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Adapting 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Creating the player’s character

When adapting Jules Verne’s classic underwater voyage of discovery, I wanted the player to experience the thrill of meeting the legendary submariner, Captain Nemo, his crew, and the three unwitting travellers who are kidnapped by Nemo and whisked around the globe.

I also wanted the player to meet Professor Aronnax, his servant Conseil and the harpooner Ned Land, the three travellers who while hunting what they believe to be a giant sea beast, fall overboard and are rescued by Nemo and his submarine, the Nautilus.

So I created the character of O’Connor, an Irish American journalist, who is with this mismatched trio when they literally fall into Nemo’s hands. Verne talks of the press being awash with stories of the sea beast, so a journalist would be a natural addition to the hunting expedition.

Have you ever wondered why so many heroes of stories are journalists? Partly it’s because many writers have a background in journalism – as I have – it’s also because journalists aren’t tied to one place and they have a license to be inquisitive, thus landing them in interesting scenarios.

And crucially its because journalists have no skills – they’re not mechanics, or doctors, or soldiers – they’re a pretty useless breed which means the stakes are heightened whenever they find themselves in hot water. Or in the deathly cold of the Pacific Ocean from which O’Connor and friends are rescued by Nemo.

Being English my first impulse was to make O’Connor English, but Nemo is on a mission to destroy the British Empire, and though there is a long and proud history of the English rising up against the ruling classes, I knew I wouldn’t have the time in the game to convert O’Connor to Nemo’s cause from a standing start.

My other alternative was to give O’Connor existing anti-imperialistic tendencies, but that might seem a tad too convenient to the player, and I wanted O’Connor to be conflicted in their choices.

But in the year 1869 there are plenty of people outside the British Empire besides Nemo who consider it a threat. The Irish for example. And the United States. This is the era of great famines in Ireland – caused by the British Empire – and of the exodus to the United States.

So it’s fairly easy to plot a route for O’Connor to the States, account for their training and put them aboard the US ship from where O’Connor ultimately encounters Nemo.

And having an Irish-American background makes O’Connor more liable to be sympathetic to Nemo’s revolutionary cause, and far more realistically and quickly than were O’Connor English.

And that is how O’Connor was born.


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