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The Movies
March 16, 2006 | Ian Beck

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Who hasn't wanted to make their own movie, or gone to the most recent super-hyped film only to leave thinking, "I could have done better than that"? In this day and age, movies are the place where imagination becomes, for ever so short a time, reality. And realizing that within many (if not most) people is a budding film-maker just waiting to burst forth, Lionhead Studios has brought the magic of Hollywood to the masses through The Movies, recently announced for the Mac by Feral Interactive.

The Movies answers a question which many gamers didn't even think to ask: what would happen if there was a game that combined the best elements of tycoon games and The Sims with a healthy dose of home-brewed machinima as a kicker?

Although some PC reviewers have noted that the movies you make within The Movies are not particularly well integrated with the game's tycoon aspects—the game has difficulty differentiating between art and dross, so there isn't much good reason to personally take a hand in movie production as far as studio revenues go—the impressive array of activities offered by The Movies looks to be a blockbusting combination, and gives gamers an unprecedented way to leap into Hollywood without the need for extremely rich parents, connections, talent, or even basic social skills.

Lights, camera, tycoon!
The ability to make your own movies may certainly be appealing, but what most players will consider the primary gameplay of The Movies focuses on your assumption of the roles and responsibilities of a movie mogul. The game starts you off in the 1920's running a modest movie-making studio. As you churn out reels for the ravenous public, you earn more money (hopefully), allowing you to expand your studio, integrate the newest great technology (color and sound, anyone?), and just generally ramp up your profits. As you progress through the decades new technologies become available, and the game ends roughly present day (although you can continue to play past present day without new technological breakthroughs). Like most other tycoon games, The Movies offers a sandbox version of the game as well, allowing casual play or a risk-free environment in which to hone your management skills.

In the trend of many recent tycoon games, playing The Movies is also a vastly scalable experience. If you are a micromanager, you can control every aspect of your studio from hiring stars to training custodians, building sets to constructing scripts, and spending vast sums on marketing to pouring money into discovering Technicolor before your competition. However, if participating in all of these activities is confusing or daunting you can also choose to hire personnel to take care of them or otherwise turn certain elements of control over to the game. The decision is completely up to you.

The goal of the game is to take your studio from its humble roots in the 1920s to being the de facto ruler of the industry. Although your profits are certainly a very immediate indicator of success, there are also awards given every five years or so, rating you on your Stars, Movies, and Studio. Besides creating movies, this process involves deciding which sets to build or deconstruct, what buildings and other infrastructure to create in your studio, and otherwise ensuring that everything runs like a well-oiled machine. By successfully managing all of these aspects, you will lead your studio and stars to success beyond their wildest dreams.

Like The Sims with a point
One of the biggest management hurdles you will have to deal with is transforming actors off the street into stars worthy of the adoration of millions (and all the revenue that goes with it). Unlike some tycoon games, which are largely strategic endeavors based on money-management, The Movies implicates the very human aspect of keeping often finicky stars happy enough to provide the performances that will bring the public flocking to box offices.

As stars and directors interact on the set and off, they develop relationships, egos, and all the other personality quirks associated with adored public figures. It's up to you to keep your moody star actress from bloating up on ice cream (that classic anti-depressant), to arrange for romantic leads to meet socially in the local restaurant in order to improve their chemistry on the set, and to possibly send someone into rehab or the liposuction clinic to help them keep on track or maintain a few vestiges of youth for the next big picture.

Fortunately, the other inhabitants of your studio are less labor intensive, and should a star really get on your nerves you can always assign them to janitorial duties (on the idea that anyone can do anything, The Movies allows you to assign any character to any role; of course, that doesn't mean that they will necessarily be good at it). Extras have to be hired, but after that they pretty much take care of themselves, as do other residents of the studio as long as they have an assigned task.


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