From Gamasutra.com: "As far as the narrative goes, I lived by two rules: Poe's "Totality of Effect," which has to do with maintaining consistent atmosphere and tone, and another unnamed rule expressed by the science fiction writer, James Tiptree, Jr., which I'll quote loosely since I can no longer find the quote: 'Start your story 500 feet underground on a dark day and then
don't tell them.' Alice B. Sheldon (a.k.a. James Tiptree, Jr.) is one of my literary heroes.'"
Bungie's Halo series has become one of the most broadly known sci-fi games across the globe, but it's a significantly different take on the first-person genre than the Half-Life series. It draws from different sources as well. Halo's influences have been exhaustedly discussed, and Bungie has done little, until recently, to quell the debates. Halo's literary influences abound, ranging from Larry Niven's "Ringworld" and Ian M. Banks' "The Culture," both of which may have influenced the ring-like worlds called Halos. The drones in Halo are similar to the Buggers in Orson Scott Card's "Ender's Game," as is Halo's SPARTAN program, reflective of the super soldiers from the same book. Even Halo's viral Flood species rings familiar to similarly destructive creatures from "Ender's Game." It's also been suggested that Master Chief, aka "John 117," was formed from ideas found in Christopher Rowley's Starhammer, which featured a genetically altered man by the name of Jon 6725416.
In fact, Halo is packed like a sardine can with references. Analogies to the Bible, with the virus-creatures the Flood, the good and potentially destructive references of the Ark of the Covenent, and even Master Chief's name (perhaps a direct reference to John 1:17) aren't merely coincidence. Recently
, however, Bungie posted a list of its biggest influences. Bungie's Frank O'Connor, aka "Frankie," revealed that the team's consensual influences were wide ranging.
"We're often asked what our favorite sci-fi is, and we're occasionally accused of ripping off greats like Iain M. Banks, Larry Niven and Philip K. Dick," Frankie posted on Bungie.net.
. "Movies we're accused of stealing from include Starship Troopers, Aliens, Blade Runner
you name it.
"Of course these things influence
us. After all, we're nerds. The specific accusation that we swiped the idea of a ring-shaped planet wholesale
is not accurate. The idea of a Ringworld, first posited in sci-fi by Larry Niven in his brilliant novel of the same name, is actually a variation of a Dyson Sphere, a fantastically impossible object described by the 20th century physicist, Freeman Dyson
Ring-shaped artificial worlds have also been used by Iain M. Banks and others because they are cool. And that's why we used one. Because it's cool and therefore the type of thing a Forerunner civilization would build."
Frankie added that the direct literary influences from the collective team include Dune, by Frank Herbert, Neuromancer, by William Gibson, Excession, by Iain M. Banks, Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke, and Snowcrash, by Neal Stephenson.
"It seems like older games were more based on classic influences, because the explosion of science fiction and fantasy that we see in the media today (in movies, comics and games) hadn't really occurred yet," said Hennig, when asked about literary influences on older games. "The first text adventures and dungeon crawl games were heavily influenced by Tolkien - or by Dungeons & Dragons, itself largely inspired by Tolkien - and early science fiction games owe much of their inspiration to writers like Heinlein, Niven and E.E. Smith. A lot of current games, though, seem to be influenced less by the literary originals than by their descendants - movies, comics and other games that have come along more recently. In other words, a contemporary game creator is more likely to be inspired by Hellboy than Lovecraft, or by Star Wars rather than Joseph Campbell."
With the arrival of next-generation consoles, led by Xbox 360, Microsoft has signed several major players to create games for its system. All of them, at least on the surface, appear to mimic Bungie's sci-fi trilogy formula. Silicon Knights' Too Human is a trilogy that's likely to span five or six years, and while it's based on Norse myths, it looks like a playable, real-time science fiction book. Bioware, the Canadian developer responsible for some of the best RPGs in the last five years (Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire among them), is also working on a sci-fi trilogy, starting with Mass Effect. And Epic Games' Gears of War bears shades of Starship Troopers, Aliens, and even War of the Worlds. Each one, in its own way, plans to expand the way games are played, and more importantly, told. And perhaps most importantly all of them are original intellectual properties, created with room to expand.
Microsoft isn't pioneering anything new in this respect. After all, original games and IPs have been around many, many years now. Microsoft is just learning hard lessons based on past experience. In this generation of games, however, creative titles such as BioShock, Assassins, Too Human, and Mass Effect are likely to become fare more influential on many levels, if they succeed. They stand to make history.
"A lot of people want to progress gameplay to the next level, a lot of people want to progress technology to the next level, but I think the biggest landscape is content," theorized Dyack. "We're our own paradigm - we have a new paradigm of entertainment, and it's all about who can tell the best stories. Because at the end of the day, we strongly believe that the perceptual threshold between the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 to the average consumer
no one is going to be able to tell the difference. So it's not going to come down to who has the greatest graphics. It's going to come down to who has the coolest game. What am I going to get into the most? It's going to come down to the games with the best story and content."