I'm really excited about Visceral Games' upcoming remake of the classic medieval game Dante's Inferno
, bringing modern technology to one of the most entertaining games in history. I know some people are claiming that the new game takes some liberties
with the source material - but so far, I think Visceral is doing an exemplary job of preserving the old game's mechanics. Translating the original controls for today's input methods is no easy task! I think some people are unclear on just how different
video games were, back in Dante Alighieri's day.
Before microprocessors and electronic display technology, games were played on the same stages as theater plays. Actors - often, they were also theater actors - would portray both human and non-human elements (Non-Player Characters) in a game, with the help of extensive prop and costume work by the Game Designer. (Many elements of the old Stage Game served as inspiration for kids' game shows in the 1990s, like Legends of the Hidden Temple
and Nick Arcade
.) Some more ambitious stage games made use of large banks of abacuses, to calculate the success or failure of a player action. Dante's Inferno
was immensely popular in its early days, but unfortunately was not a very long-lived stage game. Once other game designers saw Dante's controller concept and action-puzzle game structure, many copied them for their own games, but used less levels and less elaborate level designs. Inferno
was discontinued only a year or two after its release, when it became apparent that player revenue was not catching up to the game's exorbitant production costs.
Following the commercial failure of Inferno
, Dante turned more attention to his writing, and was able to resurrect his game - in a poetic, reflective retelling of one of his own play-throughs - as part of the Divine Comedy
. This passive and cerebral interpretation of the game's events upset the original playerbase, which dashed the hopes of other Stage Game companies to do an Inferno
re-make or sequel.
The original game was definitely ahead of its time, so I can't wait to try a modern retelling of it for myself. And I'm very pleased that Visceral and EA look to be staying very faithful to Dante's original vision, preserving the integrity and grandeur of an ambitious, powerful game design. January can't come soon enough!