Have you ever wanted to know what it’s like to make movies? Have you ever thought about writing and directing your own feature film? Did you go to film school nearly 20 years ago, and instead of making movies, worked in retail for almost 20 years before writing about video games for a living?
That last one might just be me. [Editor’s note: It was also me!]
Regardless of your background Moviehouse – The Film Studio Tycoon from Odyssey Studios is here to help you experience what it’s like running a production house.
One Studio To Rule Them All
Like all the tycoon-type games, in Moviehouse, you have to effectively manage and grow your business and become the one true mega studio to rule them all. And you don’t even have to churn out increasingly boring superhero films to do it (although you can if you want.) Your journey begins in the 1980s, which I did not expect.
You have decided to start making movies and set up a production company. The game advances through the 80s and the advent of VHS and home entertainment up to the modern era.
You can choose your company name and logo from a small pool of options. Unfortunately, the logo options are incredibly clipart-y, and I expected the evil paperclip from the bygone era of computing to pop up at any second. He doesn’t, but you are guided through your first steps by…a woman. I think she might be a co-investor or teammate, but I’m unsure. She pops up with a little text box whenever it’s time to learn a new mechanic.
Before you can start making movies, you need a script to work from. It’s time to hire a writer and start churning nonsense to get established. When looking for new employees, you will see a pool of potential hires along with their salary requirements and craft and creativity level. The higher the level, the better they will be in that area. I just picked someone who was balanced with medium numbers in both. Once you have a writer, it’s time to poke them with sharp sticks until they produce a script. You don’t actually do that; I just assume that’s what happens, given my experience.
Whenever you need to do anything involving script work or distribution, you click on the office building, which, when you start, is a gross trailer. You can click on the camera equipment out front for production and directing— time to hire a director. Once again, I picked someone with a relatively balanced craft and creativity. This is because when there is nothing for your writers or directors to do, you can train them. Choose your area for training, either craft, creativity, or mind, and send them on their way to learning.
By which, I mean I stare at the progress bar next to their name as it slowly increases.
That’s right; this is not a management sim where you see things happening or watch your movies being made. It’s where you make choices and watch progress bars fill up. Nothing wrong with that. It’s incredibly retro. As you advance and grow your studio, you unlock new genres that you can work in and different character, plot, and setting cards. Once you are a big enough studio to hire a crew, you can also location scout, build props, and construct sets.
Is This a Real Movie Set, or a Fake Movie Set?
Of course, you can’t actually look at your sets or the props you make. You can’t read scripts or look at finished scenes, either. I was expecting all of this when I opened a movie-making sim.
It also initially ran quite poorly. It was very stuttery and laggy. However, since I originally played, the devs have released a patch that has improved the performance somewhat. It also now registers achievements on Steam, so when I opened my game to check out the patch, a flood of achievement notifications popped up, which was satisfying.
Am I going to spend hours playing this game? Yes. I am a sucker for management sims. You open one, start playing, and suddenly it’s six hours later, and you haven’t moved, eaten, or drank anything. That could just be me and my hyper-fixation issues, though.
However, that being said, is Moviehouse the best example of a management sim? No. It needs a little more than the basic options available to make it truly great. I do appreciate the devs quickly addressing the performance issues. (Update: The game now opens, shows the publisher logo and then stays on a white screen for me. I cannot attest to this happening to others, so I will give the benefit of the doubt for now. It has, however, shown me how dirty my monitor is, so thanks?)
Overall, Moviehouse will appeal to a particular kind of management sim player. I enjoy the game, seeing that it could improve performance and options for content, like logo design, script viewing editing, seeing finished scenes, etc. Even just one key scene in a movie would be a fun interactive event. Or getting to write a paragraph of the script. Nothing crazy like FMVs, but a little more creative interactivity would be nice. It seems halfway to an enjoyable movie-making tycoon experience, and I believe it can get there.