So, I was such a good boy yesterday — meeting and surpassing my NaNoWriMo word quota — that I treated myself to some time playing around with The Movies last night. After going through the tutorial, playing a basic game, and bringing a 1920’s studio to the brink of ruin, I dove into the sandbox mode around 1950 gave myself $100 million to start with, a ready-made lot, an opened “Pansy Productions” — a studio dedicated to artistic films, portraying male relationships from the platonic to the passionate. I set up a custom screenwriting shop, to have more control over the storyline, and set to work.
Aside from the ability to release movies and get reviews in the came, there’s also a pretty decent online community where you can upload movies for others to watch, download and/or rate. After some abortive attempts, I think I’ve started to get the hang of it. My best and most recent upload is Crosstown, pretty much a stock romance film except that the leads are both male. You can view it or download it at the link above. I need to work a bit on my technique, and figure out the quirks of The Movies, but I think this isn’t bad for one of my first attempts.
As for the rest of the game, there are some weaknesses that can probably be improved upon in patches, updates, and expansion packs, but most of what I have to say about it is positive.
Right off the bat, of course, it reminds me of The Sims in a number of ways because it basically takes the “movie star” career option from that game and makes it a standalone game. I bought The Sims Superstar Expansion Pack when it came out and The Movies reminded me of a slightly more limited version of that. The limitations, however, make it much easier to get immediately into gameplay without the detailed set-up that The Sims usually requires. In The Sims half the fun is setting everything up. In The Movies it’s all about the storytelling.
The major frustration with starting a basic game starting with a new studio in the 1920s is that you have to earn story control by getting a high enough rating to get a custom screenwriting office that lets you have complete set and storyboard control. Same goes for the advanced post-production office. Until you get those, you’re at the mercy of your screenwriters.
Once you get control of your movies, they get better as there are more scenes, more complicated plots and more special effects. However, that means movies also take longer to shoot. Fortunately the sandbox mode allows you to chose whether movies get shot automatically or not. If they are, you’d better be sure you’ve got the stars and script you want.
Maybe I’m just a computer game geek, but The Movies looks like it can easily provide hours and hours of game play (I finally shut it off at about 2;30am) all by itself. The online community is one place where I think the real strength lies and where more features will probably be introduced to make gameplay even more interesting. Of course, these days an good online community module is probably a prerequisite for any computer game’s success. (A sandbox module — where most rules are suspendable and resources are nearly unlimited — helps too.) For example the virtual credits earned by the quality of the movies you release will soon be used to purchase props online that can be used in the game.
I’ve been tracking the progress of The Movies for about a year now, and I think I can safely say the developers, etc. delivered pretty well on the original promise of the game.