twylite1 (twylite1) wrote,

Movies and games are not the same

I had an interesting chat conversation with a friend who is a professor of film at well known university. He has been involved in many capacities on a number of films, including his own. He was moaning about how he really wanted a more "cinematic" experience in his games. He went on to say how he though every game designer should be required to take a film class to learn how to put such an experience together.

I countered with I also thought that film makers should be required to take an interactive/game design class so they could learn what it takes to put a truly interactive experience together. "Why?" he retorted. "I don't want to make games." "And I don't want to make movies," I said. He went on to tell me that movies had nothing to learn from games, as games are where movies were 70 years ago. Therefore we game developers should learn from them.

I strongly disagree.

Movies are not games. Games are not movies. There are similarities, yes. But they are not the same. There are a couple of reasons why the comparison just does not work.

1. Non-linear-ity
I believe one of the biggest differences between film and games is non-linear-ity (is that even a word?? :) ) When I said this, my friend insisted that there were non-linear movies. IF there are, I haven't seen them. I have seen non linear story lines, but never a non linear movie. Moves, by their very medium, require the viewers watch it from beginning to end.

As game developers we have to develop entertainment that holds together no matter how or in what order the player chooses to view it. In fact, if there ever is a "choke point" in a game.. that is a point where if the player doesn't "do" what the designer decreed s/he must do at that point, we consider that to be bad design. Until films are such that any viewer can, at any time, stop the film, skip ahead 20 min, then back to 3 min past the credits and then to the middle , then replay the beginning and then skip straight to the end, THEN movies will be non-linear!

My friend keeps talking about how game producers don't understand camera movement and editing and shot composition. What I failed to get through to him is, we should NOT have control over those things. We cannot lead our players by the nose, tell them where to stand, how to place their camera and force them into fixed point cinematics during game play. The more we take control away from the player the less they like it.

Probably the game that has done the best with "cinematics" at this point is World of Warcraft. There are numerous "scenes" the players can become involved with and observe. HOwever, the biggest complaint about them is they play over and over again... like a movie!.. and therefore don't seem 'real".

2. Technology
Until very recently, game developers had to write a new engine for every game they developed. While that's less so today, most engines still require extensive modifications and customizations to fit the requirements of the specific game they are developing. Also, the fact that off-the-shelf engines exist indicates that, by their very nature, they are out of date. Technology still continues to move so fast that the "latest greatest" games are produced using technology that is still "bleeding" as it is put into the box.

If films were made the same way, the film producers would have to invent a new camera and film technology every time they made a film. Today film technology is far more accessible and far more reasonably priced than game technology. LIkewise, if films were made like games today, the producers would have to pay a royalty to the company that made the camera.. and the film.. and the lights.. and the editing booth...

3. Length of production cycle
Production cycle on a movie is about 3-6 months. That does not include post production which may take up to as much as another 6 months. THat means form the time the movie production is begun to the time a producer is selling it is 6 months to a year.

In the game industry just the PRODUCTION is approximately 18 months - 2 years; much longer if you are building an MMO. And during that time you have to keep the full team on. Unlike a move where when the shooting is complete, you send the crew home, the game team only gets larger as production continues. By the time you are in "beta" you may have as many as 100 people on a game team. And most have been there from the beginning. This makes for a very different production experience.

Both film and games are very successful, exciting entertainment industries. They are just not the same. I suggest that we attempt to learn from each other with the understanding that we are both uniquely good entertainment mediums with things to share with each other. And, I promise not to tell film producers how to make movies if they promise not to tell me how to make games!

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