While the late Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld has been adapted to all manner of mediums, the genius author’s quirky universe has only been translated into video games a handful of times. And according to Rhianna Pratchett, an award-winning games writer in her own right, those games will probably never see the light of day again.
Pratchett is due to visit Australia later this year, having been announced as the keynote speaker for PAX Australia 2018. Following that announcement, I caught up with the Tomb Raider, Overlord, Heavenly Sword and Mirror’s Edge writer over Skype to chat about her career, and the process of writing for games.
Over the last couple of years, Pratchett has helped work on Wee Free Men and The Watch, the latter of which is a procedural police series set in the Discworld city of Ankh-Morpork. I asked whether the Discworld series could find its way back to video games any time soon, and Pratchett confirmed that it was highly unlikely.
Footage of Discworld Noir on PC; an inferior version was released on the PS1, with performance issues.
“I don’t think it’s anything that would originate from us [Narrativia, the production company that owns the exclusive merchandising and multimedia rights for Sir Pratchett’s works] … it would have to be a company coming to us with a really good pitch. And I think a few companies did approach Dad about doing various Discworld games, but the pitches were never up to scratch.”
Pratchett went on to mention that her father was a gamer – he was into Oblivion mods, according to old interviews – but that the approaches so far really hadn’t cut the mustard.
“The pitches he had in the past all suggested that the people didn’t really get Discworld and they couldn’t find ways to translate it into games. And I think the click-and-point adventure games worked well, but they were a long time ago.”
Discworld was first translated into a text adventure in the ’80s and a MUD in 1991, before the three games that most people are probably familiar with: Discworld, Discworld 2 and the detective mystery Discworld Noir. It’s the latter three that fans have been lobbying for on retro sites like GOG, and Pratchett confirmed that while talks have taken place with the company, the rights are the problem.
“We’ve certainly been talking to companies like GOG and Nightdive about possibilities of getting a re-release, but we don’t own the game,” she said. “We own the characters and that has obviously come back to us, but we don’t own the rights to publish a game.”
“And the companies involved have been bought and sold several times, and closed down, and the rights have gone to someone else who has been bought and shut down. So nobody knows where the rights are apart from that we, as in the Pratchett’s, don’t have them. So I think it’s unlikely that we’ll see those be re-released again, which is a big shame, but it’s just down to the chain of title which isn’t clear really.”
I’ll have more from my chat with Rhianna Pratchett later this week. She’ll also be delivering the keynote speech at PAX Australia later this year, which will be more of a Q&A session rather than a speech and presentation.