As is my curse I gave another overview introduction presentation last week on films made with games engines aka machinima. I then ran a workshop on the production process and techniques particularly looking at dedicated machinima tools through to games engines – now my YouTube machinimas have gone past 300 000 must be doing something right for some! But one of my key points in my intro talk was the exponential evolution of the form. It has moved away from dodgy, quick gag, non-lip synch first person shooter ‘head-shots’ through to quality tales – emotional drama, visually entrancing alongside real character led comedy. Add to this the fact that many machys are at a quality now to rival tradtional animation (see examples below).
So all speakers referred to story, quality writing but also the importance of being true to the culture of the existing game world (more at the bottom). Here are my opening slides showing key examples, classified into my categories as to what machinima is created for:
- Trailer promotion for Game
- Titles and game cinematics
- Community & cultural reflection
- Live in-game events
- Storytelling filmmaking & previz
- Informational & corporate
- Music videos
- Commercials or viral marketing
There are many engines to make machinima (as I have covered in previous posts), here again are some of the best:
Age of Conan, Antics, Armed Assault, Assasins Creed, Battlefield, Call of Duty 4, City of Heroes, Crackdown, Crysis, Doom 3, Eve Online, Everquest, Far Cry, FEAR, Frameforge, Gears of War, Heavenly Sword, Grand Theft Auto, Guild Wars, Half-Life, Halo, Heavy Metal, Iron Man, iClone, Jumper, Lithtech, Max Payne, Medal of Honour, Metal Gear, Movie Storm, Never Winter Nights, Runescape, Quake, Second Life, Spore, Star Wars Galaxies, Super Smash Bros, The Movies, The Sims, Total War, Unreal, Warhammer, World of Warcraft, Wowmodelviewer
To demonstrate how efficient creating machinima is to tell a ‘story’ I used the wonderful wowmodelviewer tool and a quick one take voice-over from SilkCharm and 3 hours later a fun intro to a part of my talk. Note: this is meant to be sketchy machinima.
One film I showed prompted one presenter to say no one will watch it unless it is humorous or ‘racy’. This example from Daniel Wasiluk in Poland using the same wowmodelviewer tool as my silly example above but of course over a much longer period! – weeks even, and some clever photoshop and editing package wizardry to create something delicate and magical.
To help frame the intro talk too I also talked about the ecosystem of machinima as a simple matrix from non-real time to completely all-live capture on one axis and then the difference between professional creation and community on the other.
I mapped a chart that had the ‘pixars’ of the world bottom left while companies like SLCN.tv are towards the top right. Pixar render high quality CG films frame by slow frame while SLCN really are the equivalent of an outside broadcast 4 camera unit inside a virtual world. Illclan who featured in an exclusive video at the seminar are pioneering cross-over machinima, films – used alongside and within TV shows as well as high production value machinima that rivals the best animation.
As well as the always optimistic Gary Wiesneski from SLCN we were graced by Jim Shomos who was talking about his hybrid machinima model where he had actors green screened into game motion backgrounds from Blazing Angels – he said machinima was too long as a word to describe this form and said we will all be using his term MOGIE in the future 🙂 Time will tell! Mordy Koots could be the first episodic comedy though (using real life actors) set exclusively inside a commercial game experience.
More remarkable is that even in real time social virtual worlds such as Second Life there are incredible films being made, particularly now with the beta viewer that has dynamic shadows. Here is Pyewacket Bellman’s fabulous machinima in Second Life based on the Nevermore poem by Edgar Allen Poe. Highly watchable and not a gag in sight! After that is an episode from Illclan’s Tiny Nation, which looks more like CG than second life.
As a final statement to my presentation I mentioned that machinima has come a tremendously long way in the past year and in 2-3 years we are going to see films almost indistinguishable from traditional animation methods (CG, web or analog). There are still at the moment pros and cons in using games engines to tell stories and of course the trailers, titles and cinematics for traditional games titles are machinima of course. Here are some final points from my presentation followed by where we are heading – a machinima made to promote Heavy Rain and as the opening says what you see is the ‘game engine’. This title is being released later this year – the next phase is upon us.
- Fast way to tell stories
- Quality is improving daily
- Understand & extend the culture of the game
- Beware of upsetting loyal players
- Excellent for pre-previz and character/script development
- More and more machinima appearing on broadcast although natural place is web