Let's make some magic!If all it offered were The Sims Tycoon: Hollywood Edition, The Movies would probably be a pretty fun game. But it also gives gamers an unprecedented ability to bring their visionary creativity to the realm of machinima and share the fruits of their labor with the world. Lionhead has made it extremely easy to share and review movies created within The Movies on their website, and as of this writing there are even highly profitable returns for making great works of machinima; a freaking Chrysler Crossfire, anyone?
Making your own shows in The Movies involves a surprising amount of freedom within an innately constrained setting. You start out with a story arc and a simple timeline, essentially a very simplistic version of that seen in video editing software like Final Cut. From there you can drag and drop premade shots into the timeline. This is really the biggest constraint on your creativity. There is no action scripting ability to make your cast do wild and crazy things not conceived of by Lionhead.
Fortunately, this is offset by the fact that there are a lot of shots, and you are given significant liberty in their presentation. You can adjust lighting, mood, the angle of the shot, the backdrop or other scene elements, and even add a custom music score. Additionally, you can vastly change the content of any given shot simply through the use of subtitles, sound effects, or, if you are really hardcore, by recording dialog (then impressively lip-synched by the game's actors).
In point of fact, the amount of power available to you when making your machinima is quite impressive. If you wish, you can choose to select the genre of the movie (there are five available), toss some screenwriters in a room, and let whatever happens happen. Then again, you can also take direct control of everything from scriptwriting (which would more accurately be called timeline creation) to post-production, and all of the elements mentioned above. With a little creativity, it is entirely possible to create things that Lionhead may never have thought of or foreseen. While the building-blocks style of video creation means that there are some real constraints, the amount of possible control beyond pre-rendered scenes makes for a game that is really only limited by your imagination.
Special effectsThe icing on The Movies' proverbial cake is that while the game may not be eye-candy of the Doom 3 blow-your-mind-away variety, but it is still extremely detailed, clean, and stylish. Models and textures are detailed and engaging, the engine offers seamless scrolling from street-level views to a high bird's-eye view, and stars' bodies age and bloat with time using a unique morphing technology. The sheer variety in sets and other graphical elements is another plus, and given the transient nature of studio lots will make for a lot of variation over the course of the game.
The sound is also reportedly high quality, and the background music and sound effects change to reflect the changing decades. Dialogue in movies is spoken in a gibberish language reminiscent of The Sims, and there is some fun voice-acting as various employees use the studio PA system to provide more era-specific commentary.
Overall, The Movies is a very exciting upcoming addition to the Mac. This is a game featuring vast amounts of detail possible control, but which offers you the option of only taking as much as you can handle, making for some gameplay which looks addictive at worst. Its unique blend of game mechanics and impressive machinima capabilities offer something which looks like it could easily transcend age and gender boundaries. The Movies is obviously a game that had a lot of love (or at the very least, long hard hours) poured into it.
Feral has stated that they will be releasing The Movies as a Universal Application, and are hoping to release the game during the summer of 2006, making it a very good summer to be a Mac user.
And that, as they say, is a wrap.