The Future of Terry Pratchett's Discworld Is in Gaming
It's taken me nearly a week to really get over the death of fantasy author Terry Pratchett. Everyone knew it was coming ever since he was diagnosed with a rare form of early-onset Alzheimer's, but it was still an unexpected blow that left a tremendous hole in the world.
Shortly after Pratchett was diagnosed, he announced his daughter Rhianna would be the custodian of the Discworld legacy, though what exactly that meant was somewhat vague. Rhianna is a writer in her own right, mostly for video games like Tomb Raider and Mirror's Edge, but she isn't a novelist. She recently told Digital Trends that she was not planning on writing any new Discworld books herself but was mostly involved in overseeing things like the TV series based on the Watch books and the film version of The Wee Free Men.
And while those are all well and good, what Discworld needs now is a video game. A big, big video game, and Rhianna is just the person to make that happen.
There hasn't been an official Discworld game in 16 years. I recently picked up the original Discworld for PlayStation as an anniversary present and it's a very bittersweet experience. On one hand, all that perfect Discworld humor is there. Plus the three main voice actors are Eric Idle, Jon Pertwee and Tony Robinson, so if you like, you can pretend that the whole thing is a Monty Python skit set on Discworld featuring the Third Doctor with Blackadder's Baldric as his companion. That might actually be the most British thing ever.
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But on the other hand, it's a famously frustrating game to actually play because it makes no bloody sense half the time. It's a point-and-clicker, but often what you're supposed to point-and-click is located vast distances away with zero clue on why you're supposed to go there, not to mention some of it is damned near invisible because of the limited PS1 graphics. Neither the sequel or the buggy Discworld Noir was much better.
Pratchett was an avid gamer himself, and Rhianna talks about tucking herself into his big chair at his back as he played computer games as a formative experience (My daughter does the same thing). He even contributed directly to Discworld Noir with some dialogue, but he never really took a guiding hand in taking Discworld intractive. Rhianna, though, has the credentials to finally do so.
We're not in the '90s anymore. This is the age of Skyrim and Xenoblade Chronicles, and that means we can actually build the Discworld. Not part of the Discworld, not just Ankh-Morpork but the whole freakin' thing. There are more than 30 books of detailed material to draw on that span the entire disc, not to mention God only knows what kind of wealth of notes and ideas Pratchett left behind when he died.
Imagine an open world game where all these wonderful characters still exist and live. Something like World of Warcraft where you can wander for days picking up sidequests at the Mended Drum or learn magic with the witches of Ramtop. You create a character, and off you go with magical bottomless luggage following dutifully behind you.
The great thing about a series like Discworld is that it allows for dozens of styles of play. Want a hack and slash? Sign up to be part of Cohen the Barbarian's horde to conquer the Agatean Empire. Maybe you're more of an economy-driven sort of person and go to work for Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler working your way up from sausage peddler to mogul. Join the Assassin's Guild and murder for profit, solve crimes under the direction of Sam Vimes and repel elfish invasions after studying with Granny Weatherwax.
And while I'm sure it would be wonderful and awe-inspiring to populate a world with all the most memorable characters and lines and inside jokes that are Pratchett's legacy, a grand MMORPG of Discworld would be the best thing for an even greater reason. Anyone who has heard of Eve knows that the greatest stories in gaming aren't told by the creators but by the players themselves hatching plots and breaking rules and in general creating mayhem as gamers everywhere do.
The Discworld is powered by narrative. I'm not against the idea of another novel in the future, maybe written by Neil Gaiman or Stephen Baxter, but if we want Pratchett's work to really continue to grow, then all Rhianna needs to do is set us all loose in a virtual Discworld and we'll do the rest.
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