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Interview: Game of Thrones: The Game

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Lena Headey's likeness as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones: The Game (Cyanide Studios)

Much of the western world is currently enthralled by Westeros, thanks to the HBO series Game of Thrones adapted from George R. R.  Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire novels. It’s probably no surprise, then, that a videogame is in the works. What might surprise you, however, is that Game of Thrones: The Game has been in development for more than seven years.

Cyanide Studios, the company known for other videogames based on classic fantasy franchises such as Blood Bowl and Confrontation, got together with HBO when both parties were deep in development of their respective projects to make sure that the game included some of the now-iconic elements of HBO’s interpretation.

We spoke with Aram Jabbari, PR & Sales Manager at the game’s publisher Atlus, at Sony’s PlayStation Spring Showcase. We chatter about what players can expect when they boot up GoT:TG and how familiar the settings and characters will be to those who have been faithfully following the television series.

Dork Shelf: When did development start on the game, and how did you interact with HBO while it was working on the television show?

Aram Jabbari: The game’s development began well before the show. The developers, Cyanide, came to George Martin with an idea for the game that added to the canon but didn’t break it. They wanted something that was like a new book. They worked on it together and they got it to a point that it was true to Game of Thrones.

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(Cyanide Studios)

DS: How familiar will the game be to those who watch the HBO show, but haven’t read the books?

AJ: James Cosmo, who plays Commander Mormont, lent his voice and his likeness. Conleth Hill, who plays Lord Varys, lent his voice and likeness. Lena Headey lent her likeness to the game. It’s a really great partnership with HBO. The developers reached out to them and they were able to forge that relationship.

When HBO aired the show, Cyanide had the opportunity to work with HBO to put in the voices, the likenesses, those elements, the music, into the game, and you can kind of see that, especially in the pre-order bonus art book that we’re giving out.

But there are things, in almost every place, [from the original designs.] But no one who watches the show will say to themselves, “this looks very different.” A lot of elements are very loyal to the very successful interpretation that HBO created. But there are vestiges of the fact that Cyanide has been working for seven years, from the conceptual stage to the completion, to make this game a reality.

DS: Who are the characters that we follow in GoT: TG?

AJ: You play as one of two original characters, Mors Westford and Alester Sarwick. One of the reasons for two original characters is the ability to tell a new story as opposed to being locked into deaths and all sorts of other fixed histories that the other characters are in.

Mors is a sworn brother of the Night’s Watch, Alester is a red priest of R’hllor. They both get a mission to find a girl by the name of Jane, and by that point forward, they are on a collision course with each other. So you don’t really know what this girl’s nature is, or what the purpose of this is, but that’s where things really get going. And you go from The Wall to King’s Landing, you go to new areas as well. Overall it’s like: you’ve read it, you’ve watched it, now you get to play it.

DS: At what point during the Song of Ice and Fire timeline does GoT: TG take place?

AJ: The events happen roughly around the end of the first book. You’ll hear people talking about Ned Stark, and it will rhyme with his first name, if you know what I mean.

DS: What locations will we see and visit throughout the game?

AJ: There are a number of different places in King’s Landing – for example the Iron Throne Room. At The Wall you’ll be able to visit Castle Black. You’ll be able to go to Mole’s Town, but as well there are a number of elements, characters maybe, who don’t appear in the HBO show, who either haven’t appeared yet or maybe have been written out entirely, like Chataya and her brothel in King’s Landing, Quorin Halfhand, and references to a lot of other characters in the books.

DS: How open are the environments in the game? Will we be able to explore the cities in any great depth?

AJ: For the most part the game is linear, because it’s so heavily driven by the story, it’s not an open world game in the Skyrim sense. It’s much more akin to a game like Dragon Age: Origins, the original Witcher. You’ll go to new areas and you’ll have the opportunity for main quests and side quests and things like that. You’ll be able to explore around King’s Landing, for example, but ultimately the game is a chapter-by-chapter perspective that alternates back and forth just like the books, and you’re moving towards, ultimately, the narrative’s conclusion.

DS: What was it like harmonizing the videogame with the television show when Cyanide and HBO were already knee-deep in their own versions of the projects?

SJ: That’s one of those things where the developers had done a lot of work, but they recognized the importance of how popular the show would become, and it was one of those things where they felt like it would add much richness to the game. To have the music, this is so iconic to the show, to have the visuals and likenesses that are so iconic.

Stay tuned later this week, when Dork Shelf’s James Farrington takes up the sword (or DualShock 3, as it were) and gives us his gameplay impressions.

Game of Thrones: The Game launches May 15 on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC.