Former ABC News producer William B. Davis (news), who worked on "20/20" and "Peter Jennings Reporting," serves as Kuma's director of video services. He'll oversee the production of the game's TV news-style introduction to each mission, which will mirror the style of an MSNBC or CNN broadcast segment. An anchor will introduce the licensed video from a troubled area like Iraq (news - web sites), while retired Maj. Gen. Thomas Wilkerson of the Marine Corps will serve as one of the on-air military advisers, giving the player detailed information, as well as KH-11 satellite imagery, on the area and the mission. During Operation Desert Storm, Wilkerson was the special assistant to the commanding general, Marine Forces Central Command in Southwest Asia.
A subscription component keeps the action up to date with events in the real world (news - Y! TV). The initial PC game, due out in February, will come with eight to 12 missions in a traditional retail package for about $40. After that, players can choose to download an additional mission every week for a monthly fee of about $10.
According to Kuma Reality Games CEO Keith Halper, the company's connections with the U.S. military and its own internal intelligence staff mean that consumers will be able to "play the news." For example, players could get a first-person perspective experience of what it was like to rescue Army Pvt. Jessica Lynch or participate in the raid that killed Uday and Qusay Hussein -- staged authentically, right down to such details as the type of grenades that were used in the mission and the exact location of the snipers.
"We're watching all the real-world events very carefully here, and we're able to jump on a story and make a game mission very quickly," said Halper, who helped found Simon & Schuster Interactive. "We have crash teams here, just like TV news, and we have the technology tools that allow us to re-create occurrences in vivid, accurate detail."
The first title will include missions based on actual happenings in Iraq, Afghanistan (news - web sites), Liberia (news - web sites) and Korea. The game's missions will allow for both single-player and multiplayer experiences, which will vary depending on the actual events that are being re-created in the realistic, virtual worlds. Some missions will allow up to a dozen players to choose a side (you will be able to play as the bad guys as well) and then re-enact history with the ability to change the outcome.
Kuma also plans on bringing its episodic gaming to other genres in mid-2004. The company's mantra, "real-world events playable in a timely manner," will expand to "Kuma: Crime," "Kuma: Sports" and "Kuma: Celebrity." Halper is currently talking to broadband multisystem operators about cross-marketing opportunities.
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