Features: Yoostar2 - Blitz Games Studios
Posted by James Newton
We finally make it into the movies
A month or so ago we reported that UK studio Blitz Games had updated its popular BlitzTech framework for full Move support, potentially paving the way for motion control to be incorporated into countless British-developed games. The studio isn't just an engine creator however, with several of its own titles underway, including "movie karaoke" game Yoostar2 for publisher Yoostar. We took a trip to picturesque Leamington Spa to get our hands on the studio's upcoming box office release.
Set to launch on Move and Xbox 360 Kinect early next year, Yoostar2 aims to put you and your friends into Hollywood movies. We're not talking about copyright-dodging Hollywood movies: these are fully licensed, 100% authentic clips from some of the biggest films of all time. The game itself features 80 scenes ranging from Forrest Gump to Casablanca, with clips from over 1,000 movies to be made available through a downloadable store as well as future disc releases, potentially creating a huge library of scenes from movies and TV series. Acquiring approval for all this content was a huge challenge for the team, requiring sign-offs from the studio, director, writer and principal actors, as well as two separate industry guilds, and Yoostar is rightly proud of the wealth of clips on offer.
"We've tried to create something with a real range of content, and the scenes we've managed to pick out are just so iconic. If you take a scene like the Godfather scene, or the Forrest Gump scene or any classic scene, it's impossible for people to play it without impersonating the original actor."
The breadth of scenes from films rated anywhere from kids to adults might cause concern for parents hoping to play this with their kids, but producer Steve Stopps clarifies.
"We've gone for a 12+ age rating with this, so we can have mild swearing but there's no violence. There'll definitely be packs in future, both downloadable and on disc, that will have more of a weight towards different age categories."
It's not just films you've seen before that will find their way to the Yoostar Store: Yoostar also has deals in place with all major Hollywood studios to bring new in-game content for new films after they land at the box office and before they hit DVD. Such a wide-ranging plan is rare; whilst many studios produce tie-in games for new movies, the release of official video content for a game is unique. The movies will also be fully localised for European audiences, with the official dubs in various languages available for users in different countries, but the localisation goes beyond that: Yoostar is in talks with European studios to bring their films to the service, widening the scope still further than the included Hollywood content.
Wherever the content comes from, although the game itself may seem simplistic in graphical terms, it's not as straightforward as playing movie clips and superimposing a blocky cut-out over the top: it was a huge undertaking for the team to be able to remove the player from the background image to a high standard, Stopps explains.
"To create a really nice way to remove people from the screen was incredibly difficult - people often say "it's not rocket science" but this actually was rocket science! On PS3 we're using technology that comes from the military, we needed a 20,000-fold optimisation to get things running up to speed. It's something we've been working on for years now, and it now works brilliantly."
It's easy to see why Stopps and his team are so excited about Yoostar2: the possibility for users to create their own movies goes far beyond that of just imitating their favourite stars. A range of stock backgrounds and empty Hollywood sets are included for players to record anything from an ad-libbed Star Trek homage to a video blog about their lives. Let's face it though - many users will just want to be crude. Yoostar has a plan to curb the naughty videos with two strategies in place: all clips will be manually moderated before being uploaded, and anything that does slip through the net can be tagged for swearing, nudity and so on by viewers, flagging it for the community team to look at it again. But how will users navigate, organise and enjoy all that - hopefully clean - video content?
As well as tagging and commenting, users can dole out awards such as Best Actor and Best Creative Performance, then search movies using the same criteria. Want to watch some great acting in American Pie? Normally you'd be out of luck, but searching Yoostar's portal can turn up user-generated clips in seconds. Want to see someone's musical take on the Godfather? Use those search terms and see what turns up. Yoostar's community has the possibility of becoming the most enjoyable aspect of the game, with robust sharing features to help users get the most out of the game.
Posting to YouTube, Twitter and Facebook is all promised, as well as inclusion on the web-based Yoostar portal. Using its own tools rather than official APIs has given Blitz the flexibility to craft its community in the way it wants: Facebook users can earn virtual gifts to send to their friends, viewers can take part in movie critics competitions and creators will be greeted by news of any fresh ratings, fans or comments they've received every time they load the game up. Stopps acknowledges that much of the title's long-term appeal will revolve as much around its community features as the game itself. Users can also speak up about the TV series and movies, paving the way for a unique combination of content both generated and demanded by users.
Yoostar2 is one of the more original concepts in development for Move, and something that wouldn't have worked on any previous console: its combination of clever technology and online community features means there's far more than first meets the eye. If the team can deliver on its promise of varied and cheap post-release content, Yoostar2 could be one of the PlayStation's most essential party titles when it launches in early 2011.