The Movies

REVIEW – Todd Volz, Editor

Almost everyone goes to the movies once in a while, and every moviegoer has ideas about how a film could have been improved if only they were at the helm. If you’ve ever wanted to get your grubby paws into the film biz in some way, shape or form, Lionhead Studios’ The Movies will satisfy that urge and then some.

On the surface, The Movies is a real-time strategy/simulation game that lets you make all of the business decisions necessary to run a major movie studio – hiring talent, building sets, managing finances – with the goal of becoming the top studio in Hollywood. But The Movies is no simple "Tycoon" game. Not only do you run the business side, you also have a hand in the creative process of moviemaking.

Just how involved you get in the actual making of movies is up to you. You can simply hire screenwriters, choose a film genre (Comedy, Action, Horror, etc.), and leave them to their own devices, churning out script after script. Or, if you’re more of a megalomaniac, you can opt for complete control and design scripts from the ground up.

Then, once a script is finished, you cast the movie, choose a director, and shoot it. Here again, the extent of your involvement is up to you. You can choose to have your movies shot instantly without any input from you, or go through the entire shooting process where, if you like, you can play director and adjust dramatic elements shot by shot.

And if that’s not enough, you can even take your finished film into post-production and play with editing, music, dialogue and effects, tailoring the film to your precise specifications. The endless customization opportunities are astonishing.

Once a film is shot you release it, after which it receives scores based on the merits of its various facets, from story to acting to genre innovation. Even virtual movie critics get into the act, opining with often hilarious quips that either praise or excoriate your work ("Watching Joe Schmoe’s acting is worse than digging your eyes out with a spoon" is my favorite).

Of course, the quality of your movies has a direct effect on your finances; box office returns on a piece of crap will be much lower than on a cinematic masterpiece. Which brings us back full circle to managing your studio’s finances.

Almost. Beneath this core gameplay lies a staggering amount of micromanagement, all of which has a direct impact on both business and creative development.

In the movie business, actors and directors are your bread and butter. An unhappy movie star means trouble on and off the set, so you must endeavor to keep your talent happy at any cost. Doing so involves a seemingly endless array of factors.

First and foremost is salary. As a star rises in popularity so must the salary, lest you risk their defecting to a rival studio. A star must also have an entourage of lackeys to fawn on them and do their bidding. Should an actor become unhappy with his or her image, you must be prepared to give them makeovers, cosmetic surgery (such as face lifts and liposuction) and upgraded wardrobes .

Be very mindful, also, that you don’t work your talent too hard. Do so and they may take to the bottle to ease their stress, and you may need to shove them into rehab, rendering them unable to work for months at a time.

How well your stars get along with each other can play a huge role in the success of your films. You’ll need to pick them up and plop them in the vicinity of each other repeatedly to encourage conversation – in increasingly intimate settings – developing their relationships from acquaintances all the way up to soul mates. The more they like each other, the better your movies will turn out.

Don’t forget publicity. Photographers are constantly milling around at the studio gates waiting for the perfect photo op. Should you see two stars deep in conversation or a drunk director wobbling out of the VIP bar, drop a paparazzo near them to get a dishy, tell-all photo spread published. You’ve also got a Publicity office, which you can utilize to promote your movies and talent before, during or after a film’s release. Creating the proper buzz for a movie can make or break its success with your adoring public.

This detailed decision-making is all well and good, but you don’t necessarily need to focus on building an entertainment empire. Aside from the game’s business tycoon mode, there’s also a sandbox mode which lets you concentrate solely on moviemaking. And once you’ve got a completed film you can even upload it to The Movies’ web site to share with fellow moviemakers.

Out of breath yet? The amount of time and attention required to fully explore the game’s depth is tantamount to a full-time job – albeit an incredibly fun job. The Movies’ gameplay rivals that of the most intricate warmongering RTS titles out there – such as Command and Conquer or Empire Earth – but it does so with a refreshing, whimsical flair that’s atypical of the genre.

The game is insanely beautiful. Looking at a static screenshot of the game you’d be inclined to think you’re looking at a detailed, static rendering, but the game world is in fact a dynamic environment. You can rotate the camera, view the studio lot from high above and just as easily zoom down to street level to witness a movie shoot in progress. It’s a world of perpetual daylight that reveals amazingly detailed textures on both the characters and architecture.

Sound design is unique and effective. Oft-used objects such as scripts and film canisters make a satisfying "pop" upon placement in their proper positions. Characters utter a surprised squeal when you snatch them up. A constantly running radio station offers both music and the occasional announcement from a DJ hinting at current trends in popular culture. And of course there’s the occasional director shouting "Cut! It’s a wrap!"

That’s not to say that The Movies is without annoyances. The sheer breadth of gameplay options, though impressive, can also be daunting. There’s almost not enough time to make the multitude of decisions you need to make in order to compete with rival studios, let alone direct your movies. Stars’ stress levels get out of whack very easily, and often; getting them back on track, especially when several of them are throwing tantrums simultaneously, can be a real challenge.

Lionhead did an admirable job with the custom moviemaking module. They included an immense number of scene types and templates for you to use in stitching together your own films. Nonetheless, creating a movie with a cohesive story, with scenes that flow together and actually make narrative sense, is not an easy task. For instance, say you choose a shot in which a character punches another character. Finding the next shot, where the other character to reacts to the punch properly, requires much trial and error and sifting through scores of scenes at a time.

But you can’t fault Lionhead for trying. Opting to incorporate a full-fledged moviemaking module in a game is crazily ambitious. That they succeeded in any small measure is laudable. They’ve created an accessible, fun-to-use tool, and though it’s not particularly suited for actual storytelling, it generates results that are always amusing, and often hysterical. (Imagine a swamp monster applying lipstick.)

Lionhead’s The Movies is truly a marvel of design, featuring some of the deepest, most complex and unique gameplay ever seen in a real-time strategy or simulation game. It’s surely destined to have long-lasting and broad appeal to gamers and budding filmmakers everywhere.

World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft is an online role-playing experience set in the award-winning Warcraft universe. Players assume the roles of Warcraft heroes as they explore, adventure, and quest across a vast world. World of Warcraft is a “Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game” which allows thousands of players to interact within the same world. Whether adventuring together or fighting against each other in epic battles, players will form friendships, forge alliances, and compete with enemies for power and glory.

World of Warcraft is free-to-play up to level 20.

Nexuiz

Nexuiz is a 3D deathmatch game that has been in development since the summer of 2002. The goal of the project is to create a high quality first-person shooter that can be played freely across all platforms in one package: PC, Mac, and can be even included in Linux distributions (and soon, consoles). The game is entirely open source, with the sources of the engine, gamecode, map files, and compiling tools, all included with the download, all under the GPL license.

The gameplay is deathmatch with the most excessive possible speeds and weapons, giving incredibly intense fast-paced action. Along with deathmatch, there are multiple game modes such as team deathmatch, capture the flag, domination, and many mutators and weapon options like rocket arena and instagib. The user can fight through the single player campaign, going through over 20 levels, or play online with our server browser.

Nexuiz is based on the Darkplaces engine, built on OpenGL technology. The darkplaces engine is an advanced Quake1-based engine developed mainly by Forest "LordHavoc" Hale, who has been working with the Quake1 engine for many years. A few of Darkplaces main features are Quake3bsp support, realtime lighting and shadowing, new particle effects, advanced menu system, and Md3 model support.

Shot Online

Arguably more than any other sport, golf requires focus and mental stamina, and so does Shot-Online, which is a reproduction of the full experience and game of golf in full, rich 3D graphics.

Shot-Online is not just an online sports game either, but it is a highly accurate simulation and a deep role-playing experience. It is the RPG quality that makes Shot-Online the unique game it is, especially with the community interaction and the enhancement and leveling of your character. Speaking of community and role-playing, Shot-Online offers both realistic and rare items drawn from the celebrated history of golf.

Practicing every day, competing against players with different skills, allows the gamer to advance their characters abilities. Quests and item exchanging and more add to the community feel.

Shot-Online is more than a sports game, more than a simulation, more than an RPG ? like golf itself, it is an intelligent and unique game that is more than the sum of its parts.

Unique kind of golf game
- RPG-based full 3D sports simulation hybrid game.
- Character leveling through training in-game.
- Team competitions offered for earning game currency.
- Item exchanging and quests, and other community events outside the game.
- Periodic competitions and tournaments are supported.
- Gallery mode for reviewing great shot and more.
- Extensive chat support offered, to enhance community interaction.

Realism make true simulation possible
- Proprietary physics engine, which translates into a realistic golf course interaction and overall gameplay.
- Ball movement is accurately affected by ground conditions, physical dynamics and environmental factors, such as the wind, weather and temperature.
- Motion capture of real swing taken from a Korean PGA golfer

The Details that make the difference
- Shot quality is influenced by numerous factors, such as the daily practice and degree of fatigue as well as power and accuracy of a player.
- Various camera angles that lead the player to feel like they’re watching a professional golf game on television.
- Real courses are utilized for deeper realism.
- PGA rules apply to the game play.