The Original Discworld Games Are Stuck In Limbo

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.


Comments

    I loved Discworld - "Cut-me-own-throat-Dibbler" was hilarious.
    Really looking forward to her keynote speech.

      I actually had been quite doubtful towards it, with her being touted as "The writer of Tomb Raider" which hasn't really been a series known for it's story.

      Finding it's more of a QNA, I'm looking forward to it, hoping to learn more of The Watch and inside deets on Terry.

        She wrote the Tomb Raider reboot, which was quite good.

    Did you get the number of that donkey cart?

    The original Point and Click Discworld game was what got me into the books. Loved it to death, despite the fact that it was pretty difficult. I remember my family crowding around the PC screen, solving the cryptic puzzles and having fun.

    Wasn't until later when I walked into the school library and saw Interesting Times with Rincewind that I realised the game was based on the books. Borrowed it instantly and loved it, now I have a shelf full of Discworld and Terry Pratchett novels.

    It'd be a shame for those games to not see an official release, but they're still playable through unofficial means and they hold up pretty well for old point and click titles.

      I'd devoured the books in advance, but after playing the games I subconsciously inserted Eric Idle's voice into my memories of Rincewind, ever after.

      Absolutely a net gain.

        Eric Idle really was the perfect fit for Rincewind.
        Christopher Lee as the voice of Death in the movies was also pure gold.

        Yes! I cannot read a book with Rincewind in anything but Eric Idle's voice. Same goes for Dibbler and other various characters sounding very much like variations of Tony Robinson's voice.

      The first two work well under ScummVM, although you do need the original data files. Being a huge fan of the series, I bought the first one when it came out - on 20 floppy disks! (I didn't have a CD-ROM drive at the time), and the floppy disk version didn't include the voices. Later I upgraded to the CD-ROM version, and of course also got the CD version of Discworld 2.

      I quite enjoyed Discworld Noir as well, but that's one I've never been able to get working on modern PCs (Win XP or later), unfortunately.

      An updated release of all three on GOG would be amazing, but yeah, there's that whole bundle of rights issues as Rhianna described.

      To be honest, I really hope that people at PAX ask her about *her* work, rather than her father's work. After all, she's a brilliant (video game) writer in her own right, she shouldn't have to stand in her father's shadow, especially at a video game convention!

      For fans of Sir Terry, come along to the Australian Discworld Convention instead, which is definitely all about him. April 2019 in Melbourne: https://ausdwcon.org

    CMOT Dibbler, The Librarian (Don't ever kill him a monkey!) and DEATH were amazing characters! Sad they wont probably see the light of day again...

      Terry's Death was easily the best take on the Grim Reaper. (Also I think you meant 'call' not 'kill')

    Don't know who owns the rights? Then publish a game and see who comes after you :)

    Damn shame whenever classic games like these get lost to the endless chain of rights swapping as a dosen companies go defunct/bankrupt and pass it on to who knows where.
    I'd like to a new discworld adventure game. The world and characters just lend themselves wonderfully to that kind of format.
    I'd be down for a telltale Discowrld game but only if people with serious influence over it were also fans of the books.
    Rhianna and Terry before her were totally right to not trust the world to people who don't seem to get it. Like with George RR Martin, you gotta hold onto that 'til you get someone who clearly has a love for the world/story and will do it justice.

      My issue with Telltale doing it is they don't make point-and-click puzzle adventures any more (they did for their first several years, up until the first Walking Dead). Now Telltale just make movies that you can click through - there's no puzzles to solve, just dialogue choices to make and the occasional story branch. Although the story telling has been good, I don't find them at all challenging because I don't have to solve puzzles any more.

      For Discworld, I'd enjoy more puzzle-type games with jokes and references to the books, rather than trying to tell a new story in the world.

      I really wish they'd do more games like their Sam & Max games from the mid 2000s.

    That's disappointing. I've been wondering for while now why the games hadn't come to Steam or GOG.

    Pratchett was a genius. It's a serious injustice that he was taken from us yet the authors of Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey are still here to 'grace' us with their work. I don't wish them any harm but the thought of no more Discworld yet potentially more sparkling emo vampires is a very sad one indeed.

    I would love to see a Witcher 3 style open world game based around The Watch - whether you play as a named Watchman - Carrot, Vimes, Angua, Detritus or Wee Mad Arthur - or create your own character.

    Done right you could showcase the Discworld, its Lore and characters.

    Well. That makes the fact that I snapped disk one from my copy of Discworld Noir earlier this year even more upsetting.
    Dammit.

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