Sunday, August 07, 2005

"The Xbox Auteurs" - New York Times

This New York Times Magazine story (free registration required) explores "machima," --videos made using video game engines to create your own virtual worlds. Latching onto the resources of the games makes it easy to make your short or movie. Just plan out your script using the characters in the game and lay your own audio track. Instant movie set and actors.....

From the story:
To quickly create a gritty-looking city, Dellario and his colleague -- ILL Clan's co-founder, Matt Dominianni -- hired a local artist to build a generic-looking urban intersection inside the game. To customize it, Dominianni went onto Google, found snapshots of a few seedy stores (an adult bookstore, a tattoo parlor and a furniture outlet) and digitally pasted them onto the front of the buildings. Then they went to a site called Turbo-Squid, a sort of Amazon for virtual in-game items, and for $45 bought a van that could be plunked down inside the game. When I arrived, they were browsing the site and contemplating buying a few women. ''My God, look at this one,'' Dellario marveled, as he clicked open a picture of an eerily realistic 3-D brunette named Masha. ''I'm going to marry this woman. They've finally broken through to total reality.''
Of course it's not necessarily easier than working with real actors:
The problem is, the Sims 2 has turned out to be incredibly difficult to shoot with. When the Rooster Teeth gang uses Halo for machinima, the characters are mere puppets and can be posed any way the creators want. But in the Sims 2, the little virtual characters have artificial intelligence and free will. When you're playing, you do not control all the action: the fun is in putting your Sims in interesting social situations, then standing back and watching what they'll do. When Rooster Teeth's Matt Hullum builds a virtual set and puts the ''Strangerhood'' characters in place for a shoot, he's never quite sure what will happen. To shoot a scene in which two men wake up in bed together, Hullum had to spend hours playing with the two characters -- who are nominally heterosexual -- forcing them into repeated conversations until they eventually became such good friends they were willing to share a bed. Shooting machinima with Sims is thus maddeningly like using actual, human stars: they're stubborn; they stage hissy fits and stomp off to their trailers.
The story is worth registering for...thought provoking.

(Link from one of Mike Stagg's grand emails)

Saturday, August 06, 2005

"Youths learn programming at camp"

The Advertiser today runs a short, front page story on the Lafayette Ninjaneering Game Camp that talks to the kids and Zuzolo, the camp director. A pretty good little story with some good quotes from Zuzolo and the kids.

"There's a perception that games are made in a garage and are a silly hobby. The truth is that gaming is a $50 billion industry and takes teams of people working for years under a lot of pressure to make a product that's fun and will sell," he said...

"I really wanted to get into programming so this is a good way to get started," Breaux said. "Some of the most important things they showed us was getting an education in computers and the value of teamwork. For the design we kept putting ideas out there and some of them stayed and some didn't but it's a lot of teamwork to make it happen."

But, the story would have been even better had not been tucked beneath the headline and photo for another longer story by the same local author entitled "Violent video games drawing fire" subtitled: "Local players say not all games are bad." It's good to know that the games are not all bad...According to the players.

My guess is that if the Game Camp story wasn't being discussed nobody would have ever thought to work up a locally-based story on violence in video games. I worry about the understanding about what is important about new technologies that gets us from a story about kids learning about how to design games at a summer Game Camp to a locally researched story on an issue like violence in video games. And the editorial mindset that pairs the two and makes the violence story the dominant one.

Film Industry needs...workforce

In a story outlining the successes of the film industry in Louisiana the single sour note was the need for the "development of hone talent." The video game industry has the same issue.
"'The film industry is another form of manufacturing,' Landrieu said.

Landrieu and Smith said development of home talent is the next step, if Louisiana is to develop a long-term movie and film industry.

'We need to provide training,' Landrieu said, calling it 'a significant challenge.'

There are some significant training programs already under way, Smith said, citing the Bossier Parish Community College's 'dynamite film production program and the University of Louisiana's digital media program.'"
Developing "home talent" is something for Lafayette to think about seriously.