Virtual World Films – machinima

As well as providing environments within which games can be played, game worlds (and other virtual worlds) are increasingly offering the ability to record action from within a game. As the game worlds themselves support richer and richer interactions and behaviours, the game world becomes a virtual movie set that can be used for the production of game related “fan fiction”, as well as ‘standalone’ animated movies.

Machinima is the name given to computer generated films that are rendered in real time using a game engine. That is, machinima represents a form of emergent gameplay in which the game characters are treated as “digital puppets” and used to act out a story that can be recorded using screen capture, or a screen recorder built in to the game to specifically encourage the recording of game demos, or more general machinima short films.

Read the Futurelab article: Machinima and education (September, 2007). Bear in mind the following questions as you do so.

  • What are the four (4) most common machinima production techniques identified in the article and what do they involve?
  • Give two or three examples of how the genre of a game can influence the sort of machinima it can be best used to create.
  • In what ways does machinima ‘democratise’ the film-making process (that is, how does it lower barriers to entry for people wiching to get started with film-making?)?

If you are interested in the evolution of machinima, this article from the August 2007 issue of EDGE magazine (issue 178) is a good place to learn more: Screen Play: The Future of Machinima.

The best produced machinima films are scripted in a similar way to any animated short film, and then acted out using game characters. As well as one off short films, machinima has spawned several of its own series, such as The Strangerhood, a sitcom(?!) created using The Sims, which even attracted a review from the BBC when it was launched several years ago: Review: The Strangerhood (via BBC News).

See if you can find out what other ‘cult’ machinima series Rooster Teeth, the producers of “The Strangerhood”, created using the Halo game engine?

Creating Machinima

If you are interested in how to get started producing your own machinima, the following presentation gives an excellent overview – “Making Machinima” by Jeremy Kemp:

The two videos recommended in the presentation can be found here: What is machinima? and Inside the Machinima (both on Youtube).

Using footage from one game in another

One early use of machinima was as a production technique for creating cutscenes in one game, using the game engine of another. This approach has quite a long history, and is described in this Gamasutra article Machinima Cutscene Creation, Part One dating back to September, 2000, and followed up in Machinima Cutscene Creation, Part Two.

If you are interested in creating short, cutscene films, read the above two articles. They provide a good introduction to the storytelling techniques that go towards making an effective cutscene.

In more recent times, the growth of online multiplayer games has enabled full ‘cast and crew’ machinima productions, in which one character may take on the role of cameraman, filming the action as it is ‘played out’ by characters controlled by other game players.

How does machinima in general differ from “speed run” or walkthrough recordings of how to complete a game, or the production of game demos or game trailers from within the game itself? (See also Post hoc Game Documentation – Walkthroughs and Speedruns)

If you would like to view some more machinima, there is plenty on social video websites such as Youtube, as well as on dedicated machinima video sharing sites such as machinima.com. The GameSetWatch article World of Warcraft Exposed: A Moviemaking Culture describes the rise of machinima in the massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) World of Warcraft (WoW), and provides several links to directories of machinima created in that virtual world.

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6 Responses to “Virtual World Films – machinima”


  1. 2 Tony Hirst May 19, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    From thr blog post you link to – “MellaniuM was originally conceived to complement the technique of the architectural design process by reproducing and importing AUTOCAD 3D renderings into the MMO UNREAL 2 engine.”

    So I guess if the movie represents a rendering of the Titanic using the Unreal engine, then it is machinima…

  2. 3 Tony Hirst June 2, 2008 at 10:47 am

    It seems that machinima could become ever more popular, if this is anything to go by:

    YouTube is “happy to announce that PLAYSTATION®3 (PS3TM) has integrated the YouTube APIs to allow game developers to create games that enable direct upload of in-game video captures to YouTube. This YouTube upload functionality can be incorporated not only into new PS3 game titles, but also existing PS3 titles that have the ability to receive network updates. … Gamers will now be able to upload their in-game video captures to YouTube. We’re excited at the opportunity this presents and look forward to more and more games to be enhanced with YouTube.”
    [ http://apiblog.youtube.com/2008/05/let-games-begin.html ]

  3. 4 cathartictheatric June 28, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    Machinima and education link doesn’t work


  1. 1 Friday Fun #12 Video Storytelling « Digital Worlds - Interactive Media and Game Design Trackback on September 4, 2008 at 11:19 am

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