Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Things You Probably Didn’t Know about the Watchmen Game…

…Unless you have this month’s EGM of course. After getting the issue about a week ago, I’ve been meaning to post about this game, the new info laid out by EGM, plus some geek commentary. Mainly, because I’m a comic fanatic and Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons is one of the (if not the) most amazing comic series I’ve ever read (no, it is not really a graphic novel, it’s a trade paperback collecting a 12 issue mini-series). Therefore, I’ve had a healthy amount of skepticism regarding both the Watchmen movie and the game spinning out of it, Watchmen: The End is Nigh. Anyone who has read Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and then seen the movie can probably relate to this (though V for Vendetta didn’t turn out badly…). Anyway, when I first heard about the game, I groaned. After reading EGM’s coverage of the game, I felt a lot better. Here’s some of the things discussed that may put your mind at ease as well:

  • First and foremost (to comics nerds like me anyway) to note is that the game’s script is being handled by none other than Len Wein. Len Wein is a comics legend, creating both the Swamp Thing and everyone’s favorite mutant, Wolverine. He has worked on many comics properties, from Batman, to X-Men, and my favorite, Blue Beetle (a character he wrote the entire 24 issue series for in the 80’s). Wein is no amateur writer. He also has worked with Alan Moore in the past, and was the editor for the Watchmen comic series. Not to mention, Alan Moore made his name in the comics’ field writing Wein’s creation, the Swamp Thing. Says Wein: “When you’re dealing with anything that’s become this iconic, there’s always a moment of ‘Boy, I better get this right.’ But I figured Alan [Moore] has followed my work on a number of different titles over the years, so turnabout is fair play. It was actually quite liberating.”

  • The game is a downloadable title for XBLA, PSN, and Steam for PC and will be broken into six episodes, the first releasing in March 2009 to coincide with the movie release. Despite the downloadable nature of the game, EGM claims that the production values are so great that, “This game looks so good in high-def on a huge 50-inch television that you’ll easily forget it’s a downloadable title.”

  • The End is Nigh features two playable characters, Rorschach and Nite-Owl. The game is a brawler at heart, with puzzle solving elements, and co-op is key. Even when you do not play with another player, your partner will be controlled by the game’s AI. Both characters have their own attributes and specialties that makes playing as each one a distinct experience. Rorschach uses street weapons dropped by thugs, is a bit faster and has a rage meter that builds when he attacks and when he is attacked; Nite-Owl’s combat techniques are a bit more refined and he uses gadgetry, such as screecher grenades, his grapple hook gun and an electrified suit, the latter of which has a meter that charges up. Teamwork will be required for some puzzles. Unfortunately, there will be no online co-op.

  • Watchmen film director, Zack Snyder doesn’t want the game to fall under the usual licensed movie stigma, and serves as an adviser for the game. Says Snyder: “…I don’t see The End is Nigh as a marketing tool, I really don’t. I want to be able to say, ‘This is a movie. This is a videogame. And this is a comic book. All as good as they can be. None of them compromised for the other.’”

  • Dave Gibbons, the artist of Watchmen, is also an adviser for the game: “I keep an eye on it, and if I see anything I really don’t like, I let people know.” Gibbons also points out that this isn’t the first time Watchmen has been made into a game, “A long, long time ago, before the days of sophisticated computer games, role-playing games—you know, with dice and paper—were very popular and Alan [Moore] did collaborate to a great extent, as did I, with a company called Mayfair on three Watchmen modules, which actually seem to cover similar ground, although in a different way, to that which is being covered by the [upcoming] videogame.” Because these were written partially by Moore and do not conflict with the book, a renown set of online Watchmen Annotations states that these modules can be considered semi-canonical. That The End is Nigh treads similar ground to these RPG modules is definitely a good thing.

  • The game is a prequel and takes place in 1972, thirteen years before the setting for the comic series. Therefore, vigilantes aren’t outlawed yet by “The Keene Act” which was detailed in the book. Characters mentioned in passing in the comics will play a big part and be fleshed out, such as Jimmy the Gimmick and Underboss. Each chapter will have bookends in the form of motion comic intros done in the style of Rorschach’s journal. Enemies will include Top Knot gangsters seen in the book, as well as cops, who will prove a bit tougher. Utmost respect is being paid to the source material. Says Wein: “I’m a fan myself, and there’s an inclination to despise change for the sake of despising it. We love and respect the original graphic novel as much as you do—maybe more if that’s possible. Nothing we’ve done has been done lightly and without much serious consideration. Loosen up, and you’re in for a heck of a ride.”

  • Scandinavian developer Deadline Games is the team working on Watchmen: The End is Nigh for Warner Bros., but despite their location have an international roster with several employees from the United States and South America. One team member of note is Junichi Yamada, a level designer formerly of Sega, who worked on the Super Monkey Ball and Shenmue series, as well as the Sega/Nintendo joint project F-Zero GX.

  • The End is Nigh is rated M, and will have much of the violence and profanity the comics are known for.

  • While EGM attributes Batman-like qualities to the game’s two main characters, Rorschach and Nite-Owl, the pair are actually based off of characters Steve Ditko (who co-created Spider-Man with Stan Lee) created for Charton comics: the Question and Blue Beetle, respectively. Almost all of the Watchmen characters are based on Charlton characters, who DC Comics bought the rights to in the 80’s. Word is that the original Watchmen outline used the Charlton characters before DC nixed the idea as they had other plans for them. The Charlton version of Blue Beetle (Ted Kord) is the same one who had the series Len Wein wrote. There have been reprints of early Charlton adventures by DC lately (Action Heroes Archives Vol. 1 and Vol. 2) while the reprints of the 80’s Question series by penultimate Batman scribe, Len Wein, have been coming out in trades since last year.

Hopefully, all of this information will come as a relief to some of you die-hard fans worried about a video game disaster mucking up some of the greatest comics ever. Still, a promising early look from a video game magazine never guarantees quality in the final product, but it sounds like Deadline is taking all the right steps to not make a total screw-up, and instead produce something Watchmen fans like me may actually get into. Be sure to pick up a copy of this month's EGM to learn much more about the game and read interviews with Gibbons, Wein and Snyder.

What’s this? Haven’t read Watchmen yet? Get thyself to a Comic Book Shoppe! Or risk having your geek cred yanked!


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