The BBC has gone direct to the games industry – and plans to go direct to consumers – for its first Doctor Who game.
Broken Sword creator Charles Cecil and Sheffield-based studio Sumo Digital have been signed up to make Doctor Who: The Adventure Games.
The episodic, PC/Mac games are billed as an extra four episodes for the new 13-show series five run which began in the UK during the Easter weekend.
But most importantly: the games are made in very close collaboration with the show’s new production team – and they are completely free.
The Adventure Games consist of four downloads of around 250MB featuring the eponymous Doctor and his companion Amy in encounters with iconic enemies – actors Matt Smith and Karen Gillan have supplied their likeness and voices to the game.
The BBC cannot charge for its content as part of its public service remit – instead The Adventure Games will be digitally distributed every few months via the official Doctor Who website. The Adventure Games will be released partly in tandem with the show and are billed as being an ‘extra four episodes’ for the 13 show run which started last week.
Cecil told Develop he wants to strike a balance between accessibility and challenge as the games will be targeted at the show’s incredibly diverse audience.
He said: “Generally the gameplay is driven by stealth, minigames and a little bit of object interaction. But it’s not an adventure in that you are scratching your head trying to work out how to use two abstract objects together."
Sumo and Cecil have worked so closely with the BBC that new areas were added to the new TARDIS set – revealed to viewers just days ago – purely so the game can explore them.
Added Cecil: "It’s a good example of how excited the production team are about the game. They’ve been very helpful in terms of making sure they are aligned."
BBC Vision’s Simon Nelson, who commissioned the game and introduced Cecil to Doctor Who’s new lead writer Steven Moffat back in early 2009, said that mixing the talents of TV and games’ best creatives has helped define a few form of drama.
"In drama, and stories in general, we have always been fascinated by the potential of the participative medium that is the internet and online – and how we can fuse the new participative features that the web enables with our traditional skills in narrative storytelling, writing, production, and so on," he said.
"And if ihe BBC is to stay relevant to younger audiences it needs to be able to stretch its traditional content beyond just the TV and radio."
Moffat has pushed for authenticity throughout the project – and regards them as a key part of the fifth series’ ‘canon’: "It has to be like Doctor Who – not just use some of the visuals," he tells Develop. "It needs to be like it as an experience otherwise you are not providing what you are promising. What you’re promising is that this is like being in an episode – like participating in an episode."
Develop is running a series of in-depth exclusive features profiling the creation of Doctor Who: The Adventure Games over this week and the next.
These include an in-depth look behind the scenes, plus Q&As with: the show’s exec producers Steven Moffat and Piers Wenger; BBC Vision’s Simon Nelson, who commissioned the game; Phil Ford, the Who writer that is also writing three of the games; and, of course, a roundtable discussion looking at how the design team at Sumo Digital, Charles Cecil, and the BBC collaborated on this innovative British games project.The first part, the Q&A with Doctor Who’s new lead writer and exec producers Steven Moffat and executive producer Piers Wenger, can be found here.