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    PlanetQuake | Features | Articles | Quake Noir: The Game as Cinema
   

Quake Noir: The Game as Cinema
Quake is more than a game these days - it's the stage and setting for a new branch of entertainment: machinima.
  — by Hellchick


The actors step into their places and wait for the director to give orders. "Could you move a little more to your left?" He asks the lead actor, who sidesteps left, his weapon bobbing. "Action!" The director yells. As soon as the word appears on the screen, the leading man is off like a shot, running across the open floor as rockets whiz past him. With a jump and a stylish backflip, he vaults up to the platform and takes out the main alien with a shotgun blast to the chest. The day is saved.

This might sound like a movie in the works by Paramount, but you might be surprised to know that none of it is taking place in a large studio. Nor is it being filmed by Paramount or any other traditional film company. In fact, there aren't any cameras, lighting, or catering services filling the actors with donuts. All of this is taking place on a computer and in a video game: Quake.

A shot from Tritin Films' upcoming "Divided Lands"

The recent release of Tritin Films' "Quad God" is one example of the bizarre creative branch that has grown from a video game never intended to serve as a stage - using Quake to make movies, better known as "machinima". Though many have been using the game since Quake 1 as a tool for this kind of entertainment, few people seem to know that the movies exist or that people are making them.

One of the best repositories for Quake films and information is Cineplex. Serving as a sort of Internet Movie Database for Quake, Cineplex reviews movies, provides a "Top Ten" list with downloads, and keeps the public up to date on what's going on in the Quake film community. And Cineplex isn't the only one - Machinima.com recently made its grand appearance on the scene as the self-proclaimed source of all movies made with video game engines, and not just Quake. Machinima.com provides .plan updates by filmmakers, reviews, and news, and recently announced the first movie being made with the Lithtech engine.

I first became interested in Quake movies when I heard about Keygrip2, demo-editing software created by David "crt" Wright. Keygrip2 allows you to take a recorded demo, move the camera out of third person, and maneuver it exactly as a director might in a real studio with real cameras and dollies. Once I finished the tutorial, I was hooked. I recorded demos of every Quake 2 game I played and then ran them through Keygrip2, adding music, sounds, voices, and generally messing around with every little nicety that Keygrip2 had to offer. I made a short "video" consisting entirely of clips of me dying over and over again in Action Quake 2 to the tune of Aretha Franklin's "Respect". I made a short 2-minute movie filled with Pulp Fiction and Shaft references. I made a demo of my clanmates and I kicking ass set to music. Admittedly, none of them were very good, but they were fun to make and easy to do. I easily saw the potential for movies and would have started making my own if I'd had the time and a team.

A shot from Tritin Films' upcoming "Divided Lands"

Fortunately, more talented people than I have taken up that gauntlet in a serious way. Cineplex's Top Ten list has some very entertaining downloads that showcase amateur machinima talents. One of the most famous is "Father Frags Best", which snagged the top slot in Cineplex's Top Ten, tied with "The Devil's Covenant", an ambitious, two-hour dramatic epic for original Quake. "Father Frags Best" is a 26 Mb movie that's probably among the best Quake 2 movies out there, with a plot ripped straight from some psychotic version of 50's suburban home life - the Strogg Wars are over and Father has come home, but Post Traumatic Stress Disorder causes some serious problems for his relationship with his family.

"Eschaton: Nightfall" is another short film that showcases some nice talent by the production group Strange Company, the guys who founded machinima.com and who are hard at work getting their hands dirty with the Lithtech engine. "Eschaton: Nightfall", which runs a little over a half an hour, has original maps, models, a plotline, and some of the best voice work in an amateur production. These guys sound like they're really acting.

Quake movies didn't start with Quake 2, though. The original Quake is the venue for many titles, including "Blahbalicious", "Eschaton: Darkening Twilight", and the "Ranger Gone Bad" intro movie for Quake. And now that Quake III Arena has been released, many others are taking up the creative gauntlet. I asked the guys at Strange Company/machinima.com and Cineplex for some of their thoughts on video games as movie entertainment. Are they a "legitimate" form of entertainment?


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