Google appears to be getting into TV production now…they are working with The Sean Daniel Company, the company behind Syfy’s upcoming series The Expanse, to produce a series based on the augmented reality game Ingress.
In the game, players use their mobile equipment to seek out “portals” – areas through which Exotic Matter is pouring into our universe from a mysterious culture called the “Shapers”. Two factions, the Enlightened, who believe the Shapers are helping mankind, and the Resistance, who are trying to protect Humanity, compete to control the portals and the Exotic Matter. Occasionally real life interactive events take place at particular locations.
Looks like it is about time for the annual update on the lawsuit between games-maker Hasbro and Sweetpea Entertainment over the rights to films based on Hasbro’s Dungeons & Dragons game franchise.
The case has finally opened in court, and Deadline reports that the juryless trial has opened with a volley of magic missiles between the parties.
Patricia Glaser, the lawyer representing Sweetpea, claims that the lawsuit is simply an attempt by Hasbro to re-capture the rights in order to hand them over to Universal, while Sweetpea has met all the requirements to maintain the rights according to their 1994 agreement with then-D&D owner TSR, having produced several (poorly performing) sequels, including a 2010 direct-to-DVD release that they say Hasbro even signed off on. They go on to claim that since acquiring Wizards of the Coast in 1999, which had previously acquired TSR in 1997, Hasbro has been trying to undermine Sweetpea’s rights to the franchise.
Hasbro counter-claims that Sweetpea was doing nothing except producing “auto-sequels” and was not paying the required licensing fees.
An interested third party in this is Warner Bros, who after failing to negotiate proper rights with Hasbro to a movie based on Chainmail, the predecessor to Dungeons & Dragons, partnered with Sweetpea to take over the franchise rights. WB is apparently putting up as much as $1 million for legal fees for Sweetpea in the case.
The case is expected to last the rest of the week.
Defiance is the first convergence of a TV program and a massively multiplayer game. The program follows the events in the town of Defiance, built on the remains of St. Louis, after the Earth is devastated by alien terraforming devices and a war between the humans and the races of the Votanis Collective. Now years later, the stranded Votans and the humans live together in an uneasy peace, working for the meager resources still available.
The game takes place simultaneously in the area of San Francisco. Events in one can influence the other.
Season Two is currently filming in Toronto and will air in 2014.
The defendant appears to be Courtney Solomon’s Sweetpea Entertainment, who produced the 2000 Dungeons & Dragons, as well as the 2005 sequel Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God. The quoted article has a number of problems that make it hard to make sense of what they are saying, but the 2005 sequel would appear to have qualified, but the 2012 Dungeons & Dragons: The Book of Vile Darkness might, as Hasbro claims, not qualify, since it was more than 5 years after the previous effort and retained no characters or situations from either. But I also don’t see Courtney Solomon or Sweetpea in the credits list on IMDb.
Can Warner Bros cast remove curse and break the spell that seems to dictate that a Dungeons & Dragons movie can’t be good? It appears they are ready to bet they can, as they acquired the movie rights to the venerable game franchise. And it appears they are moving forward quickly, looking to adapt a script already written by David Leslie Johnson (Wrath Of The Titans). Interestingly, that script was based not on D&D but it’s precursor, Chainmail, a miniatures game which Gary Gygax helped create first before teaming with Dave Arneson on D&D.
Roy Lee (The Woman In Black) will produce with Courtney Solomon, who produced the first two attempts at D&D movies, 2000’s Dungeons & Dragons and the 2005 direct-to-video sequel, Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God. The former was critically panned, while the latter took itself a bit more seriously, producing a moderate effort but nothing to appeal to non-D&D fans.
A third production, Dungeons & Dragons: The Book of Vile Darkness, was released last year, appears unrelated to the first two, and I don’t know much about it.
Update 5/10: It appears there is already a snag…it seems Hasbro claims they own the rights, and are working with Universal. They do essentially own the game, as they own Wizards of the Coast, which bought TSR in 1997.
My prediction? Whether movie gets made by WB, Universal, or not at all…the lawyers will get richer.
After having closed down LucasArts, who produced a lot of the games in the Star Wars universe along with others, Disney has signed an exclusive multi-year deal with EA to produce future Star Wars games, who will farm them out to its game studios.
This follows the “licensing model” that Disney announced when it closed LucasArts. LucasArts already did some licensing – including to EA, whose BioWare division produced the MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic.
From the press release:
BURBANK and REDWOOD CITY, Calif., May 6, 2013 — The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) and Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: EA) today announced a new multi-year exclusive licensing agreement to develop and publish globally new games based on Star Wars characters and storylines.
Under the agreement, EA will develop and publish new Star Wars titles for a core gaming audience, spanning all interactive platforms and the most popular game genres, while Disney will retain certain rights to develop new titles within the mobile, social, tablet and online game categories.
“This agreement demonstrates our commitment to creating quality game experiences that drive the popularity of the Star Wars franchise for years to come,” said John Pleasants, Co-President of Disney Interactive. “Collaborating with one of the world’s premier game developers will allow us to bring an amazing portfolio of new Star Wars titles to our fans around the world.”
“Every developer dreams of creating games for the Star Wars universe,” said EA Labels President Frank Gibeau. “Three of our top studios will fulfill that dream, crafting epic adventures for Star Wars fans. DICE and Visceral will produce new games, joining the BioWare team which continues to develop for the Star Wars franchise. The new experiences we create may borrow from films, but the games will be entirely original with all new stories and gameplay.”
Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
LucasArts, the LucasFilm division and computer game studio that brought us some classic games including many of the Star Wars titles, has been closed. New corporate parent Disney, who has shuttered some of it’s own game studios, announced the move today, canceling in-progress games like Star Wars 1313 and Star Wars: First Assault and laying off all the staff.
It appears that Disney will instead concentrate on licensing properties to other game studios, which LucasArts had also done – BioWare/EA produced the current MMO game Star Wars: The Old Republic.
LucasArts produced some of my favorite games of yesteryear: I remember their very first game, Ballblazer (and programming a clone on my C-64 at the time). Star Wars: Jedi Knight – Dark Forces II was the game for which I got my first 3D video card, and the difference was amazing (and I still have the mini-lightsaber that came with it, and it still works, with the original batteries.) Secrets of Monkey Island was one of the more interesting early graphical adventures. and I loved combat flight simulators, so I was thrilled to pilot an X-Wing against the Empire…
More recently LucasArts was hit-or-miss. While scoring decent hits with some Star Wars titles like Knights of the Old Republic, Battlefront and The Force Unleashed (starring our friend Sam Witwer, currently starring in Being Human), it seemed to have issues when producing sequels to some games, in some cases forcing their releases too soon. And the release of Kinect Star Wars for the XBox 360, what seemed like it would be a slam-dunk for the Kinect motion platform to have players swinging their lightsabers in combat, turned sour as critics and players panned it…I mean, did they really need to include a “Just Dance” clone? Did Han Solo ever look less studly as when he dances to his own song??
While this doesn’t mean the end of Star Wars games, it will be interesting to see where it heads. Disney still has one game studio working – Disney Interactive – which is concentrating everything on the upcoming Disney Infinity, an expandable/collectible game that will compete directly with Skylanders. Whether 1313 or First Assault will ever be released is unknown.
Apparently J.J. Abrams still isn’t satisfied with his workload…he was at the DICE Summit in Las Vegas today where he appeared on stage with Gabe Newell – the head of computer game maker Valve – the studio that produced the immensely popular Half-Life and Portal franchises.
And of course, they announced a partnership, under the guise of a conversation about the strengths and weaknesses of storytelling in movies and games.
J.J. Abrams said, “There’s an idea we have for a game that we’d like to work with Valve on.”
And perhaps the bigger news, “We’re going to figure out if we can make a Portal movie or Half-Life movie together,” according to Newell.
Defiance is not just a TV show starting April 15th – it is also a MMO shooter game which now has its own release date – April 2nd. And now there is a live-action game trailer that gives a bit of the setting of the game!
While the TV show takes place in the town of Defiance on what was once St. Louis, the game takes place is the San Francisco area – as shown by the ruins of the Golden Gate bridge in the background. It also shows the collection of mercenaries that are Ark Hunters, hunting for the remnants of the Votan arks that had mysteriously exploded years previously but still occasionally rain down on the Earth, devastated by the Pale Wars.
And it appears that the hellbugs come in a variety of sizes…
Merlin will return on Friday, January 4th at 10/9c on Syfy to begin the U.S. airing of its fifth and final season. Syfy also announced the launch of Merlin: The Game in the U.S.
From the press release:
Syfy will say good-bye to Camelot when the fifth and final season of Merlin returns Friday, January 4 at 10PM (ET/PT) with 13 all-new episodes.