Friday, 26 March 2010

What have you become, my beloved Moviestorm?

This is my second attempt at this 'blog post. The first attempt was a vitriolic rant that flitted uncontrollably from topic to topic. I've now had the chance to sleep on it, consider my thoughts, rearrange them a little, calm down etc.
This, I hope will be short and to the point.
This week, Moviestorm announced a new pack, euphemistically called "After Dark", but will, I fear, become known colloquially as the Porn Pack. I was infuriated! But why?
Well, it's not because I'm some sort of narrow-minded prude, (an accusation that can hardly be made of anyone who lists A Clockwork Orange among their favourite movies).
No, it's partly because over the past couple of years the modding community have been constantly knocking on Moviestorm's door, desperately crying out for the tools that would allow them to create their own animations, costumes, animated models. Now anyone that knows anything about technology marketing will know the importance of establishing an active and enthusiastic community to get behind and promote your product - in fact the importance is explained very well in Geoffrey A. Moore's book Crossing the Chasm. This is the first book you read when learning about technology marketing. Without building this community, no matter how innovative your technology is, you'll probably fade away. (A great contemporary example is Apple and the way they built a huge developer base for apps, which in turn increased the reasons to buy iPhone / iPod Touch.)
Now, I don't count myself among the modders (for me, importing the occasional model from Google isn't really modding). But I sure want that community to develop because:
a) I want Moviestorm to thrive and grow
b) I need more variety in my movies; more costumes, more animations, more expression in the models... basically all the things that people ask for after they've made their first movie
I had always thought that Moviestorm would be working away on SDKs (or whatever modders really need), and throwing their energy into finding a sales model that allows them to take a share of sales while mitigating any legal exposure (where there's a will there is a way). I believed this because this is a basic technology marketing requirement and I had assumed that it was due to the limited resources that meant it was taking a long time - and the problem of limited resources would be alleviated by having a large third-party development effort.
I also believed this because I know that the guys at Moviestorm are smart. There's no doubt.
But with the announcement of the Porn Pack it became immediately apparent that the development energies are being applied to just developing content packs, and therefore not opening up the platform to a hungry modding community, and all this within the limited development bandwidth.
So my first issue is that Moviestorm have got their priorities wrong.
What else troubles me about this pack? Well, I can imagine it will prove popular with spotty-faced teenagers keen to make grubby little skin flicks, and I'm sure they'll be able scrape together a few pennies to buy it. So it will sell, and Moviestorm will make some cash. But really, did we have to stoop so low Moviestorm? Wasn't it possible to do a "passion pack" which focused on animations that adults could actually use?
And finally, I think Moviestorm needs to show a bit of honesty. The description for the "After Dark" pack says "there is content here that will allow you to fulfill your artistic intentions." Artistic? Seriously? Let's have a look at some of the assets on offer (fnarr): naked female with morphable breasts, doggy position on floor (start, thrust, loop).
I've no particular issue with pornography - each to their own as far as I'm concerned, but if we're going to have a porn pack then for goodness sake call it what it is, and let's not pretend it's in any way high-brow.
Of course I may be proved wrong by someone doing a tasteful and artistic movie. But I doubt it.

OK, maybe not as short as I was expecting. But fairly to the point.


  1. I don't have an issue with the pack itself, but I do agree that the priority should be on getting the modding community more engaged in creating content (animations and the like) so that the MS team can focus on new features and improving the product overall. I know that they are aware of this, and I believe that they will be doing this incrementally with the idea of a mod team. In the meantime, they'll still have to make content to sell. It'll be a slow process.

    However, the part that aggravates me about this is now MS characters can have sex, which is fine, but they still can't use the damn computers! That is where I think the priority is screwed up. How long has that basic concept been passed around? I think MS could've done without porn for a bit if they had spent the time to shore up some of the basic animation shortcomings of the base software.

    But who knows? I know they're working on dining, and I seem to remember something about getting in and out of cars too, so maybe computer use is in the works as well. Still, I personally would rather have those then the porn, so I would set those at a higher priority. I default to the "They know what they're doing" philosophy, and so far it's turned out all right :)

  2. I certainly hear where you are coming from. Me myself being very vocal about Moviestorm releasing technical details so modders can have more control, I can certainly relate to your frustration.

    However, from what I have heard, I dont think this is a direction that Moviestorm is going. This, honestly, is the first content pack I think Moviestorm has made in response to alot of users requesting it. Its a shame that they decided to put efforts on this rather then a decent office pack, or a new scifi bundle, but regardless, I myself I have to give them credit for actually listening to some of their users.

    I agree that this will only provoke the little teenagers out there to create suggestive films, but for films like Chat Noir's Studios "Death in Venice" love scene probably could have used some of these animations instead of using a work around as they did.

    Finally, while this pack certainly isn't a must have, it certainly expands Moviestorm's use a little more for filmmakers, allowing them less hassle if they happen to have a sex/love making scene.

    But that is just my perspective.

  3. Totally agree with the first part of your post, Iain, about the technology marketing necessity of opening the content creation doors all the way.

    But I disagree on the conclusions you're jumping to about this pack. You wrote:

    "But with the announcement of the Porn Pack it became immediately apparent that the development energies are being applied to just developing content packs, and therefore not opening up the platform to a hungry modding community, and all this within the limited development bandwidth."

    1. Moviestorm's Priority / Focus

    Do we think an office full of Moviestorm developers were all sitting around en masse, crunching code and focus grouping a Naughty Bits mod? There's nothing in this mod that suggests to me it kept a room full of programmers busy. This is a straight-up content pack with some very nicely done skins, some model modifications w/ new morphs, and animations. The developers (the vast majority of the staff) were no doubt occupied with other Moviestorm things for much of this pack's ... um, RISE to existence. (heh heh)

    After Fun Land, users were concerned Moviestorm was going all "kiddie." Now users are concerned MS is going all Larry Flynt. It's just not very fair.

    This was an EASY pack compared to many of the others, fairly lightweight in terms of content quantity. That's probably why it beat out the "drinking and dining" kinds of packs, which are terrifically complicated by comparison. As such, I don't think it's fair to assume that every release is an indication of what the company's top priority is in that moment. They release what gets done first, and an easier pack is going to get done before a harder one. (pardon the pun)

    And to infer from this pack that Moviestorm is hereby stating they don't intend to release specs is completely non sequitur. They may NOT release specs, or they may. But this pack couldn't have less logical connection to that decision if you ask me.

    2. Moviestorm Users' Priorities

    Some people will use this pack in completely uncreative ways, no doubt. And what, exactly, is new about the phenomenon of people using Moviestorm (or any other animation tool) in low-brow, unoriginal ways? This pack changes nothing in that regard.

    This pack does, however, provide more cultured filmmakers with at least some tools that assist with more explicit love scenes. They aren't a complete Kama-Moviestorm-Sutra... but they're better than nothing. The quality of workmanship is actually very good for what it is.

    I am just as certain someone will use this tastefully enhance a great movie as I am certain someone will use it for cheap thrills. Just as happens with the guns. I can live with that.

  4. I'm not sure I want to live with it. All these 'small' distractions add up over time.- Kate

  5. @Kate - I was rather under the impression that ship had sailed quite some time ago.