Update:Blog - Machinima: The Orb of Oculus

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This Developer Blog is copied verbatim from the RuneScape website. It is copyrighted by Jagex.
It is written by Mod Fnord and is dated 20 January 2010.
The Orb of Oculus

I want to talk about a love of mine: machinima. Before I came to Cambridge, I spent a lot of time with friends creating short films in a game called Quake. Quake Movies, as they were called, were the hot new thing. It all started with a great film called Diary of a Camper by United Ranger Films. The first time I saw it, I was hooked. A film inside my favourite game, with a story and acting - to me that was brilliant. I wanted to be a part of that and make my own films.

Strange beginnings

It wasn't easy at the beginning. We didn't have any tools to begin with; it was just ingenuity and perseverance, shouting instructions to each other in a university computer lab, trying to make something really good. Soon after, a group of persevering people created Keygrip and Remaic, two pieces of software that allowed the fixed camera in Quake to be moved around. We could set up tracking shots, pan around and watch the action from all angles. We had the final piece we needed to really make good films.

Living in Scotland, I was lucky to be close to the action. StrangeCompany.org (a company started by a man called Hugh Hancock and based in Edinburgh) was creating some cracking films. Hugh helped to coin the term ‘machinima’; it was a misspelling in an email, but as a way of describing the new art form, it stuck. Hugh also made a website to promote the art form to the world (Machinima.com) and formed the Academy of Machinima Arts and Sciences.

I managed to work for a short time for StrangeCompany.org, and Hugh Hancock, before joining Jagex. StrangeCompany.org was the home for a few features. Bloodspell was in the works and has since been released to critical acclaim. It was a terrific place to work and I feel lucky to have been there.

Cutting your teeth

It wasn't just Scotland that pioneered the machinima explosion. We can't forget Rooster Teeth, who made the brilliant Red vs Blue comedy series with the Halo engine (and are still making videos for Bungie). It helped to break the art form into the mainstream, and they even managed to get themselves a cameo in Halo 3. Another group, called the Ill Clan, managed to get their work onto the TV show CS: NYI as part of a set of episodes dealing with virtual worlds. Their early work was hilarious, but it received exposure on a major TV series. How cool is that?

It isn't just the big names that make machinima a great art form, though, it's the small productions that make this an exciting time to be into machinima. Take a moment to go to any video site and search for your favourite game and "machinima". You will find thousands of pieces of content, from PKing videos to fully-featured stories with their own audio work.

Why do I like machinima? The reason is accessibility. Anyone with a friend, a computer and an idea can make films in their favorite game. And the game handles all the hard details - costuming is done, sets are done - so all it takes is actors to move the characters, a plot and a dream. What isn't to like?

The first machinima competition

The popularity of our first machinima competition made it apparent to us that people were really interested in making good quality films with RuneScape. There are some tremendous people working to really push the limits of what you can do with our game. The entries were outstanding, their quality unlike anything I imagined.

When Excl and Tehnoobshow came to Jagex to visit, they spoke with us about how they made their films. They have since told us about the limitations and problems as well as how they managed to get around them. It only goes to show exactly how creative the fans of RuneScape are when they want to get their films made.

Their visit really motivated us to think about how we could give a little more to those who choose to create their own videos. When I was asked to see what I could do for all the machinima producers out there, I was stoked to say the least. I really wanted to give them some quick and easy tools to really enhance the experience of making their films. I also was a little bit selfish, as I want machinima to get some extra exposure, and I wanted to be a part of the next contest and to give something back to the community.

The Orb of Oculus

Orb of Oculus concept art

The Orb of Oculus is the start of this. It’s an in-game item that we are about to release that can be used to set up some exciting and dynamic shots for your own RuneScape machinima. You will have total control over the camera and can make it maneuver and pan as you see fit. You will have the power to set up your shots, direct your friends and keep them in frame, and make the film you want to make.

The big hope is that this tool will inspire all RuneScape players to try their hand at making their own videos. Seeing what can be done right now is a treat, but with the Orb of Oculus, I hope you can make something truly exceptional. Get a video of yourself in a minigame, show off your own house, let people see your rendition of Don Quixote as you tilt at windmills. The world is your oyster, so why not give it a try?

What is the future for machinima in Runescape? That answer is up to you. With the new machinima competition about to launch, and this new tool, I know we are all looking forward to seeing what you can do. Perhaps you will be the next machinima pioneer...

If you'd like to discuss this blog on the forums, please visit this forum thread.