Games based on licensed properties are notoriously awful. An informal survey about bad licensed games had people throwing out names like ET, the new TMNT game, Fight Club, “every Star Trek game ever made,” Matrix, “all the Fox stuff” and the list goes on. In all fairness, many such games have tight production schedules in order to take advantage of an IP launch (see Gamedev article for more on this). Even so, that excuse only goes so far.
Gregory Noveck is the Senior VP of Creative Affairs at DC Comics. In short, he calls himself an evangelical rights representative. His kind may be just what the game industry needs. You may think — just what we don’t want, more oversight by the IP owner. But because he refuses to rubber stamp scripts that are bad or just aren’t hitting the mark, mankind has been saved from seeing more Catwoman movies (By the way, the Watchmen script is reportedly great).
His focus is on the take, or story, of the property, and his genuine enthusiasm for the IP ensures no one is using the license simply to line their wallets. The movie Constantine, inspired by the Hellblazer comic, was a successful movie, making over 100 million. But since the movie didn’t really evoke the comic, like, say 300, Noveck wondered if the movie could have made even more. Once the first wave of movie-goers reported back that the movie was no Hellblazer, the film makers may have missed out on the second wave of fans who would have seen it had it been true to the IP.
Of course, executives like Noveck can’t save gameplay, but they can help you manage the expectations that are part and parcel of working with an IP. Some creators have even asked DC’s opinion on a take before presenting it to the studio funding their project. Beware the IP-owner who says they’ll support you 100 percent in whatever you do in your game — it’s a sign that they’re not quite backing you.
While there is such thing as too much oversight (we won’t name names), having an IP champion helping you and your writers can make the difference between an okay game and a great game that captures the spirit of your IP. After all, we could certainly use more Knights of the Old Republic.