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Full Motion Video
"CD-ROMs were a major technological leap back in the early nineties. All of a sudden our portable storage capacity jumped from the three-and-a-half megabyte floppies [Subtitle: you mean 1.44MB? Thought so.note ] we were using, to over seven hundred megabytes crammed on this little disk, and it didn't take long for game designers to stop and think: Hey, these things are like little Laserdiscs, we could put movies and stuff on 'em! And we could make kickass games out of that!"
A type of video game based around video clips. Nowadays they are best remembered for a lack of interactivity - as The Angry Video Game Nerd
once put it, "It doesn't even feel like you're playing a game. It feels like you're watching a movie. A bad
movie." Gameplay consisted mostly of pressing buttons at the right time, choosing correct sequences of clips, or playing other games that just used the video as a backdrop.
Part of the logical reason the games were so poorly received, was that in addition to their lack of interactivity, they were also badly written and poorly acted - the task of programming a game had to be balanced with hiring scriptwriters and actors. Naturally quality for one or the other suffered, with camp movies, hammy actors, bad plots or just a lousy game.
Note: There was a period in The Nineties during which Cutscenes in normal games exclusively used pre-rendered or live-action video and were sometimes referred to as "FMVs".
In arcades, the genre really began in 1983 with the release of Dragons Lair
, a laserdisc-based game with animation by Don Bluth. The game typically cost twice as much to play as any other game, and gameplay consisted of pressing a button or direction at the appropriate point, but it was very popular, and inspired countless imitators. The fad died after a year or so because of the sameness of the gameplay and the difficulty in maintaining expensive laserdisc players, though arcade laserdisc games were sporadically produced even through the 1990s. There were also attempts to bring laserdisc games into the home in the 1980s with the Palcom PX-7 MSX
computer and the incredibly obscure RDI Halcyon
console, and in the 1990s with the Pioneer LaserActive. Many old laserdisc games were simple enough that they can be played nowadays on an ordinary DVD player.
Full motion video games really became popular on home computers with the introduction of CD-ROM drives in The Nineties
, and CD-equipped console systems like the Sega CD
, Three DO Interactive Multiplayer
and Philips CD-i
rushed to exploit the trend. Gameplay on home systems was no better than in the arcade, with the extra problem that early CD-based home systems, especially the Sega CD, weren't powerful enough to produce good quality video.
Not every FMV game was bad, though. Some, especially the Tex Murphy
series, are considered classics of the adventure genre. It's just that for every Tex Murphy
, or Gabriel Knight
, there were 10 ''Double Switch'' or ''Johnny Mnemonic''-level
games, and at $60+ a pop, the audience quickly became bored. Of course, many people still enjoy the lesser-quality games for the camp value
While pretty much a dead genre, as the video game industry has moved onto other ways of making games with nice graphics and bad gameplay, some newer titles have taken on to using this medium as part of their marketing campaign, perhaps giving it a niche to hold on to.
- Badlands (Konami, 1984)
- Cliff Hanger (Stern, 1983)
- Dragons Lair (Cinematronics, 1983)
- Eshs Aurunmilla (Funai, 1984)
- Firefox (Atari, 1984)
- Mad Dog Mccree (American Laser Games, 1990)
- M.A.C.H. 3 (Mylstar, 1983)
- Road Blaster (aka Road Avenger for the Sega CD)
- Space Ace (Cinematronics, 1984)
- Star Rider (Williams Electronics, 1984)
- Super Don Quixote (Universal, 1984)
- Thayer's Quest (RDI Video Systems, 1984)
- Time Gal (Taito, 1985)
- Time Traveler (Sega, 1991)
- 428: Fusa Sareta Shibuya de was created by Chunsoft in 2008. It is a rare hybrid of live action FMV and Visual Novel.
- Episodes 11.5 and 15.5 of Asura's Wrath count as these (while some have made the case for the whole game being a quasi-example of the interactive movie part of this trope.)
- Bad Mojo
- Brain Dead 13
- Corpse Killer, an attempt at marrying this genre to the Rail Shooter. It fails on both fronts. The developers of this game later tried to take the same concept and apply it to Wuxia, clearly riding the Mortal Kombat wave.
- Critical Path, essentially a So Bad, It's Good B-Movie.
- Cyberflix made a number of these, ranging from their gimmicky but still advanced and fun early efforts (Lunicus, Jump Raven, Dust) to their later genuinely stunning masterpieces (Titanic, Redjack.)
- The Daedalus Encounter, a Spiritual Successor to Critical Path.
- Dancing Blade: Katte ni Momotenshi!
- Darkstar: A game created by the producers and actors of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
- Double Switch, another FMV game similar to Night Trap, only instead of monsters, you're trapping mobsters and crooks after a treasure in a huge mansion. Notable for starring Corey Haim, and Debbie Harry.
- Dracula Unleashed
- Enemy Zero (although this game included movement between portions of the ship in a 3D polygonal engine, the bulk of the gameplay was FMV-based exploration like D)
- Fate By Numbers (link), a freeware game produced as a graduation project by a group of students in the Netherlands, filmed in classic Film Noir style.
- Fox Hunt
- Gundam 0079: The War for Earth, a Japan-exclusive title in which the player experiences the events of the the early parts of the TV series through a combination of live-action and CG sequences. Notable for having the live-action portions filmed in Canada with the actors' lines dubbed into Japanese by the original series' voice actors.
- The second Gabriel Knight game
- Ground Zero Texas
- The Horde
- Hysteria Project
- The Journeyman Project (rough around the edges, but grew into the genre to become pretty good)
- The Lawnmower Man (not the cartridge-based console game) used Dragon's Lair-style Press X to Not Die gameplay minus the on-screen prompts (thereby requiring trial and error) interspersed with time-limited puzzle solving. (This kind of gameplay combined with limited lives makes for extreme Fake Difficulty.) It had 3D graphics (like in the film) that were pre-rendered to fit the limits of the Sega Genesis color palette (64 onscreen, 512 total), even in the PC version despite the hardware allowing for more colors (256 onscreen, 2^24 total).
- Maabus (1994), a first-person adventure game with some action elements, used pre-rendered 3D video clips to depict in-game actions, such as transitions between places (whereas some of its contemporaries, most notably the original Myst, would instead just jump from one still image to another). This game had so much video data that it needed 3 CDs to hold it all.
- Mad Dog Mccree
- The Make My Video series on Sega CD, a set of utilities released at the height of the multimedia boom that let players edit their own versions of music videos from artists such as Marky Mark & The Funky Bunch, Kriss Kross, INXS and C+ C Music Factory. Especially notable for their terrible cutscenes, being generally considered some of the worst "games" ever made, and also being considered the worst games on the Sega CD (and that's saying something, because the Sega CD is infamous for having a horrid selection of games).
- Metron. Can beat Make My Video example above in that nomination without any effort.
- Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers on Sega CD.
- Myst and its sequels use live actors for every human character in the game.
- Night Trap (notoriously a target of Moral Guardians)
- Phantasmagoria 2
- Plumbers Dont Wear Ties is a ridiculous subversion. It looks like an Interactive Movie which was originally shot in live-action but for technical reasons most of the video had to be reduced to an odd selection of still frames.
- Realms of the Haunting
- Rebel Assault (it was actually quite fun, its sequel contained the first good live-action SW material since RotJ)
- Sewer Shark
- Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective and Volume 2
- Star Strike
- Star Trek: Klingon
- The first S.W.A.T.-titled spinoff of the Police Quest series, Daryl F. Gates' Police Quest : SWAT. It was also the beginning of a Gameplay Roulette. It's basically a First-Person Shooter with Full Motion Video instead of 3D graphics. It came on three CDs, and unfortunately was not worth the trouble.
- Strahl, AKA Triad Stone.
- Street Fighter II: (The Interactive) Movie: A Japan-only Street Fighter game released for the PlayStation and Sega Saturn that combined footage from The Animated Movie with new animation made specifically for the game. Oddly enough, instead of controlling Ryu or one of the canon characters, the player character was a Shadowlaw Monitor Cyborg, who develops his abilities by watching said FMV footage and "analyzing" the characters' techniques.
- Super Adventure Rockman: Remember those FMV scenes in Mega Man 8? Well this is pretty much what would happen if someone made an entire game with those scenes. Like the Street Fighter game above, it came out only in Japan for the PS and Saturn. Keiji Inafune is not exactly fond of this game.
- The Tex Murphy series
- Wirehead: One of the more amusing entries in FMV games that flew under the rader. You play a mild mannered family man that got a wireless device put into his brain and is now being tracked by a mad scientist and his goons. You control the man's every movement and try to steer him out of harm's way.
- The 7th Guest brought this to the PC, pioneering video compressing in the process. In fact, the whole game is in full motion video; all the animations of moving about the mansion are prerendered 3D video (they had originally planned to use a real mansion), and the cutscenes are live-action full motion video.
- Mansion Of Hidden Souls was largely made as a response to the above's success.
- In the 1st Degree.
- Asura's Wrath is something of a unique example. While there is actual gameplay in it like most other Beat 'em Up's and Action Games, a lot of the gameplay focuses on cutscene based QTE's, but usually each one synchronizes with every action taken on screen, and some of the presses synchronize with attacks similar to a Rhythm Game. Episodes 11.5 and 15.5 are even straighter examples that still use the same synchronic attack principles, as it's based on button inputs that mimic all the hits on the screen of an Anime-like stage that acts as a stand in for Full Motion Video (Basically Dragon's Lair Or Space Ace, but with Japanese Animation instead of Western Animation), and they are arguably even better examples of this than the main game.
- Also, unlike the other examples on this list, there's no actual Full Motion Video involved, but it instead uses the main graphics engine to simulate Full Motion Video, and instead of being more of an interactive movie, it's plot sturcture, episodic nature and running time of most of the episodes, it's more of an Interactive Anime than an interactive movie.
- Yarudora series: The first example of an Interactive Anime / Visual Novel hybrid. Released in the Japanese and Chinese markets only.
- The original arcade version of Starblade technically isn't a FMV game due to being rendered in realtime, but its home ports used a single-continuous FMV with enemy models overlaid.
Regular games with "FMV cutscenes"
- Alan Wake's American Nightmare uses FMV on cutscenes and in-game videos.
- Dune 2000 replaced the drawn cutscenes of Dune II with FMV, as does the sequel Emperor: Battle for Dune.
- The Command & Conquer series has always (with the exception of Generals, which put its video in a smaller window) used FMV for cutscenes. But, with the campy nature of the series, it works. The more recent games having actual, skilled actors involved helps too.
- Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II (unique in its series as having FMV cutscenes)
- Warhammer 40,000: Final Liberation
- Beginning with Final Fantasy VII on the PlayStation, the Final Fantasy series became famous for its high quality FMV cutscenes that integrated flawlessly with the pre-rendered backgrounds. The high production values and visual spectacle of these FMVs were crucial to popularizing Japanese RPGs with western audiences, who found previous games' 2D sprites unappealing for conveying complex plots and characters.
- Wing Commander is noted for being one the few series with FMVs that actually did them well, using quality movie actors and solid writing, with Wing Commander IV being a particular standout (unlike III, it was shot on film with actual sets, and had a stronger script than Prophecy)
- Kingdom Hearts had them at the beginning and end of the games.
- Ace Combat Zero, uniquely among the series, uses FMV cutscenes, justified by the Faux Documentary format of the Framing Story: a journalist is interviewing retired Belkan War veterans and the "missions" you play are actually stories they tell about the Demon Lord.
- Grand Theft Auto II played FMV of an angrier, more talkative Claude Speed.
- LocoCycle uses FMVs for cinematics between levels.
- The introductory movie for the original Resident Evil is one of the more infamous examples.
- Off World Interceptor had arguably the worst in this subcategory.
- Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Call of Duty: Black Ops and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim are some of the titles that have used FMV or a combination of FMV and in-game renders for their trailers, marketing campaigns and commercials.
- Call of Duty: Black Ops also uses FMV during the game itself multiple times, though this is mostly to get around the ageing id Tech 3's inability to load multiple levels at a time.
- Metal Gear Solid and its sequels have a few live-action FMV sequences here and there.
- Warhawk A PSX lauch title has FMV's before missions.
- Donkey Kong Country Returns uses FMV for the intro, the Final Boss's introduction, the ending, the reveal of the Golden Temple, and the transition from the opening area of the Golden Temple to the main level. Three of these FMVs have three variations depending on which Kongs were present, making a total of twelve FMVs.
- Angry Birds Trilogy replaces the still-frame cutscenes with FM Vs.
- The PS1 version of Klonoa: Door to Phantomile had pre-recorded CGI cutscenes for the intro, as well as the scene where Klonoa and Huepow go to Cress, and the ending. In the Wii remake, all of these cutscenes were rendered with the in-game graphics.
- Ni GHTS Into Dreams had quite a few CGI cutscenes, all of which were very nicely animated.
- In Sonic Adventure 2, the scene where the Tornado escapes from the exploding island used a pre-recorded video of the island blowing up, and then the Tornado was a 3D model placed in front of the video.
- The Sly Cooper series uses 2D comic book-style cutscenes.
- Mech Commander I and II, and MechWarrior IV used FMV for character portraits in mission briefings and for cutscenes. Earlier games never showed characters and had CGI cutscenes.
- EarthSiege and its plethora of oddly named sequels used FMV for mission briefings, while the majority of the cutscenes were CGI.