First announced in 2002, Peter Molyneux's explanation of the premise of "The Movies" sounded very ambitious. It was to be a tycoon style game that allowed you to control a movie studio from the 1920s through to 2010. On top of that, you were also supposed to be able to use the game's engine to actually craft movies of your own. Since Machinima was still a dark art that was largely unknown to most gamers, the claims of creating original movies from within a tycoon game seemed entirely fanciful. But it was after all Peter Molyneux pitching the idea, so it wasn't too hard for skepticism to be overtaken by excitement and anticipation.
And besides, making movies, being a star, seeing your name up in lights - that has become the real American dream, hasn't it?
Now, more than three years have passed and the game is here. Is it all that was promised? Is this your chance to finally get recognized as a great film talent?
Well, before I answer that, its important to point out that there was more than one game that emerged from the development process. The Movies is really the fusion of three different games, each with its own level of depth and complexity.
The first one I'll mention is a small application called Starmaker. Not really a "game" by the strictest of definitions, it is nevertheless one of the most enjoyable elements of The Movies. A standalone program included on the disc (or downloadable from the game's website), it functions as a character generator for the larger game. It is a very powerful little tool that allows you to tweak every aspect of a figures appearance before importing them. The depth of customization possible as well as the simple interface makes it easy to spend hours changing things like tattoos and eye color, jaw lines and hairstyles, until you create your ideal star. For most players, this character usually ends up looking uncannily like themselves. In fact, the level of modification allows you to easily create avatars of friends and family for use in your movies - fodder for many hours of mischief.
The next component of The Movies is the tycoon-style studio management portion of the game. Since The Movies breaks many of the conventions of traditional tycoon gaming, this portion can be best compared to the single player campaign of most titles. It starts you out as the owner of a small studio in the 1920s, struggling to distinguish itself from the competition. As you advance through time, the revenue from successful films fund technology advances that allow you to create better films, all while managing your employees and the studios grounds.