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Published on October 7th, 2010 | by Andrew Reynolds

Sumo’s Creative Wrestling

Picture the scene: You’re a young creative type summoned to Moffat Castle to pitch a Who idea of your very own. You’re positively oscillating with excitement.

Ushered into Moffat’s underlayer, you see the man who controls the very thoughts of the Doctor, dressed in a Pertwee era dandy suit, sat on the very throne of Hades.

You mumble, choke and spit out the very idea that you picture titled over the time vortex at whatever time the BBC decide to air Doctor Who. You’re nearly at the end of your pitch, slowly building towards what your sure is a shocking brilliant, dazzling climax- sure to be talked about in years to come, when Moffat, holding the leash of Cerberus says: “Hang on, Wasn’t that the plot for Time and the Rani?”

Its a familiar, frustrating tale and one that anyone working on a multi-platform near fifty years long series faces every time they turn their computer on: how do you come up with a new idea for Doctor Who without treading on the toes of decades of great (and not so great) ideas?

With the second series of Doctor Who: The Adventure Games recently commissioned, UK based designers Sumo Digital’s creative director Sean Millard (he of the fuzzy hair and wide glasses from this Confidential episode) is facing such a challenge whilst working under the constraints of the dreaded Licensed Property:

“There’s a hell of a lot of history to consider, and that taxes the creativity more than a blank canvas. … My mission in life creatively is to make people realize that there is a lot more creativity that goes on in licensed properties than people say. … What we do is sometimes underestimated creatively, I think.”

He adds:

“I think that it’s really easy for people to assume that the biggest creative opportunities come from a blank canvas. I really don’t agree with that at all. I think it’s a great opportunity to work on your own IP, but actually working within properties that really mean something to people … offers way more of a creative challenge and tests the mettle of designers … because you have to make it creative, surprising and anything else that goes into design, but you also have a set of rules.”

To combat his creative woes Millard draws on what really keeps fans, old and new absorbing new Doctor Who adventures- reminding his creative team of what makes this property so special.

However, Sumo does entertain ideas based on new Intellectual Property but Millard is quick to dismiss the ‘grass is always greener’ advantages of a new idea:

“With an established franchise, people get what it is immediately, and we can get behind it. … Something that’s established has much more chance at success than trying to establish it yourself.”

To read more on Millard’s battle of wills with creative and management types click here.

The first three Doctor Who: The Adventure Games episodes attracted 1.6 million downloads from the BBC website, with the final episode of the first series due for release “later this year”.

(Via Gamasutra)

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About the Author

Everyone has a favourite Doctor and mine - just for his honesty, his fairness and his ability to not notice the Master's awful, awful disguises/anagrams (Sir Gilles Estram!?!) - has to be the Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison. The stories didn’t serve him as well as his acting served those stories.




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