Guillermo del Toro Talks On Games

29 08 2008

In terms of film, the past decade has seen a lot of token interest in the games industry, with various directors producing turgid cash-ins on successful games.

Interest in games is now culturally entrenching though, as demonstrated by Guillermo del Toro in this interview:

How much influence do you think your gaming has had on your movies?

A lot. Videogames use art direction, colour and storytelling in a very pure way that a lot of movies have forgotten. I have a 12-year-old daughter and we play together, but unfortunately she’s more into Sonic and Kirby. We should embrace games not as a separate universe from movies, but develop the stories using both media at the same time. And I think we can.

Care to put a date on that?

The industry is incredibly slow. It’s like a dinosaur. It turns much slower than its culture. I think the content is going to develop itself through viral construction like the internet, online moviemaking and so on.

The interviewer unfortunately seems to be a soft touch, especially when it comes to Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, and Bioshock. I’m sure there’s plenty more to find out there, but nonetheless it’s encouraging to see a director talking about games and not come across as if they’re reading from cue cards. Legitimate interest in games from other fields is quickly going to increase and run a lot deeper.

TT Games Work Goes Into Lego Batman Cartoon

28 08 2008

Less than a month ago I blogged about Jon Burton of TT Games saying they’d like to make telly programs and possibly films.

It turns out that “further in the future” meant “about a month”, with breaking the story today that an animated short is to be made with the assets from Lego Batman. However, it seems Warner have given the project to a third party:

“We’re looking to do… a Lego Batman series. I think they’re looking at doing a one-off initially,” he said. “And they’re basically able to utilise the assets, because our team has brought Lego characters to life.”

Earl added that Traveller’s Tales had no involvement in the production of the show, which is “being done by a separate studio in the States.”

“My understanding is that they will use the engine, the Maya files where the characters come to life, but they’ll be creating animated… I think it’s a 20-minute cartoon. I’m personally quite intrigued to see how it comes out. Lego, every time they’ve had a new brand out, they’ve done some CGI stuff as well, but I think this will be quite different.”

Games Move Further Into TV, Film

15 08 2008

A couple of news items about games and film caught my eye yesterday, the first in particlar indicating that machinima is quickly jumping towards the mainstream. Starting with the relative obscurity of something like the demoscene, it’s now moving via games and youtube to become a much better known and expected thing.

Mark Rein of Epic Games writes about Blockade Entertainment this week, a studio set up to create animation using game assets. Technology has improved to the point of being visually acceptable (Though of course nowhere near the standards of Pixar), and games companies are understanding the potential value of their IP a lot more deeply. For instance, EA are looking at film licensing for Spore. Will Wright:

“With Spore, we’re looking way outside the game space, such as TV, movies, etc. We’re basically planting the seeds to spread Spore out to a much wider group of people than would ever play a computer game,”

The image above is from the execrable Doom film, which is pretty representative of screen projects based on games so far. With a greater number of people getting into the space, especially any like Wright, things are bound to get more interesting. Games technology has also at least advanced to the point where it can express drama even if making in interactive is still a grail.

TTTV: Traveler’s Tales Aiming at Television

7 08 2008

For a few years now, since Lorne Lanning’s announcement of Citizen Siege at GameCity, game developers have been talking about using the same art assets for games and films.

With the backing and IP of time Warner, Traveller’s Tales have now set their sights on making children’s programs and one day possibly films:

And for me personally, I think further in the future we’re making a kids’ TV show… using some of the tech we’ve developed for games. In the mid-distance, personally, to be able to dabble around in CG and film would be interesting, and Warner allows me to push in those directions without “quitting the day job,” so to speak. So for me, to look to the future and think, “I wouldn’t mind [doing a film]…” And Warner allows me to take a step in that direction, and if I suck? Great, I’ll make games.

I’ve got experience in top-level design and direction and have spent 18 years analyzing movies, so it’s “how do you build that into a game?” It’s very interesting and exciting, but it’s just one possible avenue that’s available for me personally within this deal. If I’d wanted to do this in another arena – if we’d been acquired by, say, an Activision, I’d have to leave, and then I’m out of the industry.

If we did get to making movies… we could make the game and the film at the same time, and there are so many things you could build at the same time. My dream is combining the two, and making a property that you can share all the assets across everything taking place.

Strictly ambition and speculation for now, but nonetheless very intersting. TT Games are in a very good position to manage something like this.

(CC image by Kaptain Kobold)


9 04 2008

Wiimote slippage

The BBC have inked a deal with Nintendo to make the iPlayer a channel on the Nintendo Wii. It’s a smart move given the number of Wiis around, and the iPlayer as it stands is naturally more at home in the strictly orthodox confines of a console network or the iPhone.

Watchification really hit the difference between the BBC and much of the web home to me recently: typically, all of the iPlayer embeds in the lower half of the page are replaced with “Sorry, this program is no longer available” due to the seven day limit.

(CC wiimote image derived from flickr user Riggzy)

Endemol Getting Into Casual Games

18 03 2008

BB Logo

Endemol have been flirting with games for quite a while, but a job posting on their website has tipped a bit more of what they’re planning. They’re creating a casual games team in Los Angeles.

Endemol Digital Media is creating a dedicated team to focus on casual game development

From the job description:

Establish a creative and technical casual game knowledge and resource center to be leveraged by the company worldwide

After being scoffed at by mainstream developers, casual is definitely becoming more respectable. I caught this quote on Dean Takahashi’s blog just after GDC:

The market for online casual games, from Tetris (estimated 60 million sold in lifetime) on cell phones to Bejeweled (350 million downloaded and sold on mobile phones) on computers, hit about $2.25 billion worldwide last year, according to Jessica Tams, head of the Casual Games Association. She says she no longer gets those funny looks when she talks about her group. Before, people would ask skeptical questions. Can you make any money with those? Are those real games?

“Now the question is how much money can I make how quickly?” she said. Even hardcore game companies want to make their games more accessible to wider audiences and so they’re asking how they can add casual elements to their games.

The differences between the culture and the business of games fascinate me. While casual games have been scoffed at by developers, and still are by hardcore ludologists, they’re starting to generate a lot of cash at the intersection between games companies and media companies in other industries. If the flow of business continues in this direction, it will invariably change the culture of game development, and also what it means in wider cultural terms to be a gamer.

Channel 4 Education Commissions, Six to Start

14 01 2008

Channel 4

Channel 4 have revealed a few things they’re commissioning for education in 2008, and overall they have an interesting focus:

The new commissions for 2008 – announced today – are part of the £6m educational budget for 14- to 19-year-olds which involves Channel 4 dropping much of its TV programming in favour of online projects.

It seems like a spot on approach to such a high-risk, unfamiliar environment as online.

Alice Taylor, the Channel 4 commissioning editor for education, said the broadcaster was not expecting every project to be a massive success.

“This is about flexibility and learning,” she added. “There are no hard and fast formulas we can trot out. We have to go out and experiment, figure out what works and do that next year.”

The piece also mentions Six To Start, who are certainly a company to watch. Among others, it was set up by Dan and Adrian Hon (formerly of Mind Candy), and they’ll be working with James Wallis. They make ARGs, but nothing we’ve seen from them so far has been a marketing tool.