It’s been a long time since Peter Molyneux released his studio management sim The Movies, but time has not lessened its impact on the hearts and minds of developers. We recently interviewed Niklavs Strads from Odyssey Studio about their upcoming debut title, Moviehouse.
Game Luster: Introduce yourselves for our readers, if you please.
Niklavs Strads: Heya, I’m Nick, I run a small indie games studio in Riga, Latvia. We’re currently working on our first title Moviehouse. It’s sort of Game Dev Tycoon meets The Movies. Thanks for having me.
GL: The parallels between Moviehouse and Peter Molyneux’s The Movies are not immediately obvious. What was it about that game which left such an impression on you to try and make this one?
Strads: I think that there is a definite split in what the players of The Movies found the most exciting. On one hand, there’s the really interesting mechanic where you can film your own movie and upload it to YouTube. But built around all of that is the managerial aspect of the day-to-day running of a movie studio, which is the direction that I find most fascinating. There’s just so much that goes into making a movie beyond filming it.
GL: Going through the demo, currently out on Steam, the incidents where you have to make a decision about the types of shots seems like a bit of “how to” for people outside of film. Do you have any prior film or videography background?
Strads: I’ve landed on being a game designer now professionally, but filmmaking has always been a field that I’ve been drawn to. You could say that my lack of hands-on experience was one of my big draws in making Moviehouse. As with many fantasies, I’ll get to live this one out in games. I’ve had the fantastic opportunity to meet a lot of people in the industry during the development of the game, from sound designers to directors. I even had the chance to attend the Cannes Film Festival just recently which was quite the experience.
GL: When you were going through the design process, had you contemplated putting in machinima tools similar to The Movies or did you want to focus entirely on the “business” side?
Strads: That was one of those ideas that I quickly set aside. As a mechanic, it could be a game in itself, and completing the base game was enough of a challenge already, I felt. But it’s also a mechanic that I would love to play around with in the future.
GL: Since this game is focusing on the art of filmmaking, what are your top five films? The ones that you’d take with you to a desert island/secret bunker/deep space journey that would keep you entertained almost indefinitely.
Strads: I hope that this hypothetical exile comes with a TV to watch these on, but in no particular order
• Stand By Me
• Evil Dead 2
• Schindler’s List
• Dr. Strangelove
GL: Back to the demo for a bit, it seemed like your talent pools for actors were basically fixed in terms of their stats. Is there or was there a mechanism to upgrade actors to the higher tiers (much like actors who started in B-movies and made their way to the top)?
Strads: Not in the demo, but that is very much the intention. You will have a chance to raise actors to the top in the full game. But you also have to be careful. Fame can go to their head.
GL: What is one feature that you wanted to add to the game but couldn’t because of time or logistical constraints? What’s one feature you had to cut out of the game?
Strads: More options to build out the studio would have been nice, but that’s also something we can come back to in the future.
As for cut content – we’ve been lucky to keep most of what was planned, but I did have to hold myself back from working on the procedural movie poster generation for another month, to be honest, I got a bit carried away as is.
GL: Another aside. If you were given a blank check and guaranteed control over adapting an existing video game property to film or television, what would it be? Why?
Strads: I would have to go with Disco Elysium, but I think they’ve already announced a TV adaptation. Nonetheless, I’d love to see how the mess in Harry’s head translates to screen.
GL: Bearing in mind it’s a business sim, how likely is it for players to be experiencing not only technical changes to the business (audio tracks, color film, etc.) but also social changes (various censorship models, political pressure like “The Red Scare,” box office trends in genre/tone)?
Strads: That’s something that we’re already experimenting with, for one the advent of the videotape and what that did to people’s movie-watching habits is reflected in the game. As well as simulating different audience types, right now we have three primary categories, each one with its own likes and dislikes. But tackling, for example, the reality of the New Hollywood movement of the 60s is also something that I’d like to explore.
GL: Once Moviehouse is out, where do you go from here? Rest, relax, and prep for the expansion pack? Or head off in a totally new direction?
Strads: Well, I’m living the rockstar life of an indie games developer, so that doesn’t leave much room for rest. But, I’d love to work more on Moviehouse, there’s just so much to add, but I also have quite a few other ideas buzzing around, so we’ll see.
Moviehouse is currently slated for a Fall 2022 release on Steam. A limited demo is currently available.