How to Make a Video Game Out of a TV Show

Posted by Conor Murphy on May 7, 2013 in Game Development -- Share:

Ever wanted to learn about how to adapt a television show to a video game? How do game developers and show producers work together? We asked those questions and more when we sat down with games developer GameMill Entertainment a few weeks ago. Learn how GameMill overcame the pitfalls & captured the spirit of the hit TV series Castle, in their newest game Castle: Never Judge a Book by Its Cover! When your done with the interview, you can try the game here for an interactive Castle style mystery!

Please introduce yourself and your development team…

Castle was created by GameMill Entertainment in Minneapolis and Gunnar Games in Miami. Together we have been making games for the past 5 years. Some of our notable PC titles include the Hidden Mysteries series.

What made you decide to try and adapt a television show to a game?

The show audience demographics matched up with the BigFish customer demographics. Also, a crime scene / mystery always lends itself well to good gameplay.

Why did you pick Castle? Is there anything special about that show that made you think it would make a good game?

The show has great dialog and witty banter between the main characters. Overall, it is a very intelligently produced program. This translates into a good game because of a compelling storyline and great characters.

Did you have any reservations about adapting a show to a video game? What were they?

The constant challenge during development is to hit the rolling list of gameplay features that the most popular games have. What is popular today may not be popular tomorrow. We don’t have any true reservations about how the game has turned out. While working hand in hand with the creators of the show we have created a great gameplay experience.

Are there any typical pitfalls to consider before adapting a tv show to a video game?

Getting the art style just right to match the show can be challenging. Aside from the art we need to create a storyline that accurately matches the writing in the show.

What kinds of television shows lend themselves to game adaptation? Do you find a certain type of show works best?

Mystery programs are typically at the top of the list because of their high quality writing and unique characters.

Do you think it’s possible for games to accurately depict a television series?

Absolutely. The game does not need to follow the current storyline of season x or y. The game needs to have the spirit of the program in its writing and art style. We went back and forth several times with the creators of Caste to make sure we created an authentic Castle experience.

What was it like to work hand in hand with the creators of the show?

ABC was great to work with. They always kept a keen eye on the dialog, storyline, and artwork to make sure that everything stayed true to the show.

How do you match your game to the tone of the show?

We don’t follow the current storyline in the show, but aside from that, we match it as much as possible. Characters, scenes, writing, sound, music, art, etc…

How faithful are you to the original characters & story? Do you feel it’s important?

This is very important. We have been very faithful to the original characters so that when there is banter between Castle and Kate, it feels just like it does on the show. This was a top priority for us during development.

Do you want this game to appeal to fans of the show or are you going after a whole new audience?

Yes, we believe fans of the show will enjoy it, but we also believe that those customers who are constantly looking for a great Hidden Object game will also enjoy Castle.

Why do you think TV shows work better as games than games do as TV shows?

A great deal of this starts with the quality of the writing and the depth of the characters in the show. If you think of your favorite movie, you can almost always name your favorite character because you can identify with them in some way shape or form. It’s pretty rare that that same experience is found in an original video game, which leaves the TV production crews with lots of holes to fill.

Do you think video games will evolve to become more like TV & films in that respect?

I do believe this is possible, but it’s going to take some time. As there are more and more places that games can be played (PC, Tablet, Phone), the quality of the writing will continue to improve because of exposure and overall impressions that software can make. When this happens and we continue to move to an on-demand delivery method, the TV advertising dollars will likely shift more to games.

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Conor is a Marketing Manager with Big Fish, working out of the Seattle office. In his spare time he enjoys watching science documentaries and playing old school adventure games. Get in touch with him on Twitter! or Google+