Only in The Movies

By IAN MAISEL  |  August 11, 2006
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Click the screenshot to watch a music video for the song "Breathe" by the band Acracy made with Activision's The Movies
Take 9: Time is Money
By the 1960s, a few hundred thousand dollars here or there wasn’t going to make much difference one way or another on my balance sheet. Keeping productions in motion was a much larger problem. Once, my screenwriting department got overexcited about a brand new sound stage we’d just built for a World War II-type battlefield. It was a beautiful set, with a half-destroyed skyline and plenty of bombed-out building fronts, perfect for last-ditch rallying cries and Gestapo shoot-outs. My writers wrote that particular set into the next couple of scripts they churned out, and while I was filming the first movie, my number two team ground to a halt for an entire month because the first three scenes in their movie take place during the war. Just as I noticed this problem, the director of the first movie got so stressed out from directing his fourth movie in two years that he ran off the set to stuff his face with veal cutlets in the V.I.P. lounge of my studio restaurant.

I had to let the poor simp gorge himself enough to get his mood rating a hairline above poor, and meanwhile, two movies were totally stalled out. Finally, when he was adequately fattened up, I dragged his sorry ass back to scene 17. When all else failed I’d throw money at him, increasing his paltry salary and hiring a personal assistant to boost his fragile ego.

I mean, sure, I’d bleed a little bit of money to keep all the grips and extras standing around, but the important thing was time, dear God, time: That clock was ticking down through the months and six other studios were turning out much better movies, so I had to beat them with quantity.

Take 10: The Beautiful People
In The Movies, there is a Character Studio tool for customizing your actor’s faces. The character models lack muscular detail and the animation options provide only a simplistic palette of emotions. These qualities give all of the actors a disposable, interchangeable quality.

I overcame this effect by trying to model my actors and directors on particular celebrities, giving Jim Carrey and Steve Carrell stand-ins dark hair and putting them in comedy films, and giving Angelina Jolie and Catherina Zeta Jones evening gowns and making them romantic leads. This strategy helped personalize the experience, but it was difficult to maintain this level of craft as dozens of new characters rotated into increasingly complex productions.

This gets into a deeper problem with the game, which also applies to most other sims – the characters are overly generic. Particularly as your studio grows over time and you have a roster of ten to fifteen actors and directors – they all look the same. Everyone’s pretty skinny, the same height, they move the same, aging has virtually no effect save some graying hair and tiny, surface-level wrinkles. And if you keep them in the latest styles to maintain their necessary image, they all need to wear the same limited modern selection of three to five in vogue outfits. It’s like picking between Tom Cruise or Ethan Hawke or Ben Stiller to star in every movie – after a while, what’s the dif?

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