Saturday, August 27, 2005

'Viewpoints' - A form of entertainmaint beside games and movies?

Computer and console hardware has advanced to a point where it is possible to render quite realistically looking scenes in realtime, not yet the quality of Final Fantasy, but its getting pretty damn close. This made me thinking, what beside games will it offer us? There are already machinema aprearing every onces in a while, movies rendered with ingame engines. However those are still classic movies for most part, fixed camera angles, nothing happening behind you, etc. I think sooner or later we will see a new type of entertainment, neither a movie nor a game, but something inbetween and no I don't mean those crappy interactive games with filmed actors.

A classic movie is always linear, it has a start and an end. The camera angles are fixed and you know always exactly what is happening at any given minute if you have already watched it. With realtime rendered movies this could be different, instead of providing a fixed linear film to watch, a realtime rendered movie could provide a complete world to explore by the viewer. The viewer itself wouldn't interact with the happenings like in a game, the whole story would still be linear like in a movie, but it would allow the freedom to move around, to look at other stuff in a scene, to observe happenings beside what is happening to the main characters. This would allow to dive into the movie much deeper and the movie would be allowed to present a far richer setting as it does today. Instead of fixed camera angles and just a few characters with a few lines, it could provide dozens of characters with tons of text, the viewer wouldn't get everything on the first viewing, but could focus on different parts of the happenings on each viewings, if there is talking in the background, he could move over to that and listen. If there is a fight happening, he could view it from the perspective of the other oponent or from the perspective of a by-stander. The viewer had the ability to view a movie from multiple viewpoints, not only predefined ones, but also ones that he chose for himself.

The effort that would be required for such a movie would be quite huge, since not only a few maincharecters would need to be fitted with dialog, but everybody appearing in a movie would get text and something todo. It would turn a simple movie into a complete little world. It would of course also steel some artistic freedom, since the director could no longer force the viewer to a specific camera angle, do things offscreen and the like, when the user can always adjust the camera completly to his liking, but it would of course also offer tons of new ways which could be artistically explored.

You might think that this sounds a bit weird, but its really not that weird, both games and movies already have gone that route, at least to a little extend. In game The Longest Journey for example there is one point where the game branches, either you go to work or you stay at home on both places something is happening, but you see only one event life, the other is told you then from the other characters. A even more drastic example is the Last Express, its an adventure game that happens in almost complete realtime. you are on a train and have to solve a murder, but while doing so all the other characters on the train follow their way on their own, no matter if you interact with them or not, the train will always move forward and the characters will always walk around. The only real different to the 'viewpoints' I have introduced here is that you are still part of the story, there are events that you can trigger and your happening will influence the surrounding. With movies there are similar things to 'viewpoints', however much lighter, for example many movies exists in multiple version, the normal one as shown in the cinema and then the version you will find on DVD which in addition to the normal one includes additional deleted scenes, which often provide different viewpoints or more detail into what happened. The directors cut version is then using all those scenes to build up a new movie, which make given even more details into the happenings of the original movie. A movie is of course limited in that it can only work with the filmed footage, thus the camera angles are always fixed, a realtime rendered one however wouldn't have that limitation.

In the end I am not sure such 'viewpoint' entertainment will ever happen on a bigger scale, but I am reasonably sure that it will happen some day on a smaller scale. The technologie is almost there, so its just a matter till story writers to come up with enough content to not only fill a single stream of events, but also the whole surroundings.

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