The Princess Bride is a film that could truly be considered a “new classic.” One that has been passed from parents to children and become a pop culture touchstone in the process, as well as one of the most universally loved films of the past quarter century.
So, to say that Worldwide Biggies was “a bit cautious” about turning the film into a casual game might be something of an understatement.
“The Princess Bride is an evergreen, beloved film that is still very popular, in fact, ask a room of 30-somethings if they’ve seen it and you’ll most hands raised high in the air followed by shouts of ‘Inconceivable!'” said Christopher Romero, Chief Technology Officer.
Think it would work? In the immortal words of Miracle Max: It would take a miracle.
Bride of all trades
To create a game that would live up to the license (and to communicate the sweeping story) WWB knew that no single type of casual game would do.
“We began the game design process by mapping out all of the characters in the movie in order to take a look at the specific events that caused changes in their situations,” Romero said. “For instance, while reviewing these changes it became very obvious that we had to do a game around Miracle Max — it actually popped right off the graph that when he changes his mind from being dismissive of our ‘mostly dead’ hero to the point where he decides to help causes the biggest changes in situations in the movie!”
The end product has a little bit of everything, from seek-and-find to general trivia and platforming. Even with all these working in concert, there are still modes that had to be left in the cutting room.
“We actually had a lot more gameplay modes we were considering for the game, we went through lengthy game design review cycles in order to pare it down to what we have in the game,” Romero said.
There was one event from the film, the classic duel between Wesley and master swordsman Inigo Montoya, that WWB just couldn’t figure out a way to make work in-game.
“I should say that we felt immediately that we had to set aside a fencing game,” Romero said. “We felt that getting this right for a casual audience using mouse and keyboard was going to be a stretch.”
The look of love
Of course, combining gameplay types isn’t exactly revolutionary. What really sets The Princess Bride Game apart is the presentation, which features arguably more animation and absolutely more celebrity voices than your typical casual game. Romero said that its in his company’s DNA to put a premium on high-quality presentation.
“Casual games can look good – and should! We intend to focus on games that bring better artistic quality to the casual genre,” Romero said. “Our upcoming series will bring the quality and sex appeal of luxury products and fashion magazines to the casual game space. Players are looking for a level of entertainment equal to TV or films but with a deeper engagement.”
What most fans will probably notice first though is the presence of some of the film’s original cast, including Mandy Patinkin as Inigo and Robin Wright Penn as Princess Buttercup. Perhaps the most crucial though is the original Vizzini.
“Once you’ve heard Wallace Shawn do his ‘Inconceivable’ you can accept no substitute!” Romero said.
At what cost?
A cast of big name stars and what was effectively the simultaneous development of five different games did not run cheap. But, Romero says, it was not a risk taken without consideration.
“Cost was higher than average for a casual game,” Romero said. “But we’re building a pipeline for high quality games that happen to be downloadable – this is a different experience than most casual titles and the budget reflects that.”
That said, WWB wouldn’t necessarily do everything the same if they had it all to do again.
“In many ways, The Princess Bride Game was a labor of love that was also the first big game for our studio, so we learned a lot,” Romero said.
Fans both old and new
WWB had long-time, rabid fans of the film at heart when they made the game, they didn’t really have a choice. Romero said that it was crucial that the game include the movie’s classic lines and plot points, as well as just capturing the overall spirit.
But The Princess Bride Game walks a fine line between following the license and taking liberties, one that few games based on other IPs attempt.
The times when the game does deviate, it’s not without purpose. For example, it’s aesthetic, firmly aimed at younger females, is just a way for WWB to help keep the story relevant, making sure that this new classic continues to be passed down. According to Romero:
“Our playtesting revealed that for some younger girls this game was ‘the best game they had ever played.’ We’re ultimately looking to develop hit general audience titles that appeal to a wide range of demographics, with a ‘something for everyone’ approach, so yes we definitely had younger girls in mind – in this case girls who are perhaps discovering The Princess Bride for the very first time.”