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The complicated process of making licensed video games

The complicated process of making licensed video games

April 5, 2019 | By Emma Kidwell




"It’s a strange experience working on a project, knowing that it is not going to turn out well, knowing on some level that it’s not even really intended to."

- Level designer Steve Rhoades on making licensed video games. 

The process of making a game is already deeply involved, but there are more things to consider when making one based on a licensed property. Add stakeholders, scheduling concerns, and navigating legal channels to the mix, and it can get pretty complicated. 

A few developers involved in making licensed games took the time to speak with PC Gamer about what it's like. 

"For arcane licensing reasons we only had permission to use Wesley Snipes’ likeness in one place—the box cover—but Mr Snipes could not appear anywhere in-game," said Tom Forsyth, former programmer on Blade 2

"Of course Blade had to be in the game and he had to look as close to the Blade in the film as possible, but without looking too much like Mr Snipes who played him in the movie."

"No, this didn’t make any sense to anybody else either. So the artists were driven mad sending both concept and in-game art to the publisher, and every even week it would be ‘this looks too much like Snipes’ and every odd week was 'this doesn’t look like Blade'."

Likeness aside, there are also complications when creating licensed games based on TV shows when multiple parties are involved. 

"It’s a strange experience working on a project, knowing that it is not going to turn out well, knowing on some level that it’s not even really intended to,” said Steve Rhoades, level designer for The Sopranos: Road to Respect.

"I remember meetings at a table with at least four or five folks from HBO present,” Rhoades recalled.

“A lot of teleconferences. 7 Studios’ process was pretty document heavy by modern standards, and I wrote every level design doc for that game. My life for a few months was revising each document based on HBO feedback, then sending the doc to THQ, revising for their feedback, rinsing and repeating."

Be sure to check out the entire piece over at PC Gamer, its definitely worth the read. 



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