Space & Innovation

'Apocalypse Now' Is Being Made Into a Psychological Survival Video Game

Francis Ford Coppola's production company, American Zoetrope, has teamed with a group of game industry veterans to turn the 1970s war epic into an interactive thriller experience.

Director Francis Ford Coppola is backing a new crowdfunding campaign to turn his 1979 war epic "Apocalypse Now" into a video game.

Coppola's production company American Zoetrope has teamed with a group of game industry veterans to independently develop the game, which is scheduled to launch within three years. Significantly, the creative team has elected to raise money for the project via crowdfunding rather than sign on with a traditional video game publisher.

The idea is to maintain creative freedom and artistic integrity on the project, according to the pitch on the Kickstarter page - and avoid the usual dilemmas that arise when you're spending someone else's money, The game will also avoid the tropes of the typical war game genre by positioning itself as a psychological horror roleplaying game (RPG) rather than a first-person military shooter.

Here's the statement from Coppola:

"Forty years ago, I set out to make a personal art picture that could hopefully influence generations of viewers for years to come. Today, I'm joined by new daredevils, a team who want to make an interactive version of 'Apocalypse Now,' where you are Captain Benjamin Willard amidst the harsh backdrop of the Vietnam War. I've been watching videogames grow into a meaningful way to tell stories, and I'm excited to explore the possibilities for 'Apocalypse Now' for a new platform and a new generation."

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For those unfamiliar with the current state of video games, an adaptation of "Apocalypse Now" might seem like a dubious idea. But it's actually a pretty good match of story and medium. In recent years, video games have traveled far from their roots as arcade shoot-em-ups. The really good narrative games now play out like genuinely sophisticated short stories or interactive movies, especially in the world of independent games.

The development team has some pretty heavy hitters, too: The group includes writers, designers and producers from some of the best franchises of the past few years, including "Gears of War," "Battlefield," "Far Cry," "Fallout" and "The Witcher."

Throughout the course of the game, players will be able to make their own decisions during the hunt for Colonel Kurtz. As such, events will not necessarily play out as they do in the original film. Players' decisions will have consequences that alter the final through-line of the story.

"We will create a game that challenges what an interactive experience can be, just as the original motion picture challenged the concept of cinema," says Montgomery Markland, game director, in the pitch video. "I want to make a game where you can sit on the boat and drop acid, if that's what you want to do. We are not making a shooter, we are making a survival horror experience."

The game's hired guns, so to speak, appear to be pretty gung-ho, too.

"The more they told me about the project, the more interesting it sounded, because it was really taking an approach that I wouldn't have expected from other developers," says design director Josh Sawyer in the Kickstarter pitch video.

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Early backers of the crowdfunding campaign will qualify for various rewards, including pre-release versions of the game, limited edition merchandise, and a chance to win a trip on one of the "Family Coppola Hideaway Adventure" packages. No further details on that, but you can assume that wine and spaghetti will be involved.

Check out the pitch video and you might detect a twinge of diabolical glee in Coppola's testimonials.

"I remember telling my editor Walter Murch that the more he worked on 'Apocalypse Now' the crazier he would get," Coppola says. "If you experience this game, perhaps it will have the same effect on you."

Is that a cackle? I think I heard a cackle.

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