I’m British; along with all the generic stereotypes of drinking tea, being incredibly polite and admittedly even having bad teeth which I all live up to, I (which I consider mostly important from the list) am a devoted Whovian .
For those of you who aren’t aware, the term ‘Whovian’ is the name given to the fan-base of British Cult Sci-fi ‘Doctor Who, a programme which has increased its global awareness rapidly with the rise of the 2005 return. Of the many television programmes I watch (and trust me ‘many’ is a complete understatement), I’ve always considered that a video game adaption of Doctor Who would be the most exciting to play… Whilst of course it has had various video games released under the franchises name, none of which [I personally think] have been remotely appealing to even consider playing. I’d imagine the formula of making a decent Doctor Who game would be a no-brainer! Following the success of the ‘Mass Effect’ franchise, a full sci-fi video game has proven it’s popularity in the video gaming community; in-fact a Mass Effect style game but in the Doctor Who universe (and replacing the plentiful shooter aspects with a more ‘Doctor-ish’ approach) would work perfectly for Doctor Who! I mean, the Doctor, travelling many planets seeing all it’s wonders, multi-choice conversations and your actions affecting the plot line with you developing your friendships with others whilst going around saving the universe? Is that not essentially what the television programme is all about?
The First Adventures:
So where does it all start? The First adventures is Doctor Whos’ first BBC micro released game. The First Adventures was released in 1983 which arguably wasn’t the best of era’s for Doctor who with many factors such as poor script writing and lack of captivating story lines, Peter Davison’s Doctor was faced with harsh criticisms at the time; therefore the lack of interest in the game was inevitably not unexpected.
Honestly, The First Adventures always seemed like a ridiculous idea to implement with Doctor Who. For a programme which focuses on telling diverse campy sci-fi tales, The First Adventures sure as hell lacked an actual narrative other than re-introducing the device of the serial ‘Key to Time’
It became better…
Skipping past a series of other attempts, there’s the notable ‘Dalek Attack’ game, the only Doctor Who game I consider truly good; featuring an actual narrative of the Daleks wanting to invade Earth for an obscure reason, the game actually is provided a sense of purpose despite the plot line being as simple as it could possibly be.
The game was released in 1992, in the era in which Doctor Who and it’s television run had officially ended, yet before the release of the TV movie in 1996. Therefore Whovians would scavenged for the chance to experience the continuity of the Doctor Who universe.
The game worked because back then, side scrolling platforming games were the trend, one which Doctor Who managed to keep exciting to play in terms of difficulty, gameplay design and the choice in characters to play as (Player 1 had a certain selection of Doctors which was dependent on what platform the game was played on. Player 2 had the choice of Ace or in most platforms also a UNIT soldier). Since the game included many winks to previous tales of Doctor Who, seeing recurring characters, enemies and items made the game even more worthwhile.
It then became odd…
The Destiny of the Doctors was released in 1997 which was after the TV movie. Here, a fully fledged story line in comparison to the past games was implemented by known Classic Who writer Terrance Dicks. It’s always been difficult to describe exactly ‘what’ this game is… There’s cutscenes acted out by Anthony Ainley adding authenticity of the fact that it’s an actual Who game, with the settings mainly in the TARDIS and many enemies such as Daleks, Autons and Zygons and more, yet despite this the game itself is quite odd!
I’ve always considered it a second rate Quake; it had the First Person Shooter aspect of it, yet with worse quality visuals and less compelling gameplay.
After The Destiny of the Doctors, the next game to be created is based in the revival seasons of Doctor Who.
The rise of Flash Games.
Well not entirely, my first highlight of the Nu-Who games is Attack of the Graske : The interactive mini-episode which was first aired on December 25th 2005. Recalling back to The Destiny of the Doctors, the perspective was that the player was the Doctor. Attack of the Graske features David Tennant starring as the Doctor after his first debut episode, where he talks directly to the screen signifying that YOU are the companion. I actually enjoyed the concept of having an interactive episode, as there’s a compelling enough reason to play it which is that you have choice in actions in helping the Doctor, regardless of how poorly scripted the actual mini-episode is. One main aspect that I’d consider and absolute requirement for a full AAA Doctor Who game would be that there has to be choice, and actions taking a huge toll on the end result of the game.
Attack of the Graske was later uploaded on the Doctor Who website available for you to play here.
After that, Flash games became quite a popular aspect during the RTD era. Steven Moffat continued on with less of an emphasis on Flash games, yet did go on to release the Worlds of Time, an MMORPG that contained separated story arcs for the player. Admittedly, I’ve never played this despite being a detected fan, however I’m pretty sure I can still say that it didn’t contain the aspects needed to make a successful Doctor Who game (which I will explain in a bit). Another platform the Moffat era used was mobile gaming which consisted of puzzles, once again none that great to fully go into depth.
The Doctor in 3D!
Presumably, for a Doctor Who game to fully work it’d need to be a 3D action-adventure game. (However parodies such as CollegeHumours Doctor Who RPG parody has proved it can be otherwise).
Of course, it’s not just being 3D that would make the game interesting. There’s been three separate 3D adventure series:
- The Wii & DS games: Return to Earth and Evacuation Earth.
- The Adventure Games series.
- The Eternity Clock.
The Adventure games was described as a canon continuity of the television series, which shared the puzzle traits of the Wii & DS games yet with slightly better graphics and a more compelling storyline. The Adventure games aren’t necessarily too bad considering the games are free for those in the UK with a working PC or Mac, however had I purchased them I would’ve been severely disappointed.
Instead the Eternity Clock takes upon a 2D side-scroller similar to its past games, with voice acting from the original casts just as the other two series of games did. I did happen to purchase this game on my PS3 and play it for a bit until I gave up; The gameplay is clunky and not as fluid as a modern 2012 game should’ve played as, the story wasn’t particularly outstanding, and if it weren’t for Matt Smith and Alex Kingstons chemistry together I would’ve lost interest a lot sooner!
Time can be rewritten, but why will a game NEVER work?
Honestly? Funds. Unfortunately the BBC lack the money to licence out the game to a innovative set of developers or a major gaming company; therefore development studios such as Supermassive Games are the only route for the BBC. That being said, it’s not really about the company, but more so on the effort produced into the game.
My imagination for a Doctor Who game is simple; the script has to be written by Stephen Moffat and needs to have his full devotion into it such as his most successful episodes (e.g: Blink, Silence in the Library, The Day of the Doctor) so that past viewers of the television programme can become interested in a game adaption, and for gamers who aren’t fully aware of the show can easily enjoy it with a great plot and the BBC can use this as a marketing technique to draw more viewers into the show.
Yet, the main elements that almost every major Blockbuster game has is major character development, emotion and risk. We can’t play the game knowing that The Doctor has nothing to worry about, his companion would be (if at present) Clara and has nothing to worry about, the universe will be rescued and nothing major will happen because it’s not on the programme so there’s nothing to worry about. Instead, a major plot line should happen that intersects with the actual programme. But that’s the problem. For a game to work it needs these elements, but for that to work it would need all the traditional viewers to play the game – which just is very unlikely to happen.
Another alternative to this could be a Marvel cinematic universe approach with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and Captain America: The Winter Solider; lets imagine something major happens to the universe in Doctor Who in the season finale (such as Gallifrey actually returning), then the game picks up from these events and show the repercussions whilst the audience waits for the next season to be released. The game wouldn’t even have to focus on the Doctor himself if need be, but just another notable character (e.g: Captain Jack) and how the return of Gallifrey actually effects the rest of the universe and not just in the Doctors perspective. From this, characters can be developed from the event, there is a risk of what will happen as it builds upon the next season and there can be emotion and such as we expect.
Then there’s the pressing issue of multiple choices. If the BBC could manage to prefect the story for the video game, generally there’s the option of choice. The video game is going to lack the conventions which is common in many modern Blockbuster games … shooting. Now for definite I’m not implying that a game needs to be a shooter to be successful, but considering how that’s what many sci-fi games feature, it could be seen as a weakness to mainstream audiences. Therefore the game NEEDS other notable aspects to draw an audience, multiple choices and choosing how the game ends is another popular convention; of course it would be entirely difficult to implement if the Marvel cinematic universe approach does apply to the Doctor Who games.
Then what else? Other than speaking and choices, how is this game going to play out? I’d like to imagine an open world, where there’s multiple planets to chose from and explore. If the protagonist is still the Doctor, then he could travel around the TARDIS to these planets and have these certain missions and side missions around the area where they all interlink. These multiple planets could be similar to how Mass Effect offers multiple maps and planets.
The game would have to be a puzzle, but unlike the previous games it should take a different approach. The past games relied too much on mini games as puzzles, instead I imagine a Zelda-esque game with actual puzzles through a space station or a planet with certain life threatening factors similar to how the programme does weekly anyway. The game would rely on both the social aspects of RPGS (with primary inspiration from Mass Effect) where there’s choice in what the protagonist says and responds to other NPCs.
Why can’t all this happen? My first point clearly stated funds, and once again I repeat this. The sheer effort that these developers would need to use to create something on that scale and for the BBC to link this into their universe is just implausible. I could always imagine other development teams such as Ubisoft, Rockstar, EA development teams and such doing so; yet since the BBC is just literally unable to fund such a project for such a team, we can only live in hope and dream of how amazing the game should yet unfortunately cannot be.