Saturday, 2 March 2013

The MALAZAN computer game that never was

On the Westeros forums, Luke Scull, author of The Grim Company and a full-time video game designer, reports that he once wrote out a proposal for a game adaptation of The Malazan Book of the Fallen.
I also wrote a proposal for a Malazan videogame. Our producer went to Steven Erikson's house to discuss it with him. I think Ian Camerson Esslemont liked it but Erikson wasn't so keen - my design for the game strongly resembled my current project, The Shadow Sun, while Erikson wanted something more akin to a first-person shooter. As you can imagine, it didn't work out, though I did receive a nice signed and personalised Subterranean Press edition of Gardens of the Moon.

Scull states that the head of his company spoke to both Ian Esslemont and Steven Erikson about the game, which would have been an RPG. However, whilst Esslemeont was keen Erikson was not, and apparently preferred a first-person shooter type of approach.

Later on, Scull talks about how he envisages a Malazan game looking:
Of all the current major fantasy series, I'd say Malazan was easily the best fit for an RPG in the style of Baldur's Gate. The whole series is, after all, a high-level homebrew D&D game played out in novel form across multiple continents with hundreds of characters. It would be an easy thing to strip away the standard RPG races and classes and replace them with Malazan-specific variants, then start the protagonist as a lowly squad member in some far-flung corner of the Malazan Empire during the events of the series. Once you introduce warrens into the mix you can even justify having the protagonist flitting in and out of events depicted in the novels. Even the magic system, while unusual and perhaps tricky to adapt at first, would lend itself to some new and potentially interesting system design outside of the standard Vancian/mana-based approach.

For me, Malazan is not so much character or even plot-driven as it is world-driven. I read it because of the setting and Erikson's febrile imagination; stuff that translates perfectly well to game form and would give a Malazan title a massive advantage over the tepid worldbuilding efforts of even companies like Bioware. The complex storytelling of the novels could easily be ignored or strategically touched upon to enhance the protagonist's own story.

With series that are very character-driven, I agree that it is very difficult to separate the game enough from the source material/central narrative to make it worthwhile licensing as a setting. It's the old Dragonlance versus Forgotten Realms dichotomy; outside of the story of the Heroes of the Lance, the former has very little to offer while the latter is, by virtue of being a complete clusterf**k, a wonderful place to set a game in.

(I know Erikson has criticised the Forgotten Realms in the past. I always found that somewhat ironic in the circumstances.)

Interesting stuff, and a shame it never got made.

Look out for a review of The Grim Company shortly.


The Dragon Demands said...

Werthead, Wikia is shot to hell and I haven't been able to edit the wiki for two days.

Adam Whitehead said...

DD, I've had no problem with it. It's loading fine for me now. Are you sure this isn't your browser/adware problem?

As a last resort, try reinstalling your OS or installing a new broswer and trying to access the site through that.

The Dragon Demands said...

No, I fixed that (problem was that not only did I need to uninstall it, but I needed to go into Broswer Tools for Plugins and click "remove" there as well, that stopped the in-text ads). Gonzalo84 in the Community Forum said that it was some sort of Wikia-wide outage; sporadically and intermittently it gets better enough to post, only to lock up again for hours.

Anonymous said...

The Malazan world would be great for an RPG, so manny cool races and places.

Thomas said...

Here dies my hope for a good Malazan RPG. I would have paid at least 500$ for a Malazan isometric 2D game from Obsidian on kickstarter, in the vein of Torment/BG2,Project Eternity. But for a first person shooter,Skyrim like, meh

Caligula_K said...

Even as someone who had a lot of problems with the later Malazan books, the idea of a Malazan RPG is pretty incredible. Given the series' focus on worldbuilding I think that an open world Elder Scrolls type game might fit better than a Baldur's Gate, but either would be awesome. A Malazan first person shooter on the other hand... WTF?

Anonymous said...

I've always thought the Malazaan world would be the perfect setting for an MMO. A huge world with half a dozen fully developed continents and literally dozens of distinct races and nations, all fully fleshed out. It would take a lifetime's worth of expansions before they ran out of material with which to expand upon the world. And with Ascension they'd have the perfect endgame for high powered characters.

Anonymous said...

Hah ! That's odd. I remember the first time I played Luke Scull's Neverwinter Nights module called Crimson Tides of Tethyr, and I thought, "than guy must be an Erikson fan".
This Malazan RPG could've been really good, pity it didn't happen.

Anonymous said...

Hello all,

I am veteran RPG’er but new to the Malazan worlds, I have finished the first book & ½ way into the 2nd. I want to use this in my RPG & I’m shocked there is not material out there for a game already. The readers & RPG’er need to get together & compare notes. There are many systems to use combat and game set up. That is easy. Not the trick is the magic & the Warrens. How does it work? Is the physical like a book or mental as an act of will or both? What are the limitations of spells or abilities? IS there a difference in what warrens can do or is it all the same? What are the rules for travel by warren and when warrens touch? Is there a spell list? There are levels (of experience) that drive how well a wizard can control the warren and it’s magic.

Once you have this all you need is a detailed list of races/monsters and book characters past & present.
I challenge you all to post your information and ideas. Just a players forum where we all can share for use with our games.

This would be unofficial but it is a way to organize our efforts.