The Movies Preview

Lionhead's upcoming PC and console game will let you run your own film studio. Get the details here.

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Breaking into show business is a tough gig, but Lionhead's upcoming PC and console strategy game will give you a head start. The Movies will let you be the head of your very own movie studio, starting in any time period between the early 20th century and the early 21st century. You'll have about 100 years of motion-picture history to play with, in addition to a full-on studio lot, a cast of celebrity talent, movie sets, and the chance to be one of the most celebrated filmmakers in history.

The Movies will let you run your very own film studio.
The Movies will let you run your very own film studio.

Of course, every filmmaker has to start somewhere, and in The Movies, you'll usually start at the bottom with a small studio, a limited budget, and some restrictions on what you can and can't show. One of The Movies' most intriguing features is that since you'll be operating a studio throughout the 20th century, you'll be contending with prevailing social attitudes--in the 1920s, having a female star show a bit of ankle might lead to highly negative reviews from overly conservative critics, but at the same time, being a pioneer who films the first onscreen kiss will earn your studio fame. The game will have a timeline at the top of the screen that keeps track of time and any milestones your movies may have reached, at least until the studio goes bust. In order to succeed, you'll need to make sure your films aren't too over the top or offensive for the time period but also that they try to break new ground--it'll be a balancing act.

The same can be said of running a successful studio. Even though the film industry is a lucrative one, money won't grow on trees, either. You'll have to deal with lots of different costs, including prettying up your studio lot with amenities like cafeterias, washrooms, and the requisite water tower to keep the cast and crew happy, and you'll also need to pay your team of writers to come up with scripts that will work. If you wish, you can let your writers continue to write, revise, and polish a script so that it goes from being a two-star movie to a four-star movie, but in the meantime, funds will be flying out of your bank account to pay for them, and for your staff, and for your celebrity actors.

Every studio needs a lot. And every superstar needs a trailer.
Every studio needs a lot. And every superstar needs a trailer.

You'll watch tiny swarms of dollar bills flying off the top of your actors' heads as they walk across the lot in The Movies (a faster swarm means that your actors are costing you more), and in addition to making sure they're well paid, you need to make sure they're happy by getting them a grandiose trailer that's also cordoned off from the paparazzi (but occasionally allows groupies to sneak in). Hollywood stars aren't always easy to manage, and they won't all be good sports in The Movies either. For instance, they may develop destructive physical habits, like overeating or overdrinking problems, which will require you to send them off the set until they can lose weight or dry out--while your movie production is held up in the meantime. If you make your celebrities into huge stars, rival studios may even try to steal them away from you, so if you want them to stick around, you'll have to make sure they stay happy. Of course, you can attempt to do the same to your rivals by offering bigger, fatter contracts to up-and-coming stars you want in your studio.

Interestingly, you'll also receive random challenges over the course of your career that could lead to further opportunities down the line. A wealthy socialite might offer you a pile of money to make a movie starring his talentless, spoiled-brat daughter, for instance--if you can pull it off, you may become friends with this character, and he may come back and help you out later or offer new challenges.

Fortunately, The Movies will have a set of advisers who will provide useful advice and help you manage different aspects of your studio. According to designer Adrian Moore, these advisers will let you focus on the aspects of the game that interest you most. This can include aspects of the game like building sets, which can be as simple as a living room with a couch, a phony desert with poster-board cacti, or a flatland re-creation of the side of a tall building with the hero hanging out of a window. In all cases, having an appropriate set for a Western, a romantic comedy, or a horror film is important, as is varying the sets between movies. Movie sets are expensive, but if you keep using the same set in movie after movie, the critics will take notice and pan your next film.

Once the stage is set, it's time to block out some scenes.
Once the stage is set, it's time to block out some scenes.

Once you have a set built, you can use The Movies' streamlined interface to select your cast of actors and choose their wardrobe from a long list of attire that varies from sensible jeans and jackets to plush animal mascot costumes. Once you've got a script, actors, and a set ready, you can green-light your film. You can block out each on-camera scene by choosing a scene type from a list (romantic, action, comedy, and so on), adjusting camera angles, and choosing how you want it to go. The game will have a simple slider control at the bottom of the screen that lets you determine how "extreme" you want your scene to be. For example, if you keep the slider all the way to the left in a romantic scene, your actors will shyly hold each other's hands, while sliding it further to the right will cause them to leap into each other's arms. When your movie is entirely filmed, it will be released to the public and praised (or razed) by the critics--and depending on the time period you film in, you may even be able to make further royalties on it with eventual VHS and DVD rereleases.

The PC version of the game will be supported after release with a Web-based fan community site that will let you exchange your movies with other users, and you may even be able to enter contests to make the best movies. The console versions of the game will likely emphasize the challenge- and objective-based aspects of gameplay a bit more, and the PS2 and Xbox versions of the game will include online support of some kind, though what sort of online support will be available for the GameCube (if any) has not yet been confirmed. The Movies is scheduled for release on the PC and consoles later this year.

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