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Doctor Who: The Adventure Games - Part 1

Sumo and the BBC talk about their priceless offering

With Doctor Who: The Adventure Games the BBC and Sumo are not only taking advantage of a franchise that probably should have had video game representation a long time ago but they're doing it for free.

We got the chance to sit down with legendary developer Charles Cecil, Sumo's creative director Sean Millard, voice of the Daleks Nicholas Briggs, Dalek operator Barnaby Edwards, Doctor Who writer Phil Ford and the BBC's Ian Tweedale, asking what, why and how. We already know Who.

Why Doctor Who: The Adventure Games? Why now and why in this way?

Ian: I think we just felt that Doctor Who as a brand was perfect for gaming. We felt that the sort of narrative drama that we've got is appropriate and in a way it was a natural progression from TV to online gaming in this case or gaming where you download online.

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We really wanted to see this as part of the overall approach that we did for Doctor Who and developed into a new narrative format and so we see this really as being very much a 17 episode series rather than 13 episodes. We have 13 TV episodes, we have four episodes that you can play online and really take part in it.

We wanted also to really appeal to a broad demographic. The demographic sort of matched what we had with the TV show as well. So the game is not purely focused on the sort of teenage boy hardcore gamer and 20s gamer, it's actually aimed at a much wider audience. So we've almost got a media literacy angle to this in the sense of wanting to introduce gaming to a much wider audience than may be familiar with it so to do that through a brand like Doctor Who was very appropriate so those are some of the key drivers to it.

How do you take a character like Doctor Who, who's not known for duel wielding or lightsabers, and make a game out of that?

Sean: Traditionally game design is all about progressing a character through a map or a world, putting obstacles in their way, letting them work out how to pass them and progress to the next. Normally we do that with locked doors and barricades but if you've got a sonic screwdriver you've got a skeleton key that will unlock any door and it becomes a significant pain in the game design rear. So Charles and I had to think very creatively about how we'd use the sonic screwdriver and how we block progression and unlock progression.

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Charles: Originally we were going to have it lost right at the very beginning weren't we...?

Sean: The very first scene of the very first episode it was going to slide off into the sea...

Charles: And Stephen Moffat turned round and went, 'No'....

Sean: That was our first creative solution...

Charles: So that was the end of that particular one...

Sean: Also another thing that we rely on traditionally in videogames, character led videogames with good guys and bad guys, is guns, canons, laser guns, light swords, combative elements and the Doctor solves all the problems of the universe and saves humanity increasingly regularly with the power of negotiation and sensible talk. That isn't a great game mechanic either so we had to think about how we deal in a non combative way with Daleks and Cybermen.

We came to the conclusion that stealth and avoidance and interaction with a lot of world obstacles in the game was probably the best solution...

Charles: One of the key things is that we didn't want people to get frustrated so there are plenty of game objects to interact with, you know it is an adventure in that sense but it isn't one where you're stopped in your tracks and you sit and think for hours. Like a telly series we wanted to keep it moving fairly fast. Hopefully the challenges are exciting and interesting enough to give you a reward for moving forward but not stopping you for hours on end.

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