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Flavourworks is poised to give the gaming industry a splash of innovation with its upcoming live cinematic mobile game using patented touchscreen video technology.
I got a taste of the first chapter of an upcoming game. It all started with a daring scene where I ran my finger across the screen of my iPhone to simulate the decompression of a women’s nightgown. (Get your wits out, folks! I was playing a demo.) This was part of Crane, the first chapter in Flavourworks’ Hush anthology series. A private beta will start in a few months.
I had to use my fingers to interact with the scenes in the film at key branching points. My fingers could zoom in on an object, make a key choice for a character, or shoot a pistol while two characters looked at each other. Later in the game I had to dial a phone number with an old rotary phone with my finger.
It was a taste of what was to come with Flavourworks’ next interactive movie and game experience, based on patented Touch Video Engine technology. The movements of the fingers aim to blur the line between a passive live-action movie and active video game mechanics. The game features full moving video, with real actors and environments. They play a story, but you can play the story as if it were a game. You can make key decisions and even touch the screen to wipe a tear from a character’s eye.
“What we’ve spent the past two years creating this viable third category between cinema and games,” said Jack Attridge, co-founder of London-based Flavourworks, in an interview with GamesBeat. “We started with Erica on PlayStation 4 and now we have ported her to iOS and PC. We keep taking Touch Video, which has multiple patents, and this technology really allows us to balance gameplay and video.
Aromas was co-founded by Attridge and Pavle Mihajlovic. Their first game, Erica, debuted at Gamescom in August 2019. Erica has millions of players across all platforms. It takes around 90 minutes to play, and the median play time is one hour and 54 minutes. Many users have completed the game more than six times which is necessary to see all endings. Flavourworks gets an analysis on the choices, and when Erica has the option to speak or remain silent, 98% choose to speak.
They raised $ 3.8 million in funding in November 2019 to build the interactive live-action platform. (Attridge will be giving a talk on Flavourworks at our upcoming GamesBeat Summit Next online event on November 9-10. Themes relate to parts of the game that have a chance to reach the next growth stage.)
Attridge said he believes the company has a great opportunity to help take games to the next level, as live video technology is the way to reach a larger audience that games don’t have everything. totally won over.
“We want to reach out and reach out to the whole world,” he said.
The vision is to make Touch Video technology more intimate and effortless than mashing a button on a controller. It gives the user a sense of agency while ensuring that the experience is smooth and seamless. This is completely separate from other “controlled” narrative narratives sometimes seen in Hollywood (i.e. Netflix’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch) as it is only created with user intuition and fluid movement at the spirit.
With Touch Video, Flavourworks created Cookbook, a suite of exclusive authoring and editing tools for flow mapping and editing, with patented mechanics and bespoke gameplay features. And it built the Flavorworks Operating System (FWOS), a lightweight abstraction layer with hardware-accelerated video decoding for optimal video playback on all types of devices (spanning consoles, mobiles, browsers and more. low-end decoders). And with this engine, Flavourworks will be able to increase the pace of its game releases.
About 64% of American households have a set-top box and 34% worldwide have a smart TV. With Touch Video, the company can target these new gaming platforms. The goal is to expand the total addressable market for immersive storytelling and interactive content. Attridge recently took on Zack Slatter as CEO. Slatter has led new media and distribution at ViacomCBS, AwesomenessTV and NBCUniversal.
“There’s a lot of appetite around this idea of interactive live action,” said Attridge. “We felt that justice was done, in order to get it right, we had to tackle game development first. We were tackling these interactive storytelling issues at the level of designer technology. We have to do something that no one else can do in order to justify doing even that. “
Mix movies and games
Flavorworks games remind me of games where you make narrative choices like Until Dawn, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, and Quantum Break. But the characters in Until Dawn are animated, while the characters in Erica are real people.
“We don’t have to worry about the moving details because the video can capture the realism effortlessly. We don’t have to worry about, you know, different shaders or polygons and things like that. There is no substitution for the real world, ”said Attridge.
These games are completely replayable as players can go back and try to make different choices in the second or third game. Remedy’s Quantum Break was another title that mixed movies and games, and there were 40 different versions of videos to show players, depending on the choices they made.
Interactive movies or live action games?
I think a lot of us seasoned gamers all remember the interactive movie games of the 1990s, where live action was mixed with games where you made choices. But these games had clunky technology and a lot of latency that made waiting for transitions frustrating.
“The way we’ve tried to approach delivering on the promise of those early days of interactive films is to adopt contemporary design principles,” said Attridge. “Rather than starting on the film side, we started at the cutting edge of gameplay and understand that a player is very different from a spectator.”
Attridge and Mihajlovic were inspired after seeing an ‘immersive theater’ show called Drowned man by Punch Drunk.
“It was something that left a lasting impression on us that we haven’t really felt in other games,” said Attridge. “It really got us down the road of merging games and movies.”
Attridge and Mihajlovic founded Flavourworks near London’s Silicon Roundabout in 2015 with a radical vision. They wanted to bring interactive stories to the filmed content for a global audience. Their investors included Hiro Capital and Sky Ventures.
Ian Livingstone from Hiro Capital started to create adventure novels in the 1980s, so he was one of the team’s early supporters. Livingstone and Peter Molyneux were the first angel investors. He liked to create branching stories in Dungeons & Dragons, which he brought to Europe in the 1970s. And he was co-creator of the Combat fantasy gamebooks, the iconic series that has sold over 20 million copies worldwide. In these books, you could make a choice and then be taken to a later page to see the result.
Livingstone helped the Flavourworks team perfect the gameplay.
“For us the principle is play, not show,” said Attridge.
They have developed ways for interactions to trigger an emotional or tactile response. So you can touch your lover’s face with your finger or wipe the dust off an old book while flipping through its pages. You can also lift the lid of a Zippo lighter and then try spinning it to ignite a flame.
Staffing requires talent from both worlds of gaming and cinema. Actors can be as creative in influencing the story through their own improvisations as they can in a video game. Games using FWOS can even be unscripted. The company now has 26 people and is working on several projects.
The company is targeting Erica and her upcoming games to the rest of the traditional gaming platforms as well as smart TVs, set-top boxes and other devices using HTML5 and streaming technology.
“We’re reaching those devices that have been underserved by meaningful storytelling experiences,” Attridge said.
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