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The Movies is a business simulation game created by Lionhead Studios for Microsoft Windows and subsequently ported to Mac OS X by Feral Interactive. It was released on November 8, 2005 in North America, and November 11, 2005 in Europe after reaching gold status on October 8, 2005. The game allows players to take the role of a Hollywood film mogul, running a studio and creating films. Much has been made about the film-making aspect of the game, as it allows players to easily create viewable works or machinima. The game is similar to the early 1990s film production game Stunt Island; the game is also similar to the 1988 game Charlie Chaplin, the 1996 game Steven Spielberg's Director's Chair and, to a lesser extent, the 1995 game 3D Movie Maker.
On 6 June 2006, the first, and to date, only expansion pack was released, The Movies: Stunts and Effects. This expansion added a host of new features, among which were stunts (and stunt doubles), and special effects, as well as the ability to designate custom camera angles. This game is also available on the Mac. The Mac port of the game was published by Feral Interactive and developed by Robosoft Technologies. It won Best Simulation Game at the BAFTA Video Games Awards for the Mac specific features that have been incorporated in the game.
In The Movies, players get the chance to run their own movie studio. The game can be divided into three main areas — designing the movie studio, forging the careers of movie stars and making movies. It is possible to focus on any of those areas that appeal most, and spend less time on the others. The game plays through from the birth of cinema to the present day and into the near future, with all the technology and historical advances that occur along that timeline. After the movies have been made, they can be played back for the viewer to watch. It is possible once the movie is made to add voice, text and music in post-production.
The two most important types of staff in the game are actors and directors, referred to as "stars" in the game. In order to keep stars in a positive mood, the player will need to give them a salary the stars deem satisfactory (relative to their success), an image the stars deem decent, a trailer of good quality, and a large entourage. Stars can also get stressed or bored, depending on how many movies the player puts them in. Each star has different thresholds regarding when they will get stressed or bored. If stars get stressed, they will resort to alcoholism or over-eating. Actors play a big role in The Movies. An actor's age and physique affects the quality of movies. Scary-looking actors are suited for horror roles. Younger, more handsome looking actors are more suited for romance movie roles. 30-year-old actors are suited for action roles, and older actors are suited for comedy roles. All actors and directors will retire at age 70. All films require crew members to carry out the filming process. Early films just require a camera operator and a clapperboard operator, but more advanced films require boom mike operators, lighting controllers and other specialised crew members. Other staff include extras (which can be promoted to Star status if they are good enough), janitors, scientists, scriptwriters, and crew members.
The studio lot is where sets and buildings are built. In order to increase the 'prestige' of the studio lot, the studio must be neat, free of litter, well laid out and with areas of grass, trees and decoration. Buildings must also be linked together by paths. Buildings and sets also decay, thus decreasing the quality of movies that they appear in. They will eventually become unusable if they do not receive maintenance or repair by your staff. Once this happens, you will need to build a new one. The game begins with four rival studios, and six studios are added later. No more studios open for business after the year 2000.
There is no limit on movie length. The average movie length is between 30 seconds and 3 minutes, but user created films can be as long as budget will allow (although a 10 minute film might require over 20 game years of filming). In sandbox mode however, a director can have the movie shoot automatically with the correct options turned on, allowing a 15-20 minute movie made in about a minute. If this is chosen, however, the movie's crew rating will be announced as "awful", so it might be better to wait. Once the actors, extras, director and crew are assigned to a film, production begins, with the entire staff of the film traveling between sets to film the movie. The sandbox mode allows films to be created without undergoing the lengthy production process, and with budgets of over $100 million. A film can be one of five genres: action, comedy, horror, romance or science fiction. The main effect genre choice has is that real world events affect popularity of different genres. (The Vietnam War decreases popularity of action, the Space Race increases the popularity of science fiction, World War II decreases the popularity of horror, the post-war period increases the popularity of horror, and the Great Depression increases the popularity of comedy).
Players are able to pick a script provided by the studio's writers or write their own, although automated scripts take long to write in game time, while user-written scripts take longer to write in real time. For pre-written scripts, the player hires a writer at the Scriptwriting Office to make one. Multiple writers can collaborate on a single script in order to write it quicker. A series of upgrades, which are unlocked by winning studio awards, will allow the player to build higher quality Scriptwriting Offices, which increase the maximum rating a script can garner (1 star to 4 stars). The ability to write one's own script is enabled after unlocking the Custom Scriptwriting Office, which is itself unlocked from winning an award. It is limited in terms of quality to what the highest scripting office can produce. Writing a custom script follows a storyboard-like suite. For each scene, the player chooses a set for the scene and then the action that will occur during the scene (for example: 'Living Room 1: Enter Scared'). The actors and their costumes can be chosen, extras assigned roles and mood, lighting and weather settings altered. The process will cost money though, the price increasing for each scene. The player can choose to have the structure set out for them (e.g., Introduction, pursuit, conflict, resolution) or "Freeform" mode, where there are no guidelines.
Sets are the constructions in the studio lot where the cast and crew assemble to shoot movies. The sets are divided into categories such as urban, western and rural. Different scenes have different actions available (a bar might feature many drinking related actions, while a street would feature various car actions). Sets can be used to practice movies and increase genre experience. For example, an actor practising on the set of a spaceship will increase his/her science fiction proficiency, leading to a better performance in sci-fi movies he/she is cast in.
Once production has finished, the film undergoes post production (provided a Post Production Building has been erected), where music, sound effects, subtitles, speech and titles can be added to the movie. Cuts and changes can also be made to the length and order of the scenes, making editing the film easier. You can also record sounds and a dialogue track for each character in that particular scene. The game allows for lip-synching, matching the speech to the actors. However, this only works for short sound files, and only shows basic lip movements. Once the movie has been completed, it can be saved in a proprietary file format for transferring to other PC users, or WMV format for online sharing. Outstanding player-made films will be nominated for a Stanley, Lionhead's version of the Oscars. Once you have reached Level 3 in story mode, the publicity office becomes available. This allows actors to hold press conferences and organises marketing for your movie. Once a publicity office is built, players can also choose an advertising budget when releasing a film. A heavily-advertised movie can make much more money, but using too much advertising can result in the movie being 'over-exposed'.
The game starts in 1920 and continues indefinitely, although technologies tail off in 2020. As a result, early films are in black and white without sound, while modern movies feature digital sound and computer-generated imagery. Inventing these innovations before rival studios can increase the quality of your films, but hiring more researchers can cost more than the extra income the advances provide. And remember the staff need pay.
The Movies Online
The Movies Online was the online portal for those who wished to release their movies to other gamers. As well as its own section on the general Lionhead forums, TMO allowed players to upload their own movies to the Internet for others to review and criticise. Reviews allowed users to rate movies from 1 to 5 stars, as well as leave a comment. Comments were optional, though many members wrote as long as five paragraphs for reviews. When uploading a movie, the player could place his movie into one of five different categories: Romance, Action, Comedy, Horror, and Sci-Fi. Comedy and Horror were the two most popular, followed by Sci-fi, Action, and Romance. This translated into Virtual Credits (VCs), a form of virtual currency that was used to buy new props, costumes, and sets, and to advertise online movies.
When the game was first released, a "propshop" was advertised as the only way to spend VCs. Moviemakers were asked, not required, to upload their movies made using the game, earning them around 500 VCs. Each review was worth 200 VC. After The Movies Stunts & Effects was released, The Movies Online entire site was remade. The new TMO featured a way to advertise movies to the general public, using movie posters. Movie posters were uploaded and could be posted to the main movie-poster spot on the homepage for only 1,000 VC. Posters were randomly shown. This was, besides the propshop, the only "official" way to spend VCs. Many community members of TMO required VCs to enter competitions. Although VCs were abundant, and almost all the everyday members had over 5,000 VC, VCs in competitions offered a fun, free way to win fake money.
Every week, Lionhead picked out six movies to be featured on the TMO homepage. These movies could be submitted to fansites, who generally contacted Lionhead on which movies they nominated for Hot Picks. Hot Picks were a very effective way of getting people to view someones movies and earn VCs. The "Hall Of Fame" was the 9th TMO chart, which featured the best TMO charts since the site was re-done at the release of Stunts & Effects. Before the site was re-done, there was a "Top Stars" chart, in which Top Stars were featured on the site. The Top Stars were fictional, and were often judged by how many films they appeared in on TMO. The charts were generally updated every six hours. The exact formula for how the charts were resolved was not publicly known, but numbers of unique viewers, peer rating and time elapsed since release of any given movie all played a role in calculating chart position.
On July 18, 2008, The Movies Online was taken offline due to server problems. On August 4, 2008, the servers were fixed. On September 2, 2008, The Movies Online experienced yet more technical difficulties. These had been solved to an extent but much of The Movies Online website did not work including the chart system and many bugs remained. On November 7, 2008, it was announced by the Lionhead team that The Movies Online would be closing on December 5. The Movies section of their forums will stay online but with a few changes to some sections of the forums.
On December 5, 2008, The Movies Online was shut down after three years and one month active. The website since its opening in 2005 has had two million visitors and 33025270 seconds' (more than one year's) worth of movies uploaded. The reason for closure was a drop in visitors and movies being uploaded to the website. A fansite has since been set up to replace TMO called The Movies Underground, although this fansite can not use the direct uploading feature within the game movies as exported from the game and then uploaded onto the website.
Production of The Movies began back in late 2001 in a Lionhead Studios brain-storming conference. The idea began when Peter Molyneux and a few other Lionhead Studios came up with a new idea for a simulation game inspired by the 1990s hit game Hollywood Mogul. However, the idea was to create a more diverse and lifelike strategy aspect to the game giving players the option to create their very own movie, a feature that Hollywood Mogul did not include. They announced the idea in April 2002 at E3 2002. The fan reaction was pretty big- The Movies booth was one of E3's most visited that year and many companies wanted to distribute the game. Lionhead Studios eventually chose Activision. The game took almost 4 years to make because of various changes to the graphic engine during production. It was finally released for Microsoft Windows in November 2005.
The game was originally going to be ported to PlayStation 2 and Xbox, but development of the console ports was halted immediately before acquisition of Lionhead by Microsoft. The game was officially cancelled on February 7, 2006. Poor sales was the reason cited for the cancellation. On February 8, 2006, Lionhead Studios announced that the console version may still be released, it just wouldn't be published by Activision. Some rumors have hinted that if it is released on consoles, it may see a release on next-gen systems: Wii, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
In October 2006, the Macintosh version by Feral Interactive won a Bafta for the best simulation game of 2006 at the Bafta games awards. The Macintosh version added a number of additional features which aren't available in the original PC release, including iPod & HD resolution video export modes, integration with Apple's iLife applications such as iTunes, iMovieHD and GarageBand, and an extra bonus utility. The game was also nominated in the soundtrack category, although it did not win.
The game has been designed to be mod-able. Lionhead has stated that they might release the actual tools they used to create scenes (though as of yet, no such thing has been seen), shortly after the release of the game, along with expansion packs. Alongside this, unofficial mods are possible, leading to extra props, sets, animations, scenes, and clothing designs. 8eyedbaby is one of the first and most popular modding sites for The Movies besides The Movies 3D. Since even before the games release, fans have been creating tools for the modification of meshes and costumes. In November 2007, The Movies Editor was released by DCMF, a tool which aims to make the task of creating new sets/costumes/props for The Movies possible for even the most non-technical of users. The Movies website contains a section called the Propshop, which lets users purchase additional content using virtual credits, earned through other achievements online. The propshop was regularly updated with new props, sets and costumes up until recently. Lionhead has now subsequently closed down the propshop along with The Movies Online. The basic concept of the propshop was taken over by The Movies 3D. For many activities you earn Virtual Credits and can spent them for new and complex mods. The Movies has many virtual and other "Easter Eggs", undocumented features, unannounced features, unannounced content, oddities, glitches inside The Movies including all current EPs patches.
The soundtrack for The Movies was composed by British film and television composer Daniel Pemberton. The soundtrack is varied, containing the many different styles of music used in different genres of film. While in gameplay there is a radio station playing called KMVS. For each significant cultural era (e.g. the Red Scare) there is a DJ with a different personality and favored genre of music. The change in music is as follows:
- 1920s and 1930s: Jazz
- 1940s: Swing Jazz and War Themed Music.
- 1950s and 1960s: Classic rock
- 1970s: Disco and Arena rock
- 1980s: Urban, Arena rock, New Wave
- 1990s: Grunge and American rock
- 2000s: Pop
- 2010s and On: All the music above is played randomly
- 2012s End of game
At certain times newsworthy events will occur (and be read out on KMVS, but not by the current DJ). There are two broadcasts for each event: a prediction, which usually occurs a couple of years before the actual event, and an actual bulletin). These generally shift the genre interests of the public when predicted and after occurring.
Although events can be read separately on the timeline, the KMVS broadcasts are typically parodies, gross understatements, or exaggerations of the event or opinions at the time regarding the event (for example, when the news broadcasts about the computer arrive, they state optimistically that by 2050 computers will be no bigger than a car and be able to store about 5000 words), and the various Red Scare broadcasts claim that communism is literally a viral infection (a man is reported to catch it from a toilet manufactured in a communist country). The news extends into the "future" at least up to 2015, when it is reported that astronauts have landed on Mars and vandalised the landscape. There is an element of political satire within these broadcasts as well; the achievements and beliefs of countries opposed to America are usually mocked or condemned (Sputnik is "proven" to be a fake) by these broadcasters, whilst similar American policies are usually heartedly overpraised.
The game was released as a standard edition and a premiere edition, which contains additional content. The Movies: Stunts & Effects is the only expansion pack for The Movies and was released in June 2006. It adds stunts, stunt men, new sets and costumes to the game. The changes in gameplay include a freely movable camera position, the ability to hire stuntmen and overlay which can to be used in players films.
The Movies has been used often in machinima videos. Machinima is film making within a real-time, 3D virtual environment, often using 3D video-game technologies. Machinima is real-world film making techniques applied within an interactive virtual space where characters and events can be either controlled by humans, scripts or artificial intelligence. By combining the techniques of film making, animation production and the technology of real-time 3D game engines, Machinima makes for a very cost effective and time-efficient way to produce films, with a large amount of creative control. 
Lionhead's The Movies thus promotes the very essence of machinima, through the use of a wider database of sets, costumes, props, and scenes. The modifiability of the game contents is also on par with other game engines used in machinima. However, the movie editor provided by Lionhead is less powerful than outside editors, and the rendering and encoding of the video and audio much more restrictive. This explains why many The Movies movie makers choose to use outside tools for post-production. Given its November 2005 release, there are already a great number of machinima movies and series made with The Movies that have been noticed outside of its isolated community.  Many of these films, hosted by free video sites, range in genre and depth. Given the breadth of the story telling capabilities of the game, there will likely be more in the future, even if Lionhead discontinues the game development.
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