Explore: Experiencing and interacting with The Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead (Part 2)

Going Mainstream

If books and graphic novels cater to a narrower audience, nothing brings an intellectual property in front of millions of viewers like a movie or a television series. This particular path has its challenges which are not just limited to the budget but also the screenplay, length of time and even cast that is chosen. Details may get omitted or changed altogether in order to work within the boundaries mentioned above but at the end of the day, it all boils down to the team and whether they can create an experience compelling enough for the masses to take notice.

GoT (Seasons 1 & 2; 3 on-going): HBO, known for producing award-winning original programs, breathes life into Mr. Martin’s extensive work. To be honest I saw the first two seasons before I read the books in this particular case. The series is an adaptation, so for those who’ve read the books first they may find some discrepancies which can be attributed to budget constraints and making things more concise for the most part. Other than that it is as true to the book as possible given Mr. Martin’s grand vision. HBO has done an outstanding job bringing together the cast for the project. It’s hard to think of anyone else who could’ve been brought to the show for each of the main characters. Most of the discrepancies can be due to either the vision being too grand for the budget or some characters being in the book which do not impact the overall story to be included in the series. The point is they’re smart and whatever is adapted is tactfully done. The world itself is alive and the production value definitely shows with an approx. budget of $5 Million/episode.

Over and above this, HBO has expanded the GoT brand into a lot of amazing merchandise as well, from replicas to t-shirts and shot glasses. Everyone can find something interesting and not tacky to embrace the series beyond the books or the television show. HBO also brought an exhibition to certain locations showcasing various production assets for fans.

Game of Thrones Merchandise (HBO):

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Final Verdict:  Don’t miss it. If you have been living under a rock, buy the DVDs and update yourself now that Season 3 has begun. As for those who haven’t read the books but follow the series, Season 3 is going to be in a word….Very interesting.

TWD (Seasons 1, 2 & 3): I think anyone who has been following the show knows about the budget wars at AMC with regard to TWD. It can be a business problem, so don’t hold it against the suits at AMC. The company has delivered a show that has broken viewership records despite the budget issues. A look at the parent company’s 10-K form suggests the problems they might be facing: 1) They have a lot of debt and are rated below investment grade 2) The show is on a network which as per their views has saturated in its audience base given the 3% growth over last year and 0% the year before. So they might be investing in the networks under their banner which are showing more growth.

In case of TWD, I was following the books much before the Television Show came along and well, budget be damned – the television show is TWD Version 2.0. It’s a challenge to find a star cast which resembles the characters in a graphic novel since it is pretty much like a story board already at hand. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, the series just feels corrupted. The story mimics the original only at a bare minimum level, there are characters which never existed taking lead roles and some of the more epic characters feel dumbed down. The much toted Governor in season 3 is 1/10th the original character, so in my opinion the series lacks the teeth of the original.

The Governor (Original VS Television Series):

5-EyePatch

Kirkman’s original will horrify you when he showcases the savageness human beings are capable of which makes the zombies look pale in comparison. The relationship readers can build with the characters in the original novel leave one mortified at their loss – that doesn’t really happen with the show. It’s possible that AMC would like to keep the show as accessible as possible to a wider audience but that’s what makes it feel corrupt.  The blood and gore is limited to the zombies, the characters aren’t as strong and there is no point keeping track of the story at least for the people who have read the books.

The Walking Dead Merchandise (AMC):

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The first two seasons felt very dull but AMC did redeem itself in season 3 except for the crappy season finale which only further convolutes the original story. But at least Season 3 felt like an effort at building a relationship between the audience and the characters. As far as expanding the universe is concerned, AMC also has its own bag of merchandise built around the show but there really isn’t much except for probably the collectible pieces. Irrespective of how the above may sound, the show has gathered a lot of steam and is barreling ahead as each season is viewed by an increasing number of viewers. My only concern is how the network wants to keep the fans happy about which characters survive and which are expendable which may keep the audience hooked but it might make the show lose its steam as well.

Final Verdict: The show is by no means anything like the original. Watch it because no matter how much I criticize it, it’s the word of 10+ million viewers against one. If you watch it without expectations you might end up getting entertained as well. And if you do like it, go read the graphic novels. Robert Kirkman has done Zombies a great favour with his creation.

Letting users interact

Video Games can be a great format for letting fans not just observe their beloved franchise but be able to interact and be a part of it. Both the series have spawned two games each, but the effort has been put forth by smaller studios not the really big budget developers but there is plenty more that can be done to expand both the series.

GoT: Cyanide Studios was the first mover to take the intellectual property and expand it into a strategy game and then an RPG. The strategy game is nothing to write home about, but the RPG’s biggest achievement is the 40 Hour length. Coming out after the television show was released, one would think the promotional effort for the game would be reduced to half but nothing could save the game. To be fair, the game is meant for those who probably have read the books enough to understand what the hell is going on and who the hell a red priest or a soldier of the Night’s Watch is. Mr. Martin’s support is apparent in the way the story is told, but it’s still not his best effort. That may be the game’s one redeeming quality for those who might want to sit through a poorly executed combat system. The studio borrows elements from WoW, Fallout and the more traditional Baldur’s Gate series but is unable to really create a robust combat system which could have made the difference between a hit and a miss. An article in Forbes mentioned the logic behind leveling up two war veterans which is an acute observation to make and questions the developer’s understanding and judgement of leveling up seasoned characters from the ground up.

GoT RPG Screenshots:

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I still don’t want to condemn Cyanide Studios. They are talented and they are taking risks in an industry where the big boys are scared of putting out new IPs and churning out sequels to play it safe. Production design could take a back seat if the story and actual interaction in-game are really worth experiencing in my opinion. The story follows Mr. Martin’s writing style of devoting each chapter to a character but beyond that Westeros feels like a small world inhabited by few people.

Bigpoint Games, a German Developer has taken up the license to create an MMORPG around GoT which currently looks unpolished and there really isn’t enough news right now to say anything more. They have a sizeable user base for their games but what the final product is going to look like, that needs to be seen. What I am actually more interested in is a big studio taking up this license. Bethesda and Bioware are two veterans which come to mind, but I wouldn’t want them to do this. They have their Elder Scrolls and Dragon Ages to put out. I’d like to see the Polish studio CD Projekt Red take up GoT. With the much loved Witcher trilogy coming to a close, they have the relevant experience at adapting a literary work into an interactive medium which is robust, compelling and polished.

GoT MMORPG Screenshots look promising:

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Final Verdict: As far as the RPG is concerned, I wouldn’t recommend it to the average gamer. Those who have probably run out of every other possible game worth playing may try it out. The ideal gamer for this one would be someone who’s read all the books and has run out of every possible game worth playing. As far as the future of the series is concerned, CD Projekt Red, if you’re reading this, you are my choice for a developer who can really do this series justice.

TWD: After watching the show, I was skeptic upon seeing AMC written over TWD: Survival Instinct. Terminal Velocity was charging $49.99 for a piece of media which I wouldn’t consider surviving through if they gave it to me for free. And suits wonder why fans hate them. It seems like an attempt to make a quick buck on the rising popularity of the television series. They still managed to rob around 250,000 users of a AAA Title price but if you ask me don’t waste your breath on it. As much as people love Daryl, you wouldn’t want to see him in this light. Still curious? Check out the first half hour gameplay recorded by Gametrailers.com  which showcases poking zombies in the head with a knife over and over again.

Survival Instinct Gameplay Footage:

Part 1

Part 2

Compared to that, Telltale Games did an outstanding job with their take on the series. It oozed of the original work in its art style, they captured Kirkman’s storytelling style to a T and created an experience well worth any fan’s time. I ended up buying all 5 episodes twice (PC, iOS) which gave me enough reason to play the game differently. Smart storytelling and simple yet compelling gameplay have won the studio over 80 ‘Game of the Year’ Awards and the game has sold over 8.5 million episodes. It isn’t a “Big Budget” title but it sure as hell makes a big bang at half of what Survival Instinct costs.

Telltale’s The Walking Dead Screenshots:

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Final Verdict: If you don’t already know it, I’ll say it again – buy TWD by Telltale if you haven’t already. Gift a copy (if you already own it) to a friend who went for Survival Instinct instead. Telltale has already announced “Season 2” for the game, and I can’t wait to see what they and Robert Kirkman come out with.

Both the series have spawned games over Facebook as well, which I have yet to explore further. I will update this article if you guys are curious about those as well. 

Missed the first part of the article? Click here to read about the original literature

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One response to “Explore: Experiencing and interacting with The Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead (Part 2)

  1. Reblogged this on Reviewlicious and commented:
    Game of Thrones (GoT), the television series, very cleverly communicates everything the book series (A Song of Ice and Fire) is conveying to us as readers. It is difficult for the TV series to showcase the thoughts of the characters, as wonderfully as portrayed in the book but I think it really does not make you miss any of those. The characters are powerful, the casting director has done a brilliant job in this case coz I can’t imagine anyone else playing any of the main roles.
    GoT, the TV show excites me and edges me on to the read the books and vice versa – I think both go hand-in-hand and in this case I think Martin & HBO have done a brilliant job in making us love their story.

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