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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The Choice: making games with Moviestorm

We’re always fascinated to hear about innovative uses for Moviestorm. Given that it’s fundamentally a machinima-style tool, a lot of people have wondered whether it’s possible to use it in a gaming context. However, since it’s a virtual film studio at heart, not a game engine, it doesn’t quite do all the things that some people expect. You can’t simply take Moviestorm characters and put them in a game, or bring game characters into Moviestorm. And since it all runs off user-created scripts, you can’t just set up scenarios and “play” them.

However, we’ve now seen a couple of people trying some experiments with other types of Moviestorm-based games. First of all, there was Jason3’s Alien Attack, which worked like an old “choose your own adventure” game. There are 22 short clips, and at the end of each one, you have to choose which clip to watch next to advance the story. It sort of works, but it isn’t the seamless gaming experience people expect these days, since you have to wait for a Web page and a video to load each time you make a choice. The links are also external to the movie, so you can’t play it full-screen and as a result, it all feels a little disjointed.

image The latest attempt at a Moviestorm game is The Choice, a freeware point and click adventure created with Adventure Maker. Point and click games were hugely popular in the 80s and 90s, before the development of high-speed graphics cards, and they’re still very common in Japan, where they’re known as visual novels. They’re fast and easy to create, they’re fun to play, and they’re a great way to learn a lot about interactive narrative and non-linear storytelling. (Or, in other words, how to write a story where the reader, not the author, decides what happens next.)  In the game, our amnesiac hero wakes up at a bus stop with no memory of who he is.  You have to find out who he is and what he is supposed to be doing.  Making the right choice can mean the differance between life and death!

image The Choice was created by Robert Yates of Robcar Games, based in Warrington, in the North of England. After getting fed up with being unemployed for several years, Robert decided to start his own company in May this year. He wanted to make games that were fun and easy to play, didn’t rely on violence for the gameplay, and had a positive moral message. Perhaps most importantly, he wanted to create games he could make on a minimal budget in his own home on his laptop. He has no formal programming training, but has been messing around with computers since owning a Commodore 64.  He looked at Adventure Maker, created by Giovanni Albani, but immediately started to wonder how to create the basic images for the game. Adventure Maker itself includes very little assets, and you need to import background images (either photos, or 3D rendered images). He asked around on the forums, and hooked up with one of the admins there, Barbara (better known in the Moviestorm community as the ever-helpful mystery_egypt). She recommended using Moviestorm to create stills.

imageRobert found the software very easy to use. “It only took a few hours to figure out Moviestorm using the tutorials,” he says. “They were fantastic. I made The Choice as an experiment, and it only took about a week. I just set up my scenes, hit Print Screen, and edited them in Paintbrush ready to import into Adventure Maker.” Robert also liked the affordability. “I’m funding all this myself, so cost is important to me,” he comments. “£5 a month is well within even my tiny budget! I bought some content packs, but I also rent the packs I don’t need often, and I use a lot of third party mods. I’m really impressed with what squirrelygirl has been doing. Her Victorian and mediaeval stuff is great.”

The Choice isn’t available through the Robcar Web site, largely for ethical reasons. “One of the possible endings is violent,” Robert points out. “That doesn’t fit with what we want to be doing.”

Robcar’s next Moviestorm-based game made is tapping into the vampire craze. “I’ll be using the Dark Romance pack for this one. It’s about a vampire who has to come to terms with his loved ones growing old while he’s immortal.”

Meanwhile, Barbara’s also creating games of her own. “I’m definitely planning to use Moviestorm for cut scenes to make the games more interesting,” she says. “I’m mostly creating little point and click adventures. I’m currently making a mystery/detective game. Though I do some modelling and animation myself, I’m very bad with character creation and animation. Moviestorm is very easy to use and fast.”  Barbara also works alone, in her spare time, from her home in Switzerland. Mystery’s Games is a one-woman show so far. My dream is of course to develop a bigger game, maybe even sell it, but I still want to get more practice for a commercial and polished game.”

imageThese first few works are very early, tentative experiments in how Moviestorm can be used in a gaming context. There are some technical issues (The Choice didn’t run on some of our machines here) and you certainly shouldn’t be expecting a Broken Sword experience. And admittedly, the gameplay is a little crude and amateurish in places, and the user interface is pretty rough and ready. But it’s exciting to see how Moviestorm is allowing people to develop new skills and express themselves creatively in new ways. Even if they then go on to use other tools to create more professional games, Moviestorm will have played an important role in getting them started. We’ll be watching with interest to see what people like Robert and Barbara come up with next!


(4) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/08 at 04:07 PM

Thanks for the article, Matt! :D

(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/09 at 12:19 PM

Thanks for the article Matt! :D

Nathan Smith on 08/23 at 02:22 AM

Recent days games developers utilizing most expensive software for better performance. I guess movie storm soft also great for making this generations game. The details are tremendous. Thanks a lot smile

Nathan Smith on 08/23 at 02:24 AM

Recent days games developers utilizing most expensive software for better performance. I guess movie storm soft also great for making this generations game. The details are tremendous.

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