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Ghostbusters: The Video Game Prototype and Development

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This article is about the production, prototypes and overall developments of Ghostbusters: The Video Game before its release.

Sony was looking for a developer of their own to create a Ghostbusters game. Sony Pictures Consumer Products executives Mark Caplan and Keith Hargrove felt that the time was ripe for a Ghostbusters revival, and wanted to wrap it around a centerpiece game. Sony also had to make sure all IP holders (Ivan Reitman, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, and Sony Pictures) were on board. [1] Vivendi Universal's Executive Producer John Melchior wanted to work on a Ghostbusters game after work on Fox properties like "Simpsons Hit and Run." Melchior started meeting with Sony's Caplan. [2] In 2006, Terminal Reality's project, "Demonik," for small publisher Majesco had fallen apart because of the publisher's financial problems. Terminal had a new Studio Director, John O’Keefe. The team made use of its physics engine to make a first person shooter inspired by teamwork mechanics seen in "Call of Duty" and "Battlefield." [3] In January 2006, a party from Terminal Reality, consisting of Mark Randel (President & Chief Technologist), Brendan Goss (Executive Producer), John O'Keefe (Studio Director), and Drew Haworth (Creative Director), visited Vivendi Entertainment as part of a tour to show off their Infernal Engine next-gen technology demo and an original game intellectual property. Vivendi Executive Producers John Melchior and Pete Wanat watched the demo, asked some questions, then went outside to discuss privately. Melchior and Wanat returned and revealed Vivendi was working on a movie license intellectual property that wasn't tied to an upcoming movie release, Ghostbusters. Vivendi Universal took on the project with developer Terminal Reality. [4] John O'Keefe and his team agreed. $1 million was devoted to creating a prototype demo to show to Sony and the Ghostbusters creative team and get clearance. The demo was named "13th Floor" and was done in three weeks. It recreated the Alhambra Ballroom scene in the first movie. [5] The initial demo was created in the style of Resident Evil game play. The player had to track Slimer with a P.K.E. Meter. Slimer would zoom past, a woman would scream, and Slimer would reappear with a towel on. The demo didn't test well because people wanted to shoot. [6] Terminal began working on the first build but were not allowed to talk about the game at all until October 2008. Development on the game was kept secret. The majority of 2006 was spent doing preliminary art, the green light build to get the go-ahead from Sony, Vivendi, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis, and trying to figure out how to market the game to children. [7] [8] Vivendi's CEO told Melchior he had two weeks and as many plane tickets to get the game greenlight. Melchior met with Dan Aykroyd at the House of Blues. He was walked through the pitch and shown concept art, some by Grant Gosler. Dan Aykroyd was shown a demo of Slimer being captured in the hotel ballroom. Aykroyd immediately was interested and in. He brought Harold Ramis in to the process. Melchior spoke to Harold Ramis next. Ramis was daunted by the nature of a video game script which needed to account for all possible player actions. The meeting ended on a good note. Ramis talked to Aykroyd then he was in. Ernie Hudson joined shortly after. There was some debate about revisiting the Peter and Dana relationship post Ghostbusters II but it was ultimately removed. Sigourney Weaver was never contacted. Alyssa Milano was brought in. Rick Moranis respectfully declined to reprise his role as Louis Tully. Melchior attempted to contact Bill Murray. He called Murray's infamous phone number and left a message. He didn't hear anything in nine months. [9] [10]

In the green light build, there was a level with Ecto-1 driving around. One of the Terminal teams had worked on Spy Hunter and a racing level was explored. The team mocked out a three to four minute sequence. The Rookie was strapped outside and would shoot at ghosts. Control of Ecto-1 was limited to turning left or right. The level played like a long cinematic. At some point, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man would vanish from sight then reappear in front of Ecto-1. In a quick time event, Ecto-1 would swerve into a mall and exit at some point with Stay Puft walked toward Ecto-1 and tossing objects. Rookie had to either shoot the objects or wrangle them back at Stay Puft. The level was ultimately scrapped for time because 5 months of work for 2 minutes of gameplay didn't make sense.[11] A level that was fought for but never approved was a Halloween level that took place in upstate New York at a rave. The Ghostbusters had to use their Ecto Goggles and P.K.E. Meters to find the ghosts and discreetly trap them without causing a panic. Initially during the build, there were two P.K.E. Meters - the movie and The Real Ghostbusters version along with the Stasis Mine, modeled after the Extreme Ghostbusters Trap. As the UI team came in, they altered the movie version to be a certain width in-game. [12] Internally, the development team modeled a playable character since no was signed. The crew just picked someone in the office for easy reference. Eric Schatz, a Terminal Reality level designer, was chosen. [13]

Ghostbusters entered full production with $20 million budgeted. Use of Ray Parker Jr.'s "Ghostbusters" song cost $80,000. Within months, in January 2007, coincidentally, Zootfly tried to get Sony to green light their Ghostbusters game. Sony declined and Zootfly, without permission and license, released the demo on January 10, 2007. No one at Vivendi/Universal or Terminal knew what was going on. Due to the nature of the industry, they kept silent about working on a Ghostbusters game. Vivendi scrambled to figure things out but news of Zootfly's demo already hit the Internet. In the end, after a day and a half or so, Sony sent Zootfly a cease-and-desist letter and quickly had them take the demo down. [14] [15] Ultimately, ZootFly will be instead developing a similar game named TimeO based on their Ghostbusters prototype. Zootfly inadvertently helped Terminal Reality sell the concept around the time of their own green-light meeting. Vivendi executives saw the reaction from the fans and were convinced Ghostbusters was going to be a big hit. At the time, Terminal was seven months into their build. [16] By 2007, the teams were using top of the line quad core computers and later in 2009, experimental hardware like top video cards or a 4k monitor from Dell. [17] The development team decided to create a custom characterization for the Rookie. Players would be able to choose features like ethnicity and hair. However, once the team learned the cinematics would be pre-rendered, the customization had to be dropped and one look had to be chosen. Attempts were made to get permission from the John Candy estate but there was too much legal issues. The team next thought of using the Rookie to bridge the game to the next movie so actors like Sarah Silverman and Andy Samberg were considered. Ultimately, another worker from Terminal was chosen - Ryan French. [18] At the beginning of development, the game was more in the style of a Resident Evil game. The game began to evolve as the team started working on the feel of wrangling and trapping ghosts. [19]

Vgc01

Game Preview Clip Image

Production continued along without a script. The bulk of that work fell on Creative Director Drew Haworth. Treatments from a dozen writers were considered. There was a Thanksgiving Day parade sequence with a possessed float that was inspired by Spongebob Squarepants. Another concept depicted the Ghostbusters in China. Another pre-formed idea was how the Ghostbusters were caught between two warring gods and New York City was caught in the crossfire. The first draft came in early 2007. The story was set in 1991 in part to preserve the spirit of the movies' technology and to avoid modern technology which was felt would bog down the script. There was some debate if the player would play as the Ghostbusters or alongside them. Comedy beats and who would say what lines were considered. They started with a rookie. Some ideas about sequels and expansions began. [20] In early script drafts, Terminal focused a lot more on the idea of new Ghostbusters franchise start-ups as a natural evolution of the Ghostbusters' business model and introducing new characters. But as the story developed and with an edict from Sony, the story shifted to focus on the original Ghostbusters and completed a trilogy in New York which would also lend to expanding on what the movies established and leaving the door open for the passing of the torch to be picked up in a third movie. Harold Ramis pointed out there had to be a romantic interest. A new character named Ilyssa Shepard was created. [21] Aykroyd and Ramis provided structure and ideas for the plot as the team continued working on the story and expanding on concepts from the bible, written around the time of the first movie. [22] [23]

In an interview on a television show, Ghostbusters creator Dan Aykroyd confirmed that the game is essentially Ghostbusters III. The previously mentioned "Ghostbusters In Hell" plotline often associated with a third movie is not being used for the game, although Aykroyd previously announced the possibility of a computer-generated film based on that script. However, Aykroyd also claimed this game will feature elements of that script while being treated as a computer-generated film. [citation needed]

Texas based Redfly Studios was approached to create a version for the Nintendo Wii, although they were currently under way with another Wii project called "Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars", They knew it was too great an opportunity to pass on. Once having accepted the task, Redfly decided that doing a direct port of Terminal Reality's version would be infeasible due to the relative lack of processing power of the Wii. Instead they chose to create a new game from the ground up using a more stylized cartoon aesthetic. The game itself however will share the same story, plot points, music and voice acting as the version being developed by Terminal Reality. A Wii multiplayer was worked on that pitted ghost vs. humans. The premise was modeled on the vs. mode in the "Left For Dead" game. Slimer could go in and out of walls and slime humans as they tried to trap him. Slimer had fish-eye vision and things moved faster than him, making sliming a more difficult task. The multiplayer took place in a pre-alpha hotel level. The multiplayer was dropped due to time constraints. [24]

Vivendi executives didn't like the $20 million cost. The budget was slashed between 25% and 40% and Terminal was told to work on all versions of the game. Melchior was livid. A Creative Director at Vivendi thought the game was a bad idea if they weren't getting Murray. Melchior met with the executives. Four hours of arguing went on. Aykroyd joined the discussion over the phone and defended the game's potential. Terminal's budget was restored and other studios continued on their versions of the game. Haworth came up with a plan B to get Bill Murray to join: Brian Doyle-Murray. David Margulies was set to reprise his mayoral role from the movies but his contract was terminated. Doyle-Murray was hired to play the mayor. He was brought in to look at the game and his character. Doyle-Murray was skeptical they did this for all the actors. Terminal created a likeness of him. They talked to him about the game. He asked about his brother. Doyle-Murray liked the game. At the end of the meeting, he realized they wanted to tell Murray he thought the game was good. Melchior admitted to the ulterior motives. Within two days, Bill Murray's attorney contacted Vivendi with news he agreed to reprise his role. There was a 'dogpile of producers' in the hallway when the call came. [25]

GameinformerDec2009

Game Informer December 2007 Cover

In November 2007, Game Informer magazine revealed its December cover, which sported the Ghostbusters logo, announcing a "world exclusive premiere" of the game. The first actual gameplay video (taken from the Xbox 360 build) was shown on G4TV's X-Play, featuring a level where the player (partnered with Egon Spengler and Ray Stantz) chases Slimer around the Sedgewick Hotel. Other characters who have been confirmed to appear in the game in the magazine from the first film are the librarian ghost and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and from the second film, Vigo and the Scoleri Brothers. On November 16, 2007, Vivendi issued a press release formally announcing Ghostbusters: The Video Game as a joint venture between Sierra Entertainment, a global division of Vivendi, and Sony Pictures Consumer Products and it was being developed by Terminal Reality. It was revealed some of the original cast was returning - Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, and in supporting roles were Annie Potts, Brian Doyle Murray and William Atherton. The press also hinted players would take on the role of a new recruit. The release date was set for Fall 2008. [26]

On May 9, 2008, Spike TV aired an episode of GameTrailers featuring a story on the game. They confirmed features such as the Slime Tether device and an appearance by Gozer. Due to 'personal issues,' Murray did not go to the first recording session in South Carolina. They rescheduled for a session in New York. Over a weekend on July 2 and 3, 2008, Bill Murray's recordings were delivered. On a Saturday, around 6-7 am, Murray arrived. They recorded lines, took a lot of breaks, Melchior kept him engaged by talking baseball, then said he could record the rest on Sunday. Melchior and associate producer Ben Borth hardly slept. Fortunately, Murray came for the second recording. He only finished half of his scripted 750-800 lines. On the flight from New York to Los Angeles, Melchior called Haworth and the script was revised. Aykroyd, Hudson, and Ramis returned to the recording booths for 7-8 hours for free to fill in for the lines Murray didn't record. [27] Around that time, the Terminal crew pushed for an extra six months of development. They devised a list explaining what they could do with the extra time - the cinematics were awful, the lighting was bad, the second hotel level looked like the first but mostly the game had to be polished. They added the underwater section in the first hotel level, added spiderwebs and stacks in the second hotel level. [28] [29] [30] [31]

On July 9, 2008, the Activision/Vivendi merger occurred just after Sierra had announced that a restored Ecto-1 would be touring across the country as a part of the summer/fall Hot Import Nights shows. The game, itself, was practically completed. [32] It was believed Activision was only going to keep Blizzard and Spyro. They weren't interested in the other 90% of games. The game was suddenly in jeopardy again. Melchior and co. pitched their projects to Activision CEO Bobby Kotick and his executive team. They weren't interested in Ghostbusters. Aykroyd and Ramis called Melchior's wife to tell her it was going to be okay. Without a publisher, development continued in an air of uncertainty. [33] On July 15, 2008, a fact sheet was released by Sierra detailing information such as platforms, prices, rating, developers, key features, and product description. [34] On July 28, 2008 Activision Blizzard (the publisher of Vivendi's and Sierra's titles) announced that only five franchises would be released through Activision. Ghostbusters was not one of them and was put in developmental limbo following the announcement. The Sierra PR team later confirmed that the game was not and would not be canceled. There was never any worry about cancellation because of the Ghostbusters brand and Dan Aykroyd's support. At worst, the game would have been Playstation exclusive. [35] Sony addressed rumors and speculation and stated the game was only delayed, not canceled, and would be coming out in 2009 to coincide with the first film's 25th anniversary. [36]

After four months, in late 2008, Atari made an offer. Terminal accepted. Atari lacked Vivendi's resources like marketing, went through leadership changes, and operated on a very tight budget. Melchior's role changed to mainly handling talent and approvals. He lost his Executive Producer credit. In the credits, he was given a "Special Thanks." [37] In October 2008, Variety reported that Atari had purchased the rights to publish the game. Ending months of speculation, on November 7, 2008 Atari announced it would be releasing the game in June 2009 to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the first film's theatrical release. [38] On March 2, 2009, Atari issued a press release for Multiplayer mode on Playstation 3 and XBox 360. [39]

In April 2009, it was revealed that the game in Europe would be released by Sony instead of by Atari (for PS3 and PS2) and that the others system versions would be delayed till fall. On April 20, 2009, Melchior received an email from Harold Ramis. It read, "By all accounts the game is great to play and I hope it's a big hit for everyone, and the fallout has been a keen interest in the future of a Ghostbusters sequel, so thank you for keeping the spark alive." [40] On May 6, 2009, Atari announced the USA release date of June 16, 2009 and the European release date of June 19, 2009. [41]

Ghostbusters videogame front Beta ps3

PS3 Beta Cover Art

Ultimately, the only hindrances were licensing issues, budget, and time. Sony would reject any pitches that included use of anything from The Real Ghostbusters and Extreme Ghostbusters. At the very last minute, Cadillac signed off and changes were quickly made to Ecto-1b. Some pitches fell through for time and budgetary reasons, such as a montage, an actual soundtrack and an ending cinematic, which was reduced to just the audio recording. A custom song was made but Sony wouldn't approve it because the band wasn't from their catalog. Louis Tully may have appeared but Rick Moranis came around at the end of development. Despite the crew having preemptively modeled Louis' head, there wasn't time to animate. The Thanksgiving level might have been finished but ultimately the crowd tech was utilized only at the beginning of the Checking Out The Library level. The game cost at least $30 million to $40 million, not counting what the voice talent was paid total, to make. [42] [43] [44]


ReferencesEdit

  1. IGN Developer Blog "It Begins" by Drew Haworth Terminal Reality Creative Director 1/23/09
  2. Playboy "The Untold Story of the Ghostbusters Video Game that was Almost a Masterpiece" 7/13/16
  3. Playboy "The Untold Story of the Ghostbusters Video Game that was Almost a Masterpiece" 7/13/16
  4. IGN Developer Blog "It Begins" by Drew Haworth Terminal Reality Creative Director 1/23/09
  5. Playboy "The Untold Story of the Ghostbusters Video Game that was Almost a Masterpiece" 7/13/16
  6. Cross the Streams Episode 38 8:15-13:20
  7. Cross the Streams Episode 29 5:06-10:47
  8. "Ghostbusters: The Video Game, Ryan French Interview" (ts. 6:08-7:00) Ryan says: "As far as I'm concerned there's about four people who really made this game happen. Um the executive producers who originally got this game started were Pete Wanat and John Melchior. They had the idea and tossed it around here at Sierra for a long time. And the idea built momentum and they got a developer interested and we got a really great ah game demo from Terminal Reality and we showed it to the top brass here at Sierra and they got behind it. So then we showed it to Mark Caplan over.. and Keith Hargrove over at Sony and Mark and Keith liked it. And they in turn got everyone at Sony excited. Then with their blessing we showed it to Dan Akyroyd. And that was really the tipping point because Dan Aykroyd got so behind it he in turn got the rest of the cast involved."
  9. Wallace, Daniel (2015). Ghostbusters The Ultimate Visual History, p. 202-203. Insight Editions, San Rafael CA USA, ISBN 9781608875108. Mark Randel says: "Dan Aykroyd was looking for ways to get Ghostbusters III made. We showed the demo of capturing Slimer in the ballroom to Dan, and he brought Harold in."
  10. Playboy "The Untold Story of the Ghostbusters Video Game that was Almost a Masterpiece" 7/13/16
  11. Cross the Streams Episode 38 23:24-26:04
  12. Cross the Streams Episode 38 26:07-27:27
  13. Cross the Streams Episode 29 16:29-21:30, 43:44-45:25, 48:02-50:22
  14. Cross the Streams Episode 38 13:22-15:40
  15. Playboy "The Untold Story of the Ghostbusters Video Game that was Almost a Masterpiece" 7/13/16
  16. ars technica "The birth, death, and rebirth of the Ghostbusters game" page 1 1/19/09
  17. Cross the Streams Episode 38 27:28-29:50
  18. Cross the Streams Episode 29 53:33-56:27
  19. Glenn Gamble Weebly Portfolio
  20. Playboy "The Untold Story of the Ghostbusters Video Game that was Almost a Masterpiece" 7/13/16
  21. IGN Developer Blog "The Storyline and Characters" by Drew Haworth Creative Director Terminal Reality 5/12/09
  22. Wallace, Daniel (2015). Ghostbusters The Ultimate Visual History, p. 203. Insight Editions, San Rafael CA USA, ISBN 9781608875108. Mark Randel says: "Dan and Harold were involved from the start. They gave structure and ideas for the plotline and had a small team to figure out the gags and other fun things we could do. Harold and Dan had the final say to make sure it fit within the Ghostbusters universe."
  23. Wallace, Daniel (2015). Ghostbusters The Ultimate Visual History, p. 203. Insight Editions, San Rafael CA USA, ISBN 9781608875108. Dan Aykroyd says: "It was a great piece of writing because the team really got it. They understood what the bible was and who the characters were. They followed the rules and even expanded on the concepts. Harold and I wrote for it, but they came up with the story. It's always great to get new creative voices, because once we turned the designs over to the teams, they came up with beautiful executions - the way the Ectomobile looked, the way the packs looked, the whole thing."
  24. Cross the Streams Episode 38 4:18-7:00
  25. Playboy "The Untold Story of the Ghostbusters Video Game that was Almost a Masterpiece" 7/13/16
  26. Spook Central Article Sierra Press Release 11/16/07
  27. Playboy "The Untold Story of the Ghostbusters Video Game that was Almost a Masterpiece" 7/13/16
  28. Fantastic Fest Day 8/September 25, 2008, Bill Murray 5:15-6:53 Bill Murray says "We did the video game this summer"
  29. GB Fans skankerzero post 5/29/13
  30. Cross the Streams Episode 38 19:40-23:19
  31. Cross the Streams Episode 29 42:16-43:43
  32. ars technica "The birth, death, and rebirth of the Ghostbusters game" 1/19/09
  33. Playboy "The Untold Story of the Ghostbusters Video Game that was Almost a Masterpiece" 7/13/16
  34. Spook Central Article Sierra Factsheet 7/15/08
  35. Cross the Streams Episode 38 29:52-32:49
  36. ars technica "The birth, death, and rebirth of the Ghostbusters game" 1/19/09
  37. Playboy "The Untold Story of the Ghostbusters Video Game that was Almost a Masterpiece" 7/13/16
  38. Spook Central Atari Press Release 11/7/08
  39. Spook Central Atari Multiplayer Factsheet 3/2/09
  40. Playboy "The Untold Story of the Ghostbusters Video Game that was Almost a Masterpiece" 7/13/16
  41. Spook Central Article Atari Launch Dates 5/6/09
  42. Cross the Streams Episode 38 39:38-42:58
  43. Cross the Streams Episode 29 16:29-21:30
  44. Cross the Streams Episode 29 28:38-28:55, 48:02-50:22

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