Games Biz Borrowing More from Hollywood

Improvements in technology lets gamemakers create cinematic sequences that replicate film biz.

With Sony and Microsoft gearing up to release a new generation of videogame consoles that boast more realistic graphics, Hollywood’s influence on the gaming biz is getting tougher to ignore.

The enhanced capability of the devices has given game developers the ability to borrow more from filmmakers, blending cinematic excitement with the immersive elements of interactive entertainment.

When Electronic Arts debuted its holiday tentpole “Battlefield 4” at the Game Developers Conference this week, it gathered the press corps inside the Imax theater in San Francisco’s Metreon complex. Reporters sat in stadium seats, watching a clip from the military game that was meant to elicit gasps and elevate adrenaline levels.

On the big screen played car chases, gun fights and dramatic choices to make. And it was easy to temporarily forget you were watching a scene from a game and not a summer action movie.

“We use the best methods from (the film) industry to convey the story,” said Daniel Windfield Schmidt, lead level designer at Eidos Montreal, behind “Battlefield 4.” “Combining the two is something the games industry is still trying to embrace. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. It’s taking the knowledge that [Hollywood has] and saying ‘how do we make a scene like this possible?’ The biggest task in game development in general is to merge those two into a new way of storytelling.”

French game publisher Ubisoft is taking a similar approach. When scoring began on last year’s “Assassin’s Creed III,” the team also turned to Hollywood for guidance. The result was an open world game that used film techniques to give the game its own identity.

Filmmaking has been “helpful in many aspects,” said Yannis Mallet, CEO of Ubisoft Montreal, also at the GDC. “[We’ve leaerned] how to create meaningful characters, how to use the camera as a character to say a lot more in a three-second shot — with the angle and showcasing something in a certain light — than we could in a longer scene with a lot of dialogue.”

New team members coming on board to work on Eidos’ upcoming title “Thief” are told to first watch a series of films – including Roman Polanski’s “Oliver Twist,” “Underworld” and “Sherlock Holmes” (the Robert Downey Jr. version).

“These are the DNA for our visuasl,” said Stephane Roy, the game’s producer.

There’s a balancing act that needs to take place, though. While Hollywood has certainly helped developers boost some stylistic notes of modern games, it’s still critical for game developers to keep the interactive elements at the forefront.

“It’s about figuring out where do you want the storytelling and where do you want the gameplay? And how do you prioritize?” Schmidt said. “If there’s a super awesome scene in a cinematic, you ask, ‘Why aren’t I playing that?’”

Movies, meanwhile, could learn a few things from games, they note. Mallat chuckled as he remembered a visit with James Cameron on the set of “Avatar” where the director excitedly showed off a real time virtual camera – letting him see the scene immediately much like it would appear in the film.

“He was acting like a kid and I was like ‘Oh God… This is a tool we’ve been using for years in games,’” Mallat said.

Popular on Variety

More Biz

  • Harvey Weinstein

    Weinstein Can Get a Fair Trial in Manhattan, Says D.A.

    The Manhattan District Attorney’s office argued on Friday that Harvey Weinstein can get a fair trial in Manhattan, and blamed the producer’s defense team for much of the pre-trial publicity in the case. Weinstein’s attorneys have asked an appellate court to transfer the case — which is set to begin on Sept. 9 — to [...]

  • Leonardo DiCaprio Madonna

    Leonardo DiCaprio, Madonna Call for Action on Amazon Wildfires

    As wildfires rage at an alarming rate in Brazil’s Amazon rain forest, celebrities are using their platforms to bring awareness to the deforestation’s impact and to call for action. In the past week, stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Madonna, Cara Delevingne and Ariana Grande have taken to Instagram to express their frustration with the lack of [...]

  • 'The Durrells' TV Show

    Greece Sweetens Production Incentives as Struggling Country's Economy Rebounds

    It’s taken the better part of a decade for Greece to show signs of recovery from the crippling crisis that almost pushed it out of the Eurozone. Now, with the economy slowly on the mend, the government is doubling down on efforts to jump-start the local film industry, giving a dramatic overhaul to the incentive [...]

  • Warner Music Group Partners With Audiomack

    Warner Music Group Partners With Audiomack

    Warner Music Group announced it has entered a partnership with the music streaming and discovery service Audiomack, marking the platform’s first licensing deal with a major label. According to the announcement, the two companies will work together on content concepts and explore ways to break emerging artists, connecting music fans with rising talent before they [...]

  • Scooter Braun Congratulates Taylor Swift on

    Scooter Braun Congratulates Taylor Swift on ‘Brilliant’ Album and Campaign

    Two days after Taylor Swift fired off the latest salvo in her battle with Scooter Braun, the manager congratulated the singer on the campaign around her “brilliant” new album, “Lover,” which arrived last night. The message came after Swift said she will be re-recording songs from her first six albums, which are now owned by [...]

  • David Koch Obit

    David Koch, Libertarian Activist and Billionaire Philanthropist, Dies at 79

    David Koch, brother of Charles Koch and one of the owners of Koch Industries, the second-largest private company in the U.S., has died at 79. According to the New York Times, Charles Koch announced the news of his brother’s death in a statement. Though he did not attribute to David’s death to a particular cause, [...]

  • Beverly Hills Realtor Accused of Stealing

    Beverly Hills Realtor Accused of Stealing From Usher, Adam Lambert

    A Beverly Hills real estate agent has been arrested on charges of stealing from the homes of celebrities, including Usher, Adam Lambert and “Real Housewives” star Dorit Kemsley. Jason Emil Yaselli, 32, is accused of encouraging an accomplice, Benjamin Ackerman, to enter homes during open houses in order to steal from them. Ackerman allegedly sold [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content