Poptropica's creators tell us how they adapted the story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to make it one you can play...
In the first of our blog series, Poptropica's creators told us how they set about adapting the world of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for Poptropica - an online world of themed islands that invites children to explore through play.
In part two, we find out how the Charlie island was developed still further into a story you can play...
-- Roald Dahl HQ
"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a beloved story. No wonder it’s been made into two movies and a stage musical (and even other video games). Because we consider story to be the most important part of a Poptropica Island, this, too, was both a challenge and an opportunity when bringing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to Poptropica.
How do we re-tell a familiar tale, full of beloved characters and situations, while adding an unpredictable new character: the player? How do we make the player a part of the story without changing the story, but allowing the player the sense of freedom and control that a video game requires?
The book has a lot of characters. There are five children who go into the factory, along with at least one adult each, not to mention Willy Wonka and all the Oompa-Loompas. That’s a lot to handle in a game – a lot of behaviors to model, a lot of gameplay contingencies to think about. On a technical level, it’s just too many characters to have onscreen at once!
So our first deviation from the book was to separate the player from the other children right away. In the book, everyone travels as a group through the factory, one-by-one falling victim to the bizarre machinery of the Wonka factory. But on the Island, we have the children split off from each other as soon as they enter the factory, heading immediately to those different areas where they will meet their sweetly ironic fates.
What, then, would the player do? We could have tried to create another candymaking room in which the player would have an experience similar to those of the others, but it seemed more important to allow the player to participate in those famous scenes from the book: Augustus Gloop getting caught in a chocolate tube, Veruca Salt being declared a BAD NUT by a gang of squirrels.
The brainwave: the reader never finds out in the book what happens to the children to bring them back, safe and sound. What if Willy Wonka enlisted the player to travel into the darkest reaches of his factory to rescue the others? This would allow us to portray the events of the book AND create our own new scenes that Roald Dahl only hinted at.
Thus, our tale was born. When you enter the Chocolate Factory on Poptropica, the children fall into danger and Willy Wonka enlists your help to get them back out. Little would the player know that it was all a big test, much like the one that Charlie Bucket faces. We had figured out our story. The only thing left was the biggest challenge of all: designing great gameplay.
-- Poptropica HQ