NEW YORK (AP) — The landmark Broadway musical “Hamilton” has landed on Roblox, turning the innovative stage show into an immersive online environment for a new generation.
“’Hamilton’ has global recognition. Roblox has 66 million daily active users from all around the world. What a perfect match,” Matt Edelman, president and chief commercial officer for Super League, which designed and built the online experience in collaboration with Small World Games.
In the Hamilton Simulator, players use their own avatars as they rub shoulders with the musical’s characters and negotiate through 10 levels set during the Revolutionary War. It starts at the New York docks and the goal is to free the city from British yoke. Appropriately, the music-filled game requires no real money from players.
“The intent here was to create a fun experience for this community and by doing so, introduce them to ‘Hamilton’ if they don’t already know it, or to honor and inspire the passion that they have if they’re already fans,” says Edelman.
The game has the blessing of writer-composer Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose blockbuster musical charts the rise and fall of statesman Alexander Hamilton and stresses his orphan, immigrant roots as well as his near-Greek tragedy of a fall.
Roblox is the largest immersive gaming platform on the planet and businesses like Mattel, the NFL, Dave & Buster’s and Cirque du Soleil have all planted a flag there, as have fashion labels Vans, Ralph Lauren, Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, Givenchy and Gucci.
“If you are an intellectual property owner and you want to connect to the younger generations — people really under 25 and particularly under 18 — that’s where they socialize, that’s where they learn. More than half of Gen Z expects to discover a brand for the first time in an immersive space,” Edelman says.
Hamilton Simulator players assemble a squad from characters in the musical — James Madison and Charles Lee, perhaps, to begin with, and more valuable characters like Maria Reynolds and Angelica Schuyler coming later — to confront Redcoats. Victories earn coins, which can be used to better arm companions as stronger enemies lurk.
The 10 settings include a tavern, George Washington’s office, town squares, the ballroom where Hamilton and Angelica fall in love and the Battle of Yorktown. Each level has songs from the musical, including “Guns and Ships,” “You’ll Be Back,” and “The Schuyler Sisters,” used as a sort of sonic laser to wear down and defeat enemies.
“For us, being able to allow the player to connect to the characters and the music was really important. And that really inspired the general approach to the gameplay,” Edelman says.
The simulator currently ends around the midpoint of the musical, with British rule defeated and a nascent country needing its Founding Fathers to guide them into becoming a nation of laws. Creators hope the simulator can also grow.
“We have plenty more in the future to expand on and we’re really excited about what we can do with this experience moving forward over the coming months to really be able to expand gameplay, expand the story and really be able to listen to our players and what are they doing,” Edelman says.
Each scene is carefully realized, with ceremonial swords, candles burning, flowers, artwork, sandbags and smoke. David Korins, who designed “Hamilton” for the stage, consulted on the look of the simulator and offered his tweaks. (There are also Easter eggs, like The Public theater, a nod to the off-Broadway space where “Hamilton” premiered.)
“’Hamilton’ has achieved something that feels timeless. And if you can achieve that with an intellectual property, you can bring it into any channel and have success because it has that innate feel of belonging everywhere,” Edelman says.
The genesis of the idea came from Maggie Brohn, the executive producer for “Hamilton” worldwide and chief operating officer of Adventureland LCC, the lead producer for “Hamilton” and other Broadway shows.
She had been pondering a marriage between the musical and a gamemaker, eventually turning for advice to Edelman, her brother, who knew the perfect platform.
“My kids during COVID were glued to Roblox,” she says. “They became our our test group as we’ve been going through this.”
The hardest part was taking an award-winning linear narrative and turning it into an interactive experience. The breakthrough came when it was conceived as a simulator, one of the most popular Roblox genres.
“When you bring intellectual property to a medium where it did not originate, if it doesn’t have kind of some of the natural components to it already that belong in that new medium, it isn’t easy,” says Edelman.
Super League and “Hamilton” creators suspect their simulator will attract some visitors who have never heard of the musical, but will get caught in its gravitational force — much like the cast album became a hit by people who hadn’t yet seen the show.
“The music brought people to ‘Hamilton’ in some cases before the actual production of the show brought them there,” says Edelman. “I don’t think this will be any different if if we achieve our primary goal, which is to make this a fun gameplay experience that attracts the Roblox community.”
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits