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Dynamic Uninteresting Movie-Based Adventure System Simulator

February 13th, 2007 by Multimedia Mike

I’ve been suffering through a wave of interactive movie schlock for my Gaming Pathology project. This has led me to hypothesize about what I can do to help share these wretched I-movie experiences with a broader audience and even preserve this misery for future generations to revile. To that end, I have brainstormed about the Dynamic Uninteresting Movie-Based Adventure System Simulator (thanks to Cyril Z. for helping me with the expository project name).

Loosely, an I-movie is a “game” that relies heavily on pre-rendered full motion video (FMV) sequences. The sequences can be used to show transitions from one location to another or — more often than not — exhibit a marginal actor disgracing his chosen craft in order to advance the sheer confusion that passes for a storyline. Many of these so-called games also feature one or more puzzles so as not to rely entirely on one type of gameplay.

After playing through a number of these I-movie titles, I can’t help but notice certain programmatic similarities. For example, games like D and Of Light And Darkness feign immersive 3D environments with a combination of FMV files. Start at point A. Define a series of hotspots for the current scene that map to other FMV files. When the player clicks in one of those hotspots, play the next FMV file. There; that’s 90% of the game engine right there.

Internally, the games probably have a little of what might be termed a virtual machine in order to track the game’s state. At least, I postulate that it could be forced into some kind of virtual machine structure. This is used for tracking how far the player has progressed into the game, which hoops he has jumped through, and, by extension, what special things need to happen on certain screens. this would also pertain to various puzzles which are typically comprised of series of FMV files.

So here’s the pitch: A portable virtual machine in the spirit of ScummVM that knows how to interpret the data files for a variety of these I-movies and force them into a common model. This would probably entail a graph data structure describing a map and which FMV files get played when the player chooses to transition from point A to point B. Further, there would be some list of game goals to progress through. Most of these I-movies couldn’t possibly be much more involved than that. From my understanding, most of the FMV formats that these games use are already well supported by portable, open source software.

It’s just crazy enough to work. And to what end? That should be obvious– to continue humiliating the people responsible for these tarnishes on the good name of computer gaming.

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