Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Movies That Should Be Games - Gladiator

"Now we are free... to imagine a video game version of this!"

This will be another theme that I will tackle on the Gaming Journalist Gazette because it is something that I can generally relate to. I am a fan of video games but I am also a fan of movies on the big screen. From time to time we get to thinking of ideas surrounding one story in one media and we try to imagine how that one story could translate into another media form. There are some stories that just can't be translated into a different media form even though those stories have substance. There are some movies that just don't translate well as video games and the other way around is also true. There are some video games that just don't translate well as movies. It often depends on what stories you are looking at and when you find that one story that can be so flexible that it can successfully make such a change, it will more often than not spark your imagination and motivate you to picture that story in a different light.

Movies and video games have different methods of storytelling and these methods lead to different results when it comes to making a lasting impression on the consumer, so it stands to reason that it would take much patience to carefully translate the story that originally fits in a movie into a video game. For the movie that I am about to discuss, yes, I am aware of the fact that recently Ryse: Son of Rome was released for the Xbox One, but let's take into account that the story of Ryse is not the same as the well known movie simply called Gladiator. There are clear differences between the two.

At the beginning of Gladiator, there is no immediate threat to the main character, Maximus Decimus Meridius, a Roman general who has firm control over an army of Roman soldiers, in particular. Maximus leads his men past the forces of Germania with confidence and solid focus which would make for a nice presentation of the first level. You would be thrown into the fire of having to learn how to be a commander on the field of battle but you would be shown what to do with the addition of intuitive gameplay controls.

The first scenes of Gladiator would have to be managed in such a way that would make it appear as a tutorial session for the gamer. The tutorial session would go into great visual depth on individual battles, team battles and even elements of the Real Time Strategy genre. What perspective would this game be in? I believe it would be easy to have both the First Person and the Third Person perspectives as viable options for this hypothetical game, so I wouldn't see the harm of allowing the player to choose which perspective he or she is most comfortable with.

Considering that we are talking about a video game version of Gladiator, time for storytelling has to be limited to certain parts that wouldn't at all hinder the flow of the game, because after all it is the action that the players want, not the wandering around animation sequences. The bulk of the story would have to be on the shoulders of Maximus Decimus Meridius and the emphasis should be on the character of Maximus because it is his character that mainly drives the story. Cameo descriptions of other characters such as Antonius Proximo and Juba can still be in order, but they must not disrupt the momentum of what the gameplay is attempting to build.

The only playable character in the Campaign Mode should be Maximus as the video game retelling of Gladiator should be meant to reintroduce you to Maximus in the different media form. If the gamer is to sit down and play a video game presentation of Gladiator, the gamer would be expecting to play as THE Gladiator, and not just as any gladiator. Other playable characters can be used but only in the form of a Multiplayer Mode that has no effect on the main campaign.

We can't have a bright strong hero without a menacing jealous villain to counter the former's personality. Here is where the video game retelling would be different than what we have seen in the movie. In truth, Gladiator is actually historically inaccurate as that has been confirmed by various sources. While Joaquin Phoenix did a stellar job as the cold Emperor Commodus, it can be noted that around the times of the Roman Colosseum becoming a wild territory of chaotic spectacle, the person in charge was not that of Commodus.

To establish historical accuracy, the development team would have to find the emperor who actually was in control around the days of physical struggle and have him be the one to antagonize Maximus. It would allow for a change of pace that would come across as pleasant, and more importantly, fresh. This change would allow the gamer to experience a different side to the story that he or she may not be so familiar with and this new dynamic could possibly present itself as if it were a new story altogether.

The progression of the game would meet various transition points such as more tutorial guidance for the player after Maximus is captured and demoted to the rank of slave. After Maximus is taken away from his home turf and forced to start competing as a gladiator, this is where the gameplay action picks up considerably. Maximus would go through a series of trial battles at first in a smaller arena while interacting with the environment between fights and as his stature as a competitor grows, the game would eventually transition again to a new territory. 

One thing that must be noted is that there is more to a gameplay experience than just straightforward battles. The player has to be given different things to do. One knock that Ryse: Son of Rome has received has been that the gameplay sequences are too repetitive. A video game interpretation of Gladiator should avoid such a problem at all costs, so how do we remedy this? We highlight the core values of Maximus. He was a kind family man of goodwill who would pick up his comrades if they were in need of help, so if we were to put emphasis on this part of his character by implementing missions that involve Maximus having to rescue people from traps or oppressors, or better yet, leading people out of danger before they even meet that danger in the first place.

A fine example would be that one scene in the movie where Antonius Proximo and other gladiators try to help free Maximus from the gates of Rome, and while the others were out in the open in challenging and fighting the guards, Maximus himself did all that he could to hide in stealth. I believe a different wrinkle to add into the gameplay mechanics of Maximus would be the element of stealth. In separate individual missions we could have our hero temporarily break free from his isolated gladiator community and wander through select areas of Rome to gather information from guards, Roman politicians or those associated with the colosseum games so that he will get a better idea of what is going on in the grand scheme of things.

The main objective of stealth missions, like in most other games, would be for Maximus not to get caught by bitter enemies who want him gone. Otherwise, the mission is failed and the player is sent back to the starting point and play the mission over again. If anything, the idea of Maximus being given help to be freed in the movie should be a selling point for the development team when making the game since implementing the idea of freeing Maximus can be put on display throughout the game, but in the temporary sense. 

The main currency of items for Maximus to collect in this game would be weapons. Implementing Roman coins into the mix isn't really necessary because imprisoned gladiators were not given the same benefits as those who were in the stands of the colosseum watching the battles. I don't see the need to have coins as a collectable source in this game because it wouldn't feel appropriate considering the environment. In battle the only thing a gladiator values other than his physical abilities would be weapons. Any weapons that he could get his hands on he was going to use to the bitter end, win or lose.

The kinds of weapons can vary from one end to another as long as they come from the same time as the days of Rome. We present a realistic view of how the battles at the colosseum were conducted if we have the right weapons, and that will allow the players to better engage in the atmosphere of the game. We could also attach a side effect to the weapons that the gladiators carry. Not only do the gladiators have health meters that the players have to be aware of, but also the stability of the weapons can come into question after frequent use of them. The weapons could have their own health meters so that the player would be alerted of how long the player can use the weapon. Weapons in the colosseum often broke in the middle of battles and the gladiators had to improvise from that point on.

As far as quick time events, button mashing and button combinations are concerned, the development team would have to choose its spots for when to implement these mechanics. Transition points could employ the quick time events, stalemate struggles in the middle of battles could employ button mashing techniques in the most appropriate and respectful form, and button combinations could be employed in a variety of ways for stealth missions, rescue missions and during battles in the colosseum.

Customization is another thing that I generally warm up to. There should be a mode in this game where you could customize up to a certain number of gladiators, give these warriors their own names and present them as characters filled with life. For example, I go to the Custom Mode and I create a gladiator named Eoin Finalitus (I know that's a random name), and I designate his place of origin being Ireland. This alone would allow to me imagine that Eoin Finalitus has some ties to Rome simply because of his name, but at some point he moved to Ireland to be with other family members.

His physical abilities are determined, strengths and weakness well defined, and I give him his "Weapon of Choice", a weapon that he will be mostly familiar with compared to other weapons. We can take this custom character to Multiplayer Mode and have him compete against established characters, characters made for Campaign Mode and other Custom Mode characters and if Eoin Finalitus wins enough battles, we can reward the player by having Eoin make a brief cameo appearance in Campaign Mode.

Overall I see value in making a game specifically dedicated to the movie Gladiator because the motivation that a player has for being in an intense competiton such as that as games in the Roman Colosseum would be upheld. I see the benefits of such an approach. The marketing of this game would be easily understandable and relatable since most have seen the movie Gladiator already. There is no need to restrict a game like this just because of the title that it's living up to. Let the ideas come to you as a development team and let those ideas lead you to a resolve that would make you say "Yes. That is something we could do to make the gameplay experience fun for the player.", which is the main goal.

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