Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Sheffield, UK
Found this great interview transcript PC Gamer did with Stephen Moffat, Piers Wenger and Charles Cecil today;
Moffat: There should have been [a Doctor Who game] ages ago. It's like - they should have had a sonic screwdriver toy 20 years ago. It's ridiculous there isn't one. Doctor Who is a television show which is almost structured like a computer game. I mean, I played stuff like Tomb Raider and thought "I wish this was Doctor Who". In fact, I once had a little software patch which turned Doom into Doctor Who. It's simply overdue. It's not "Why now?", it's simply "Why wasn't it ages ago?" It's a natural. We're hardly forcing Who into a new shape - it's authentically Doctor Who.
Wenger: There's clearly such a huge appetite for Doctor Who, in all its forms. Whether it's web content or the shows. We're just responding to the endless need for content around Doctor Who and trying to think of an innovative way of satisfying the urge for the Doctor and his adventures. This seemed a really unique way of allowing the audience - the young people especially who watch and love the show - to be immersed in it.
Moffat: One of the things about Doctor Who which does make it unique is that people just don't just consume it. People don't just watch. They always want to have their own go at it - speaking as someone who did. Kids have always made up their own monsters, always wanted to be in their own episodes. Everyone wants a go at it.
Wenger: Everyone wants to be the doctor.
Moffat: Or the companions. One or the other. I used to hate it when I was a kid, where the Doctor Who annual wouldn't fit [into the continuity]. It wasn't right. I wouldn't think it was authentic. These [Adventures] are intimately part of the Doctor Who universe, and are consistent with it.
Aspden: We're learning so many of the values and principles of the brand. Even when realising characters - the look and feel of make-up, of costume... is true to how it's realised on the TV series. That's something that's quite unique.
Moffat: We long to go to alien planets - to blow up the center of London and go on the underground in a post-apocalyptic world. We've just seen a scene which we couldn't physically do. I mean... we could do it, but there would be five cheap episodes afterwards. There's things we can do there which we won't do elsewhere.
PC Gamer: Do you have a plan to make it tie in specifically with the series? As in, have elements which specifically pay off in one or the other?
Moffat: To be honest, no. You try to make any individual thing complete in itself. But Doctor Who spins off ideas all the time anyway. That's what it's like.
Something that's vital to me when thinking of a script is "What are the kids going to play at in the playground about this show?". How are they going to play the weeping angels, as it were. That's why it fits beautifully into a computer game, because they can go and play with the actual toys they've seen on camera. Doctor Who has always been a game in that sense.
Doctor Who isn't about deferred pleasure. We don't want to make you wait for stuff. You want DALEKS! And CYBERMEN! You don't want to wait a year and a half for that. You want to get them now. Stuff, right now, in your face and good.
Aspden: Sumo were brilliant. There was quite a lengthy tendering process, but in terms of what they delivered on the day, in terms of the pitch... there was a jawdropping moment.
Moffat: They made the Tardis bigger on the inside than the outside. I don't mean by cutting. You control the little fella, he walks in... and it's bigger on the inside. That's it. That's the central magic of Doctor Who, done in only a way a computer could do. We could fake that up on television, but to be able to be physically do it and discover it really is bigger on the inside... that's the central magic of Doctor Who made flesh for the first time ever.
Wenger: They really got the tone. Their version of the Doctor, even though we'd given very little about Matt [Smith, the new Doctor], they just seemed to tap into what we'd seen of him as an Actor and be able to bring those mannerisms to the screen via animation.
Moffat: If ever there was a man designed to be a computer Avatar, it's Matt Smith. He looks like one. "Look how they've exaggerated... no, it's exactly the same".
We overwork [Matt Smith and new companion Karen Gillan] terribly. It's verging on Japanese prisoner of War.
Wenger: They don't get the luxury of sleep any more.
Aspden: It's a fantastic daily learning curve. You have to bear in mind gaming principles.
Wenger: It is a hybrid of drama and a game. There's no way around it. It is these two things. In the same way Drama starts and never stops, in this, there's also the gameplay. The junction parts of the plot are punctuated with that gameplay to allow the story to progress in a way which brings you into it, influencing the Doctor's success and failure.
We had a really desire to develop Doctor Who, making it be on as many platforms as possible. I think that Doctor Who has self contained stories kind of lends itself to an episodic game.
Moffat: Obviously it's going to be episodic. Obviously it's going to have cliff-hangers. But it's a very secure marriage.
Wenger: Because the brand is so strong and people know it so well now... it feels that you can do something episodically and be fairly confident that people will sample it, give it a go and hopefully hook them in using its narrative. That people are so familiar with the sort of Adventures the Doctor has means the pool of people who will go back and try it is slightly bigger, thanks to that familiarity. Which means that it's more likely to succeed, I guess.
Aspden: I remember my Doctor. Tom Baker was my doctor. What we're creating people here is a memory for children to remember as being the Doctor. Which is so fantastic. I was the doctor.
Wenger: What we also recognise is the potential for a different kind of gaming experience. Without wanting to sound too didactic, people enjoy Doctor Who because it's a brilliant, mad adventure with exploding space-ships and monsters to fight and clear danger and good and evil and epic structure.
But the Doctor is a big smug nutty-professor brain-box, who - though we don't really like to labour this - doesn't fire a gun under normal circumstances, doesn't take alien life for the sake of it, will always try and find a clever way out of it because he's such a big show-off.
I think that makes the gameplay not traditional or generic. Puzzles to solve, strategies to make, puzzles to work out... it does kind of lend the opportunity to engage the gameplayer with a slightly different way to defend themselves or move the game forward.
Moffat: I loved Tomb Raider at the beginning, but got increasingly bored by it, because you had to keep on shooting things. The shooting things was always really dull. It was always about trying to solve the problem of the big tomb that was great. How long must I kill this sodding lion for?
It's not exciting, because you're not really killing a lion. You're just playing with the controls... but you are really solving a puzzle. And the Doctor's a great character to be in the company of, to be part of or to be in that kind of an adventure. You're solving puzzles. You're being clever. And the best thing is that the Doctor sometimes just runs away.
PC Gamer: Violent games have traditionally tended to be the most popular, though.
Moffat: Is that WHY? I was playing Halo the other night... and I was more interested in how lovely it is. And sometimes I turn it to the easy setting and just see what new places you can crawl into. I'm not sure they're always right. I'm not disapproving of violence but... it's getting kind of boring.
Wenger: It's not just Doctor Who trying to do a game which feels like a movie. The military games just offer the thrills and spills that a big, violent war movie would. And what we're trying to do is offer the same thrills and spills that an episode of Doctor Who does.
Moffat: We do know about good stories. We do know about suspense and differing the payoff and all that. Suspense. Jokes! Good, funny jokes. Dialogue! Sometimes I'm sitting at a computer game and think... Good God, this is a horrible story. It really is terrible.
It has to be like Doctor Who. Not just use its visuals. It has to be like it as an experience, otherwise you're not providing what you promise. What you're promising is that this will be like being in an episode, participating in an episode.
Wenger: We haven't micro-managed this game in the way we micro-manage the making of the show. They really have got the Dr-Who-iness of it, and they did from the word go, which is why they got the job. I think the way they have been able to mirror the proposition of the BBC Show is really impressive.
Charles Cecil, Executive Producer, Doctor Who: The Adventure Games
Credits: Beneath a Steel Sky, all four Broken Sword games
Sean Millard, Creative Evangelist, Doctor Who: The Adventure Games
Will Tarratt, Lead Designer, Doctor Who: The Adventure Games
Mat Fidell, Senior Producer, Interactive, BBC Cymru Wales
Cecil: Right from the beginning we worked closely with the production people and [BBC Head of Drama] Piers Wenger. Right from the very, very beginning. The key thing in our approach is that the Doctor doesn't use combat to overcome his enemies, so you'll see that a lot of the focus is on the stealth side.
On the TV the sonic screwdriver is an all powerful thing able to pull you out of almost any hole. In the game, you want it to obey certain rules. One of the first things we talked about was what exactly the sonic screwdriver does. You define the rules, and if you change them half way through, people think you're cheating.
Our approach on the game was very much trying to be an interactive episode. You don't get stuck, but you have challenges. Overcoming the challenge gives you the satisfaction of the plot progression. When balancing the difficulty of those things, generally it's driven by stealth and mini-games, with a little bit of object-interaction... but it's not an adventure in a scratch-your-head using-two-objects-in-a-strange-way.
Millard: Because the demographic's so wide, we didn't want anyone to be stuck for more than a minute or two not knowing what to do. You're independent, making your way through the story... but you're not going to go too far wrong. We wanted to write a game which would appeal to three generations. We're talking about kids, their parents and then the older [generation].
Tarratt: It's a best case scenario for licenced games.
Millard: We would try and make them so - with people in prosthetics - they could go back into the television show. It's very much like this is another 3 and 4 extended episodes from the television.
Cecil: We've got very good scriptwriters we're working with - and they're happy to learn. For example, in a script we need to be more concise in a game, because if a cut-scene goes on too long, people get a little bit frustrated because they want to get on with the gameplay. But they've been terrific to work with.
On the taxi in, I was talking at great length to [writer] Phil Ford about scenes and the motivation of characters... you probably know I feel strongly that games have their own grammar, and writers from outside have to respect that and understand what the constraints are. And Phil's been terrific. I think a lot of people are excited about the new medium and want to learn how that is, because they see it as an exciting way forward.
The key balance is to make the puzzles and the challenges hard enough so there is a real sense of progression, but easy enough that people don't get stuck for too long. One of the key things about the opening scene is that we're considering making it easier after you die a couple of times. And make it easier and easier and easier, so you don't get to the stage where you have to die again and again and again.
Ultimately I would like the thought that if you have no expertise whatsoever, play 3 or 4 times... but on the 4th time it's almost impossible to get caught. Part of the remit of this is to educate people about games, and how to use computers...
Millard: We were fans in the first place. The people who did the actual pitch - Darren and I and one other person - we were sort of geeky about it.
Fidell: They bought Jelly Babies along. Because it was like... obviously they were very keen, but they were very Tom Baker.
Millard: Let's stipulate this. If you look up Jelly Babies and Doctor Who on Wikipedia, you'll find that five of the Doctor's ate Jelly babies. We just only remember Tom Baker.
Fidell: It was marks for enthusiasm. [There are 10 Jelly Babies hidden throughout the game.]
Millard: At the very beginning, both we and the BBC didn't know what was going to be used in the TV series. We didn't want to duplicate. As time went on, the brief changed a little. There were a few baddies we were planning on using that we didn't. And a few scenarios had to be changed as they were a little similar. Two episodes were going to have the main antagonists, and two were going to have either original ones and something a little more obscure. Which was before Phil was involved. We talked to him about the constraints and the opportunities... Some of them are great baddies, but some just wouldn't make gameplay.
Cecil: The uncanny valley is something which I feel very passionately we much not fall into. We very much leaned towards a more stylised look.
Millard: And thank God we did that! The mo-cap data would be ridiculous. [Matt Smith] never does the same thing twice. The beauty of him is that he's so animated... he's a drunken giraffe. That doesn't walk in a straight line, let alone do the same thing twice. Thankfully we decided to stylize and epitomize that walk.
Millard: [On episode size] The same story it would take in 45 minutes, to play through it, to get involved in it, takes at least twice as much time to play through.
Cecil: And the stories are more ambitious than an episode. They tell more story. Tom Watson [MP] made a comment that the BBC should be investing in games development. It will be great to e-mail Tom to say... THIS IS WHAT WE'VE DONE. There's that sense from him, and I hope others, that this is exactly the sort of area that the BBC should be getting into.
Millard: The closest comparison we've got in games in terms of being on the telly is something like Grand Theft Auto, which is on for the news for a negative reason for five minutes. And this is going to be so much bigger. There's nothing in game terms which has that level of publicity within the public's eyes. Nothing any other game has ever done compares.
It's going to be brilliant for so many reasons, but the strength of the stories is... I was literally in tears at the end of one of them. I felt absolutely pathetic, but... I can't wait.