more than 4 years ago | (#28925079)

Not every work of classic literature has to have *all* the major plot twists known. Hell, I bet the core gamer target for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies [wikipedia.org] hasn't even read Pride and Prejudice!

Re:Spoiler? (1)

chriseyre2000 (603088) | more than 4 years ago | (#28925585)

I have read both versions. The text is 90% the same (P+P+Z is slightly longer due to the added fight scene's). P+P+Z is arguably an improvement on the story.

Re:Spoiler? (1)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 4 years ago | (#28925623)

Kinda ruins the game, already knowing the ending and major plot-devices, doesn't it?

Not necessarily. When Titanic came into theaters ten years ago, everyone knew the ship would sink, but it still drew in the crowds. It's not always how the story ends, but the path it takes to get there.

Re:Spoiler? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28927097)

So what is the point of ANY Harry Potter game ever made? The story is so well known because the books were immensely popular, but the games track with the movie releases. Sometimes I think games are more about putting yourself in a story than anything else.

Romeo and juliet (1)

Norsefire (1494323) | more than 4 years ago | (#28924891)

Would be a great game with a nice twist; to win you have to die.

Re:Romeo and juliet (2, Funny)

areusche (1297613) | more than 4 years ago | (#28925163)

Or even 1984! Have Stanley run around finding his ever elusive razor blades. The best part is you can have a legitimate hot coffee moment in the woods followed by a "shot the hidden microphone" mini game.

Re:Romeo and juliet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28932749)

I envision it as more of a strategy game. You start out with a free modern society, and have to gain control of the media, spread fear, and propose legalization that chips imperceptibly at people's rights using salami tactics, one minority group at a time, while balancing population statistics like 'bread' and 'circuses'. Dangers you must supress include civil rights groups, protesters, checks and balances, and rabid Apple fans with sledgehammers.

Eventually you can ally with other dystopian superpowers and go to perpetual war against them. The game ends when you've completed building Minipax, Minitruth, Miniluv and Miniplenty, and shown yourself as a doubleplusgood BB that can make the proles goodthink and blackwhite bellyfeelwise for Ingsoc.

Re:Romeo and juliet (1)

kalirion (728907) | more than 4 years ago | (#28926855)

Whoever said the book ending is a winning scenario?

Re:Romeo and juliet (1)

mcfatboy93 (1363705) | more than 4 years ago | (#28940201)

well for a good story look at 'force unleashed' not to be a spoiler but, um... YOU DIE at the end so not every game/book has to end well

Just like a film adaptation then? (4, Insightful)

MosesJones (55544) | more than 4 years ago | (#28924895)

Now apart from the obvious point of "errr so we know where this is going" which just means its a directed rather than open-ended game this is really just like using the standard film adaptation approach and applying it to games.

Its not that it is really new, Infocom's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy did something similar many moons ago. Playing on throw away lines to drive the puzzles (tea and no tea) in some cases but generally following the plot of the book.

Really not a new idea either in concept or application.

That's good ... (0, Troll)

golden age villain (1607173) | more than 4 years ago | (#28924911)

"I show Les Miserables from the point of view of a minor character who dies early on"

... So you don't actually need to play through that long and boring plot.

Microsoft's attempt (5, Funny)

should_be_linear (779431) | more than 4 years ago | (#28924953)

There is "Outlook" game, based on Kafka's novel "The Trial".

Re:Microsoft's attempt (2, Funny)

MRe_nl (306212) | more than 4 years ago | (#28925099)

On his thirtieth birthday, a senior bank clerk, Josef K., who lives in lodgings, is unexpectedly arrested by two unidentified agents for an unspecified crime. One of them looks like Clippy.

I'm waiting for Pride & Prejudice (5, Funny)

benwiggy (1262536) | more than 4 years ago | (#28925013)

I can't wait for the game of Pride & Prejudice:

Navigate your way through the maze of 18th century social etiquette!

Avoid Mrs Bennett's attempt to ensnare you with unsuitable gentlemen!

And of course, there's always the zombie version:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pride_and_Prejudice_and_Zombies [wikipedia.org]

Re:I'm waiting for Pride & Prejudice (1)

3dr (169908) | more than 4 years ago | (#28927037)

And I have great expectations for uh, Great Expectations - The Drudgery, what I expect (greatly) to be the first of 12 thrilling episodes.

Then there's the witch-hunting fun of The Crucible, a MMORPG naturally.

I'd also be looking for "Death of a Salesman - The Good Years" where your task is to sell stuff door-to-door: 1 point per comb, 5pts for a vacuum cleaner. I see this particular franchise working well as an expansion pack for the Sims, or as a 2D scroller.

Finally, I'd like to see Mutiny on the Bounty translated into a real time strategy game/sailing simulation, with a textual interface.

> go west
You are progressing west at 2kts
> where am i
You cannot see the stars during the day
> what time
The current time is: sun is directly overhead
You have entered the Atlantic doldrums
You are progressing west at 0kts ... four days and 12 hours pass ...
> what time
The current time is: the sun set hours ago
You are progressing west at 1kts
> where am i
It is too cloudy to see the stars
> eat breadfruit
You don't have any breadfruit

Ren'ai sims are more popular in Japan (2, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#28927045)

I can't wait for the game of Pride & Prejudice

Might it be the first dating sim in quite a while to become a hit on this side of the Pacific Ocean?

So, we need higher quality games, what else is new (5, Insightful)

Targon (17348) | more than 4 years ago | (#28925037)

Back in the days of adventure games, there was a bit of focus on the older gamers as well as the younger players. So you could have games with a lot of material that WOULD appeal to the crowd Chris Tolworthy is targeting. The problem is that in those days, you didn't see enough marketing to try to draw in that sort of customer.

Take a look at Gabriel Knight 3, which came out well before Da vinci Code even was written(1999 for GK3, 2003 for Da Vinci Code). Yes, the 3D engine wasn't very good, and there were things that could have been done better, but the writing was very good, the puzzles were pretty solid, and if it were to get a face lift(using a new 3D engine), it would appeal to those who prefer books to most games.

After the death of Sierra and Interplay, there has been a shortage of publishers willing to back games targeted at an older audience. It seems like the focus is the teen market, and if you are older than 25 years old and prefer something other than a first person shooter, your choices are more and more limited.

If every movie were rated PG, with the content of a PG movie, it wouldn't be long before the majority of adults would just stop watching movies. People grow up, and want things that THEY find entertaining. If the movie industry can have a wide variety of movie types, from the really bad formula action adventure movies, to the highly artistic types, to romance, comedy, and drama, then why has the computer and console game industries focused primarily on first person shooters that only appeal to one type of game player?

I have the answer for you... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28925173)

... and for all our fellow compulsive players.

Here's you next mission [zuzinka.com] (NSFW)

(no offence meant - I'm in the club :-) )

s.

Re:So, we need higher quality games, what else is (1)

ZosoZ (1603973) | more than 4 years ago | (#28925257)

I'm not sure the games industry is quite so different to the movie industry; you've got your Massive Summer Blockbuster (Transformers 2) raking in vast piles of cash, and then a widely acclaimed, really interesting sounding film like Moon that I haven't managed to get to see yet because it's being shown on less than 60 screens in the whole of the UK. By the same token, there are lots of interesting games; off the top of my head fun little indie puzzles (World of Goo), games that play with the form (The Path), classic adventure re-releases (Monkey Island, the King's Quest/Space Quest series) alongside new adventures (Time Gentlemen, Please!, new Sam and Max chapters), but they often require more digging around Steam or other games sites to find.

Hays Code (2, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#28927083)

If every movie were rated PG, with the content of a PG movie, it wouldn't be long before the majority of adults would just stop watching movies.

You mean like Hollywood under the Hays Code [wikipedia.org]?

Of mice and men. (1)

GeorgeStone22 (1532191) | more than 4 years ago | (#28925155)

Guide your retard around the maps making sure he doesn't kill anything, but watch out for curly!
Collect the mice to win the game!

How about 'Grapes of Wrath'? (2, Interesting)

catherder_finleyd (322974) | more than 4 years ago | (#28925317)

An even better subject for a Steinbeck game would be "Grapes of Wrath". It could play well as both a historical learning game, and as a current events social commentary game.

Re:How about 'Grapes of Wrath'? (1)

Chabo (880571) | more than 4 years ago | (#28933951)

"'The Grapes of Wrath'? I don't get it."
"Here's the grapes, and here's the wrath!"
[squish]
"Yes, yes, very good wrath."

The Dark Eye (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 4 years ago | (#28925159)

Many years ago (1995 apparently) there was a game called The Dark Eye [wikipedia.org] that was based on the writings of Poe. It was a pretty simple clicky puzzle/adventure type game, but the way it incorporated the various stories was pretty well done. It also helped that it had the voice of William S Burroughs as the main character. Interesting little game, and one way that literature can be used as the basis for a game.

Re:The Dark Eye (1)

Creepy (93888) | more than 4 years ago | (#28940323)

Yeah - I was going to mention that one. Strange, though - I could swear it had the voice of an A-list or former A-list actress in it, as well, but I couldn't find that on IMDB (I did remember it had Burroughs). Knowing the stories made the game very easy - not sure if it woulda been quite as easy if I hadn't been into Poe at the time. One of the oddities in that one is you play murderer and victim in The Telltale Heart, so you basically do that story twice as different characters.

Let's not do Hemmingway. (3, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 4 years ago | (#28925167)

A video game of The Old Man and the Sea would suck even worse than the book.

-jcr

Re:Let's not do Hemmingway. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28926511)

A video game of The Old Man and the Sea would suck even worse than the book.

What, it sounds like a perfect MMORPG. Canute was just grinding water magic.

will these fare better than film adaptations? (2, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#28925241)

Adapting stories from other media for videogames isn't a new idea. It's just that films have been the usual source, perhaps because they're culturally/commercially closer, especially if you compare the AAA game title to the blockbuster Hollywood film. Films also come with a built-in visual style to adapt, which helps with the recognition. The practice has become prominent enough that the only major general study of adaptation [amazon.com] between mediums that I know of actually spends a decent amount of time discussing videogame adaptations of films, film adaptations of videogames, and so on (usually videogames get ignored in these sorts of media-study analyses).

But... they're mostly not that good. I think this could be said even if we try to look at things sympathetically. The aforementioned book argues that adaptations often get a bad critical rap, because there's a certain mystique around "the original", and assumption that a mere adaptation is always a bastardization of the original that can't possibly capture it. But let's accept that argument, and treat adaptations as interesting and legitimate in their own right, trying not to start out with an assumption that all adaptations are bad. Even then, can you really say that adapting films has been a successful way to make videogames? The only ones that come out even reasonably okay imo are sort of "adaptation light"--- where you borrow some visual elements and general setting/characters from the film, but otherwise mostly ignore it. This works best in big-universe films, like Star Wars, where you're not really adapting an actual film so much as a set of ideas.

Will this all fare better for literature? I can see adapting the general setting of a book as plausible. In fact, that's been done successfully in a few interactive fictions [wikipedia.org], which share with books the text medium (perhaps like graphical videogames share the visual medium with film). I've played some good Lovecraft-mythos IFs, for example, like Anchorhead [wikipedia.org] (this book [amazon.com] on IF discusses the issue of IFs being adapted from literature a bit further). But adapting the book itself? Perhaps as the storyline for a linear RPG-style game? Or something more fundamental than that?

I guess what I'm saying with all this in a roundabout way might be something like: yes, interesting idea, but how? Not asking that as a purely skeptical question; I think there may be ways it'd work. There might even be multiple different kind of adaptations that would work. But I think there are a lot of pitfalls. In particular, a sure pitfall is making "this game is an adaptation of 'real literature'" be the selling point for the game.

Proposing to adapt literature to videogames is the starting point, and you need a vision beyond that for why or how. Why is it interesting to adapt literature to a videogame? Why aren't you just writing a novel on the one hand, or making a non-adaptation videogame on the other? I think there might be good answers for why, but I don't see them here, at least not yet--- I don't think the mere idea of making games tackle "serious" subject matter is enough of an answer.

Rewarding success vs. failure (3, Insightful)

dazedNconfuzed (154242) | more than 4 years ago | (#28925437)

Methinks the biggest problem with translating a book to a game is: with a book, the main characters usually make some grand mistakes (very specific ones) and then spend the rest of the tale trying to recover, while with a game the emphasis is NOT making mistakes - any mistakes. Readers want to see characters fail and overcome; players ARE the characters, and don't want the hit on their ego. We're fascinated by characters in books, but rarely would want to _be_ that character.

Re:Rewarding success vs. failure (3, Interesting)

KillerBob (217953) | more than 4 years ago | (#28929895)

Readers want to see characters fail and overcome; players ARE the characters, and don't want the hit on their ego. We're fascinated by characters in books, but rarely would want to _be_ that character.

You've got it exactly... but some games do a pretty good job with it, though... they can, for example, play a couple of prologue/training levels and then take over in cutscene, depicting the fall, and then you give control back to the player so they can pick themselves up again. The real problem with adapting books to games is that books follow a linear story, where gamers these days expect a go-anywhere-do-anything environment. They expect to be given the choices, where they're made for you in a book.

Perhaps the answer is to take the setting/universe of a book, and set a game there? That might work for MMO-type stories. The alternative is to tell a story/adventure based on a minor side character in a major literary work... the action is an aside from the main storyline depicted in the work it's based on. The story revolves around the one we all know, and events in the one we all know are referenced, but the main storyline in the game itself is different. In a sense, we get told two different stories at the same time... I'm thinking of the play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead as a perfect example of the kind of meta-story I'm talking about.

They could also set the game in either the epilogue or the prologue surrounding the events described in the book we all know. American McGee's Alice is a perfect example of that kind of storytelling.

Say what? (1)

dazedNconfuzed (154242) | more than 4 years ago | (#28925447)

For example, I show Les Miserables from the point of view of a minor character who dies early on.

So ... it's a really short game?

The Divine Comedy? (3, Informative)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 4 years ago | (#28925531)

The plot can be summarised thus: Hero goes for a trip through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven, all of which are stuffed with Florentines or other Italians. There is a lot of talking, mostly about politics or philosophy. Nothing actually happens. The moment anything looks like being problematic, an angelic messenger arrives and sorts it out without intervention of the hero.

I mean, I am genuinely puzzled. I know the Commedia fairly well, and I've read most of it in the original. And I simply cannot imagine how you turn it into a game.

Unless of course the author has merely nicked the characters?

Re:The Divine Comedy? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#28926209)

Unless of course the author has merely nicked the characters?

Or characters with the same names and a few vaguely-similar character traits. After all, it works for Hollywood...

Re:The Divine Comedy? (3, Informative)

RogueyWon (735973) | more than 4 years ago | (#28926637)

I was wondering the same thing. Certainly, for the "big budget" EA adaptation of the Inferno, I think that we're just going to get a God of War clone which lifts the names of its levels from Inferno.

I suspect you may be familiar with it already, but others reading this thread might not be, so I'm going to give a quick plug here to Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's 1976 adaptation of Inferno. It distorts or subverts some of the key theological conceits of the original, but it's a fun and thought provoking read (which populates Hell with a more up-to-date cast). There's a more recent 2009 sequel to it, which, despite being rather luridly titled "Escape from Hell" is also pretty good. The amusing thing is that both books contain sections which will challenge/offend (depending on sensitivity) Christians and atheists alike.

Like I say, they're not perfect, but they're still a damned sight more faithful to the spirit of the Divine Comedy than what will inevitably turn out to be some action game where you press X, Circle, X, Square, X, Triangle in sequence during a quick-time event to make Dante decapitate the big Demon and springboard off the body onto a motorbike.

Re:The Divine Comedy? (2, Informative)

The Moof (859402) | more than 4 years ago | (#28927493)

Honestly, they butchered it. The only things the game and the poem have in common is they both take place in Hell, and they both have a guy named Dante. The game looks more like "God of War: Kratos Goes to Hell." They used some of the descriptions of Hell from the poem for concept, but I'm fairly certain I don't remember the part where Dante tears a bloody path through Hell with a giant scythe killing everything to save his love.

Wario's Microgame Inferno (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#28928089)

The plot can be summarised thus: Hero goes for a trip through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven, all of which are stuffed with Florentines or other Italians. There is a lot of talking, mostly about politics or philosophy. Nothing actually happens.

It'd probably be a WarioWare clone set in hell, with each three-second scene involving surviving a form of torture, and the talking happens in cut scenes.

Here's the problem... (2, Insightful)

Bones3D_mac (324952) | more than 4 years ago | (#28925625)

All of these great literary works were never intended to be interactive... as in "something that changes the outcome of the story based entirely on the audience itself".

These writers didn't leave much in the way of "what if..." contingencies involving their characters and plots. If they had, there never would've been a market for all those "choose your own adventure" books they used to hock on us during school book drives when we were still growing up.

That said, wouldn't a series of adult-themed "choose your own adventure" style books be kind of interesting? But, instead of simple "turn to page x" instructions, you'd have to solve various puzzles to know where to go next. Oh, and maybe a mechanism to slice off fingers for wimps who can't commit to their choices...

Re:Here's the problem... (1)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 4 years ago | (#28927645)

There *is* another approach to creating video games based off classic texts. It might make some people wish to gouge out their eyes, but you have things like "American McGee's Alice", or Square's "Kingdom Hearts I & II" (which were based off Disney franchises, which were in turn mostly based off of books by dead authors).

Basically, you use the setting, the characters, etc, but you create new stories, new adventures. That seems easier to do with more 'fantastic' fiction than something like Pride and Prejudice though. I remember many years ago there was some sort of Tom Sawyer video game for, I think it was the NES, or maybe it was the PC.

I could see someone making, for example, new "Wizard of Oz" video games. There's all sorts of works which you *could* adapt video games from, though as the parent points out, it's somewhat hard to do a literal adaptation of the actual book, because books are a bit too 'static'.

steinbeck (5, Funny)

Speare (84249) | more than 4 years ago | (#28925639)

[ In the Barn ; 34 points ]
The air in the main barn is stuffy, almost claustrophobic,
despite the large size.  Beams of late-afternoon sunlight
angle down, with flecks of hay and dust suspended in the
stagnant air.  A barn door leads out.
There is a broken puppy here.
There is a broken Candy here.

> out

[ Curley's Ranch ; 34 points ]

> go through gate

[ Entrance to Curley's Ranch ; 35 points ]

> go down path

[ By the Pond ; 36 points ]
You see a crying Lenny here.

> ask about the rabbits

Lenny sits down and tries to explain about the rabbit farm
of his dreams again, calming him somewhat.

> shoot lenny

THE END

36 points

Re:steinbeck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28927999)

Well played sir, but I think you've mixed up Candy (the one handed ranch worker) with Curley's wife, who is never named.

Re:steinbeck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28935953)

D'oh! You're right.

Apples and Oranges (2, Insightful)

Voyager529 (1363959) | more than 4 years ago | (#28925737)

this youtube video is spot on and makes about 99% of the points that apply to this discussion: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jdG2LHair0 [youtube.com]

Ultimately I hope you'll all forgive my skepticism. The classics are required reading in most high schools for a reason - there is some degree of cultural significance to the works. Still, written classics have the problem of being written stories designed to be passively consumed by the viewer, while video games require a world in which the audience participates. Linear stories don't work extremely well for this. If what I do doesn't "matter", why would I bother doing it? I remember playing "Deadly Tide" a few years back, and it sucked because it was basically a rail shooter. There was no real point to it except to get through the game without dying and take down as many enemies as possible in the process. I was bored with it in about half an hour. Conversely, take Mass Effect, a game where choices you make throughout the game will always have some sort of affect on what happens. I played through that game twice, and am working on a third.

If one were to make a video grame out of "Pride and Prejudice" for example, it would take some serious ingenuity to figure out a way of designing it such that the game stays true to the book and gives the player something to do besides just running around and talking to everyone (which essentially makes it an interactive movie, and very minimally so at that), has the player participating in the story whereby they have some sort of effect on the outcome, yet can stay true to the book. If it stays too true to the book then everything is predetermined and it doesn't make for much of a game, and if it doesn't then there is little point in tying it to a piece of classic literature.

Re:Apples and Oranges (1)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | more than 4 years ago | (#28926717)

If one were to make a video grame out of "Pride and Prejudice" for example, it would take some serious ingenuity to figure out a way of designing it such that the game stays true to the book and gives the player something to do besides just running around and talking to everyone (which essentially makes it an interactive movie, and very minimally so at that), has the player participating in the story whereby they have some sort of effect on the outcome, yet can stay true to the book. If it stays too true to the book then everything is predetermined and it doesn't make for much of a game, and if it doesn't then there is little point in tying it to a piece of classic literature.

I believe you're looking for this:

http://www.amazon.com/Pride-Prejudice-Zombies-Classic-Ultraviolent/dp/1594743347/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1249308176&sr=8-1 [amazon.com]

Re:Watchmen parallel (1)

Joeseph64 (1538923) | more than 4 years ago | (#28934529)

Although remaking 'classics' into a video game sounds like a great idea, the inherit problems already mentioned don't use the medium of video games to their full potential.

What I would like to see in a video game is the depth that is in the 'classics', using the medium of video games to its full potential. I think of "Watchmen" when I think of this. No one really took comic books seriously until Alan Moore created, quite well, a real 'classic' using the medium of comic books. It was in Time's top 100 novels of all time. (Source) [time.com] Sure, a video game won't make that list because of the inherit differences, but I would like to see a game that is deep as "Watchmen", or "Invisible Man."

Richard and Alan's Escape from Hell? (1)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 4 years ago | (#28926047)

... has almost finished Dante's Divine Comedy

Bah, we've already got Richard [chello.at] and Alan's [uvlist.net] Escape from Hell [abandonwaredos.com].

(which may or may not have been part of the inspiration for Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, or visa-versa, as they came out within a year or so of each other)

Eh? (1)

Starcub (527362) | more than 4 years ago | (#28926727)

As far as possible all my puzzles are based on ideas in the original book. So my Dante's Inferno is a lot closer to the book than EA Games' Dante's Inferno that changes Dante into a warrior with a giant scythe!

I thought that the title "Divine Comedy" was indicative the fact that the real Dante painted with the blood of the dead. So what EA did was appropriate, no?

Our Town (1)

InsertCleverUsername (950130) | more than 4 years ago | (#28927035)

I'm ready to adapt Thornton Wilder's Our Town [wikipedia.org]. It will be painstakingly true to the original play I struggled to pay attention to in high school. The game will deliver each slow, achingly dull line of dialog with Freddy Krueger flashing on the screen at random 10-20 minute intervals, requiring a quick key-press to prove you're awake. You fall asleep, you die.

Been done. (1)

Troy Baer (1395) | more than 4 years ago | (#28928283)

I thought there was already a game based on Dante's Inferno, called "Where the Hell is Carmen Sandiego"...

Finally! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28928509)

Yes! I look forward to mowing down the cast of Les Miserables with a chain gun.

Dante in D&D (1)

jcronen (325664) | more than 4 years ago | (#28928857)

I always thought Dante's Inferno would have made a great Dungeons and Dragons module; unfortunately I never got around to writing it.

Adventure Construction Set (1)

LionKimbro (200000) | more than 4 years ago | (#28929203)

Did anyone play Rivers of Light in the the Adventure Construction Set? [wikipedia.org] Stuart Smith [wikipedia.org] based it in Gilgamesh. It's been so long since I played it, I hardly remember what the game was like, but I do remember being thoroughly entranced by it, and countless hours spent in the ACS game editor.

Many games play like Waiting for Godot (1)

Megahard (1053072) | more than 4 years ago | (#28929407)

No plot, the puzzles don't make any sense, and there's no real conclusion at the end.

Pilgrim's Progrefs (1)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 4 years ago | (#28932405)

Should be pretty easy..

video game: Convert those heathens!
Bart: Yes! Gott'im!
Todd: Nah you just winged him and made him a Unitarian.

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