This has been a unusually prolific year for computer-based drama; in addition to Fahrenheit / Indigo Prophecy and Façade we have last week’s release of Lionhead’s much-anticipated The Movies. I haven’t played it yet (nor Indigo Prophecy), but the reviews are pretty positive (1 2), and users are already madly uploading thousands of their user-created movies to Lionhead’s community server.
From what I’ve read so far about The Movies, it’s primary gameplay is as a tycoon sim, about running a movie studio. While that gameplay is reportedly decent, the more interesting activity is the game-within-a-game of shooting your own movies — ostensibly as a task for succeeding in the larger tycoon sim game, but more enjoyably just for fun, as a tool of self-expression, the product of which (2-3 minute video files) you can share with your friends on the online community. (In fact you can go to “sandbox” mode and skip the tycoon sim game altogether, to just author little movies.)
How self-expressive can you be? Well, looks like you pick from an extensive pre-built library of cinematic shots and character types, that cover about five cinematic genres — horror, action, love story, sci-fi, etc. From what I can tell from the reviews, you may not have much control over behavior of the characters within a shot, but you can dub whatever dialog you like into these shots (by recording your voice), change lighting, wardrobe and makeup (huge variety), actors’ facial features (and plastic surgery), backdrops (huge variety), camera angles and perhaps focus / depth of field, add titles, subtitles and credits, and edit the timing of the shots in a simplified video editor. And, the system renders the “film” in a variety of styles, from more old-time cinema with lots of scratches and grain to modern.
Very impressive. Looks like they pulled off something great here. Here’s some screenshots, and an excerpt from the Gamespot review: