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Friday, 6 December, 2002, 09:03 GMT
Authors turn to video games
Splinter Cell
Splinter Cell is based in the Clancy universe

Look along the shelves of video games this Christmas and you will see a name normally found in most libraries and book shelves.

Thriller writer Tom Clancy has his name above at least three blockbuster titles - Splinter Cell, Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six.

Tom Clancy
Tom Clancy is also a respected expert on global security
From dominating the best selling lists for many years, with titles such as The Hunt for Red October and Patriot Games, the author has now turned his attention to video games.

In fact, an increasing number of authors are getting involved in the industry.

Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton has recently signed an exclusive deal with software giants Sega to help develop a title.

Many in the industry hope that the involvement of respected writers, albeit populist authors, will help establish more credibility for a form of entertainment so often regarded as principally for children.

The involvement of dedicated writers has arisen as plot, narrative and dialogue have become essential features of more mature titles.

Recent release

With many games featuring video sequences and spoken dialogue the need for a talented writer has become essential.

Tom Clancy's involvement in recent release Splinter Cell, developed by UbiSoft, has been more advisory, explained Gregoire Gobbi, creative developer of the title.

Video game stories are still pretty clunky

JT Petty
He says: "First of all we use the universe he has created. It's a techno thriller, set the day after tomorrow like many of his novels."

The best-selling author lay down very precise instructions about what the writers and developers could and could not do in the Clancy universe.

"There are strict rules: no killing any civilians," says Mr Gobbi.

He adds: "It's a very relevant universe. It appeals to everyone. What is written by Tom Clancy can happen. You can relate to people who live these stories."

'So true'

In fact, the plot of Splinter Cell, involving international terrorists, had to be altered in the wake of 11 September.

"It was so true we had to change our story slightly between beginning and conception," says the creative director.

"It was too close to reality. It featured a certain country called something-stan.

"It's a rule of Tom Clancy not to take advantage of what is happening and avoid using real life stuff."

There is plenty of plot and dialogue in Splinter Cell, which was left to screen writer JT Petty, who had to follow Clancy's strict rules.

Petty, who writes and directs independent films, says: "In games, it's still a developing art form.

"Writing video games has made me a whole lot more efficient in how I tell stories. You've got to be able to tell the story as quickly and efficiently as possible."

Splinter Cell manages to avoid many of the B-movie clichés that afflict many video games.

"Video game stories are still pretty clunky," admits Petty.

"The next evolution would be to tell stories in interesting ways in video games."

See also:

04 Dec 02 | Entertainment
12 Nov 02 | Technology
09 Apr 02 | Science/Nature
07 Nov 02 | Technology
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