Sunday, October 30, 2011

Preview: The Adventures of Tintin

Tintin has been adored across the world since he was created over a century ago by Belgian artist Georges Rémi (who wrote under the pen name of Hergé). Today the intrepid detective and his pet dog begin a new adventure with a blockbuster movie and game adaptation.

Megabits' Michael Gordon - editor of Charged Middle East magazine - spoke to the men that reanimated the tale...

Hergé’s famed comic book detective Tintin finally gets his ten minutes in the limelight with the launch of Paramount Pictures movie adaptation and Ubisoft’s themed game. Both movie and game are entitled ‘The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn’ and producers Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson and Kathleen Kennedy ensured that the movie and the game were developed simultaneously and in close collaboration. Both Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson explain why they got involved and how they realised Hergé’s weird and wonderful world.

Spielberg said: “I first became aware of Tintin when I finished filming Raiders of the Lost Ark. Although it was all in French, that didn’t matter as I still understood it.” Whereas, Jackson said: “I was first introduced by a friend of my mothers and over the course of the next 12 years I managed to collect every single Tintin book. “The game has that same exploration quality to it and you literally enter the world of the characters.”

When asked about the game development team Jackson said that working with Ubisoft was terrific. “We thought we would let them show us a thing or two about how to create a great game and how to honour a great artist like Hergé,” added Spielberg. Jackson said that while the world of the game was based around the film it also allows the player to expand the universe further than the movie. “Sometimes games can take you on new adventures that aren’t even part of the film. To me, that makes a really great companion to a movie.

“One of the keys to The Adventures of Tintin the game is the fact that each character has their own abilities and skills and you use those abilities to further the game and to help other characters. So often people think of video games as being a solitary activity but that is not the case and they can be a lot fun for the whole family and that’s how we approached this.” The resulting game will give old and new Tintin fans the opportunity to relive the key moments of the movie as well as to enjoy fun cooperative adventures and multiplayer challenges. It features high-quality graphics, environments, characters and gameplay in line with the movie’s innovative graphics and production.

The game features three different modes: Solo, Cooperative and Challenge, for more than 20 hours of total game time. The Solo Mode of the game follows the events of the movie that blends, in one great adventure, various elements of Hergé’s original Tintin comic books The Crabe with Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure. Players will re-discover the movie’s enchanting environments, such as Captain Haddock’s ship the Karaboudjan, Ben Salaad’s Palace or the exotic city of Bagghar. The solo game is a unique blend of platforming, exploration, puzzle-solving and “exotic gameplays” such as swordfighting, ace combat and side-car driving. Players will embody Tintin, the intrepid reporter, and other main characters, each having its own personality and skills. Other sidekicks will appear when help is needed.

From start to finish, the Cooperative Mode is staged in Captain Haddock’s dream world. In the space of a few days, the captain has been transformed from an ‘old wreck languishing at sea’ to the direct descendant of a famous knight to the king. The captain’s dreams are pretty hectic and he has to try to get his thoughts in order. Players get to play Tintin, Captain Haddock, Snowy, Bianca Castafiore, Thompson and Thomson or Sir Francis Haddock and have to help each other to solve new mysteries. They have to combine their skills and collect treasures to unlock new exciting levels.

The third mode is the Challenge Mode, dedicated to all who are looking for a little extra competition. Leveraging the sword fighting, side-car driving and ace combat gameplays, it allows players to confront themselves to the AI and try to beat each other’s scores.

Last but not least, the Xbox 360 version supports Kinect while the PlayStation 3 version supports Move, and specific features have been developed to take advantage of both accessories’ intuitive controls.

To understand the nuts n’bolts of the game’s development we sat down and had a chat with Drew Quakenbush, Senior Producer. Drew is an avid gamer who pursued his passions by joining EA Canada in 2004 where he has produced titles such as EA Sports Rugby 2006, Fight Night 3 Facebreaker and Fight Night 4. In 2009 Drew became the Senior Producer for The Adventures of Tintin, The Game, and so he was the ideal man to quiz. Quakenbush began by explaining the game follows the style of the movie over the comic books: “We really wanted to give the player the opportunity to relive most of the key moments of the movie, so most of the characters and environments are the same. “The game was developed by Ubisoft Montpellier, and that development team has extensive experience working on quality ‘movie games’. They have worked on the official game of Peter Jackson’s King Kong the movie.

“All the elements of this game have been developed by Ubisoft but as we are the game of the movie, we have had the chance to work in close collaboration with the film makers. They shared with us the elements of the movie we needed to develop our game and we had regular meetings with them to show the early versions of our game. “But our game is of course longer than the movie, so we added inspiration from the comics to enrich the solo game and for many gameplay elements. We introduced new environments, new characters and a fun cooperative mode, based on Captain Haddock’s dreams.”

According to Quakenbush, pretty much all the game developers were fans of the comic books! He added: “Ubisoft Montpellier is a French studio and most of the developers have grown up with Tintin. It was a real pleasure for us to dive into the universe of our childhood hero. It was demanding because in order to work on the game properly we had to do a lot of research to understand precisely Hergé’s universe. It was also full of good surprises because — as grown-ups — we rediscovered Herge’s work, its depth, and how it is universally understandable and appealing for both adults and kids. The game has been designed to appeal to all age groups, as well as fans and newcomers to the Tintin world, according to Quakenbush.

“Our game can appeal to anyone. Those who saw the movie and enjoyed it will be pleased to dive again into its universe, and play as Tintin, the intrepid reporter and hero of the action-packed movie or his quick-witted dog Snowy. If you’re looking for an action/adventure game that is both immersive and interactive to share with friends or family, then this game is made for you. We also believe that fans of the Tintin comic books will enjoy it because we respected Hergé’s work and values.”

Quakenbush stated that it has been a real pleasure to work with the huge talents of Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, and that they were very much hands-on in the development of this game. He said: “We had various meetings at the Weta studios and in L.A. with the filmmakers and were given access to the movie script, 3D models and environments. They gave us very constructive feedback on the visuals, animations and script throughout the complete three year development. “We often had ‘expert’ conversations such as: should Haddock’s moustache cover all of his mouth? It was so funny and weird to discuss this with Peter Jackson! Same thing regarding the size of the noses of our characters! These may seem to be small details but our objective was really to find a perfect balance between Herge’s characters and the artistic direction of the movie. We feel we’ve accomplished this and are very happy with how well the video game adheres to the creative direction in movie and in the original comics.”

Quakenbush added: “But, our biggest challenge was to create a fun, interactive and immersive game that would respect both the content of the movie and the spirit of the comics. “But more than a challenge, working on this game has been a great and exciting adventure. It is not that often that developers have the chance to create a game based on an icon of their childhood and on a movie directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Spielberg, Peter Jackson and Kathleen Kennedy.”

  • Michael Gordon is editor of Charged Middle East magazine, a leading Dubai-based gadgets and games title that provides news, reviews and features on the latest home and consumer electronics. For more about the magazine, visit its Facebook page after the jump. Check out this article and many more in the November issue.