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Publisher: Feral Interactive    Genre: Simulation
Min OS X: 10.4    CPU: G4 @ 1 MHz    RAM: 512 MB    Hard Disk: 4000 MB    DVD-ROM    Graphics: 64 MB VRAM

The Movies
February 2, 2007 | Jean-Luc Dinsdale

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Originally released for the PC in late 2005, Lionhead Studio’s The Movies has garnered great acclaim from both tycoon game fans and machinima followers for its original design and its elaborate movie creation engine. Recently released for the Mac courtesy of Feral Interactive and their new programming developers, Robosoft Technologies, the game has proven to be just as fun, addictive, and time-consuming as this writer was afraid it was going to be.

The Premise? Starting in the 1920’s with a little cash in the bank, players need to turn a large empty lot by the sea into the top-ranked studio in Tinseltown.

At the start of the game, players are presented with a large piece of undeveloped land and a single staff office. Before film production can begin, sets need to be built, crews need to be trained, and stars need to be discovered.

A player’s first priority is to hire construction and janitorial staff to build and maintain the various buildings on the lot. Next come the job creation offices: a stage school to train actors and directors, a scriptwriting office to churn out the next great screenplay, and a film crew office to train and fill the positions behind camera.

A film studio then needs a casting office where players assign the above- and below-the-line roles for each script, and a production office where stars’ salaries are determined, marketing budgets set, and completed movies are viewed, released, and reviewed. Throw in a set or two, and the movie-making process can begin.

While this staple of production facilities will get a few pictures in the can, it won’t be long before the real challenges of running a successful movie studio come into play. Overused sets get stale, film technology gets outdated, buildings deteriorate, background extras get old and retire, and the public’s interests wane. Most importantly, you’ve got to take care of your stars. If an actors’ needs aren’t met, they get cranky, which affects their performance, which shows on the silver screen… and the whole studio suffers. If you’re juggling too many plates and one of them begins to wobble, it isn’t long before your empire has crumbled at your feet and you’re laughed off stage.

While the game puts players in charge of overseeing much of the minutiae of running a film studio, the core of the game surrounds the moviemaking process itself. Luckily, the game allows players a little flexibility in their level of involvement in that time-consuming process.

Players first need to come up with a script - once they’ve chosen a film genre, they can either turn to the studio’s increasingly skillful scribes to punch out a screenplay, or can create one themselves using the in-game scriptwriting tools.

When the script is complete, a film crew needs to be put together, and players have to choose the director and principal actors for each project. While the game engine takes care of staffing the crew and extras, it’s the player’s responsibility to make sure that there are enough extras and trained personnel available to complete each project in production. Surprisingly, a studio’s hiring pool doesn’t increase as time passes, meaning there’s always a limited supply of meat suits available to satisfy a studio’s increasing labour needs.

When the crew is booked and the actors rehearsed, the film is ready to go to camera. Players can leave the crew to their own devices and complete the film under minimal supervision, or can jump right in and direct each scene as it is being filmed. Likewise, once the movie is in the can, players can either release the film onto an unsuspecting public, or can move a property into post production to edit the picture and sound tracks to their liking. When the movie is complete, players can then sit back with a bag of popcorn and watch it through the game’s built-in movie palyer.

Separate from the filmmaking component, players are also in charge of taking care of the studio’s daily operations. As the game progresses, further studio facilities become available – larger and more technologically-advanced sets can be built, facilities are provided to sell your stars and scripts to competing studios, and a PR center will increase the public’s awareness of your movies. Furthermore, studio lots need to be maintained, sets need to be updated, technology needs to be improved, marketing budgets need to be determined, and actors need to be kept happy.

Apart from the filmmaking process, chasing after stars is the most time-consuming aspect of the game. Many hours are spent plying actors with all manner of fancy trailers, entertainment and relaxation options, love interests, personal assistants, salary raises, addiction counseling, and even plastic surgery.


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