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Interactive Movies

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I'm back online - periodically - because my brother had the foresight to bring his wireless card, and it turns out that the hotel only charges $10 for 24 hours of wireless connectivity. w00tage. I figured I'd talk a little about something I pondered on the flight, and have done a little coding on since.

I was watching Shrek 2 on the flight (see it - it's good), specifically the action sequence at the end (with Shrek storming the castle while the Fairy Godmother sings "I need a hero"), and I noticed how tense it was; the music synced with the action, the continuous movement and quick-combo moves... and I wondered how that could be achieved in a game. In general you can't create such an atmosphere because you don't know what the player's going to do - you could start the song and the player could spend the next five minutes running into a wall.

Then I realised that actually, it's already been done - though not for a while (and with good reason, I suspect). A genre of game known as "Interactive Cartoon." Dragon Quest, Space Ace, Braindead 13... all games in which the player hits buttons at the right time to influence the outcome of the movie being played out. Does the character turn left or right? Does he jump in time to avoid having his toes chewed off by rabid chihauhaus? It all depends on whether the player press the correct key in time.

There was only one problem with those old games: they're crap. Visually very nice for their time, yes - a very Don Bluth / Disney feel to the animation - but gameplay wise? The player has to figure out which button to press, and then press it at the correct time. Frequently, finding the correct button is trial and error - you get arrow keys plus an 'action' button, and there's no indication of what that action button will do, plus often no indication of which directions are viable and which not. The timing requirement is absolutely criminal, though - the window is usually less than half a second, and is usually in such a place that it's not intuitive.

Take the first screen of Dragon Quest, for example. Your avatar, Lance, must cross a wooden bridge into the castle. When he attempts to do so, a tentacle creature reaches out of the moat and knocks him off. You have to hit the 'action' button to cause Lance to draw his sword and knock the creature back - but you have to hit the button before the creature has even come out of the water. If you miss that window, there's no visual feedback, not even a sound, as I remember... it just ignores the button press.

I think it's a genre worth revisiting, which is what I will do here later because my brother wants to use his laptop. Ciao.
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Cool ideas, Although I think it might only work for kids, i cant imagine anyone older than about 10 wanting to play that kind of story game? Unless you could vamp it up a little, add some new features? Like mini games! Now that'd be cool :).

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This idea has occurred to me. The Laserdisc-style of game isn't really offering a game - it's showing a film, which continues if the player gives the right input. This way, the music can be non-interactive too.

It crossed my mind that certain elements of most games are non-interactive also, and these could be set to music. For example, in a vertical shoot 'em up the enemies fire when they want, until they are destroyed. Why not tie their firing patterns to the game music?

I'm sure there are better ideas than this, but even a little musical coherence could add massively to a game. It's why everyone loves Rez.

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