Last week Hollywood Reporter broke the news that Patrick Rothfuss— the best-selling fantasy author of The Kingkiller Chronicle— had signed a “complex multiplatform rights deal” with Lionsgate to develop films, television series and video games based on his novels, simultaneously.
The series, which is incredibly popular in the science fiction and fantasy community, has been described as “a Harry Potter for grownups”. The Kingkiller Chronicle, the story of Kvothe, a legendary musician and mage, is eccentric to say the least. Each book or Day, in the trilogy, finds the protagonist chronicling his life at some unspecified time in the future. In the first novel, The Name of the Wind, he tells of his early life and the birth of his legend. This continues into The Wise Man’s Fear, a behemoth of a novel further exposing the man behind the myth. Fans of the series like me are still waiting hungrily for Day Three: The Doors of Stone, and being weird as I am, I have already started my first reread of the novels. If fantasy is your cup of tea, I thoroughly recommend picking up a copy.
Anyway, this is APGNation, and you guys are here for the games, so let’s get stuck in. Is this really a good idea? In short, it is a stroke of brilliance, but on closer examination, there is cause for worry. The Four Corners of Civilisation, the setting for Kvothe’s adventures, is a vast and complex world filled with low and high fantasy elements. While we only see small segments of this enormous world, it is safe to say there is a huge canvas that many tales can be sewn into. It is clear from the onset that a multiplatform deal was the only way to go about it, with Rothfuss saying “Honestly, I’ve never been very interested in a straight-up movie deal,”; a none-too-surprising statement considering his world’s scale and the abysmal track record for that kind of project …cough… Eragon. So put simply, more platforms, a greater chance of faithful and creative storytelling, or so we hope.
The closest analogue for this kind of deal would have to be George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones), and its HBO/Telltale Games adaptations. Now, for me, the show worked, and the games looked good (and were well received), but as the years have gone on the adaptation has become less and less faithful and many fans have become disaffected with the veritable mania surrounding Game of Thrones (GoT).
If I were to guess, I would say it is unlikely Rothfuss’ work would get a Telltale Games style treatment (even in light of Lionsgate’s investments into Telltale). It just wouldn’t fit, but the creativity sapping mania (and profits) could be an issue. Having played through their The Walking Dead titles and watched Let’s Play of the GoT games, I never got the eccentric faerie-tale vibe that The Kingkiller Chronicle gives off. However, interactive storytelling should not be ruled out, I just feel a more mechanically complex game type would fit better.
Queue my fanboying about recent roleplaying game hit The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt. The game rocked. I went on about it; hell, everyone and their weird uncle went on about it. That aside, I still feel a vast, beautiful open game world, rich exploration elements, and a deeply stylised narrative would suit an adaptation of Rothfuss’ world much better.
Further from a more triple-A aesthetic and narrative framework, I think it is more than likely that given recent success stories in fantasy adaptation, Lionsgate will throw a heap of cash at this, with at least a big chunk going toward the games side of things. This both excites and scares me. It excites me because I can’t wait to see which studio gets them Hollywood bucks to make a sick game about one of my favourite book series, but it scares me because of the economics in the gaming industry. Every day we hear horror stories of money being frittered away in crowd-funded games, or studios money grubbing to pad the bottom line with DLC shenanigans, or worse, studios spending tonnes of cash on games that end up absolute garbage or unplayable on release. Gaming is in a transition period, and it makes awesome ideas look scary.
I will leave it to wiser souls to judge the minutiae of this deal, such as Peter Levin, Lionsgate’s president of interactive ventures and games, who is leading the game dev side of things with the Rothfuss universe. Suffice to say, I haven’t heard much about the John Wick game that is coming, but I have heard of the studio, Starbreeze, who were the team behind Payday 2, and these details haven’t caused utter panic in me. I would like to reiterate, though, that I’m not entirely with Game Informer here, as I don’t think Telltale’s style would fit. We shall see.
I understand this piece is a tad indulgent. I just fanboy-ed out and cried about my fears, but it does have a purpose. Firstly, spreading the word of this awesome team up between Rothfuss and Lionsgate, but also secondly, I hope it starts some sort of discussion. When the first season of Game of Thrones was in development, the show runners went to the community for help casting and just to show they cared. When CD Projekt RED saw the horrible state of DLC culture in gaming, they gave us 16 free DLC. When Halo: The Master Chief Collection ended up a shambling mess at launch 343 Industries gave us a beta over a year before release. If these communities had not been active enough, or willing to shepherd the content creators and developers toward the product they wanted, it is unlikely we would be where we are now. As enthusiasts, as gamers, it is important to be active in the community, as your voices can help craft the generations of games to come.