<< Portico: The Movies

4/10/2006

The Movies

Yeah, I'm just getting to this now. It was on my wish list, so the missus picked it up for my birthday. Good of her to do that. Always marry a nerd.

Lionhead and Peter Molyneux take a lot of beatings for creating games that are high on ambition and low on execution, and, despite the mostly positive reviews that The Movies got, this game has been lumped into the morass of failed expectations by much of the gaming public.

From what I can see that's a little unfair. I haven't really explored the much touted custom movie maker yet and I can already tell that this is a pretty good tycoon game. There are some interface problems, but there is a lot to recommend The Movies at a certain price point.

What I like most is that The Movies has a sense of time and place that few other games do. The period movies you make have the right feel, the clothing looks right, nothing is garishly out of place unless you advance too quickly on the research curve. I can think of few other "historical" game that has the same clarity about where and when it is set. And considering that the time changes with every passing hour, this is quite an accomplishment. Children of the Nile managed that feeling, but it was consciously an historical simulation, and limited to one time frame. This is a business simulation.

I may end up being disappointed in the end. But even if this is not the greatest people management sim of all time, I don't quite get the dismissiveness that many gamers have for this title.

Actually, I think I do. Molyneux is still paying for Black and White. Developers that embrace publicity can never move out of the shadow of their worst game. Even as Derek Smart's spaceship sims have improved (still not enough for me to understand them, mind you), he still bears the yoke of Battlecruiser 3000. A name change might let his games escape the past. John Romero will always be stuck with Daikatana. And Molyneux is forever linked with monkeys that throw crap.

This is partially Molyneux's fault. He has a history of trumpeting how great and revolutionary his games will be, and from the man who gave me Populous, I expect great and revolutionary things. But Black and White and Fable were only partially successful in meeting expectations that he had raised.

And so, this good but not great movie making toy is lumped in with Moly's Follies even though he made none of the same exaggerated predictions about what it would be or how it would transform gaming. Unfair, I think. But gamers are not exactly known for being fair.

5 Comments:

Blogger Reel Fanatic said...

Good stuff ... I bought this one early, and have also been surprised by the negativity .. I enjoy it quite a bit

4/10/2006 05:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Toby said...

This was one of my favourite games of last year, I thought it was really well done, ambitious and not without it's flaws but still pretty compelling.

Perhaps Lionhead and Peter Molyneux need a side project psueodnym or something, like musicians or writers - to get material out without attracting too much press or more importantly too many preconceptions.

4/10/2006 07:21:00 PM  
Blogger GregT said...

Hey, I loved Black and White! 8-)

I've been playing the Movies recently too, and I have to say that this is an absolutely fantastic piece of software, both as game and as tool, let down by the one crippling flaw in the difficulty tuning, being the rate at which new job applicants arrive at your studio. It feels unrealistic, immersion breaking, and very frustrating, and I would have much rather they moved the difficulty component of the game to movie profits, to cause (realistically) not every movie to actually make back the cost of creating it.

4/15/2006 08:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Michael A. said...

One local game shop had a closing sale last week, so quite by coincidence I picked this up at half price. I'd second gregt's comment. It also has the common flaw in many such games of way too much micro-management (for example, who was the genius who decided that people have to be put together 12+ times to form a relationship?) All in all, though, its an enjoyable game - just not great.

4/17/2006 04:36:00 PM  
Blogger Troy Goodfellow said...

Yeah, I fall into the "good, not great" category at this point. There is certainly a lot to criticize in the game design area, but there is a lot to like as well.

4/17/2006 04:59:00 PM  

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