10 November, 2010

Doctor Who: Adventure Games - BAF 2010 Part 2

BAF welcomed back legendary games developer Charles Cecil (last seen at the Museum acting as an official invigilator when we beat the World Record for simultaneous Nintendo DS gaming) alongside Sean Millard from Sumo Digital and Anwen Aspden, BBC Executive Producer - all here to talk about their involvement on the Doctor Who: Adventure Games series.

So why did they do it? The BBC had planned on producing four interactive episodes for the latest reincarnation of the series, but went one step further and created something special with free downloadable games - over 1.6 million downloads so far, and more episodes to come.

The pitch went out all over the world, but landed in Sumo's lap. Charles had worked successfully with the Sheffield based company before (Broken Sword) but it was their grasp of the brand and production values in only two scenes of their pitch video which sealed the deal.

The Doctor - with sonic screwdriver acting as a skeleton key allowing him to go virtually anywhere, and his tendency to negotiate rather than fight, is an unlikely game hero, but Sumo overcame these issues by using avoidance, discovery and infiltration. The developers also need to ensure that they didn't assume gaming knowledge nor make the game too complex for Doctor Who's expansive audience range.

Sean is obviously thrilled that he was given the opportunity to create a Doctor Who character - the Cyberslaves - which could potentially appear in a televised episode; he claims it's the coolest thing he's done during his 20 year career. Charles went through the process of creating the cyberslaves under the protective guidance of the Beeb, and concluded that it is the human behind the monster which is most frightening.

The actors movements (Matt Smith and Karen Gillan) were shot using rotoscope rather than motion capture, which enabled Sumo to animate the characters in game. The resulting facial textures were too realistic and the BBC felt that it was "too dark", so removing the texture and smoothing out any lines was the computer equivalent of putting the actors into make up. An interesting analogy.

"The second coolest thing" for Sean is seeing his company's game advertised during primetime - this level of publicity is generally a rap on the knuckles for disrupting the nation's youth.

Charles revealed that his experiences working with the BBC on the Doctor Who Adventure Games are "a lesson in how to market": Keep it a secret, then blitz it and surprise everybody.

During the Q&A we learned that the funding for the game came from public service money, but it created such a buzz at Comic-con that there are plans in place to sell it abroad.

The audience expressed a desire to see some of the Doctor's previous incarnations crop up in the game, and the team, as passionate as they are about the brand and their product, clearly hope so too. And so the celebrated heritage of the Doctor continues.


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