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Orson Scott Card and The Ender’s Game Game

Posted under News by Chris Benson on Monday, December 29th, 2008 -

In an interview with SCI FI Wire, acclaimed science fiction author, and guy who makes me angry, Orson Scott Card chatted briefly about his hopes for a possible game based on his most famous novel, Ender’s Game. Says Card:

My hope and plan is that the Ender’s Game computer and console games will not be mere tellings of the story, but rather true games with a high degree of replayability. In other words, you don’t play the game once, so you can act out the story (as with, say, the Harry Potter movie-based games), and then discard it. The Ender’s Game games will immerse you in the experience of different aspects of the life of these kids who train together in order to fight the war.

Such high hopes, Mr. Card.

I remember another game he wrote for. It was called Advent Rising, and it was buggy, rushed, and unbalanced. It’s important that I tell you that, so when I tell you his story was one of the worst parts of it, you have a suitable frame of reference.

When I played the game, lo these many years ago, the plot at first seemed promising. Events were unfolding, mysteries were hinted at. But then came a ridiculous scene in which the main character is told by an alien that all humans are unknowingly the mightiest beings in the universe, with god-like powers.

Powers he is then apparently taught how to use by playing around with a seashell for, like, 10 minutes.

Now, I don’t know how much his story was mangled during the game development process. I will grant him the possibility that he wrote an amazing, mind-blowing story, and the ex-employees at Majesco took a dump on it.

But, on the other hand, I’ve read several of his latest books. They ain’t great. Orson Scott Card seems intent on milking Ender’s Game, his greatest achievement, for all it’s worth. Take, for instance, the “Shadow” novel series, which follows bit characters from the original book in the same time period, chronicling the uninteresting things that happen to them when Ender is nowhere in sight.

The best thing the Ender’s Game game has going for it is that the book it is based on has already been written. Orson shouldn’t be able to mess it up too badl–Oops, nevermind! Now it looks like Mr. Card is rewriting parts of Ender’s Game to cram even more cash-in novels into the original book’s setting!

Let’s just say, as far as Ender’s Game: The Game: Game is concerned, I don’t think success…

Puts on shades.

…is in the cards.

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3 comments… read them below or add one

  1. Sir_Brizz says:

    I think you ought to have done a little research before writing this :/

    First of all, I have to disagree that Advent Rising was nearly as abysmal as you’ve stated here. For one thing, you clearly seemed to miss the fade transitions in the cinematics indicating the passage of time. While it could have been called out better, it was pretty obvious what was going on.

    Second, OSC didn’t write any f the story for Advent Rising. When he was brought onto the project the story was already written. He mostly helped with dialogue and stuff. I wouldn’t expect that a casual gamer would know this, but since you bothered to critique it you probably should have.

    Finally, the game wasn’t really that buggy. What platform did you play it on? What issues did you have? On the Xbox version the only problem I ran into was a lift near the end being a real pain to get to activate. On the PC version I didn’t have any problems but people did have issues with getting it to run I guess. That’s what happens when a game sells poorly and gets no aftermarket developer support, I guess.

  2. Chris Benson says:

    Hey, thanks for the comment!

    First off, the fade to black, which I do remember, in no way decreases the silliness of Gideon learning to use his superpower (that no human had ever figured out how to do) by fiddling with a shell. Seriously. Even if they fiddled with a shell for like 22 straight hours. It would still be a ridiculous way to bring out latent powers in the human species. The “10 minutes” line was hyperbole for humor’s sake.

    Secondly, the Wikipedia article says “The game’s overall story was created by Donald and Geremy Mustard. The dialogue and screenplay, however, was written by Orson Scott Card and Cameron Dayton.” Which is very vague. Orson Scott Card wrote the screenplay, whereas the first people mentioned just wrote the “overall” story. Who did what, and who added what, is difficult to tell.

    The point here though, is that Orson Scott Card put his name on the project as THE writer. So I am going to hold him accountable for any crap in it. If he didn’t like the story that the other guys made, he probably didn’t have to sign off on it.

    Lastly, I don’t know your experience with it, but the game was very buggy for me on the xbox. LOTS of graphical glitches, hiccups, slowdown, etc.

  3. Sir_Brizz says:

    1) Okay, fair enough, however I think it’s a little goofy to assume you’d know the best way to reveal latent powers in humanity :) The game is supposed to be very “comic book” and that is probably why it seems that way.

    2) I guess that’s fair, although OSC’s involvement with the project is quite a bit more evident with a little more googling.

    “What is the extent of author Orson Scott Card’s involvement with the game? Do you have a “wish list” of other authors you’d like to work with?

    Since he first expressed interest in being involved with Advent, OSC was very vocal about remaining involved with the entire process. He offered not only to develop the back story for the game, but to work with us on creating the script/dialog and directing the voice over sessions. While the bulk of his work on the game has been completed (and might I add is freaking awesome), he and I still have quite a bit of back and forth over little details as we make adjustments and refinements to the pacing and editing of the story. He’s an amazing resource to have.

    He was absolutely the most perfect author to work on the Advent project. The game as it stands already goes far beyond any other in the realm of storytelling, character development, and evoking the emotions of the player and the contributions he’s made will continue to shape the entire trilogy. ”
    - http://www.adventtrilogy.com/news_20questions.htm (I know, it is hard to find now that the game has been “dead” for ages)

    Regardless, I don’t really think the story had anything to do with the reception of the game.

    3) I only really ran into two problems in the game on the Xbox. First, the elevator glitch I mentioned before. Not sure how that slipped past playtesting since it is right along the main path of the game. Second, there was a ledge near the end of the game where you could jump high enough to get on it, but Gideon would always hang off it instead (through level geometry). I can’t argue that the game didn’t have some issues, but, to a certain extent, Majesco was pressing them to get it out while their coffers of cash were disappearing as if ravaged by wildfire.

    In closing, I’d just like to say your site is neat. I really like what you are doing.

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