Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor is getting her first video game adaptation, as GameCentral speaks to the British developer responsible.
Over the years there have been many attempts to make video games based on Doctor Who, dating all the way back to the early ‘80s. But unless you count Lego Dimensions none of them have ever been any good, and most of them have been awful.
The Edge Of Time looks like it’s going to change all that though, as it’s the biggest budget effort yet and created as a full VR experience for PlayStation 4 and PC.
We recently got to play an early section of the game, which involves you taking the role of a new assistant for the Doctor, stuck in a London scrapyard during a Dalek invasion of Earth.
The Doctor is elsewhere but you’re able to communicate with her via a radio and help her by collecting parts in the scrapyard, in order to summon the TARDIS.
All of which sounds simple enough but when you’re playing in VR it looks amazingly real (more so than most actual Doctor Who episodes!) and you’ve got the extra bonus that your main means of interacting with the world is by using your own sonic screwdriver.
The demo was only short (it will be available to the public at MCM Comic Con this weekend) but it ends with the TARDIS materialising into view and you getting to open the doors and view the whole physics-bending impossibility of something that’s bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.
In the show that’s achieved with some simple camera tricks but in the game it looks just as real as anything else, especially when you move further in and start playing with the controls. Although unfortunately it’s at that point that the demo ends.
The plot of the full game will involve a virus that is destroying time and space, and involves both the Daleks and the Weeping Angels, as well as a new alien enemy that gestates inside washing machines and the brand-new big bad that’s behind everything.
The full game will be out this September for PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift (and, later, Oculus Quest), and HTC Vive headsets. It’s by London developer Maze Theory, who are also behind the recently announced Peaky Blinders VR game.
‘We are really passionate about the idea of dramatic, narrative-based VR experiences and we see VR as a mainstream entertainment medium’, Maze Theory CEO Ian Hambleton told us. ‘It’s a new medium that is in-between cinema, TV, immersive theatre – one of our big influences is things like Punch Drunk – and gaming.’
‘At the moment all of the people with headsets are gamers, but we, as a studio, want to tell stories in new ways in VR. So we really embrace the idea of being in the episode, being part of the Shelby family in Peaky, being the Doctor’s friend in Doctor Who.
‘So for us it’s really exciting to work with IP that has some creative freedom around it. And I think that’s why we picked those two, because there’s a really strong base but we actually get to flex some creative muscle to enhance them. There’s loads of things that get adapted badly, but we’re not gonna let that happen!’
We also meet with executive director Russell Harding, who was one of the leads on The London Heist, the extremely impressive gangster-themed section of PlayStation VR Worlds.
‘Russ’ last game at PlayStation was The London Heist and the great moment in that is the car scene, which really shows what you can do in VR’, says Hambleton. ‘You can open the door and you can lean out the car. It’s not the same as a movie but it does get into that territory more than a traditional game.’
‘That’s what we’re looking at in Peaky’, says Harding. ‘How you can interact more with characters, more dynamically.’
‘That’s going to be one of the studio’s most important calling cards over time’, agrees Hambleton. ‘One of the reasons we’re so excited about Peaky is the AI-drive human characters, because in the London Heist you only started to touch on it. There’s little bits of AI where, if you point the gun at them, they lean back.
‘And Peaky is an evolution of three or four stages along, where it’s a unique-to-VR thing where the character can respond to your body language and gestures. If you pull a gun on them they will react to that. And that, for us, is what’s going to be the next level of immersion for VR.’
In terms of Doctor Who though, The Edge Of Time will feature multiple different locations, including Victorian London with the Weeping Angels, and different gameplay mechanics such as a stealth section on a Dalek-invaded world.
‘I think we can challenge that whole preconception about licensed games’, says Hambleton. ‘All the things that are great about the show you’ll get to do in VR. There are some characters, such as the Weeping Angels, that work so well in VR because the second you look away, in VR, they come at you!’
Imagining the Weeping Angels as a cross between Superhot and a survival horror does indeed sound very promising, but certain parts of the game are also similar to real world escape rooms.
‘In the intro, you are learning game mechanics. You’re learning to turn locks with the sonic or you’re learning to find different objects for the Doctor. But as you go through the different levels things get more and more complicated. So there’s a really interesting and difficult laser puzzle in the spaceship that’s quite hard to do’, says Harding.
‘What we’ve done is borrow some mechanics from escape rooms and if people are really struggling the Doctor gives you a few more hints. Or there’s an AI character called Emma who comes along. So you can get a really nice balance between making things hard but if people are really struggling we do give them a hand.
In terms of authenticity the game already seems to have everything pretty much perfect, from the graphics to a script written in conjunction with Doctor Who writer Gavin Collinson. But of course, there’s one last question: will it be scary?
‘Standing in front of a Dalek is actually a bit imposing’, Hambleton assures us. ‘And Weeping Angels are always terrifying, so what we’ve tried to do is balance the light and the dark. We’re not just doing a scary take on Doctor Who – there are really uplifting bits in the game as well – but it can be pretty scary. It has to be really, to be true to the show.’