Cooperation between filmmakers, game designers key to success


More than a year ago, "Transformers: The Game" executive producer Daniel Suarez walked into the office of Michael Bay, director of Paramount's upcoming "Transformers" movie, with a request. In order to ensure the game matched the film's look, Suarez asked to use the top-secret Industrial Light + Magic digital robot models in the game.

"Bay turned to me and said, 'You guys are crazy! No way we're letting those assets out,'" Suarez recalls.

Today, however, consumers who purchase the game will indeed play as the ILM-created Megatron and Optimus Prime, experiencing a rare example of close collaboration between a filmmaking team and a game publisher.

"The idea of actually being Optimus Prime and transforming from an 18-wheeler rolling down the highway into a 32-foot robot to throw a bus down a city block is the perfect video game," film producer Tom DeSanto says.

Often, the greatest challenge in creating a movie tie-in game is lining up production schedules. While Hollywood can sometimes pull together a blockbuster in as little as 12 months, next-generation games routinely take 18-24 months. DeSanto encountered those conflicting timelines on 2003's "X2" when the film came together so fast that the game, "X2 -- Wolverine's Revenge," had to be created in less than a year. The game was universally panned by critics.

"Transformers" had a longer lead time, so Activision was able to design a rich game in which players control either one of nine Autobots and Decepticons (the film's protagonists and antagonists, respectively) in a plot that loosely follows the movie. Still, certain game deadlines were earlier than the film's. Hugo Weaving was added so late to the film as the voice of Megatron that Frank Welker, the original cartoon voice, returns for the game.

With 100 minutes of original music by film composer Steve Jablonsky, voice-overs from "Transformers" stars Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox -- and even a buy-in from Steven Spielberg (who, Suarez says, likes the game's "Hulk-like level of destructibility") -- the final game shows that filmmakers and game designers, who are sometimes as different as Autobots and Decepticons, can join forces to create experiences that excel in their respective mediums.

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