The Movies Impressions

Lionhead's upcoming game will let you become a famous movie director. We have the details.

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At E3 2003, we managed to sit in for a demonstration of The Movies, Lionhead's upcoming strategy game. The Movies will let you play as the owner of a movie studio over a period of about 100 years, from 1900 until the present day. You'll begin by making black-and-white films, though over the course of your 100-year career, you'll research such groundbreaking technologies as boom microphones and color film.

Though we were able to see only a temporary, "placeholder" version of the game's interface, Lionhead designer Adrian Moore assured us that the developer wishes to make playing The Movies as simple as possible. In the menu screen we saw, Moore was able to plan a movie from a single menu, choosing the genre (horror, in this case), the actors (Bruce Campbell, Drew Barrymore, and Vincent Price as "the monster"), and the writing allotment. Coming up with a good script will require a lot of time and effort from your team of writers, represented by a five-star meter that gradually fills up as you wait. However, waiting as long as possible to let your team put together a five-star script will cost you a lot of money, since you'll be continuously paying your writers and your actors and other staffers in the meantime. In the demonstration, Moore chose to rush the script by interrupting his writers at about a star and a half, which resulted in the perfect script...for a cheesy B movie.

Moore went on to demonstrate how a movie is put together by scrolling about the colorful 3D movie set, around which actors, cameramen, gofers, and other paid members of staff milled about. As each member of staff walked about the lot, an icon consisting of a small ring of wadded-up dollar bills would periodically float up from the heads of each member of staff. According to Moore, this icon represented how much money you'll pay each staff member--sought-after starlets like Ms. Barrymore will cost you a great deal more money to hire and will send money icons flying through the air (and out of your pocket) in rapid succession. As such, Moore quickly set about building a set for the movie, including the exterior of a shack in the woods, the interior of the shack, and the basement of the shack. While shopping around for his own movie set, Moore happened to pass the camera by another set, at which another director was filming a Western that showed two cowboys having a fistfight. Moore took this scene as an opportunity to show how The Movies will use a simple, intuitive slider bar to help you direct most of your scenes. For instance, in a fight scene, you'll be able to slide your bar all the way to the left, which will cause your actors to feebly slap at each other and occasionally step on each other's toes, while sliding the bar further to the right will cause them to beat each other with their fists. On the highest setting, one of your actors will strangle the other and then kick the strangled actor while he's down.

Moore then went back to his own set to begin filming his movie, starting with a romantic interlude between Mr. Campbell and Ms. Barrymore. Just like fistfights, romantic scenes will have a slider that will let you, depending on what sort of movie you'd like to make, order your actors to shyly flirt with each other, or to leap into each other's arms and embrace passionately. As Moore explained, you'll be making these movies throughout the 20th century, and in the early part of your career, a movie with explicit violence or sexual themes will fail miserably because of the conservative values of that era. However, as a filmmaker, you'll want to constantly push the boundaries of what can and can't be shown on film, such as the world's first onscreen kiss. Once you're done filming your movie, you'll be able to use in-game tools (which will let you import your own voice and music into the game) to make a custom trailer for your film. According to Moore, Lionhead plans to hold regular contests that will let you submit your own trailer to the game's official Web site to compete with other armchair filmmakers' works. This unusual strategy game will be released sometime next year.

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