THQ on adapting books into videogames

Metro 2033 is based on a cult novel by Dmitry Glukhovsky. Games based on literature aren’t attempted often, with only a few high profile examples like The Witcher and Dante’s Inferno coming to mind. While chatting with THQ creative manager David Langeliers, we asked about the challenges faced when creating a videogame from pen-and-ink origins. 

“I like to think that we stayed pretty true to the novel,” he explained. “There are some slight differences in the story, but most of the characters, locations and events in the game are also present in the novel. It is difficult when basing a game on a novel, and you run into many of the same issues that you would basing a game on a movie or a comic book. While we want fans of the novel to feel this is an accurate representation of it, we also need to be sure the player has enough combat to make the game interesting and engaging and we don’t want to bore them with lengthy dialog or cut scenes.

“Luckily, when working from a novel, there is quite a bit of material and back story to work with. Much of the difficulty comes in picking the pieces of the novel that are absolutely necessary for the story, but still working in some of the back story into little nooks and crannies within the environments and optional dialog for those who want to search it out. We also worked closely with Dmitry Glukhovsky to ensure that he was pleased with how we were interpreting and presenting his original work.”

Dante’s Inferno earned much criticism with the way it handled the original literary work. It makes one wonder how much artistic license should be given to developers who are, after all, just trying to make a fun game. We asked David whether he feels a game can go too far, and how much respect should be awarded to the source material. Hit the jump for more.

“I definitely agree that a concept derived from a book can be taken too far, but it also depends if your audience is even interested in the novel to begin with,” David suggests. “Does your average player really care that Dante’s Inferno doesn’t follow the source material accurately? I think it’s a little different when dealing with Metro 2033.

“With a modern novel, there are going to be some fans who want to see it accurately represented. Developers certainly need some artistic license when adapting a book or movie to a game, or it would turn out to be a bore for the player. Would you enjoy a game with 20 hours of fiction delivery and 30 minutes of intense battle? How many baddies did Wolverine kill in the X-Men Origins movie? How about the game? Fans still want to see recognizable events, characters and places but you also need to ensure that you aren’t putting gameplay in the back seat. We do work in the Games business after all, even if they are derived from another medium.”

With that in mind, should gamers read Metro 2033 before they play it?: I would say that they should read it before or after they have played the game. Haha! Both are great, and if you enjoyed one then the other should be right down your alley. You certainly don’t need advanced knowledge of the novel to fully enjoy the game or vice versa.”

We’ll have more Metro 2033 coverage tomorrow. It’s a veritable Metro explosion, all up in your astonished face.

Jim Sterling