Tom Clancy is a weird fellow.
For an author, the guy doesn’t actually do very much writing, having built up one hell of a reputation for his military detail and whatnot from back when he actually did write. Nowadays he makes money of selling his name to Ubisoft, and the crazy thing is that it works very well indeed.
From how I understand it, Clancy set up Red Storm entertainment all those years ago with the intention of having a studio make video games based on his intellectual properties. Ultimately they were bought by Ubisoft, naturally, but the idea intrigues me. It’s like Lucasarts in a way, creator-owned game studios that exist to further expand (or exploit) the property into another medium.
Clancy’s name is currently slapped all over things that have very little to do with his books, outside of Rainbow Six at least. I’m thinking of Splinter Cell specifically here. Any input Clancy had on the thing has long since petered out, yet the games still bear his name. He’s turned his name into a property which, while I worry about the precedent that might help to set/further, is very clever.
What a really wonder, though, is why more authors haven’t done this.
There have been games based on books, that much is true, but they rarely seem to live up to the source material. Maybe it’s because there’s not as much money in adapting a book as there is a film or RPG, or maybe the rights holders just make poor choices, give up creative control for the cash.
I suppose establishing a developer just to focus on your works would be damned expensive, but it would hardly be impossible. There are any number of books that would make interesting games, but never seem to get the chance until they are made into films, at which point they fall prey to the cancer of game-of-film.
One day, when I’m published and hopefully read, I think I’d like to follow in Clancy’s footsteps. Not the name selling, but certainly the studio founding. I’ve been toying with the idea of making games out of my writing, especially the Craneverse which feels perfect for an RPG of some sort, but I lack the technical skills and always will. It’s not that I’m unable to learn coding and all that business, but I’m unable to want to, which is as near as dammit. If I had the will then, eventually, I’d probably get a workable grasp of what I needed, but I just don’t want to. I want to create worlds, not code them.
This is a problem I suppose, an artistic temper tantrum along the lines of “why can’t the universe make everything I want to do just bloody well easy?!”. I can’t decide if I’m being lazy, childish or ration and prudent, but I’m pretty sure that making my own game is out. I need a team to do all the things I can’t do or won’t learn, artists especially. At the end of the day, of course, do it well and you not only rake in the cash from your established audience but expand it.
The Witcher is a fantastic example of that. One of the rare examples of books being turns into games successfully (along with STALKER for instance) and it brought an unknown book to the English-reading world. A good author should be able to create a universe that works externally to the characters, somewhere you can see the potential for other stories to form.
When I come to writing a story, I build the world first and then place the characters inside it. For Diplomancer that was very easy, our world skewed a little, but that was harder for the Craneverse because I was creating something new and, hopefully, special. I did that with a series of short stories, with random characters and random locales, just to see if I could get a shape for the world in my head.
And now I have, and it becomes clear to me that its a world rife with opportunity for tangential stories. Obviously, these can be easily explored in books, but why confine them to one medium? Why not allow fans a chance to experience the world from a different perspective? There’s no real compelling reason outside of the potential costs, but I would argue that the potential benefits outweigh the threats.
So yes, Clancy is a weird man. He’s crossed a boundary, thrusting his universe to a new audience with a single movement. It’s not hard to see why he was successful with this, or even why it would occur to him to do such a thing, but it is hard to see why he is the only one.
One day, he won’t be. One day, luck permitting, I’ll be in a position to do the same thing, and then you’ll see “Steve K Peacock’s Murderthon” on the shelves, meaningfully connected to the “Olympics of Violence” book series, not just a heartless tie-in.
Or perhaps this is all the fevered imagining of a wannabe, maybe I’m over-simplifying something that’s ludicrously difficult and this argument betrays my naiveté. I don’t know, but if I ever get the chance to try, I think I’ll give it a shot.
Steve Peacock keeps a blog of his writing for those of you who have no earthly idea what this ‘Craneverse’ business is and yet want to know. You won’t find out much about Diplomancer there, however. Still, he would appreciate it if you had a look anyway.