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iPhone's Top Gun And The Importance Of Fan Service

In a new Gamasutra feature postmortem, Freeverse programmer and designer Justin Ficarrotta explained how staying true to a licensed game's source material is impor

December 15, 2009

3 Min Read

Author: by Staff

In a new Gamasutra feature postmortem, Freeverse programmer and designer Justin Ficarrotta explained how staying true to a licensed game's source material is important even in smaller iPhone games. Freeverse is the developer behind the iPhone title Top Gun, an Afterburner-like game based on the classic 1980s Tom Cruise movie. Ficarotta explained what went right and what went wrong in the creation of the game, and some positives and negatives stemmed from working with licensed material. Ficarrotta said it was extremely important to the development team that the game featured the Kenny Loggins' song, Highway to the Danger Zone: "Paramount got us the rights to cover Danger Zone and even recorded a cover for us. And shallow as that may sound, this alone can be the difference between people giving Top Gun a look or not giving it a rat's ass at all. I'm dead serious. Look up reviews of every Top Gun game ever made and every one of them mentions its lack of the song. Some reviews even list it as one of the overall 'cons' at the summary of the review. Ficarrotta said that the rights to the song weren't actually locked down until near the end of the project. "While Paramount negotiated for the license to use a re-recording of Danger Zone, we played things touch-and-go while heading into the twilight of our project -- until our producer Bruce got word that Paramount had secured the rights and commissioned a cover. It was a glorious day at Freeverse. Not only was the song added, we shoved it into overdrive by adding an easter egg by which, if your pilot's name was 'Danger Zone', the game played nothing BUT Danger Zone." In a further display of fan service, Ficarotta added that the game includes a minigame that recalls the famously cheesy shirtless beach volleyball scene in the Top Gun film. "While it is still an awesome action movie, let's face it: Top Gun is cheesy as all get-out. Right out of the gate, the entire team was in agreement that we should both acknowledge and embrace the cheesiness. Paramount evidently agreed with us, too, when they gave us dialog to use that oozed with '80s machismo and corny come-on lines." "[The volleyball minigame] is such a tiny extra touch that 99 percent of the players will never see, but it got us on the gaming blogs again (a few dedicated a whole post to listing our hidden easter eggs and codes) and really, it just took a few people flipping out upon realizing that 'yes, there is volleyball' to make the effort more than worth it." But Ficarrotta also admitted that Freeverse didn't stay true to the Top Gun source material in one way that might have hurt the game. Top Gun for iPhone doesn't use the F-14 Tomcat as a its main jet, the one featured prominently in the film. "Yes, the game takes place quite a few years after the events in the movie. Yes, the particular model jet used in the movie is now completely retired from the US Navy. But those facts shouldn't have mattered. "[The older jet is] retired, it's old, the new one looks cooler, etc etc etc, but what we should have done was just continued the trend of fan service we had going. … The bottom line is, we didn't give players what they wanted, and not featuring the same jet as the movie was the most frequent complaint we got about the game after its release." For more from Ficarrotta on what went right and what went wrong in the development of Top Gun, read the full Gamasutra postmortem, available now.

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