WoW Hollywood

January 20th, 2006 — Wordman

Like any good on-line game, World of Warcraft has spawned numerous communities, each with their own culture. I think two of these cultures could come together fairly soon and create something impressive and fun.

A robust, talented and creative collection of people use WoW to create machinima, animated movies that use 3D game engines to capture “live” motion of the models (as opposed to frame-by-frame hand rendered stop motion animation). Like most genres, machinima obeys Sturgeon’s Law (90% of anything is crap), but when it’s good, it’s extremely impressive what can be done with just images from a game. The Warcraft machinima community, in particular, seems to cut across a wide swath of styles, from drama to advertisements, comedy, even…uh…romance (may not be safe for work). Even using just the limited emotional and motion range of the avatars and camera in WoW, much of this work is impressive.

A completely unrelated group has been irritating Blizzard, the makers of WoW, by running private servers. These servers emulate the real game servers run by Blizzard, allowing clients to log in for free. Generally, being reverse engineered, these private servers are buggy, slow, vastly underpopulated and potentially ripe to be shut down an any moment by Blizzard legal. Still, there are a bunch of them. One of their attractions is that, given control over the server, it can be tweaked to, say, increase the rate of experience awards or otherwise customize the game.

And this is where I think the two communities could meet. It seems like it would be desirable for the machinima community to have a hacked server with additional camera motion control, undisturbed access to sets (that is, the ability to reach places in the game without being attacked by mobs), complete wardrobe control and so on. Sort of a Hollywood back lot for producing machinima.

I’m probably the worst person to comment on this, as I neither produce machinima nor use private servers. For all I know, something like this already exists. Still, I’m not going to do anything with the idea, and it seems a shame to let go to waste.

Also, since I’m on the subject of WoW, just a random lament: if only the game supported selling short! With the war effort currently ongoing, you could probably make a killing on commodities that were close to being fully collected.