Dec 31 2009

Trends in Games Industry – Business Models

Coming back to my presentation at one of Polish College’s, lets take a look on business models in games industry. Edge Magazine has summarized the best of the decade in gaming. Edge and its readers would be more accurate. I commented it. I had tried to be closer to the creator than the consumer in my thoughts, though. One thing should be most visible in my two cents I added. This is the successful evaluation of new business models, which was highlighted in almost every example I have provided.

When thinking on standard model with retail distribution and boxed packages holding IP called games we can imagine that “simple” business model with strong relation between game developer and publisher including negotiations for the revenue split, responsibilities for marketing the product, responsibilities for on-time, on-quality production and so on. Finally there is a consumer who can buy the box in Best Buy, Game Stop or other store. Last decade revealed alternatives very successful and I’d expect them growing even more in near future.

We hear more often about cloud computing. Microsoft offers Windows Azure very soon, enterprise ready competitors do not sleep either. Games industry known personas refer to that term too. What cloud computing means, if we ask for business models in gaming? I see three big options worth mentioning.

Digital Distribution

Current platforms evaluating Digital Distribution model

Current platforms evaluating Digital Distribution model

In past years we have noticed several successful examples. Xbox Live Arcade or PlayStation Network Store are good for hardcore gamer who seeks for small entertaining titles for cheaper price. Apple’s Store gives amazing opportunity for many different types of applications to land in consumer’s mobile device. Sony is learning on that releasing their PSP Go with Digital Distribution as the only way to play new games. On regular PC, Steam from Valve established itself as the leader. This business will grow definitely and I believe, in future, we will be educated and accustomed to buy license to play rather than physical CD for our collection.

This model has two sides of course. I don’t want to call these sides Bad and Good. I’d rather describe them as opportunities and challenges. For example, digital distribution seems to be great opportunity for Independent Developers to succeed. In fact it has already made itself one of two major directions Indie Game Developers look for. Second is what I call “Gaming inspired by Web 2.0″ which means successful monetizing from the traffic rather directly from customers wallets.  Challenges are also visible. Publishers think that digital distribution will kill piracy and used-games market bringing them more money. It’s very optimistic I’d say. History has shown that every new brute-force anti-piracy method was broken. I’m against piracy with my heart, but I have not seen good way to eradicate it yet. I doubt that it can be killed completely and sometimes I read between the lines that many industry leaders believe in that utopia. Personally, I’m more toward education and equalizing the chances in gamers community coming from countries with different economies, but this is different topic so I don’t want to go deeper into it, this time.
Used-games market is more interesting. Many players who can’t afford launch pricing, wait for cheaper alternatives. Used games are painful for publishers, but it’s natural counter-play from retailers who react on that demand. Seems like publishers perceive less and less opportunity in Platinum (PlayStation) and Classics (Xbox) sales. I believe that if digital distribution wins, it will immediately teach publishing platform vendors to extend sales life cycle with different pricing options over time. One of the reasons Apple’s App Store has won, is average $2-5 price for many apps presented there. They have no need to discount more. $59 price, a year after launch looks ridiculous in my opinion.

Monthly Subscription Fees

MMOs

I can bet that 99% of gamers asked simply, if they prefer to pay once or many times for playing the same game would answer rhetorically, ONCE. World of Warcraft for a change showed that subscription model can be very successful. Subscription model is still most popular in MMO branch of gaming. Other ways are also tested, like once again monetizing from the traffic with micro payments for example. Another type of games that had tested subscription model is browser games. In late 90ties I found many examples of those. Mainly strategy and role-playing games. They seem to be still popular, but in this case failure of subscription model is pretty much visible. I checked latest examples. Many titles developed by German company InnoGames are strongly advertised in Poland right now. If you don’t recognize titles like Tribal Wars (Polish title “Plemiona”) or The West, maybe you should check them out. These examples go through micro payments now, giving you free opportunity to start. Micro-payment seems to be natural transition from Subscription Fees. Although many would like to see subscriptions dead, I’m expecting it, to be one of three major revenue streams in cloud computing. MMOs and browser games still consider it and even if this outpost fail, I see new opportunities somewhere else where subscription can reestablish itself. One example is games over cable TV. In Edge Magazine (December 2009 paper issue numbered 209) I read about very interesting example. Imagine high quality (AAA) mainstream games available for you through standard cable TV decoder. No game console, just extra game pad additionally to you remote controller. Everything rendered in huge data centers and only graphical data is streamed to you through very strong network. Regardless if you think that this can win or fail, one company from Israel is right now testing it in their own homeland. Business model is exactly, based on monthly subscriptions added to your standard bill for cable TV.
Sad thing, we still have terrorism on our planes. US government after the latest act of terror is considering to ban all electronic devices from the deck during flight. Sounds extreme and I’m personally against it, but if this happens, why not try to duplicate that cable TV model for all Nintendo DS and PSP gamers playing on the planes right now. Technically solution should be even easier to develop than over TV. Scalability is the key, so compare 200-300 passengers, maybe 1/3 representing gamers to multimillion cable TV subscribers as an average for a country in size of Israel. What I’d change on a plane is payment model. Subscription would not work there. I’d go back to digital distribution with credit card swiping to pay for your gaming time.

Monetizing from the Traffic

We are used to see advertisements as a part of real world's architecture

We are used to see advertisements as a part of real world's architecture

This is very interesting too. I mentioned it twice in context of above models. Lets start with browser games. I have already mentioned games from German company – InnoGames. For Each game they produced, current number of players is published on their websites. Tribe Wars in Poland gathered half of a million players. American edition reveals smaller number – 350k, British counterpart doesn’t look good at all – only 40k. All their games are localized for dozen of countries. Browser games like theirs are extremely popular in Poland, but in other countries average user base is closer to 100k rather than 500k. Open question, what you can do with such an user base? You can try to push in-game adverts and earn money from that.
Fair, if you can pass some conditions. Nobody likes advertisements which are invasive. If you are able to design your game to mix game content and commercials fluently, bonus is on your side. This achievement is much easier of course, if you plan adverts for a game designed to be modern ARG rather than fantasy. ARG stands for Alternative Reality Games. Billboard in GTA looks natural, billboard in World of Warcraft would look just ridiculous. In browser games, advertisements usually are represented by separate frame filled up with banners. Biggest challenge for developer of such games is, that it always looks invasive. I’m not surprised then, that micro payments for various things appeared.
Do we bother if adverts become a part of Alternative Reality Games

Do we bother though, if adverts become natural part of ARGs?

Micro-payments are related to another gaming experience which is still not defined very well. It’s especially true for MMOs. Black market of items, characters, in game elements on various online stores. Opinions on this phenomena may vary from unregulated to illegal. I personally perceive it as a great puzzle how to bind it into regular industry business. Biggest challenge now in that is that it’s closer to gambling right now than regular trading. I have no good answer how to manage in-game trading. I see one example where it seems to be regulated. Well sort of, I mean of course game called Second Life. This is the only example I know where in and out of game economy is bound bi-directional.

Huge traffic can be the trigger to many different concepts, but first while making a game, developer has to be sure that he implemented all tools that may bring that traffic to his game. Choice of good platform may be critical. I mentioned in-browser games. Tribal Wars have been released in about 10-15 countries, average traffic seems to be 100k per installation. Not so big comparing to Facebook’s hits. Facebook gathered about 350 million users. Multimilion of them are gamers for sure. Games like Mafia Wars or Texas Hold’em Poker hit the board. Mafia Wars has more than 25 millions of fans, Texas Hold’em only 5 million. Fans are not equal to active players, but definitely show the reach. Electronic Arts has quite recently acquired a company called PlayFish, for 350 million dollars. I checked what has done the unknown company worth so much. They had released games for Facebook only. Most popular I found, is called Restaurant City. This game has about 15 million active users. For the next generation browser games, I’d strongly consider Facebook instead of promoting your own site. FB has users right now, your dot-com has to build its base.

Traffic as I wrote is an open door to many different concepts. I think that successful platform with huge traffic can reshape the industry not only in relation between game developer and game consumer. Imagine the press. Instead of paper and own electronic platforms to distribute news, reviews and other journalism I imagine dedicated channels on Xbox Live, PSN, App Store, Facebook and Steam. In this case I perceive URL rather a data source than destination address. It’s slowly happening right now, I believe future may only bring maturity in that.


Dec 21 2009

Best of decade in Games Industry (2000-2009)

Edge Magazine published opinion of their readers about best of the decade 2000-2009 in gaming. There is something missing in that summary.

If I looked for best examples in each category Edge mentioned, I’d look for something that has changed our perception and shaped the industry. Saying so it’s really hard to say who is the winner. That should not be the point. Good examples with comment why it has mattered is more fruitful for further discussion.

In games category, I somehow agree with World of Warcraft as a great example of a game which unblocked the MMO business. Before WoW we had many MMOs but none of them were so successful. In fact each MMO creator was struggling to motivate players to pay for the experience. Many good titles failed because players were not used to adopt subscription model. World of Warcraft was first where more and more gamers wanted to pay for. Now we can reckon about ten millions WoW players around the globe. If next after WoW had 1/10 of that it’s still success, because thanks to Blizzard gamers are already educated to pay monthly fees if game is good. It wasn’t that easy during Ultima Online period.

Beside WoW phenomena, I’d add Indie Games as nominee to best games of decade. Particular examples like Braid and World of Goo encouraged people to start commercial garage projects again. Last years of 90′ties was killing period for that. With companies growing strong, platform and projects being more and more expensive in games production home-brew projects were pushed to free, open source projects usually not complete, usually not giving that experience as I see in above two examples. Most important – similar problem as with MMO – customers were not educated to pay for small games. Expectations have changed and amazing Indie games blossom both in quality as well as in quantity.

As for the hardware, it seems that Edge and its readers have celebrated sold units not innovation. PS2 was really successful, but aside of bigger hardware capacities than PS1 and already established brand that helped sell zylions of units, I see Sony’s competitors more innovative during this decade.

First Xbox in 2001 revealed network gaming on the console platform like none other before. I know that Sega Dreamcast was first, but Xbox and Xbox 360 with XBL, Achievements, True Skill matching and other little details showed to competitors how to approach hardcore console gamer who wants to be on-line.

I agree on Nintendo, both Dual Screen and Wii were experiments nobody believed in at the beginning. Yet Nintendo sells it like crazy all the time. These two devices have been really important to the industry, because they defined so called casual gamer and brought to the community massive amount of new customers.

For the same reason Apple’s iPhone is also this decade’s phenomena. They enabled higher and higher quality mobile games, unblocking Internet usage on the mobile platform and showed really well how successful digital distribution can be.

In hardware category, during this decade, I believe industry has learned much more from Microsoft, Nintendo and Apple than Sony itself.

I don’t want to discuss and propose my types for the developer and publisher category. Too many of them have made genuine games. As for most important people, whole teams worked hard for these games I believe. Who we know in the industry is only a tiny fragment of that, persons self-promoted or promoted by their employers to speak. Part of the marketing story, games are not movies I don’t see the point in Games Industry Celebrities culture.

Last thing mentioned by Edge is biggest failure of the decade. I’d not go that extreme as it’s done there. Xbox 360′s RROD was epic, indeed, but company’s approach how to solve it was also perfectly balanced, gentle bow toward its customers. Door to door support, fast console replacement, warranty extensions. All these activities I had seen before, but in car industry when some fatal and deadly malfunctions appeared. Microsoft proved that even being relatively new on this market, they treat customers responsibly and seriously. I hope all other platform vendors would make the same if they encountered similar issues.

Sony’s marketing was also funny during PS3 early days, but if it was the biggest failure of the decade. I’d not say so. Big disappointment for many fans, yes, but failure? That’s too strong judgment for bad execution on not so bad strategy.

I won’t comment Gizmondo, because that was just a curiosity which had little chances to win by design.

All these examples show me that we have not had big failures in this decade. Instead of Gizmondo I’d rather say that Nokia has failed with NGage idea. Apple accidentally proved that Nokia’s concept to go with mobile gaming was right. Why Nokia couldn’t not execute that well? That’s the failure I’d definitely like to investigate if I was them.

In this decade I didn’t notice any bankruptcy that would impact the industry. In 90′ties Commodore failed big time. Nothing like that happened in last 10 years, even though many companies made numerous errors in their strategies and execution. The only example I remember is Interplay. Once huge player with many great IPs now a shadow of its greatest glory fighting with Zenimax over lost rights for Fallout.

In the summary, I like the idea Edge proposed, but results of their survey miss the point. They look like sales celebration and opinions of particular gamers who have their disconnected preferences they voted for. I miss comments that would cover bigger picture. You have just read mine.


Dec 15 2009

Trends in Games Industry – Technology

braid

Jonathan Blow, creator of Braid on game development few years before he revealed his game to the world

In 2004 Jonathan Blow, few years before we all could recognize him as the genius behind Braid game, wrote an interesting article about game project’s complexity. It was published in ACM Queue. Jonathan in that article said that “the hardest part of making game has always been engineering”. This point is very important. Braid’s father in the article added very nice diagrams with typical game architecture from 1994 to present time. I recommend to take a look at it. In 1994 components are just a few, we were in pre-3d era still. 1996 is interesting because with PSX and Voodoo on the market we had switched from 2d to 3d in the mainstream gaming experience. From 1996 to 2004 (another diagram) what I’ve seen and I agree with Jonathan, projects were growing in size and complexity in tremendous speed. 2004′s modern game architecture including Massive Multiplayer Online scenarios shows the challenge a single indie developer can’t afford. There is no single person who can beat the market in masterpiece 3d skill, networking vision for 10 million gamers and all those remaining pieces of the puzzle. Current games we see in retails store are highly complex projects involving hundreds of people in different roles to make it possible. Referring to role-playing game. I remember article in Gamasutra somewhere in 2000 with Baldur’s Gate II post-mortem. I can’t find it now on their pages, but I remember some numbers very well. Ray Muzyka wrote that project’s timeline was about 3 years long and involved 250 people working on the project at peak times. That simply triggers my imagination. I wonder how it looks like for Dragon Age. This example shows another thing. If I wish to make game which includes so many different aspects I would like to reuse as many components as possible and try to avoid re-engineering the wheel as much as I can. This argument goes back to technology and engineering. From many commercial leaders to open source alternatives, very good gaming technology is already available for evaluation. Havok for free in most scenarios. Latest Unreal Engine free to learn what it is. Very unfair pricing if you think to switch from free to commercial project but I think Epic Games would be more than happy to discuss individually every serious opportunity for further adoption. For community games, Xna proves itself at least for prototyping. Xna is double powerful if I consider using if with XSI|Softimage’s free edition called Mod Tool. Cut strongly, still much more powerful than any other alternative I have found for the same “price”, if I consider game project. Lesson here before first code of line is made is to make serious research on what’s available. If you’re a person who wants to make game, why to stuck and frustrate yourself with first projects where outputs are just engines, not games. We have a few stars in the industry who have strong technical background and achievements, we have plenty who are known because they made great game-play experience. I’m big fan of game production close to maximally 2 years of development. This is average period of complete PC replacement. If game development of a PC game takes longer, I see it as great risk to completely change the technology behind. I know many examples of games which were developed like for 5-6 years. These guys had to have really strong arguments given to their sponsors. 2 years is is also solid but still reasonable part of game console life-cycle. Creating games in 2 years gives a chance to get familiarized with the platform in more than a one project before that technology change dramatically.

Recent debate on IP shared over Internet reminds me another thing related to technology. This is especially true if you target smaller platforms (as for hardware requirements) where retro gaming is still attractive. Seems that technology itself in those projects is outdated by design. So while looking for components you think that you should be able to find many options for free over Internet. Latest lesson with id software shows that with huge attraction of these platforms commercial giants might consider withdrawing their IPs from the so called open and free world. Mind carefully whom with are you partnering not to pay double.


Dec 11 2009

Trends in Games Industry, why it matters?

Yesterday I had a session on one of Polish Colleges. I met about 100 students and spoke about Trends in Games Industry. Very broad and very interesting topic. If we say trends in gaming, many people think on the next game they would like to buy and play. On my speech, that was not the case. I tried to explain young people who may dream of game creation, how to think on next games they would like to make. Games not only they would like to play after creation, but those which can help them become commercially successful and find millions of fans around the world. If you look at it from this perspective, very important issue reveals itself, and that was the reason why I spoke about trends. I call this issue by the name, huge aspirations of young creators for their first projects.

Many young and especially programmers I've spoken to, take following direction. They meet with other talented guys and say: We have talent, we have skills so let's make the best of the best game like none before have even existed. And then they agree to pick up a very complicated idea of a game which by the name is huge and resource consuming project, like role-playing game for example. I'm glad that market matured to give them alternatives. I'm glad that we have already on the market good examples of much smaller and still innovative projects can be done within months by one to few people devoted to the subject. I made that comparison between huge and small projects on different platforms especially when I spoke about technological changes and trends for the future in technology. Innovation in games is always strongly connected to game design.

Good design of a game I understand in good game-play features and experience. Job well or not so well done in that area may, in my opinion, push a project very easily into a crap category instead of super-cool. Much easier than if game's technology itself is outstanding or not. Joint point between these two is technology in design and that is another extremely important subject I was talking about. Last part of my speech was about different business models in games industry. I spoke both about those which are already stable and evolving. I mentioned also those which still look kind of abstract (like AAA games offer in Cable TV network or idea of re-used games market in the world of digital distribution mentioned in last Edge (December's paper edition).

Whole that content was positioned to be valuable for junior/wanna be game creator with big aspirations but maybe yet not so experienced in the combat. Message was articulated rather for designers, producers and game project managing persons than developers (programmers) themselves. Mind it while reading below details about my thoughts in subject:

Technology | Design | Business Models

 


Dec 7 2009

On-line Journalism, paid or free? Decade old discussion is coming back

Digital content - paid of free?

“The Americans don’t give a damn if the newspapers go down”, Christoph Keese, Springer’s head of public affairs

Some time ago Rupert Murdoch stated strongly that Google is his enemy in, I believe, monetizing from on-line media.  Very brave, although both sides are super powers on their markets, I don’t believe such statement can call any of these two companies into real action. In this context, I prefer less conflict-generating message I read today in New York Times article. It is about Axel Springer’s approach to paid digital media.

This article highlights very important point, that can be missed in Murdoch’s yelling on “grand theft news”. Axel Springer’s name for that point is “noncommodity journalism” which has huge direct monetizing potential.

I agree on that point. I’m a blogger, I add my own two cents to gigantic basket of user generated information you can reach on the Web. In this basket, many of us, contributors, are pure amateurs with no pen-power. Some are just undiscovered natural-born talents. Judging on this dimension isn’t critical, I believe. We live in Web 2.0 era where users gained back ruling power over Internet, at least they think so in this highly commercialized Internet where vendors just give users more attractive and flexible tools. That’s the major difference between 90ties and now I see. 15 years ago when I discovered Internet I had to be a technically savvy to contribute back to the Internet. Who was not so savvy, could only communicate over Internet and download stuff. Now no technological knowledge is necessary to bring professional content to the Web and many people have already realized that.

So, in such a world, how can a publisher think of pushing me to pay for the digital information presented on their pages? High quality and rare content is the key. From undiscovered bloggers to big media companies I can simply split content to crappy and cool. Usually I perceive content crappy not because author has no writing skills. More often I’m disappointed because exposed topic gives just an idea, a beginning of something without any real content and good ending helping me to grow with my own conclusions. So I’m searching and search doesn’t help in crystallizing the idea. Even if it does I waste time to handle more information than I need to be finally able to articulate that missed conclusion.

I miss journalism with a thought so much that if I find such a source I appreciate it almost like a magical experience to live back in ancient times. There is so much just copied & pasted information repeated on the web that I’m astonished every time I find a jewel, where writers are people who really want to say something. More and more I’m trying to avoid semi-automatons driving for new clicks with every trick Web 2.0 technology gives them.

One of the unstoppable trends in the Web is to give as much as possible, as fast as possible. With that trick working next step is to bind people to the the resource and monetize indirectly. No one can fight with it and win. Fair enough, but I see more and more space for: (1) not so fast delivery, (2) not so much of information really hard to comprehend why I need it, (3) well written stories which have everything they should have to be perceived as complete.

Compare Kotaku or Polish Polygamia with Escapist Magazine or Edge in games industry to see one example. Totally different approach in news chasing.


Dec 4 2009

Blitter and direct access to Silverlight frame buffer

silverlight

Can Silverlight be used for serious game development?

Some time ago I found interesting project, C# port of Quake engine optimized for Silverlight. Demo published by authors currently doesn’t work (dunno why), but videos show that they achieved fair 60fps with it.

I started wondering how was it done. Quake uses it’s own 100% software renderer. No hardware acceleration was supported at that time. So, to port it to C# and Silverlight developers needed just very fast blitter and/or access to frame buffer (window pixel table or memory pointer equivalent).

One of Silverlight MVPs, Bill Reiss , actually has developed a library that solves all of these problems. Library is called: SilverSprite and you can check its sources on Codeplex. It’s really interesting project, because its API is very close to Xna API developed by Microsoft. Bill gives several examples how to easily port Xna game to Silverlight. He also spoke for Channel 9 on this topic. Whole that coverage is really awesome.

I checked above resources by myself and Silverlight triggered my curiosity as for serious game development. I wanted to investigate and find answer to that original question on blitter/frame buffer. I’ve written a simple implementation of WriteableBitmap based routines to build some benchmark.

You can run this benchmark by yourself too:
* Silverlight 4.0 compatible
* Silverlight 3.0 compatible

I used direct pixel table access to clear the screen and it does not slow down Silverlight a bit. I added also a Blit method that is able to render any UIElement that Silverlight supports (or you create). This is first bottleneck I found. Rendering UIElements can slow down Silverlight heavily. Mixing these two techniques (Pixel Table and UIElements) is definitely an area for further analysis and optimization, but WriteableBitmap looks like a direction, where you can go and check if you can make software renderer (real-time ray-tracer) by yourself. Another interesting aspect of this simple test is performance comparison between SL3 and SL4. Silverligh 4.0 seems to work faster so I assume that SL team might have actually optimized WritableBitmap.Render() routine between these two versions.


Dec 2 2009

Project Natal, interesting tracks for developers at Gamefest 2010

Term Project Natal should be recognized by many of you. Many more were totally astonished by this announcement coming from Microsoft at last E3 conference. Since that moment, not only gamers and game developers have started thinking on new challenges and opportunities, but also regular, little geeky gadget boys and girls sometimes outside gaming community. I’ve seen also many innovators in different areas of technology who started asking questions. If you anyhow missed the announcement, below clip should explain the technology itself:

If you’re interested in Project Natal and you’re a developer, you cannot miss next Microsoft Gamefestconference. In February, 2010 in Seattle’s edition, I spotted two very interesting session tracks covering Natal from design and technological perspective. I think this is first time, when technical details of Natal will be presented to broader audience. As far as I know, up to the moment only internal Microsoft teams and studios have access to this information. Some chosen 3rd party developers with interesting project opportunities probably were also invited for testing.

Broad communication means that Project Natal is closer and closer to gamers. I hope that post Gamefest 2010 era will also show some critical improvements in Xna to allow community developer check it out too. Track details are below (taken from the conference pages):

“Project Natal” – Design

“Project Natal” not only revolutionizes the way people play games, but also changes the way games are designed and created. The “Project Natal” Design track will present innovative thinking and ideas to help you take your game from office to living room—creating new ways to work, building showcase experiences, divining user intent, and designing gestures for UI versus game interactions. Discover best practices and what makes the “magic” in a “Project Natal” game.

“Project Natal” – Technology

“Project Natal” provides a groundbreaking new way for games to use natural user motion to interact with the Xbox 360. Experience the future now, with this cutting-edge technology! Join us to learn how to develop world-class titles using “Project Natal”, which provides many exciting new features that can be challenging to programmers. In the “Project Natal” Technical track, we will walk you through how to overcome these challenges with a combination of classic techniques and new thinking. We will explore the depths of this exciting technology and dive deep into gesture recognition, avatar retargeting, speech recognition, advanced raw stream processing, handling different player environments, and many other topics. No controller required!


Dec 1 2009

Reverse – Polish nominee for next Oscars (Academy’s Awards)

Will Reverse achieve as spectacular success as it did in Poland?

Will "Reverse" achieve as spectacular success in America as it has recently done Poland?

Older I am, more confused I am with my approach to movies. I remember when I was first time in America couple of years ago and had very interesting conversation about movies with some local guys. I was asked a simple question: what kind of movies do I like.
At that time, for me, movies in theaters were just a cheap and easy alternative for live spectacles, for which I could not (yes, my fault) find time to organize myself and go. So I was choosing usually more ambitious movie projects with more flexible schedule at big cinematic complexes and I was watching them quite often. I looked for some artistic taste in each and every movie I had watched. Coming back to the question,  I answered, “I like ambitious movies and prefer directors with crazy ideas”, like Lars von Trier, Coens brothers, David Lynch to give some examples. In response I heard: “that’s funny, I go watching movies to relax and stop thinking for a moment, not to torment myself with hard to understand content”. And I had understood that approach too. I appreciated simple action and brainless comedies too, but not as a majority of my choices.

There are different tastes and I believe many people can say totally different story, if somebody asked them the same simple question. I think that many more go and watch movies just to experience some primal sense fun with easy story and great special effects. That’s where the power of Hollywood have established itself for a while. For me balance is important. I’m happy to perceive that a good mixture of fun, f/x pimping up the atmosphere and rich, surprising story seems to be more common in recent movies. It just makes it harder to judge simply, which movies are 100% good and which are 100% crappy with no single line of defense. Fair enough.Reverse - the Movie, Official Poster

I’m giving this long introduction to my yesterday’s activity, which was a trip to local cinema and watching new Polish movie entitled “Reverse”. I’m talking about it because this movie is our, Polish, candidate for American Academy’s Awards, best known as Oscars. Having all above indicators in mind, I’m wondering if that movie will be anyhow noticed by American critics. I think “Reverse”, although it’s not easy movie to understand for a foreigner, has all these elements I have already mentioned. It has good balance of general fun. It has great story established in a period about which we (at least young) Poles would like to forget and go on. It has also some very interesting techniques used in the movie. Movie is prefabricated to look like old black&white production from the past. It has some shifts between past and presents. The only weakest point is camera. I see so many talented Polish guys behind the camera in American blockbusters. Seems so sad that those, who still make movies in Poland are “old school” so badly. Still a great movie, see below musical theme with well known trumpet player, Gary Guthman performing for it:

 

 

Movie’s theme is set in Poland, in middle 50′ties of the past century. A few years after a War War II, in still demolished Warsaw, a post war Polish society and community is rebuilding itself. Poland is influenced badly by early (and hardest) stage of communism with Stalin being still alive. In these “interesting” times we see a simple family of three women: grandmother, mother and adult daughter, struggling in very new for them, hostile world of distrust, invigilation and law made for officials, not for the people. These women have their daily problems bound to the times they lived in. I don’t want to spoil the story, so I’ll add that all these struggles are told in a mix of Woody’s Allen and Coens brothers style. Black humour, parallel personal stories and dramas being correlated in strange way. Movie simple binds you to your seat until it ends. Gay ends, because at the end, it even pays the attention to the modern definition of diversity.

Film has become very popular in Poland, but still I wonder, how will it be perceived in far Los Angeles. We have a history of Oscars given to dear Polish fellows for artistic, niche productions, like Wajda’s movies. Competition doesn’t look as a short list, though. Will see, I wish them good luck. Impressive movie.