Whether it’s a hit TV show like HBO’s “The Last of Us” or an interactive theme park land like Universal Studios’ Super Nintendo World, video games are ripe for adaptation and translation. .
But what if the game doesn’t have an established IP? What if the game hasn’t been released yet?
With “Ashfall,” Liithos CEO and founder Michael Mumbauer and VP of creative John Garvin (who wrote and created the game) relied on their characters and immersive world with enough energy to attract fans to not just any games. First, through a five-episode TikTok show that ends this Sunday, then a comic that will launch in March. All of this will come years before the game is finished.
“Ashfall” explores a post-apocalyptic world set in the Pacific Northwest, where Seattle has been submerged in the sea for hundreds of years. Climate catastrophe has changed the world and civilization has become factions and enclaves. At the foot of Mount Rainier’s eruption, Ash Naranjo was taken by the Order of Life Science, which gave him prosthetic arms and other implants.
“For my last play, I literally wrote about 12,000 pages of script,” Garvin said. “That’s like the equivalent of 10 two-hour movies, and that’s exactly what you need to fill a game. You need a lot of the same things you need in any medium – plot, development of character, theme. You have to have something important to say.”
With themes of climate change, ideological and political strife, the mistreatment of people with disabilities and the general erosion of society, “Ashfall” touches on contemporary themes that may otherwise be invisible. above.
“What I really wanted to do with ‘Ashfall’ is explore things that are important that are happening now. It’s set a thousand years in the future so we can get away from the things that I see tearing us apart in the world today. -they fight on every possible thing that people disagree on. Ideological grounds, religious grounds. I see that in our future – that scares me.”
Mumbauer says he’s invested in exploring new storytelling platforms. A veteran of the video game and film industry, he and his team have brought to life popular characters such as Nathan Drake from “Uncharted” and Joel and Ellie from “The Last of Us.” After working at PlayStation for 13 years, he knows the world of gaming and how to connect with players. Now, the challenge is how to make that happen without an actual game to play.
The first episode of the TikTok series “Ashfall,” starring Michael Le.
“I looked at the challenges and said, ‘TikTok is a huge platform and I feel like it’s a platform of opportunity to tell stories,'” Mumbauer said. “What if there was a way to do what Quibi is trying to do, which is short-form storytelling, on a platform that has an audience ready for it? And what if we did this to an influencer who already understands how to do it?”
Mumbauer enlisted Michael Le (who uses the handle @justmaiko), a social media influencer, dancer and storyteller with more than 52 million followers on TikTok, to help create, along with Garvin, a a five-episode narrative series that starts weekly on Le’s channel. The Liithos exec is already a fan of TikToker whose posts generate millions of views, whether through his dance videos that use high-quality special effects or his anime-inspired content .
“I think it’s experimental and we’re already writing comics,” Mumbauer said. “It felt like a natural way to put the comic next to it because the game takes years. So it felt like, ‘What if we try to build this IP a little bit upside down. Even though we have a gaming background, what if we don’t start playing, but we land it?’”
The experimental gambit seems to be working. The series has garnered more than 10 million views so far, before the final chapter dropped on Sunday. In making it for TikTok, Mumbauer toned down his traditional film and video game effects and Garvin shortened his concepts to get one and a half page scripts for the episodes.
“My thought process is to give them all the meat and cut off every bit of fat. It’s 15 seconds. It’s quick and easy. ‘Just to the point,'” said Le. “This is exactly how I adjust the myself in the story. It mixes what I usually do on TikTok with the world of ‘Ashfall.’ I got him back … I was learning to use these powers that Ash had, and then trying to find my brother.”
Now that Le has established a vision for Ash and his world, the comic book should follow suit. right? With intellectual property, the conventional thinking is to cross-promote everything to build a visual presence. But even that part of the world building for “Ashfall” was done in an unconventional way because of their twisted philosophy.
“I have to say to John: What if you look at this character as he’s been in the world for 75 years? In ‘Batman,’ over 75 years, Batman has had many different looks. The same is the ear, the sigil and the cowl. What you see in the TikTok series is not necessarily what you see in the comic series, which is not necessarily what you see in the game. There are subtle nuances, but the core piece is there, and that’s what I think makes an iconic character,” Mumbauer said.
“For artistic interpretation and being transmedia, I think there’s a huge opportunity to reach different audiences. Maybe someone doesn’t like my art. So maybe the TikTok video will really get them excited about it in a way that can’t be in comics or even game footage.