Orphan Black isn’t the first TV show to receive a mobile game adaptation, but it is one of the first to be developed by the same television studio that produces the show.
The idea for the game, which is simply called Orphan Black: The Game, started floating around in 2014. Players will take control of different clones and have to solve a variety of puzzles and riddles to solve a variety of crimes they come across.
When the producers on the show figured out the angle they wanted to go with, Boat Rocker started putting together a team of in-house designers, artists and developers to start working on the game. James M. Woods, chief technology officer at Boat Rocker, told told Polygon that development began about two years after Boat Rocker came up with the concept.
When asked why Boat Rocker didn’t just hire a third-party developer to work on the game, as many television and film studios have done, Woods said that it was very important to the entire Orphan Black team to ensure there weren’t any issues with regards to creative freedom.
“As producers and IP rights holder we felt that building this game in house would afford us the creative freedom to execute on our shared vision without loosing any of the core elements that we feel capture the spirit of the Orphan Black world,” Woods said. “As producers, we’re unique insofar as having an internal development team that helps build digital properties for our various shows. That’s an investment we made a few years ago and we’re really happy we did.”
Part of that creative freedom ensured that members of the Orphan Black television team were able to contribute to the game. Woods said that showrunners and lead writers John Fawcett and Graeme Manson were heavily involved in the writing process for the game, along with other members of the talent team. The goal was always to make the game feel like more than just an additional way for fans to enjoy Orphan Black content. The game will rely on the show and its characters to tell new stories and re-examine parts of the series’ fourth season. Having the actual writers, actors and producers involved ensures that nothing could possibly get lost in translation.
“John and Graeme participated in some really great inception sessions as we explored what type of game to make,” Woods said. “They gave us amazing feedback early on and met with us regularly to check on progress and direction. Tatiana Maslany (Clones) and Kevin Hanchard (Detective Art Bell) participated in their character designs. We also had loads of design and direction from the executive production team.”
Despite maintaining control over the creative decisions, there were a couple of issues that the team ran into. Woods said the biggest issue they were faced with was creating the game’s engine from scratch. Woods didn’t elaborate on the specifics of the engine, but reiterated that once they figured that out, the rest was fairly smooth sailing from a development perspective. But there were some difficulties when it came to designing puzzles and building a world for players to wander around.
“One of the biggest challenges was how to retell the story without creating a Telltale style game,” Woods said. “To incorporate story, mystery, puzzles and most importantly to allow the fans to play as their favorite clone characters.”
Right now, the focus will be entirely on Orphan Black’s fourth season, but Woods said Boat Rocker has plans to do much more with the game. Ideally, the team would like to go back and explore the first three seasons and continue with the game in new ways, but that depends on the success of the first version of the game.
Orphan Black is currently in closed beta mode, but will launch in full on March 24. The game will be available to play on Android and iOS devices.