The Movies

Platform(s): PC, Xbox
Genre: Strategy
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Lionhead Studios

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Xbox/PC Preview - 'The Movies'

by Thomas Wilde on July 15, 2005 @ 4:45 a.m. PDT

Imagine you could make any movie you wanted to. Imagine you could pluck someone from obscurity and make him or her the hottest star in Tinseltown. Imagine that you had control of an entire movie studio, competing with others to create a string of box office smashes. Imagine being able to use your judgement alone, deciding whether success lies with epic action pictures or lots of low budget hammy 'B' movies.

The Movies
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Lionhead Studios
Release Date: PC 2005 - Xbox 2006

It’s not so much the game that interests me here; it’s what people are going to do with it. The Movies is a sim, of sorts, but it’s also a surprisingly robust moviemaking program, allowing the player to use backdrops, props, sets, and costumes to make virtually any kind of short film you can imagine.

When you begin the game, it’s the 1920s. You’ve got a blank slate to make whatever kind of movie studio you want, with full control over the floor plans, the casting, the directing, and what kind of movies you want to make. You can move through your studio in an overhead, omniscient view, with each building’s purpose outlaid on a map that looks like a blueprint, or head down to earth and wander through the buildings in first-person mode.

As you progress through the decades, you’ll gradually unlock more props and sets to use in your films. When you begin, you’ve got a few basics, such as wigs and matte paintings, but the further you get, the better the available options get. By the time you reach the “ending,” you’ll be able to play with ninety years’ worth of filmmaking technologies, from matte paintings to CGI.

You’ll also be able to take advantage of real historical events as you go. If you try to make a film that’s out of step with its era, like a space opera in the 1930s, it’ll underperform. However, if you make an insanely patriotic war film during World War II, it’ll clean up at the box office. Playing to your audience is a sure way of making sure your studio survives to reach the modern day.

Another way is to take care of your talent. When your studio’s in good shape, wannabe actors and actresses will flock to your door. You can select them as you see fit and make them into movie stars, whether it’s through public relations, plastic surgery, or effective marketing.

Your stars are ranked according to a number of factors, like star rating, relationships, mood bars, success level, gluttony, and alcoholism. If your stars begin to succumb to the pressures of Hollywood, you can ship them off to detox or the liposuction clinic, or even give them implants to… um… perk them up.

As you play the singleplayer mode, you can unlock extra items to use in the special filmmaker mode, which allows you to make your own short movies. There are forty-five unlockable sets in The Movies, and an astounding number of props. The final version of the game will allow you to import recorded dialogue, and the human character models will be able to lip-sync. To demonstrate what the movie editor was capable of, Lionhead showed off a brief clip entitled Zombie: The Musical, an early-20th-century love story where an undead moll sang of her love for her equally deceased boyfriend.

Lionhead’s also promised plenty of downloadable content, with extra options available if you enter and win their movie contests online. The Movies looks like a great sim game, but the filmmaking option is what’s really got me interested. I think we’ll see a lot of really creative endeavors from The Movies’s fanbase once it gets going. I’m both excited and horrified by the possibilities.


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