Battlestar Galactica Q&A

We talk to Grant Morrison about his involvement in Vivendi Universal's upcoming game.

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Battlestar Galactica (2003)
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With a body of work that spans a number of genres and publishers, Grant Morrison should be familiar to comic fans in the US and abroad. Most recently, he has been known for breathing new life into respected franchises such as DC's Justice League of America and Marvel's X-Men. His résumé will now include the scripting of a video game, with his contribution to Vivendi Universal's upcoming multiplatform game Battlestar Galactica. The game, based on the mythology of the cult sci-fi series, follows the adventures of young Commander Adama as he battles the evil Cylon forces. We touched bases with the prolific author to find out what to expect from his first outing in the video game medium.

GameSpot: How did you become involved with the project?

Grant Morrison: Tom de Santo called me and asked if I'd be interested in taking part, which I was.

GS: How familiar were you with Battlestar Galactica?

GM: I'd watched the show when I was younger, and although I wasn't a devout fan, I loved the designs and the slightly mythical, religious undertones of the concept. I always felt it should have been more epic, more obviously miraculous, like The Ten Commandments in space.

GS: How did you approach the game's story?

GM: I saw the backbone as an Exodus story. It started for me with an image of the Battlestars in space--a huge armada of giant space arks carrying the remnants of their shattered culture and a precious cargo of survivors toward the legendary planet Earth. I imagined the ships broken and repaired countless times on their long voyage, and the colonial survivors weary and gaunt from decades of running war with the Cylon machines constantly on their tail. There seemed to be endless dramatic possibilities in the big biblical sweep of the Galactica concept, so I went with warrior-monks, high-tech cloisters, and the doom-laden struggle of man against pitiless machine.

GS: Did you feel any pressure dealing with a cult-hit franchise?

GM: Not at all, fortunately. I've made a career out of updating franchises like The Doom Patrol, X-Men, and JLA, so this was business as usual for me. The game takes place before the show and features a whole new cast of characters, although there are some familiar faces and machines. I've tried to make sure everything fits into series continuity and the story sheds some new light on some old mysteries.

GS: How much freedom did you have?

GM: By the time I was brought in, the game engines were already in place, so some of my wilder ideas for environments and machines had to stay on the drawing board. The Burning Brain--an alien computer that was part tree, part giant brain and ran on sugar--didn't make the final cut, and neither did the full-size counterfeit replica of Earth built by the Cylons as a cunning and expensive lure. I was able to throw in a few ideas for the gameplay, but most of my work went into the back story and the dialogue.

GS: Were you influenced by the television series?

GM: Oh, yes. Obviously my intention was to preserve the special atmosphere of the show while moving some of the concepts forward or examining them in a new way.

GS: Was it challenging to create a story for a game?

GM: It was the first time I'd scripted for a video game, so it was very much a learning experience. I really enjoyed it, and I've done some more games work since. Now that so many of the technological problems of computer gaming have been solved, the next big frontier is narrative, which is where someone like me can come in and have fun. It's really exciting to see the technology develop to the point where we can now talk about plot, drama, characterization, emotion, and consequence in games. As a writer and creator of imaginary worlds, this is the field I'm fascinated by, and I plan to spend a lot more time writing for games.

GS: What can you tell us about the story?

GM: It takes us through a defining time in the life of young Adama, who will grow to become the commander of the Battlestar Galactica. This is Adama not as a great wise warrior and leader, but as a teenage boy undergoing a terrifying baptism of fire when the Cylon hordes launch their bloodiest and most desperate campaign against the exodus yet.

Players should get ready for an absorbing, gritty, and grueling ordeal as Adama learns firsthand about life, death, and the mysteries of the cosmos. Unlike the original Galactica, this version's quite dark and gothic. An intense atmosphere of apocalypse hovers over the whole thing, and when characters die horribly, as some of them do, it means something. The weight of a whole culture, the last hopes of a whole civilization, get dumped on the player's shoulders in this one, and I'm sure some may find themselves cracking under the responsibility.

GS: How does writing for video games compare with the other mediums you work in?

GM: The script format is quite different from a comic book script or a movie script, and the script is more "fractal," for want of a better word, but otherwise it's just a case of learning the form and then figuring out how to use it to tell engaging stories. The game format opens up whole new horizons for a type of narrative experience that films or books can't deliver.

GS: Do you play videogames? If so what are you favorites?

GM: Yes, I love games and I've been playing since the '80s. I like the really big, immersive environments that are now becoming possible, so GTA is still the pack leader for me. Otherwise, I've enjoyed playing The Getaway just recently and I started on the new Tomb Raider but haven't had much time to play past the first couple of levels. I'm very excited by the future, however, and can't wait until the immersive, interactive gaming experience replaces movies and TV as the dominant entertainment form.

GS: Thanks for your time.

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