Not Enough Heroes …

One thing I’ve always mused upon is that how in video games superheroes are, in my mind, underrepresented, especially in RPGs. We were able to get two Baldur’s Gate games, two Icewind Dale games, two Neverwinter Nights games, and two KotOR games in a period where I can’t remember there being anything that looked like a comic book based RPG. Okay, maybe Freedom Force. Despite the fact that the engines for any of those games would have been able to pull it off. Not to mention Wizardry 8’s, or the Suikoden games, or even the Shadow Hearts games. We had to wait for the X-Men Legends/Marvel: Ultimate Alliance series’ to get a decent superhero series … and even then we had the action RPG of Baldur’s Gate and even Fallout in that time.

This has always puzzled me. Why didn’t some comic book company go to Bioware or one of the RPG makers who were making games and say”Hey, if we let you use our trademarks, can you build a game out of it modifying your engine? We’ll even give you the story!”. I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t have been successful. Heck, again, Freedom Force was, and lots of people were adding skins for it for their favourite characters, so why not actually just say “Okay, we’ll let you use it if you do a full game of this.”?

Why couldn’t we get a Suikoden-like game based on Justice League: Unlimited? Why couldn’t we get an Icewind Dale style game based on the X-Men? Heck, why couldn’t we get a Marvel or DC or even Image version of Age of Empires (scaled down a bit, but that wouldn’t be a problem and would be exactly what we wanted)?

I guess my real question is: why are comic books so uncreative when it comes to exploiting their intellectual property

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4 Responses to “Not Enough Heroes …”

  1. Jakeithus Says:

    Comic books and video games have not been kind to one another for the most part, so despite the clear potential for taking advantage of an intellectual property, it doesn’t really surprise me that it hasn’t been tried more. Other than the various fighting games using superheroes, historically most comic book video games have been horrible licensed products trying to make a quick buck off a movie or TV show. In my mind it wasn’t until Arkham Asylum that a great, story-based comic book video game got made, and it hasn’t really been repeated outside of the franchise since.

    You’re right that it does seem like it should have been tried sooner, and a lack of prior success is really the major reason I can see why it wasn’t.

    • verbosestoic Says:

      It’s that “quick buck” thing that drives my puzzlement, because that’s driven by both sides salivating over getting the immediate buzz boost from relating to each other, and comic books and games are hungry for that all the time, not just when a movie comes out. And comic books have oodles and oodles of storylines out there that can be milked relatively cheaply for RPG games which can be churned out quickly, especially considering that the art assets are likely already there and can easily be re-used. If you have a company with a good engine, the story’s already there, you just need to convert it. And this has been done successfully in the past, but almost always with new engines (see, for example, the Legends/MUA series). There’s just so much potential here that it boggles the mind why they don’t see it, and I think it’s a result of hidebound thinking, where companies that build their own engines for stories don’t think of just using it for stories for others, while comic book companies don’t think of looking at an existing engine and thinking “Hey, we can put our characters there just as easily!” Which is a shame.

  2. Crude Says:

    What about Injustice: Gods Among Us?

    • verbosestoic Says:

      Yeah, that one came out after I wrote this article originally, and is a good example of taking an existing engine and building a game on it. It loses some points, though, because the idea started based on the crossover and not just the adoption of the engine. Interestingly, the “Children of the Atom” fighting game was a better example, since I’m pretty sure it came before MvC …

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