games reporter

'08 'Bourne' vid game departs from script

With "The Bourne Ultimatum" grossing $69.3 million in its first weekend and delivering the biggest August opening ever, surely someone would want to transform it into a similarly hot video game. What game publisher wouldn't want to ride the coattails of its huge marketing campaign?

But, oddly enough, there's no "Bourne" game in sight, at least not this year. And the one that Vivendi Games has up its sleeve for a mid-2008 release on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 is no "movie game," its developers insist.

Didn't the publisher of "John Woo Presents Stranglehold" — which is about to leap onto video game shelves the week of Aug. 20 — say the same thing about its game (HR 7/25)? Is there suddenly some stigma against movie-based games?

"Not at all," says Emmanuel Valdez, chief creative officer at High Moon Studios, Vivendi's San Diego-based internal developer, which is building the game titled "The Bourne Conspiracy."

"Games for next-generation consoles take longer than movies to make — two years and sometimes longer," Valdez says. "We knew we didn't have enough time to build a quality 'Ultimatum' game and come out with it at the same time as the movie. So we decided to do things differently, something new."

That meant taking elements of the first movie, "The Bourne Identity," and stirring in lots of fresh material that needed to be approved by the estate of Robert Ludlum, the author of the "Bourne" books who died in 2001.

The project began in late-summer 2005, when "we started off almost making a straight 'Identity' adaptation," Valdez recalls. "But the movie had come out in 2001, the sequel 'Supremacy' had come out in 2004, and we knew we could never finish in time for the release of 'Ultimatum' this year. So, together with the Ludlum estate, we set out to make something original that could stand on its own two feet."

Matt Wolf, a creative consultant to the game hired by Ludlum Entertainment, arranged for Tony Gilroy, the screenwriter for all three "Bourne" movies, to flesh out the saga. Wolf was responsible for ensuring that the game played by the rules of the "Bourne" universe.

"For example, we needed to impress on the game developers that Jason Bourne isn't a gun-slinging maniac," Wolf says. "Part of my job was not just to guard the borders and say no; it was to come up with some creative solutions and support the process."

Matt Tieger, the game's lead designer, recalls that the High Moon team had two principals that became the basis for the game's creation.

"The first was that Bourne isn't Gucci," he says. "Meaning that he isn't the type of spy who carries a lot of stuff with him. … He pretty much weaponizes his environment. The second really important principal was the fact that Bourne always has a target, an objective. Meaning he's not the type of character who goes wandering around an open-ended world."

Similarly, the High Moon team adopted the hand-held camera style of Paul Greengrass, director of the second and third "Bourne" movies.

"His style is very journalistic," Valdez says, "and when we use it for the action sequences, it lends a very cinematic look and feel to the game."

While the first "Bourne" game is taking three years to reach completion, subsequent titles will be speedier, Valdez says. "The first game in a franchise always takes more time; there are technical challenges that we're dealing with … that we won't have to face next time."