FMV Do's and Dont's: What Makes
FMV Games Good or Bad?
Since it's inception, FMV games have been lambasted by critics and gamers alike. Questions relating to how playable a game is when it's so focused on it's cinematic stature have always been at the forefront, and before the trend caught on many famous designers were already concerned about dividing film from games.
In "Why Adventure Games Suck And What We Can Do About It", then LucasFilm Games designer Ron Gilbert discussed how Hollywood Envy was a serious problem that effected the development of narrative games in 1989. "If you really want to make movies, then go to film school and leave the game designing to people who want to make games" he snorts, not realizing that just a few years down the road his precious adventure genre would be filled with ultra compressed pixelated videos.
Obviously FMV games existed before this, but this early wave of arcade FMV titles starting with Dragon's Lair was only around for a few years before disappearing, emerging again years later when the cost and reliability of hardware improved. The birth and proliferation of the CD-ROM format also greatly increased the storage size of the normal floppy disc or video game cartridge, bringing new FMV games into consumer's homes.
After briefly defining a few different types of FMV games, we will then pick them apart as a whole and discuss a topic that few care to: what makes a good FMV game and what makes a bad one?
Quick Time Reaction Game
These are associated with the earliest of FMV games. Players watch a video and respond to events occuring in the game by pressing a button at a specific time. Earlier games typically did not overlay on-screen instructions, but many from the '90s did. This is the only uniquely FMV genre, as the only non-FMV games to use it are 8-bit computer ports of Dragon's Lair.
FMV Shooter Game
Mad Dog McCree popularized this style of game when it hit arcades in 1990, bringing in a flood of similar rail shooters with video backgrounds. Ground Zero Texas, Corpse Killer, Sewer Shark, Rebel Assault 2, and many others were all over the place for quite some time.
FMV Adventure Game
As a deeply narrative genre, developers were quick to create their own FMV games. These tended to be very expensive to make and potentially to produce, with big budget games like The Black Dahlia and Phantasmagoria featuring massive budgets and many, many CD-ROMs worth of video content. Both Phantasmagoria and the X-Files game take up a whopping seven discs.
FMV Choose Your Own Adventure
These types of games are
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