My God, it's Full of Washed-Up Stars!

This isn't one of the big posts I'd been planning, but rather a tangential result of some background research for one of those posts. Nonetheless, in the spirit of avoiding the Torts final:

In the mid-90s it became feasible to take video and compress it into a form that could be watched on home computers. This, it was believed, would be the next big thing in video games. The compression was poor and it required games to come on 6 CDs, but damnit, now you could watch full motion video cutscenes, and isn't that a good thing? In the end, it was decided that the answer was no. There isn't a lot of overlap between the folks who produce video games and the folks who produce film, so making film for a video game requires hiring an entirely seperate crew to stage and shoot the cut scenes. Moreover, the budgets for video games tend to be small compared to those for films, so you can't really put together high-quality cut scenes. Further, the filming aspect tends to shift the focus of production toward the cut scenes and away from producing an actual game that someone would want to play on the merits. After a few flashy successes, consumers rapidly got bored and a lot of companies wasted a lot of money making expensive, barely-interactive video games that nobody wanted.

But the big success in all this was Wing Commander III. Wing Commander had previously been a popular computer game series, so it had a built-in fan base. Further, Origin, the company that produced the game, hyped the video aspect enormously, which got them some coverage by main-stream outlets like Entertainment Tonight.

But the big draw for the game was the star power. I didn't realize until I looked at its IMDB entry, but this game had more washed-up stars than most budget indie movies could dream of. It starred Mark Hamill (of Star Wars fame), and featured Malcolm McDowell (Of Clockwork Orange fame), John Rhys-Davies (Formerly of Indiana Jones fame, now of Lord of the Rings fame), Thomas Wilson (of Biff Tannen from Back to the Future fame), Jason Bernard (of A Bunch of TV Shows and Mini-Series from the 80s-to-Mid-90s Fame. Seriously, I actually did know him from V before I played the game), Ginger Lynn Allen (of Porn fame), and the voice of Tim Curry (Of... Wait, why IS Tim Curry famous? I mean, Rocky Horror, sure, but do most people know him from that?). It's kind of astounding how many formerly-famous people they got for the project. And altogether more astounding how many came back for Wing Commander IV, which cost 5 times more to make but sold about half as many copies.

As for the game: Eh. It was decent. I remember it was a pain in the butt to get working on my 486, but I enjoyed it. Not very challenging, but more effort went into making it a playable game than went into any subsequent Full Motion Video computer games.

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on December 12, 2005 4:23 PM.

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