Recycled Inspirations

Gamasutra has posted an excellent piece called The Top 20 Underutilized Licenses, which include both existing game franchises and intellectual properties that are particularly well-suited to gaming.

Our criteria for putting together this article – with input from all Gamasutra staffers – was a mixture of gut feeling and impassioned argument; unscientific, to be sure, but rather than functioning as a guide to the 20 and only 20 licenses that could or should be explored, it’s much more of a thought experiment into avenues many might not have considered.

I particularly enjoyed the suggestion that there should be games based on Groundhog Day, which is, of course, mechanically analogous to how save games work in a videogame anyway… and there aren’t enough instances of Mr Murray in gaming.

What is your top underutilized license, readers?


  1. Babs says:

    But isn’t the Groundhog day mechanic essentially how every arcade game works?

    Play through until you cock it up then try again utilizing the experiance/skill gained along the way. Rinse-and-repeat.

    The only difference really is that you would be forced to finish the ‘day’ to see the consequences of your actions before restarting. This could work only if both the ‘day'(game) is short and your varied actions produce a large variety of entertaining consequences (like the film). Very hard to do.

    But as you say: PLAY AS BILL MURRAY!

    Edit: Should have RTFA first really. Their idea does sound extremely dull though.

  2. Babs says:

    And I want a game of The Wire. It must include a drinking-on-the-train-tracks mini-game.

  3. Jochen Scheisse says:

    A Fables game would indeed be great. I have created a PnP RPG world loosely based on Fables, Cthulhu and X Files, where my players are Bundeskriminalamt agents tasked with maintaining the balance between the everyday world and the secret Fable world, because we obviously cannot have a Goose running around and producing gold eggs just because there’s poor people, that would be COMMUNISM, and not good for the gold price.

    Also, do not want a Watchmen game, because after the Zack Snyder rapes my favourite comic movie, there will probably be a fitting game.

  4. AbyssUK says:

    Space above and Beyond would have made a great computer game. Oh and a Thundercats first person rpg

  5. A.Nonny.Moose says:

    I thought some of the ideas they posted were rather weak, I mean Shawn of the Dead is an excellent movie, but why make a game of it? It was largely inspired by a game in the first place (see Spaced), so why feel the need to return full cycle?

    And wtf is racketball? Isn’t that what normal people call squash?

    And “chess on ice” pffff, its bloody bowls on ice – too many people who only know about their own country writing on there!

  6. Jim Rossignol says:

    Ha, a Thundercats RPG would be incredible.

  7. simbo says:

    Some of us oldies remember there was a Thundercats licensed game in the 80s on the 8-bits. Side-scroller though, not RPG.

  8. James G says:

    I think Asimov’s Foundation/Robots universe could make an interesting setting for an adventure/RPG. The nature of Asimov’s universe would force a somewhat low combat approach, but I think that would be an interesting option in an RPG mechanic. (I’d love a chance to play arround with the three laws, and a robot companion could intoduce some intreresting intra-party conflict situations when the laws begin to conflict with your actions.)

  9. Jonathan Strange says:

    There is one and only one game adaptation which I would kill to have done properly if I thought it would bring it about: The Running Man by Stephen King (under Richard Bachman). No real relation to the Arnold movie.

    The premise of the book, and so the game as well obviously, is simple; You mught stay alive 30 days. No story, nothing fancy, just plain ol’ stay alive.

    Personally I picture it as a sort of modern Nethack style Roguelike rpg. Narrative is extremely minimal in favour of instead letting the player create their own story through their actions. Similarly actually surviving the 30 days is nearly impossible, much like actually beating Nethack. Instead it’s all about the journey and seeing just how far you could get and how with an elaborate ranking and scoring system in place for when each character of yours dies or, should a miracle happen or you’re just THAT good, you win.

    Anyway that’s just my take. I noticed Neverwhere on that list and have to agree that’d make an excellent game if done properly. The rest is a bit grey for me, I didn’t see anything else that jumped out and made me think “I NEED to play a game about that!”.

  10. SuperNashwan says:

    I’m still waiting for the day THQ finally realise how awesome a Necromunda MMO would be.

  11. Jim Rossignol says:

    There was a side-scrolling game of *everything* in the 80s/early90s.

  12. Malagate says:

    A few licenses that I can think of that really need to be used are some of the Gamesworkshops licenses, specifically their specialty games as Warhammer and WH40K are both quite well represented already. Think more along the lines of Space Hulk, remember what awesome games they made? There’s plenty more than space hulk out there, such as:

    Mordheim, would work brilliantly in an Oblivion-esque game but which focused more on group play, just imagine if the entire Oblivion world was mostly city instead of woods and fields and that you could play with your friends as part of a warband exploring it.

    Necromunda, could be adapted into a game like Stalker as it embodies exploration, survival, scavenging and gang warefare in a sprawling hive city, so it could also potentially have online team co-op aspects but I’d rather it sacrified MMORPG status for more involving combat. [El Edit: SuperNashwan got there first! doooh, but I agree, come on THQ]

    Inquistor would be a much more easily workable choice to make an MMORPG from than WH40K, what with hugely detailed characters which have a freedom of travel and will rather than soldiers who wouldn’t really have a choice of where to go.

    Apologies for length, but I just can’t stop thinking about the games which will never be…probably a good thing, as more than likely a Necromunda game would never be as good as what I can imagine a Necromunda game would be like.

  13. Jochen Scheisse says:

    Shadowrun is kind of underused, because the new XBOX game does not qualify as a Shadowrun game. I would like a game mechanic that’s somehow between GTA4 and Deus Ex.

  14. Jim says:

    This idea has been done, LoZ: Majora’s Mask. I thought it was quite frustrating to be forced to “live” the same three days over and over…

  15. Xagarath says:

    Unlikely though it may be, I want a Death’s Head game.

    I don’t think there’s a decent amoral mercenary game out there, for one.

    Incidentally, even mentioning the monstrous rubbish by the name of Anita Blake should render the original list entirely invalid, since it’s effectively asking for a game based on Buffy fanfiction.

  16. Kieron Gillen says:

    Xagarath: No – not mercenary. Freelance peacekeeping agent for suitable renumeration, yes.

    As I said to Simon from Gamasutra yesterday, The Amazing Race sounds like Fascist propaganda.


  17. DaggleC says:

    I wouldn’t have thought the rights to the Cthulhu mythos would be particularly difficult to obtain. A Bioware / Obsidian Cthulhu-inspired RPG would rock!

    Even Dark Corners of the Earth worked well and that was an fps! More Lovecraftian games, please!

  18. Albides says:

    As far as gaming licenses, I’d love to revisit Crusader: No Regret/Remorse, Bioforge and Syndicate. A new Earthsiege/Starsiege or, indeed, any sort of Mech game is sadly lacking. Oh, and the last Zork was over 10 years ago.

    Pnp RPGs: Mage: The Ascension, Tekumel and Glorantha.

    I can only think of one comic that I’d like to play as a game, and that would one based on Grant Morrison’s run on Doom Patrol, or something very much like it. Edit: Oh, and Alan Moore’s TOP 10 wouldn’t be so bad…

  19. Rodafowa says:

    Regrettably there’s absolutely no way a game of Mage could work. How on earth would you recreate the central mechanic of the magic system that allows you to do quite literally anything, ever?

    Actually, maybe a Technocracy game…

    Doom Patrol is an interesting idea, though. Won’t somebody please call Grant Morrison?

  20. Charlie says:

    I would love a Grant Morrison Doom Patrol game as long I can play Mr. Nobody.

    Hell, I would love it anyway.

    (For our Mage-loving friends – consider it a game where you play Marauders.)

  21. Gloinn says:

    A free roaming game in the Transmetropolitan city would be crazy.

    Lots of other Vertigo style comics are perfect for games. Preacher anyone?

    A Total War strategy game based on the George R.R. Martin books would also fit perfectly.

  22. James says:

    @ Jonathan Strange:
    What a brilliant idea. I think I’d pay for a game like that in a heartbeat to try and harness those latent survival instincts. You’d have to be careful to keep all the “rules” constant though, to try and keep you in the situation and provide minimum breakage of suspense of disbelief.

    Personally, I think my pick would be Vertigo comics as well, especially a decent version of Constantine. I’m not sure what a game like that would actually look like, but I’m certain there’s more than enough fuel in the I.P. to provide a brilliant game.

  23. sigma83 says:

    @Gloinn: Saint of Killers game. Awe. Some.

    I would like to see a Sandman point and click done by the Samorost people.

  24. Jachap says:

    I genuinely think a game based on Watchmen would be a total, utter mess. The idea of a “Dr Manhattan” bit and a “Comedian in Vietnam” bit leaves me absolutely cold. And the idea of sections where you play out the “Tales of the Black Freighter” makes me just laugh, really.

    If there’s a Moore franchise that lends itself most obviously to gaming – its The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, played like Commandos, with a shifting team dynamic depending on the era.

    Maybe a little dog could carry post-modernism from character to character.

  25. Phil says:

    The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – The Video Game? Christ alive, I wouldn’t want to be the copy rights lawyer signing off that one.

  26. Geoff says:


    Heartily agree on Shadowrun. I rather enjoyed both the SNES and Genesis games, different as they were, but I think your GTA4 meets Deus Ex suggestion has vast potential.

    Sadly, I fear that potential would never be realized, but it’s a lovely dream.

    I’m trying to think of ways to run a decent sized team. Hell, it might even work as a sort of top-down squad-based thing, like the X-men Legends games…

  27. Kieron Gillen says:

    The Watchmen of games would be a big corp giving a completely out of date but vaguely remembered franchise name to a real fucking awesome team, and leaving them to deconstruct it however they wished. I’d love to see what happened if – say – Zelda went out of fashion, they didn’t do one for 10 years, and then gave it to some young geniuses wanted to dissect it with a critical mind.

    What’s most novel about Watchmen isn’t its story, but its methods.


  28. cullnean says:

    and a watchmen movie is gonna try and bury the comics dignity anyhow

  29. FlexibleDogma says:

    Two Choices:

    The Stand. I’d personally leave the whole unifying good and unifying evil elements, but I think you could have a pretty good survival game based on the concept of small societies reforming after a horrible plague that wipes out 99%+ of the population. (Yes, I know the unifying good and evil forces are one of the main parts of the story, I just think the game could be more interesting without it.)

    Takeshi Kovacs series – You’d have to have a BRUTAL savegame mechanic, but the “stacking” concept and being able to move your soul from one body (aka sleeve) to another is practically built for video games. There are a lot of other concepts in that series that also work well for video games, even if some of them are a tad generic: Ancient Martian technology, government created super-soldiers, FTL travel, etc. I’m not saying any game built in that universe would be easy, but it could be interesting!

    link to

  30. Joe says:

    Games: Grim Fandango
    Books: More Discworld conversions, anything by David Baldacci and Stephen King (I agree with FlexibleDogma, The Stand would be favourite but his short stories such as The Mist would be awesome.
    Film and Television: Cool Runnings, Dodgeball, Black Books
    Music: Pink Floyd’s The Wall

  31. Crazy horse says:

    That is one god awful list.

  32. Thiefsie says:

    I think the writer of this article has no idea what he’s talking about. I wholly disagree with most of his choices for decent remakes and how they might work, but also the developers he has stereotypically (and lazily) chosen for merits which don’t seem to fit. Suggesting the writers able to get Shaun of the Dead humour right? Is he daft? It’s pure British humour… and I’m not even British so it’s not like I’m being patriotic. Capcom would surely be pathetic, and Rockstar would probably mince it up too… besides has he even played Dead Rising? It’s pretty damned close already.


    Also for the record I think Majora’s Mask was certainly lacking (as it would seem so does the majority) So I’m sure a Groundhog Day game, let alone the poor suggestion for their concept, would be really bad.

    My suggestions:
    Space Hulk
    Zombies Ate My Neighbours
    Star Fox/Wing
    The Professional
    Ghost in the Shell
    Kill Bill
    Wheel of Time
    James Bond
    Wing Commander
    Event Horizon
    A Scanner Darkly
    Hitchhikers Guide
    Indiana Jones (not sucky or lego)
    UN Squadron
    Earthworm Jim
    NBA Jam
    Tom Clancy Movies (a la Patriot Games etc)
    Mission Impossible

    at least it looks like they are doing a half decent Bourne game?

  33. drunkymonkey says:

    A game set in the early days of the Discworld novels wouldn’t go amiss, if we were talking RPGs.

  34. Nick says:

    I’d love another Shadowrun RPG, in a similar vein to the snes game would be fine.

  35. Max says:

    Groundhog Day’s concept is something that completely captures my imagination. I’d love a game based around it, or that concept.

  36. Benjamin Barker says:

    – There’s been an attempt or two, but M.U.L.E. still needs to be updated properly.

    – I always thought, from way back when it was on the air, the Max Headroom TV show would make a cool PnP RPG with reporters and hackers teaming up to infiltrate corporations and such, but a CRPG is also possible. Or a management sim for one of the evil TV channels.

    – Jack Vance’s Dying Earth comes to mind for RPGs. Did you know that the D&D spell-memorization system is right there in the first pages of the first novel, from 1950?

    – And Shaun of the Dead is overthinking it– simply doing the Romero movies offer great video game scenarios: defending your mall/base (Dawn of the Dead), or going on supply runs in your anti-zombie camper (Land of the Dead). Though Shaun of the Dead would be the more popular license.

  37. Benjamin Barker says:

    Re: Bill Murray: There’s a new Ghostbusters game, right? I bet he’ll show up in it– the man wasn’t too proud to do Space Jam or voice a CGI Garfield, after all.

  38. Andrew Farrell says:

    I always preferred Majora’s Mask to Ocarina of Time, but the same idea appeared slightly more successfully*in Shadow of Memories for the PS2.

    A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’s game would come quite cheap – the reason the characters were used in the first place was that they were out of copyright.

    I think it’s reasonable to assume that there are parts of Rockstar that understand British humour. The British parts, for a start.

    *The idea’s execution that is, not the game around it.

  39. 18Rabbit says:

    Based solely on the rabidness of the fans of the series and the zillions of MUD’s set in the environment, a Wheel of Time game would probably do well.

  40. Mr. Brand says:

    Screw the extraordinary – how about League of Gentlemen? Survive everyday life in Royston Vasey! Fun and excitement as..ah, fuck it. I got nothing.

    The trio of WH40k-related games would be excellent, though.

  41. James T says:

    It’s a shame the Doctor Who franchise is controlled by overindulged, underambitious hacks these days; a deep action-puzzler with a Day of the Tentacle-style ‘helping hands across the eras’ mechanic, involving all the Doctors (plus at least one of their companions each) could be superb. Bit of kung fu as Pertwee-Doc, plant some bombs as Ace, stab some monsters as Leela (or indeed, Jamie), all to get your ‘other selves’ out of scrapes… Good fun.

    Meanwhile… “How about a boxing game?!?!?!” …And I take it they haven’t played Kid Chameleon in a loooong time.
    Still, Watchmen’s not a bad idea, really; a brief unkillable spree as the Vietnam-trekking Dr Manhattan — akin to the AC-130 segment of CoD4 — would be interesting for that enjoyable-but-morally-unpleasant angle.

  42. Albides says:


    There was a Wheel of Time FPS released back in 1999. It used the unreal engine and wasn’t too bad, actually, though a bit short. As far as under-utilised licenses go, Robert Jordan milking the series for all it was worth until new books became 900 pages of intricate descriptions of people’s clothes, with no plot or character development to speak of, leaves me a little cold to seeing any more of it…

    As far as Watchmen goes, I’d hate to see a game based on it, and not only because I can already hear Alan Moore’s groans. The only possible angle would be an action-based route, which would probably miss what made the Watchmen special. What made it special was the application of modernist techniques to a medium that had never before been treated seriously, and a plot heavy with a dialogue between moral relativism, absolutism, and the struggle with responsibility and authority in a world in which superheroes exist and are given exactly the sort of suspicion one would expect for masked vigilantes. It was one of the first comic books (if not the first) that behaved like literature.

    Now these things aren’t impossible for a game to reproduce, but it’d need something of a gaming revolution, the likes of which the Watchmen itself did for comics. Games have yet to treat itself like a serious medium, which is a shame since no other form of art is quite able to engage and interact with an audience in the same fashion. (Obligatory mention to Pathologic, which somewhat grasped this idea.)

  43. Fat Zombie says:

    James, I’ve wanted a Doctor Who game for a while now. Maybe not following the doctor, though; one set in the universe.

    Okay, I just want an asymmetrical Battlefield-type game. Lots of UNIT soldiers on one side, less (but more powerful) Daleks on the other.

    Not just Daleks, maybe. UNIT v Sontarans, UNIT v Sea Devils, UNIT v Cybermen… You get the idea.

  44. Jochen Scheisse says:

    After I just read a KBKarma comment, I realized the only thing I need is an Alpha Complex action adventure. God, Paranoia just screams make me into a computer game, doesn’t it?

  45. baf says:

    To quote my own blog from a year or so ago:
    “…I have a long-standing fantasy about about the ideal game adaptation of The Seven Samurai. The player, as I see it, would choose which samurai to play, and that choice would fundamentally shape what kind of game it is. Playing the Loose Cannon, for example, would make the game more freeform and self-directed, like GTA: you could do your assigned missions, but you could also just wander off by yourself and try to steal the enemy’s guns. If you chose the Killing Machine, it would mainly be an action game. The Leader would be about strategy, the Leader’s Assistant would be about micromanagement. The Kid? Dating sim.”

  46. malkav11 says:

    I thought for a long time that Mage would be effectively impossible to translate to games. But really, according to the game itself, most mages rely for the most part on pre-formulated “rote” magick that gets passed from mage to mage. So all you’d need to do is put together a fairly flexible spell-creation system along the lines of Oblivion’s (but appropriate to the setting) and the primary issue of a Mage game is settled.

    As far as Groundhog Day games go…I wouldn’t want a game based on the movie. It’s a great movie but it’s not compelling material for gameplay. I think a better approach would be either a game based on the series Day Break, or using similar precepts. For those (understandably) not familiar with it, it’s a brilliant television series that adapts the “reliving the same day” concept to a more action-driven drama rather than a comedy. The lead character is a cop who wakes up in bed with his girlfriend on the fateful day, does some mundane things, gets home, listens to answering machine messages….and cops break down the door and arrest him – he’s been framed for the murder of an Assistant District Attorney. Later, he gets pulled out of his cell by mysterious men, taken out into a rock quarry, and beaten while being instructed to confess to the murder. They show him video of his girlfriend being executed, and then footage of his sister going about her life. Then they give him a sedative and….he wakes up in bed with his girlfriend. So he’s got to a) keep his girlfriend and sister safe, b) figure out who those men were and why they’re framing him, c) evade police capture, d) deal with a gang informant who’s not happy with him, e) work things out with his partner, who’s being investigated by internal affairs, f) figure out how all this hangs together, and g) figure out why he’s stuck on this day and how he can unstick himself. For starters. You can perhaps see how this would make for a gripping game.