I’m not fan of the idea of adapting games from existing media. Some people are and completely forget the deep chasm between the types of media. I can assure you that when a came is crafted around the game itself it will have the most powerful way of expressing whatever the game might be about. It’s a moot point whether or not written media can express things better than films.
Books could barely work as a source for video games, because most of them have very little that that players could play on them. The Lord of the Rings is a good example of this; the only proper points that can be turned into games are the battles and few roaming sections. All other parts of the books would become walls of text or video scenes. Adaptations of films barely work as video games, and there’s only few ways that book adaptations could work. Let’s take a look at some of the few most successful game adaptations. Duck Tales, for example. Duck Tales is a bad adaptation of anything Duck Tales related. What CAPCOM did with the adaptation is that they took he basic idea, ie. wacky treasure hunting adventures and turned that into a game. What makes Duck Tales so good isn’t about the source material, thou it plays a part in it, but the simple fact that the game is just so well made. Similar method was used to turn Chip & Dales into a game. Darkwing Duck suffered a bit for being a Mega Man clone, but it’s still a good game.
Above: Another license based game saved by NOT following the film
Good source material for game material is both comics and films with action. Both of them usually contain large scenes of action and overly blown plots surrounding whatnot they’re about. You’d think that there exists more than handful of actually good Marvel games out there, but there isn’t. Same goes for the DC and film based games in general. If you take a look at the Hunt of the Red October you’ll soon notice that the game pretty much does everything to go against the message of the film just because the gameplay mechanics. It could’ve been good game, but the source material didn’t lend itself for good gameplay. While you would think that both Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings games would be good sword & sorcery games, they fall into the “generic license game” category because they rely on the film’s scenes and actual game content is scarce. This scarcity is because the games are far too tied to their source material. But then you’ll as me what kind of game should The Lord of the Rings be? Top-view action RPG? Third-person hack&slasher? Massive Multiplayer Online game? Perhaps the best way to make The Lord of the Rings is to make it an adventure game. Books loan themselves into this form of game play far better than to anything else. As adventure games filled with text and beautiful backgrounds already, it’s just natural option to choose. All the battles scenes could be done away with small arcade-action sequences or in form of small problem solving. Books also loan themselves to Visual Novels, but those aren’t games. We’ll leave that for later discussion.
PC games in general work better for adapting slower pace stories. PC gamers want you to believe have all the cerebral games from Leisure Suit Larry to Fallout to Forklift Simulator 2000 and everything in between. The fact is that PC games generally are more slower and require more brainwork, at least they used to be. Even now PC games have stood down to copy more speedy action of consoles and arcades than before. Compare Mega Man and Duke Nukem and you’ll see that Mega Man not only is more hectic, but also a lot harder. CD-Man is a poor and slow version of Pac-Man. However, console ports of PC games usually have been pretty good, like Shadow Gate. Of course, games with high system requirements (for their time) usually fared worse on consoles, like Doom. Because of this I’d like to see Fallout styled The Lord of the Rings, but multiple paths and optional endings. Games can change the story and add their own as much as they want. Adapting book into a film or vice versa is completely different thing than adapting either of them into a game.
I am painfully aware that film studios never want games to deviate too much from the given material, which bogs the games down a lot. The only film based game I can recall that has alternate ending is Star Wars III Revenge of the Sith where you can actually kill Obi-Wan Kenobi and become Darth Vader without the armour part. Of course it helped a lot that LucasArts was making their own Star Wars back then. I have little doubts that the The Avengers film will have a shoddy third person action game like all the other films had. I wonder how long it takes them to realize that one of the most successful Marvel games has been the X-MEN arcade game? Marvel should just ask SEGA to make The Avengers into Streets of Rage styled beat-em-up with all the characters as playable options with notable differences. Make Captain America the standard character, Thor the heavy hitter, Hawkeye the long range specialist, Iron Man less powerful but sturdier ranged attacker, and the Hulk would fit into slow, heavy and simple part. Throw Loki in there for fun when the game is beaten without deaths.
We’ll never have this game.
If you’re adamant about making a book into a game you have to make it around the gameplay and not the book’s story. In The Lord of the Rings make Frodo battle against enemies even if in the book they merely travelled; In Starship Troopers add more campaigns on different planets as the Troopers close on enemy baseplanets; Make the player switch switch from character to character in the Forever War. To put it short, add gameplay where there wouldn’t be any according to the source material, and let the gameplay be the basis while you structure the story around it. Not the other way around. Sadly, not even good intentions cab save a game that has no craftsmanship in it.
Above; Game that I tried to play so much only give up because the game has poor craftsmanship