The Age from Melbourne, Victoria, Victoria, Australia on December 7, 2000 · Page 97
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The Age from Melbourne, Victoria, Victoria, Australia · Page 97

Melbourne, Victoria, Victoria, Australia
Issue Date:
Thursday, December 7, 2000
Page 97
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Green Guide December 7, 2000 The Age New games in a Hollywood groove Continued from page 1 9 Some players, like Aaron and his friends, simply press the Escape key to skip the "movie". And, for the game developers, making video games is becoming more like making movies, with some of the same problems. Production costs are rising and production schedules are getting longer. The newly released Star Trek: Deep Space Nine computer game, titled The Fallen, took developers 22 months to complete for Simon & Schuster Interactive longer Games that look like movies, or movies masquerading as games . swm ir v ..- c& -' Production values: Hitman hat a film noir feel. than it took Paramount Studios to complete some Star Trek movies for theatrical release. There are even a few game-design stars who, based on their reputations for creating bestsellers, can demand star-status salaries to develop new games. Robert Kotick, co-chairman and chief executive of Activision, one of the world's largest developers of computer and ideo games, says the industry is more likely to bet on potential blockbusters than on the small, more cheaply produced games. "Instead of doing five titles for $1 million each, people are focused more on doing one title for $4 million," Kotick says. An A-level computer game, industry experts say, can easily cost as much as $US10 million ; . ; , INES too long at the local ctnepIexT I ' Game developers say they are hoping iL Bail that video gamers will turn to a breed - of new computer games that look like movies but play like Interactive adven- tures. Don't know where to start? Consider ; , this list of computer games that seem as . though they were dreamed up In video ;, . arcades but finished up In movie studios. '. Many of these games are designed to play on a variety of machines, including the; . handheld GameBoy Color, but only those . game formats that, deliver the most pine- ; . matic play are noted. : . ' , :, v; :c . ' " Crimson Skies ' 1 ;'-;:, '"' , The game is a fully realised world set In an alternative American past in which the United States exists as a group of lndepen- -., dent regions. Air piracy reigns and players take off In , exotic aircraft to complete ' ' outlandish missions that promise fantasy ; dogfights. (Microsoft, for Windows-based" , PC www.mlcrbsoft.comgamesy) -' .Star Trek Deep Space Nine: The Fallen .- w-'"1 r - This is one of the few Star Trek games that seems like a true extension of the popular ' space opera that went off the air last year.', , Players assume the identity of three of the; ' show's main characters (one at a time) and ' try to save the known universe once again. Watch for exceptional viewpoints and - virtual camera angles. (Simon & Schuster-Interactive, , for Windows-based PCs. -,' ;. t;N V' .Shenmue ;;.i'j..r a This dreamy Japanese import challenges the player to solve a deeply engaging , ; mystery and it almost begs to be shown on . a movie screen. (Sega, for Sega DreamcasL ; . ,i ' Kessen ' ' ' 1 ' " 1 You. are a general In 17th-century Japan, ',, seated on your horse commanding armies '. of samurai. Planning and plotting give way to lots .of action as warriors clash in a '.' digital whirlwind of sweat, swords and," : dust. (EA and Koei, for PlayStation2.' , t , '" Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 -. - ..This game conveys a convincing' sense of '; movement as players mount a skateboard and take off on dizzying rides. There are 13 ' skaters, each with a distinctive style that ' players can control as they lay waste to -' ramps,'"', rails . and assorted . obstacles. ' (Activision, for Windows-based PCs, Sony f PlayStation,' Sega ' Dreamcast. " V Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty - ' ' Not expected to reach retail shelves until late next year (the original Metal Gear Solid ' to SUS15 million and take up to two years to finish. Of course, the potential for great profit is there. In the US, video-game revenue approached movie-business levels last year, bringing in $US7.4 billion, compared with SUS7.5 billion in cinema box office sales, according to the National Association of Theatre Owners and PC Data, a company that tracks electronics sales. After a Portable CD player? Why buy a standard CD player when you can purchase the ADM MP3 CD Player? The ADM MP3 CD Player plays , standard CD's and MP3 CD's For Only S249 - Available at JSS mmfm MOmm Virtually all your music needs online "Parallels between the movie market and the game market are so amazing that they have almost become one and the same," says Chris Mike, vice-president for marketing at Konami, a leading maker of video and computer games, in Redwood City, California. Game developers and executives routinely talk about trying to create a pre-release buzz for their games and then nervously anticipate the first round of reviews, just like Hollywood studio executives. As with movies, Mike adds, "games are a hit-driven business". One of the new games is Kassen, a military conquest game by EA and Koei, designed for PlayStation2. With its improved processing power, it plunges players into 17th-century japan and seemingly endless battlefields. Perfect rows of Samurai archers reach for their bows as horses snort and colorful banners snap in the wind, moments before a cavalry charges in a clash of vast armies righting for glory and territory. In Halo, a futuristic Earth-versus-Them shooter-and-strategy game scheduled for release early next year by Bungie, the computer-generated preview that sets up the game lasts for nine minutes. Leaked snippets of the cinematic elements of the yet-to-be-released PlayStation2 game Metal Gear Solid 2: Tlte Sons of Liberty, by Konami, have been showing up on websites. In Japan, a DVD of the game's computer-generated action scenes is being sold on the street. Bootleg copies have made their way elsewhere. "Our whole goal is to give the player the kind of role of being Errol Flynn in a 1930s, 1940s great pirate adventure film of the air," says Jordan Weisman, the creative director of Crimson Skies, which was released recently in the US. Players take the role of dashing ace Nathan Zachary and the action is built around not only shooting down opponents, but also accomplishing missions that give the game a sort of dramatic arch. Crimson Skies is spawning an official line of novels, aircraft manuals, maps and other accessories made in the art deco style of the late 1920s and 1930s, just as a hit film might. The game even opens with a grainy, black-and-white newsreel resembling Citizen Kane, to establish an air of an authentic time and place. Forrester Research's Scheirer says the proliferation of posters, action figures and other products tied to movie-like video games is further proof that they are becoming more realistic, so much so that they are becoming "emotionally resonant" with players. . But the new creative freedom comes with Its own liabilities, says Doug Hare, production project director of The Fallen. Scripts must be is still available), this game by all accounts . will be worth the. wait. An early version ' shown to reporters promises to plunge "' players into a photo-realistic, 3-D world where quick thinking is as important as a quick draw. (Konami, for Play Station2. . . l , -( , A Mechwarrior 4: Vengeance ' This Is the latest and most movielike of all . the ventures Into the BattleTech universe , j conceived by Jordan Weisman, who also created the retro-forward world of Crimson ' Skies. Players fight battles with hulking war machines. (Microsoft, for Windows-based " PCs. www.nucro8oft.comgame8) ; : " . Hitman: Codename 47 This - tactical problem-solving game . emphasises cunning ,over carnage. The environment has a dark, film noir feel but make no mistake this is a game about assassination. (Eldos, for Windows-based PCs. ' ' " Starship Troopers. : ' f , - Based on the 1 998 film that in turn is based : on a classic science-fiction novel Of Inter- . planetary war, this shooter game takes almost all Its visual cues from the big- ' v budget' Hollywood films. (Hasbro Interactive . tot. Windows-based PCs.'' v.;.', ' , -v-. NEW YORK TIMES ' ; .j written as they are for a film, except they must be much longer because games are not linear, meaning they have no clear middle or end. Game producers often point out that a movie might last two hours, but a game is. often crammed with enough material to last for as long as 80 hours. Games are becoming more like movies in another way, too. Weisman, who invented the Crimson Skies universe, says game makers feel pressure to begin recovering production costs as soon as the product is released. Game industry executives -don't have box-office receipts to study, but they do have weekly sales reports from the big chain stores. Then there are the sequels. Final Fantasy, by Squaresoft, has been released in its ninth incarnation and Microsoft's MechWarrior 4 Bootlegged: Metal Gear Solid 2: The Sons of Liberty. and Techmo's D.O.A. 2: Hardcore recently reached stores. Hare is already promising a sequel to The Fallen. "As our budgets grow, there is similar pressure, like in Hollywood, to be able to follow on a success," Weisman says. "Studios need to have the right balance to continue with franchises." Actor Mark Hamill, who has been working to complete The Black Pearl, a computer-game version of a script he originally wrote for a film, laments that the computer-game world has become so wedded to movie action. "The trouble with my game is that it is more of a thinking man's game," he says. "It has less action and rewards non-confrontation, which I think is an important element in this time. "My biggest problem is that, with the type of gaming consoles and technology that can handle so much action, where you have so much memory available to you, sometimes you're not looking at the product as a whole. You wonder why in the game you are being chased by 38 helicopters. Is it because it is possible?" , . NY TIMES

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