If you’ve not come across the term ‘Machinima‘ before, it is far more than a popular YouTube channel. It refers to the process of using commercially available video game engines to create animated films. The word itself was coined by one of the pioneers of the medium, Hugh Hancock, founder of Strange Company and creator/director of many machinima titles.
Hugh is based in Edinburgh and has, for the last five years has been working on his magnum opus, a new and original title called Death Knight Love Story.
The film will look familiar to gamers the world over. Death Knight Love Story was created using the World Of Warcraft engine. It makes extensive use of motion capture and it features a number of very well known names from British film and television, providing the voices of the main characters.
How familiar? How’s this for a cast…
- Brian Blessed (Flash Gordon, Hamlet, Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves, Star Wars: Episode 1, Sooty Christmas Special, Rome: Total War)
- Joanna Lumley (Absolutely Fabulous, The Wolf Of Wall Street, Corpse Bride, James & The Giant Peach)
- Anna Chancellor (Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy, Four Weddings & A Funeral, The Dreamers)
- Jack Davenport (Pirates Of The Caribbean, The Talented Mr Ripley, Flash Forward)
That’s a cast list!
Even for Machinima Death Knight Love Story was created in a unique way. Hugh and the team used Mach Studio Pro to import environments and characters from World Of Warcraft, mesh these with motion capture data and output the results in a way far closer to the real time rendering of a game engine, than the slow, complex rendering used by many animation studios.
The story itself is set within the ongoing narrative of Word of Warcraft and uses the game’s existing back story to create a new stand alone story. Here’s the premise:
As the most northern fortress of humanity is threatened by the Lich King’s flying necropolis, thousands of lives lie in the hands of a small group of heroes.
But can their leader be trusted? Not many years ago, she stood at the Lich King’s right hand. What changed? And what is her connection to Sir Zelieck, one of the Four Horsemen who rule the necropolis? What passed between them under the Lich King’s thrall?
Could it be that a Death Knight found love?
The film was created as a labour of love by Hugh and the team. It’s available to watch entirely for free on the Death Knight Love Story website. Hugh’s asking every viewer to like and share the film as widely as possible, to show what Machinima is capable of and ensure that viewers far beyond the games industry get a chance to watch the movie.
This is a perfect example of how the games is growing beyond the confines and expectations of the wider world, who still tend to think of games as toys. While Death Knight Love Story may be considered a ‘genre piece’ it’s also arguably one of only fantasy films to have been created in Scotland for many years. It breaks down the boundaries between games and film and shows what’s possible from a team with no funding, but passion and dedication for their project.
It illustrates the possibilities of ongoing collaboration between the film and games sectors, beyond the usual licensing agreements, exploring and creating new types of experience.
Hugh is already working on plans for Death Knight Love Story part II, though there are no further details on release dates or cast.
Congratulations to Hugh and the team on the film’s release. We’re looking forward to future projects already.