High-def 'Battlestar Galactica' game


NBC Universal is partnering with Sierra Online, a division of Vivendi Games, and Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade to deliver an original, high-definition "Battlestar Galactica" space combat game this fall.

The game, based on the popular Sci Fi Channel show, also will be available on Windows PC and will be digitally distributed, bypassing retail. Fans will be able to download the PC game at a number of Web sites, including Scifi.com, NBC.com and Sierra.com.

" 'Battlestar Galactica' has been progressive with new technology from blogs and podcasts from the creators to the digital distribution of the show on iTunes," said Bill Kispert, vp interactive of NBC Universal. "This new game on Xbox Live Arcade is consistent with that."

This marks the first time that an original Hollywood-licensed property will be available on Xbox Live Marketplace. Beginning Friday, Xbox 360 owners will be able to download "Galactica" Gamer Pics and Themepacks in an effort to build awareness for the new game and the TV series, which airs 10 p.m. Sundays.

Developed by Australian-based Auran Games, "Galactica" will feature single- and multiplayer modes and allow the gamer to take part in intense space battles as a pilot for either the humans or Cylon forces.

"We wanted to bring a more intense combat experience to gamers," Kispert said. "From a story standpoint, fans will be able to relive key battles from the first two seasons of the show, and then we'll add new content and missions outside of that."

Kispert said that Sierra Online has spent time on the show's set in Vancouver to incorporate elements from the show into the new game, including everything from actual ships to the computer monitors aboard the Galactica. The game will feature sound effects from the show, including weapons firing, and Kispert said they're talking about incorporating radio chatter from the show that could feature cast voices.

"We have the likeness rights to talent from the show for video games," Kispert said, "but this game will put players in a first-person perspective, allowing them to experience the world of the show by piloting Vipers and Cylon Raiders, so there won't really be room for actors in this game."

If all goes well, there will be plenty of room for actors in a next-generation console "Battlestar Galactica" game. Vivendi Games published an Xbox and PlayStation 2 game developed by Warthog in November 2003. That game was tied into the launch of the "Galactica" miniseries, which paved the way to the series.

"We love 'Battlestar Galactica' and we've had proposals to do another 'Battlestar Galactica' console game, but we haven't moved forward just yet," Kisbert said. "We feel that the show is so rich in mythology and politics and drama and story that when we do it, we'll take a full two to three years to do it right on next-generation consoles."

Xbox 360 owners may get additional "Galactica" content via the new Video Marketplace. Kispert said NBC Universal experimented with Marketplace before the launch of season three by offering a free downloadable recap of the first two seasons.

"The reaction to this show was fantastic, so we know there are fans out there on Xbox Live," Kispert said. "We have discussions going on with Xbox Video Marketplace about offering 'Battlestar Galactica' on that service. We're looking at a number of digital platforms for the show, but at this point, we're just looking."

Kispert said Xbox Live Arcade could become a new way for the studio to reach out to audiences from other shows. He said he likes the notion of using Xbox Live Arcade with several of NBC Universal's TV properties because it allows the studio to deliver episodic or short gaming content quickly and efficiently to a large fan base. The "Galactica" game will have a one-year development cycle for this fall's game.

Ed Zobrist, president of Sierra Online, said the great thing about digitally distributed content is that it can constantly be updated, in this case with new ships, story lines, multiplayer maps and missions.

"Digital distribution allows Hollywood licensors the ability to work with game makers and turn around content to capitalize on a show's success, providing timely content without a lot of lead time," he said. "Moving forward, we'll be able to add game content via multiple delivery methods to provide new content that's topical to what's going on in the 'Battlestar Galactica' universe for seasons to come."