Indiana Jones: what ingredients for a good game?

Indiana Jones: what ingredients for a good game?

Indiana Jones

How is a gameplay mechanic conceived? The process is more complex than it may seem, but it is important to understand that often certain choices, then passed down in history, were only a way of translating a piece of reality, or a particular imaginary, into videogame form. We think of Pong and of him wanting to simulate table tennis. Ralph Baer (later copied by Nolan Bushnell ... in fact the video game industry was born from a theft, which is not bad as a genesis) did not have large technical means available, so he had to conceive something very simplified, acting by subtraction more than by addition. In his prototype there was the stylized shape of the rackets, the ball, the movements along the table and the possibility of varying the direction of the ball. Pong was not ping pong, but what remained of the source resembled it to the point of creating the right illusion of it. Similar interpretative processes are found in many early video games and become more interesting the more complex and multifaceted the starting object.

Now let's imagine that we have a film on our hands and have to turn it into a video game, where would we start from? The most common mistake made by developers with tie-ins has always been to focus on the films, rather than the game mechanics they contained, at least in conceptual form. The general idea has always been to create video games that take up the most iconic sequences of the original films, even at the cost of creating superficial, fragmented and not very exciting experiences, perhaps focusing on multi-genres.

Some films have been luckier than others, but in general there is little worth remembering when it comes to tie-ins. Indiana Jones risked going the same way, considering the first products that were dedicated to him, yet which film series and which protagonist offer more ideas for making a good video game? Where to find more archetypal game mechanics than in the Spielberg saga?

Let's find out in this special about Indiana Jones and the ingredients to create a good video game.

Indiana Jones is a video game

Indiana Jones: some books and a cup of coffee In the Indiana Jones movies we could recognize many videogame genres. For example, how can we not see platform games or graphic adventures? And not because they were actually made, but precisely because there is a very strong link between the adventurous contents of the films and the very nature of video games. There are boulders to escape from, vines to cling to, lethal traps to avoid, complex puzzles to solve, mine carts to run on, crumbling bridges to cut, planes to fly and another infinity of situations that are only waiting for the hand of a good man. game designer to become a real video game.

Actually, there are actually some Indiana Jones in pixels worthy of this name and it is right to remember them: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure; Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis; Indiana Jones' Greatest Adventures and Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb.

Countless are the games that owe their existence to Professor Jones, of whom they have translated many features and themes.

Think for example of the Tomb Raider series or the Uncharted series, if we don't want to rush back to the Pitfall! or to Rick Dangerous. In short, basically it shouldn't be very difficult to create a recipe to come up with a new Indiana Jones game worthy of the name. The problem, in this case, is more how to avoid watering it down. Of course, ours are not intended to be advice for MachineGames, which is currently working on bringing Indiana Jones back to the world of video games, but hypotheses of what should or should not be in an ideal game, respectful of the character.

The Indiana Jones we would like

Indiana Jones under a waterfall in The Tomb of the Emperor The first problem to solve is in fact to try not to repeat the mistakes made by LucasArts with the 3D chapters of the franchise, that is shamelessly copying other games without adding anything peculiar to make them stand out. Incidentally, Uncharted and Tomb Raider are currently on the market: how easy would it be to conceive a game of the same type, budget permitting? We're not saying that a new Indiana Jones shouldn't be looking at cinematic 3D third-person adventures, just that they should still try to assert an identity of him or else they'll be crushed. Unfortunately they have all copied so much from Indiana Jones that paradoxically Indiana Jones could be weakened from copying others, without a strong idea behind it to justify it.

So let's assume that in our Indiana Jones there is no lack of 3D action elements, which are present in the DNA of the franchise and it would not necessarily be healthy to deprive ourselves of them, to enrich the formula a little we could hypothesize investigative sections, with non-player characters to talk to and puzzles related to the setting, instead of the usual crates to push or levers to pull (which can fit, but in moderate quantities).

Indiana Jones is also his work as an archaeologist Nothing too complex, mind you, so as not to send the average gamer into crisis, just a few inserts linked to the mission we are facing that make even the most side on the screen thoughtful of the character. A series of choices of the right Grail or library tiles to break, so to speak, in order to break the action.

The game structure could be semi-open world: instead of just one large environment, several smaller environments with mixed narrative / deductive sections above and those with an Indiana Jones more committed to jumping from one ledge to another, to cling with the whip to some hold or to escape from sudden collapses. As rhythms we can think of a mixture between Uncharted and the exploratory sections of a role-playing game (without necessarily adding statistics, which we will talk about in the next paragraph), with moments that enhance all the sides of the character, instead of only the usual.

What we don't want to find there

Don't turn Indy into a killing machine like Lara Croft As we said above, the recipe for a good Indiana Jones title is unfortunately easily watered down. For example, imagine the character struggling with continuous shootings and you will understand how it could be ruined. Indy shoots when he needs it, doesn't have much trouble taking casualties when he sees no other way out, but he's not a machine gun or shotgun type. At most from a rusty pistol, whip and saber. After all, in The Last Crusade he is the one who flies the plane (and does not know how to land very well), not the one who shoots. Honestly, seeing an Indiana Jones reduced to piling up corpses level after level would put a little sadness and make the character lose a lot of his charisma, transforming him into something he is not.

We are talking about an ingenious archaeologist who often ends up in trouble and who knows how to get by in every situation, not a Rambo imitator who first aims at the massacre. In many cases what saves him is his cunning and his culture (think of the ending of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" to give you a reference). Usually it is he who is shot on the run, not the other way around.

At the limit we go back to playing Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis The effect of an overly aggressive Indy would be the alienating one of the last Lara Croft: a young girl with a fragile appearance and in the grip of continuous existential doubts, who however, she transforms into a ruthless killer at the first opportunity, proving capable of using any type of weapon with lethal mastery. Anyone who has seen the Indiana Jones movies and desired such a character is likely to have greatly misunderstood him in essence.

Another way to water down the character would be to introduce RPG stats. Indy is a solid and accomplished character who doesn't grow up in the movies. In this sense he is really static. Seeing him struggling with experience points to assign and skill trees to unlock would be a bit of a melancholy. Maybe you could work on the equipment, but it should be more a matter of extra tools to unlock, rather than actual skills. Or progression should be managed to give it some kind of narrative sense, instead of making it an end in itself.

Finally: no extra skins please. Maybe some clothes of those seen in the series yes, but Indy dressed as Santa Claus for some winter event in which he meets random characters from other franchises also not. Come on, let's go back to respecting these characters and these narrative universes a little more.

And you? What ingredients would you like in the next Indiana Jones video game?

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