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The Movies Preview

publisher: Activision
developer: Lionhead Studios
genre: Simulation

PIII 800, 256MB RAM, 2.4GB HDD
ESRB rating: T

release date: Nov 08, 05
» All About The Movies on ActionTrip

I've always wanted to be a movie star. The acting bug bit me a while back, and I did some outdoor theatre and whatnot, but my ultimate aspiration is to be a full-fledged movie STAR. Of course, the fact that I'm a big schlub kinda interferes with that, so my dreams of actual moviestardom, complete with late night parties and scores of women throwing themselves at me is nonexistent. I'm also sure I'm not the first (or the last) person to hold this fantasy so near and dear to my heart. I know for a FACT that Peter Molyneux ALSO has secret designs to be a bigwig movie producer, which is the sole reason that Lionhead Studios has worked so hard on creating the much hyped movie management simulation game, The Movies.

Okay, I made that bit about Peter's movie aspirations up, but you get the idea.

Lionhead Studios recently threw the doors open to select members of the press, unveiling a playable build of The Movies to select, elite members of the press. How I got an invitation is still a mystery...but I digress.

The Movies places you in the role of the head of a movie studio in the 1920's, when the motion picture industry was in its infancy. You begin very modestly, with a blank lot, and from there, you must build your movie-making empire. You start with the essentials - a stage school, where you can hire the actors and directors that will shape your studio's future, a crew facility, a basic set, and an office where lot builders and janitors are hired. The game walks you through producing your first two movies, and from there, the direction your studio takes is entirely your own as you climb to the top of the studio pile.

The game looks and plays a lot like SimCity at first glance. Your studio can be laid out any way that you like, but if your layout is poorly designed, drab or unmanaged, your studio won't have much prestige. Studio prestige is what brings new would-be stars to your doorstep, creates hype for your upcoming films, and keeps the dollars rolling in long after your films are pulled from theatres. You can create several genres of film, such as action films, comedies, romance flicks, horror films, or sci-fi movies, but casting the right person for the right role has a direct effect on your film's success at the box office. Each actor and director has skills in each particular genre, and miscasting an actor will result in negative press about your movie. As your studio progresses, you'll need to add new sets as they are made available: a scriptwriting office, to create new movies, a research facility to develop new technologies and sets before the competition gets their hands on them, and a host of other amenities to keep your stars happy and working well with each other.

Your actors and directors don't work for free, and their pay is directly related to how well they function. Each major player in your studio has a mood bar that tells you how effective they will be in any movie they would be involved in. Several factors go into this mood bar, like their pay. If you cast the same actor over and over again, he will get stressed out, and the public will get tired of seeing that same actor over and over again (more commonly referred to as the "Tom Cruise Syndrome"). Cast him too sparingly, and he'll get bored. Actors and directors can unwind at the bar (once you build one) in between films, or they can practice their craft on set if they're idle. Of course, if they spend too much time at the bar, they'll spend more time getting drunk than working on set, and that can set back your production time. If an actor becomes too much of a problem, you have four options. You can either fire him, put him in rehab, which takes time and money, you can sell him to another studio for a quick buck, or you can reassign him to another job. Any person on your studio lot can fill any role. Your next ing'nue can be strolling about your lot as a scriptwriter, and you may not even know it. If you get sick of a director throwing hissy fits on set, turn him into a crewman or even worse...a janitor.

Every five years, the awards ceremonies are held, that pit your studio against the other four CPU controlled studios. If you've kept up on the major components and produced quality films, you could be rewarded with an award that brings your studio prestige, and may make some nice things happen, such as all of your actors may start working for you for free. As time progresses, new moviemaking technologies become available, and the public will start asking for different things. World events will be broadcast, informing the player as to which genre he should be paying attention to. If the world wants comedies, and you're giving them Horror films, no one will want to go see them, and you'll be essentially flushing your money down the drain.

One of the most talked about features of this game is the Advanced Script Editor. This feature becomes available when you build an Advanced Script studio. This piece is really cool, folks. When you build a scriptwriting office, you set a writer in the office, and away he goes, creating a movie that is essentially, random. The game picks a title, chooses the sets and directs the action. The movie can be customized in small pieces at the outset, but it is pretty much in the can and out the door. The Advanced Script Editor takes the pen out of your scriptwriter and director's hand and puts it in your own. You can create your own film from the ground up, controlling every facet of the film. You choose which actor plays each role, and are given an extensive set of scenes to choose from, where all of the action takes place. And when I say extensive, I mean EXTENSIVE. (But before you ask, no, you can't have your actors running around the entire movie naked. Pervert.) Just about any scene from any genre can be used in any movie, which can make for some pretty entertaining combinations. I spent about 1 hours handcrafting a movie using the game's tools - the movie was called You Can Die Twice, a kung-fu action comedy set in the future. All in all, the movie ran for about 20 minutes, and was warmly received in the box office. Once your studio has a Post-Production office, you can even export your custom scripts from the game into movie files that can be viewed outside the game! Unfortunately, my movie masterpiece was left in San Francisco...damn NDAs.

I could write for another few hours as to all of the fun little toys you can get and nifty things you can do with this game, but this is a PREview...and I don't want to give away the farm completely. After spending some quality time with this game, I can say that The Movies is destined for great things, and will bring out the budding director in all of us.

Cut, print, and that's a wrap, folks.



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