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Who buys these?

April 27th, 2007 by Troy Goodfellow · 11 Comments · Industry

It looks like we’ll be getting a novelization of Command and Conquer 3. I’m sure it will be as full of literary goodness as the novelizations of Baldur’s Gate, Halo and Warcraft. If it approaches the almost readable Alpha Centauri novels, it will be a freaking miracle.

This week’s Games for Windows podcast has a long segment on game novelizations. Apparently publishers just send those to GFW HQ no questions asked. Questions like “Do you want this crap?” The GFW crew and Penny Arcade both make the obvious joke about novelized games.

What isn’t so funny is that people apparently buy this crap. I’m generally not one to attack another person’s tastes in books, film or TV – the line between high and low culture moves a lot through the ages – but no one in their right mind can expect this to be either a compelling read or a useful companion to the game itself.


11 Comments so far ↓

  • Kalle

    I admit it, I own a Warcraft novel.

    After they cancelled Warcraft Adventures I wanted to see what was up with Thrall.

    It’s pure trash. Just ghastly. I mean, I read Warhammer novels and this was leagues worse. Sweet, sweet Warhammer novels…. Are you including tabletop games in your attack on game novels? Cause then I think I’ll have to cry a bit.

  • Troy

    Funny you mention the Warhammer novels, because one of the GFW guys (Shawn? Darren? They all sound the same to my aging ears except Ryan and Jeff) told a story about how a friend tried to unload a pack of them and could find no buyer, even at the local comic book/game store.

    So what is up with Thrall?

  • Gamegeek

    I picked up the first Halo novel for professional reasons. I ended up picking up the second on my own dime.


  • GyRo567

    Geez, and I thought the high end of the spectrum in the Star Wars EU was lowly… >_>

    Actually, Matthew Stover does get into some pseudo-psychological dilemmas. Aaron Allston, Greg Keyes & Karen Travis also know how to keep an exciting narrative going.

    On the other hand, while I haven’t read any game novels (though I would pick up a copy of anything Ragnar Tørnquist wrote – the one he’s written so far just has to do with an MMO, not the Twin Worlds) I have had quite a few game dreams over the years. One of the very early ones involved Tiberian Sun. Most of the others from that era revolved around the Zelda franchise. More recently, Half-Life 2, Far Cry, STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl, and The Longest Journey have all come into play. It’s almost like reading a novel (the imagination part is there), but the production quality is much better.

  • Kalle

    Thrall was raised by humans as a thrall, imagine that, and he went on to fight for the freedom of his enslaved orcish people. I’ve forgotten most of the details thankfully, but the one part that sticks in my mind is how little baby thrall gets a human wet nurse.

  • Scott R. Krol (Shrapnel Games)

    Now, I have never purchased or read a piece of fiction based on a computer game (which also makes me think the hierarchy of geeks needs to be updated since I don’t think they have professional fanfic) but when I was a teen I read some pretty awful stuff put out by TSR, so I can only imagine the horror of computer gaming fiction. That said, it seems like if you got a “real” author to do the work it may not be *that* bad. Unfortunately I don’t think anyone involved is really willing to pay for a good writer. It’s probably cheaper just to have some hack do it, the masses buying it must not care. Sorta like all those Mack Bolan novels or Harlequin romances…they look like crap, they probably are crap, and you wonder who’s buying them but walk into a bookstore and there’s five shelves of the stuff so *someone* must be buying them.

    This also got me thinking of the most recent Orson Scott Card novel I’ve read, Empire. Now I think everyone will acknowledge that Card is considered a major player in the realm of SF. Ender’s Game is considered by many as one of the major pieces of SF work in the past fifty years. So he’s a “real” author, yes?

    Well, Empire is apparently being made into a videogame (and apparently also a comic series and movie). In fact, the company doing the videogame (http://www.chairentertainment.com/company/projects) came to Card with the idea and then he wrote the novel. So, how does that fit into all this? Is writing a novel on a yet-to-be published videogame just as bad as the reverse, or perhaps even worse? Or is it better, because if you never hear about the videogame then for all you know, you’re just reading a SF novel…

  • jason

    I’ve read the first three Halo novels, and believe it or not, they’re quite good. The second one is just an adaptation of the game, so you can skip that one, but if you’re into Halo, the novels are a must read.

    I’m not going to say they’re classic sci-fi or anything, but they are reasonably well written (as good as any Star Trek novel), and they genuninely fill in the blanks before and after the first Halo game.

    Eric Nyland, who wrote those books also wrote a Gears of War novel, plus a new book that takes place after Halo 2.

  • Michael A.

    I have a lot of sci-fi/fantasy books, but I don’t think I’ve got any based on games. I did read a few of the D&D books when I was younger, as well as other similar stuff. Don’t bother anymore, though…

    Generally, I think the big problem with much of that stuff is that there are very, very few game worlds that are are fleshed out well enough that it can carry a good story. Wild ideas work well in a game or movie where the viewer has little time to think over the backstory, but once you have to create a living, breathing world that people can believe in, lots of those cool ideas turn out to be impracticable…

  • GyRo567

    The Twin Worlds were deep enough already after just the first game, much less after a second…

    I suppose this is an ineffective place to be dropping hints though.

  • Bruce

    I read the Warcraft novels, and my biggest complaint is that they are very historically inaccurate.

  • Alan

    I was hoping that the Alpha Centauri novels were a continuation of the story in the game manual. They weren’t.