‘Ashfall’: TikTok reverse engineers Liithos’ new video game End-shutdown

Whether it’s a hit TV show like HBO’s “The Last of Us” or an interactive theme park like Universal Studios’ Super Nintendo World, video games are ripe for adaptation and reinterpretation.

But what if the game does not have an IP set? What if the game hasn’t been released yet?

With “Ashfall,” Liithos CEO and founder Michael Mumbauer and VP Creative John Garvin (who wrote and created the game) are confident that its characters and immersive world will be strong enough to attract fans sooner than later. of any game. First, through a five-episode TikTok show that ends Sunday, then with a comic that’s set to drop in March. This all comes years before the game is completed.

“Ashfall” explores a post-apocalyptic world set in the Pacific Northwest, where Seattle has been submerged in the ocean for hundreds of years. The climatic catastrophe has changed the world and civilization has turned into factions and enclaves. At the foot of the erupting Mount Rainier, Ash Naranjo is taken by the Order of Life Sciences, who give him prosthetic arms and other implants.

After each “Ashfall” TikTok episode, Liithos released a unique free digital collectible available only through CoinZoom.

(Courtesy of Liithos Entertainment)

“For my last game, I literally wrote about 12,000 pages of script,” says Garvin. “That’s like the equivalent of 10 two-hour movies, and that’s really what you need to fill a game. You need a lot of the same things that you need in any medium: plot, character development, theme. You have to have something important to say.”

With themes of climate change, ideological and political struggle, the mistreatment of people with disabilities, and the general erosion of society, “Ashfall” touches on contemporary issues that may not be apparent on the surface.

“What I really want to do with ‘Ashfall’ is explore important things that are happening right now. It’s set a thousand years in the future so we can distance ourselves from the things I see tearing us apart in today’s world. They are fighting over all the possible things that people can disagree on. Ideological reasons, religious reasons. I see that that could be in our future, which terrifies me.”

Mumbauer says he has invested in exploring new storytelling platforms. A veteran of the film and video game industry, he and his team brought popular characters like Nathan Drake from “Uncharted” and Joel and Ellie from “The Last of Us” to life. After working for PlayStation for 13 years, he knows the world of gaming and how to get gamers connected. Now the challenge is how to make that happen without having an actual game to play.

The first episode of the TikTok series “Ashfall”, starring Michael Le.

“I look at the challenges and say, ‘TikTok is a huge platform and it feels like a platform of storytelling opportunities,’” says Mumbauer. “What if there was a way to do what Quibi tried to do, which is tell stories in short form, on a platform that already has an audience that is ready for it? What if we do it with an influencer who already knows how to do it?

Mumbauer recruited Michael Le (using the username @justmaiko), a social media influencer, dancer, and storyteller with more than 52 million followers on TikTok, to help create, with Garvin, a five-episode narrative series. which premieres weekly on Le’s channel. The Liithos executive was already a fan of the TikToker, whose posts have generated millions of views, whether through his dance videos using high-quality special effects or his anime-inspired content.

“I think it was experimental and we were already writing the comic,” says Mumbauer. “It seemed like the natural way to put the comic next to it because the game will take years. So it felt like, ‘What if we tried to build this IP slightly in reverse? Even though we have experience in games, what if we don’t start with games, but land in them?’”

The experimental tactic appears to have worked. The series has attracted more than 10 million views so far, before the latest episode premieres on Sunday. Creating it for TikTok, Mumbauer toned down his traditional movie and video game effects and Garvin scaled back his concepts to create one-and-a-half page scripts for the episodes.

“My thought process was to give them all the meat and cut out every part of the fat. It’s 15 seconds. It is fast and agile. It’s very ‘cut to the point,’” says Le. “It was really how I can adapt to the story. It combines what I usually do on TikTok with the world of ‘Ashfall’. I become him. …I’m learning how to use these powers that Ash has, and then trying to find my brother.”

The TikTok series “Ashfall” has attracted more than 10 million views so far, before the latest episode premieres on Sunday.

(Liithos Entertainment)

Now that Le has established a look for Ash and his world, the comic will have to go on. Good? With IP, the conventional thinking is to cross-promote everything to establish a visual presence. But even that part of the world building for “Ashfall” is being done in an unconventional way.

“I had to say to John: What if you look at this character as if he’s already been in the world for 75 years? In ‘Batman’, over the course of 75 years, Batman has had many different guises. What is the same are the ears, the stealth and the hood. What you see in the TikTok series is not necessarily what you will see in the comic series, which is not necessarily what you will see in the game. There will be subtle nuances, but the center pieces are there, and that’s what I think makes an iconic character,” says Mumbauer.

“For artistic interpretation and being transmedia, I think there is a great opportunity to reach different audiences. Someone might not have my taste in art. So maybe the TikTok video will really get them excited about this in a way that the comic or even the gameplay footage won’t.”

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