Games based on movies are often despised for their rushed and seemingly incomplete experiences (Battleship, Shrek, Catwoman) but continue to be made due to their easy marketability and lower intellectual investment. Less establishment is the relationship between video games and books, for better or worse, but the games are notable and the books worth mentioning.
The Witcher (The Witcher by Andrzej Sapowski)
Most likely one of the biggest success stories of text-to-screen, The Witcher franchise has grown from it’s humble beginnings to a full-blown trilogy with the upcoming Witcher 3 game expecting to wow critics and gamers alike. Less-acknowledged though is the separation of the game from its source material. Andrzej Sapowski has gone on record to say that his books would never be influenced by the games, has no interest in playing any games, and considers it an affront when teasers and advertisements for the game make their way into his books. Not to say that the relationship between the author and CD ProjektRed, the developers of The Witcher, is frosty, it’s only that the writer wants a clear distinction between his creation and others’.
Metro 2033 (Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky)
Metro 2033 actually gets the distinction of being known first as a video game in North America, since it’s release date was on March 16, 2010 and its source material, Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky, was released two days later on March 18, 2010. A post-apocalyptic setting that threw the kitchen sink at you as you managed details like a gas mask cracking or the two types of ammunition that were rapidly dwindling, Metro 2033 was lauded for its beauty and its difficulty even if the experience was literally on-rails as you followed the abandoned subway system. Whatever similarities the first installments had with each other, they went their separate ways as Dmitry published 2034 which bore little narrative resemblance to Metro: Last Light.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl (Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, also Stalker by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky)
Starting to notice a trend? Eastern Europeans must love their fiction adaptations. I’m also cheating a bit on this one because Roadside Picnic was the biggest influence on Tarkovsky’s film Stalker, which was eventually turned into a written adaptation by the same two who wrote Roadside Picnic. Anyhow, the important part is that there are these powerful things labelled anomalies, which were possibly left behind by higher beings, being tossed aside like an apple core or bits of trash. Laden throughout the film adaptation is the anticipation of something awful happening though little is understood about the powers-that-be. The game draws from this and gives face to those powers in the form of fearsome creatures. The original S.T.A.L.K.E.R. saw two standalone games released following, but the series is as good as dead since work has ceased on a true sequel.
Spec Ops: The Line (Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad)
Though it has plenty of discrepancies from the source material, the inspiration of Heart of Darkness in Spec Ops: The Line can’t be denied. For those who may be a bit more puzzled perhaps it is beneficial to also compare it to another piece of media that draws from Conrad’s novella- Apocalypse Now. The protagonist gets dropped into a situation with more questions than answers and the answers he finds along the way don’t exactly clear things up for him. Good, bad, you, him? The lines blur and though what you take away from the game is different for every person, it is quite possible to leave a powerful impact on the minds of those who are invested in finding the answers.
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en)
Subtlety goes out the window when you name your protagonist Monkey, a character with an important novel in the Eastern odyssey The Journey to the West. The game is set in a very green post-apocalyptic United States, showing that a lot of things can happen 150 years after a disastrous war. The game uses the literary influence as more of a guideline than a point-for-point adaptation, but the influences are clear. Trip and Monkey journey across the Northeastern United States after breaking out of slavery on their quest to get home. A few twists are thrown in to keep gamers interested, and even if the final sequence left me scratching my head, Enslaved was one of the smarter games to come out in the past years.
Any literary adaptations you feel I left out?Let me know in the comments.
P.S. A strong case could have been made for Lord of the Rings, but the breadth of those games cover a wide scope and were heavily based on the movies for anything after 2001.
“The Perfect Canvas To Build a Game World On”: Talking Hand-Drawn Horror in the Hills of Mundaun
The Swiss Alps are best known as a holiday destination. Snow and skiing dominate the public imagining of the region, but horror lies in all hills. The folkloric horror game Mundaun promises to subvert the usual perception of the area.
The horrific twist on an idyllic locale is accompanied by an eye-catching art style like no other in gaming.
With Mundaun being such an intriguing prospect, OnlySP reached out to the game’s director Michel Ziegler to find out more.
OnlySP: Could you please begin by providing a brief description of Mundaun for any of our readers who may not be familiar with the game?
Ziegler: A [while] ago, I came up with the description: a lovingly hand-pencilled horror tale. I like the word tale, because it emphasizes the type of narrative the game is going for. It’s a first-person adventure game inspired by the dark folklore of the alps. The aesthetic is really unique, since I combine hand-pencilled textures with 3D. It’s kind of hard to be brief about what makes the game unique. I think it’s the combination of all the things in there, some pretty well hidden. Mundaun should be a mystery, an enigma.
OnlySP: Curiously, Mundaun is a real place. How accurate a recreation of the landscape is that found in the
Ziegler: The levels are a condensed interpretation of the real thing. It’s more about how that place feels than accurate topology. The steepness of it, the objects and architecture you encounter that is very specific to that place. It wouldn’t be possible to meaningfully populate a large sample of the real mountain range. I want the give the player the feeling that in every corner there could be some small and unique thing to discover.
OnlySP: Do you have any personal connection to the real place? Why did you settle on it as the setting for the game?
Ziegler: My family has had a small holiday flat there since before I was born. I spent many summers and winters up there and so it became like a second home. Especially for a child, the nature feels huge and full of wonders. I would spend my days finding well-hidden spots and imagining adventures. I chose this setting, because it is dear to me and it is full of buildings that are many centuries old. It always felt like a timeless and mysterious place. The perfect canvas to build a game world on. Four years in, it still inspires too many ideas to ever fit into one game.
OnlySP: I’ve seen the game described as ‘folk horror’—following the likes of The Wicker Man and Children of the Corn. Would you consider that to be an accurate assessment of Mundaun?
Ziegler: I think so, even if my game isn’t inspired by those particular works. But I think there is a certain ambiguity to the scenario that makes people immediately think of fiction that has a similar feel in their cultural circle. Even if I draw much inspiration from things that are specific to where I live, I find that the world and tone of Mundaun resonates with people from all around the globe and from different cultural backgrounds. That said, the haymen that haunt you in Mundaun make the comparison to The Wicker Man an obvious one.
OnlySP: If so, what sort of local legends are you drawing on for the source of the horror?
Ziegler: Not really any specific ones. If I had to name one story that influenced the plot of Mundaun, it would be Jeremias Gotthelf’s The Black Spider. The oppressive mood it conveys has always fascinated me. Also, I loved collections of small folk tales as a child and I think, I’m remixing elements from those, creating my own folk tale. I’m not restricting myself to only local influences at all though. I take everything that I think is interesting and fits the world and universe of Mundaun.
OnlySP: How does the monochromatic art style contribute to the player’s sense of tension?
Ziegler: For one, it invokes the aesthetic of old movies and photographs. For me personally, those often have a sinister quality, hiding something in the dark shadows. In addition to that, the hand-drawn textures give the game the quality of a darkly illustrated picture book.
OnlySP: Speaking of the art style, it certainly is one of the most intriguing elements of Mundaun. How did you come to settle on it, and what is the process by which you bring these hand-drawn artworks to life in the game? When you began, did you have an idea of how much work would be involved?
Ziegler: I just love drawing on paper. I’ve never gotten into drawing digitally much. For a small game prototype (The Colony) I made before Mundaun, I also applied a hand-made approach. I love the combination of hand-made textures with 3D, it’s a strange thing. Pencils just seemed a perfect match for a more dark aesthetic.
The process is similar to the usual 3D process, but with a small detour. After unwrapping the finished 3D model, I print out the UV maps. I trace the outlines to a new drawing paper and then I fill in the actual drawing with pencils. After scanning them back in, I apply them to the models. I probably didn’t properly anticipate, how many drawings I would end up making, because I underestimated, how much Mundaun would grow.
OnlySP: The puzzles that appear in the trailers seem to draw from an older tradition in games wherein they don’t necessarily feel realistic (although that interpretation is, admittedly, based on brief snippets taken out of context). Nevertheless, do you have any concerns that that approach might turn away some players?
Ziegler: Yeah, it’s a concern. I try to make the puzzles quite logical. Playtesting seems to be the key here. I’m not trying to break the flow of the game, the puzzles are just a great way to add detail and flavour to the world. I try to integrate them into the world and make them feel organic and unique to this place.
OnlySP: Aside from the puzzles, what else will players be doing in Mundaun?
Ziegler: Encountering, avoiding, or fighting off different types of enemies. Finding and talking to some of the eccentric native folk. Making coffee, smoking a pipe, carrying around the head of a goat. Driving a chair lift, a hay loader vehicle and a sleigh. There’s a whole lot of different things to discover. I think, the mix of high-stakes death threatening situations with more mundane activities is one of the most interesting qualities of Mundaun.
OnlySP: “Explore” seems to be one of the keywords of the game. Does it feature an open-world design, or is it more of a level-to-level affair with expansive levels? And, in total, about how big is the game world
Ziegler: It features three discrete levels, each with their own flavour. You start in an area with meadows and trees and then make your way up to a more sparse, stony area. Then there’s the snow-covered summit region. The levels are quite sizeable and the player is given freedom to explore them, but it is not an open-world design per se. Each part, activity, and task is unique and lovingly hand-crafted.
OnlySP: How long do you expect the average playthrough to last? Or is it still too early to be able to say?
Ziegler: It is a bit early, but I think it’ll be 4-5 hours.
OnlySP: Speaking of, we first came across Mundaun about a year and a half ago. How long has it been in
Ziegler: It has been in development for 4.5 years now.
Ziegler and his team at Hidden Fields are currently targeting a Q1 2020 launch for Mundaun on Mac, PC, and Xbox One.
If your interest is piqued, let us know either in the comments below or on our community Discord server.
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