James Cameron Talks Avatar MMO
Looks to expand film universe with games.
September 27, 2011
James Cameron has been keeping very busy. He's currently writing an Avatar novel and working on scripts for the two Avatar movie sequels that will hit theaters in 2014 and 2015. He's also working with Ubisoft on video games based on those films, and now he's collaborating with Disney Imagineers on a new Avatar theme park that will open at Walt Disney World in 2016. After announcing the new theme park attraction, which will be built in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Cameron and business partner Vince Pace, whose Cameron Pace Group (CPG) is helping filmmakers and broadcasters create 3D content, spoke at the 3D Entertainment Summit about the bright future 3D holds. Cameron took some time from his busy schedule to talk about the role video games will play in the Avatar universe, including an MMO experience, in this exclusive interview.
What role do you see videogames playing in the 3D landscape with PlayStation 3, Nintendo 3DS and NVIDIA 3D Vision?
Well, we love it because it's another reason to buy a 3D display, another reason to buy a big home flat panel or whatever it is. We don't do games, but we see that as part of the market and as proof that we're going to take in all of our entertainment in 3D and within five years we're going to be demanding it in 3D. If it's not, it's going to feel like it's in black and white.
What do you say to the naysayers who don't believe in 3D gaming or entertainment?
People apply these sort of artificial arguments, "Oh, well this is going to be good in 3D but this doesn't really need to be in 3D." But the entertainment industry spent twenty years arguing about what should or should not be in color and then color TV came along and everything was in color. Every movie was in color, every TV show is in color and we never went back. I think that that's what 3D is going to be like. I think all of these arguments about what should and should not be in 3D are going to go away because frankly we see in 3D. You're hardwired for 3D. All life on earth is hardwired for 3D, not just human beings. There's an evolutionary reason why we see in 3D. It makes us better hunters. It makes us better at getting through the woods when a predator is behind us. We can't not be in 3D. So it's ludicrous to say one thing is going to be better in 3D and another thing is going to be better in 2D. That's just people holding on to a reality that's shredding all around them.
Ubisoft's Avatar was the first cross-platform 3D video game on the market. What would you like to do differently with the Avatar 2 and 3 video games?
Well, one of the things we should do - and we can't help but do it differently - the Avatar game hit the street well before the movie came out and it wasn't like an anticipated movie in the sense it was a known brand. It had to prove itself. And Avatar, the movie, entered the marketplace with a healthy opening but nothing resounding, nothing that certainly would have told you it was about to set the record as the highest grossing film in history. It had to prove itself in the marketplace. By the time it had proven itself, the videogame was kind of old news and so it underperformed, but the underperformance I think was just a release timing issue. The actual game itself I think, while it can be improved, I think they did a pretty damn good job integrating the stereoscopic experience into the gaming experience.
How will advances in 3D since the first game impact the next games?
I've got lots of ideas about how to do things better because as you play the game you go crashing through brushes and things and there's a lot of hurtful stereo if you don't play well. And you don't want to start playing your game based on not running into things because it hurts in 3D. You want the 3D to adjust itself to you and in real time in the middle of the gameplay, so that's the next level that we have to get to. And I don't think you'd offer the game differently for 3D. I think a good game is a good game and I think the play of that game in 3D just is better, but I don't think you're going to author the game differently or design the game differently for 3D necessarily because games tend to be immersive. They tend to be relatively point-of-view. You move through a battle space, you move through a game environment, and that's all great for 3D already, so what would you do differently. I think what we have to do is work on the tech of getting the 3D not to be paying for it to be depthful without being painful when you do close proximity to objects.
What are your thoughts on turning Avatar into an MMO video game experience?
I think Avatar is a perfect IP for an MMO. It's a very, very big world and based on the first film, you might not sense that, but we're talking about an entire planet, an entire alter world, and in fact a universe that has other planetary bodies, as well, and other cultures, other life forms. Eventually people will see enough scope to be able to see how the MMO will work, but that's going to have to be launched…the timing of that is going to have to be carefully orchestrated with the release of the second and third film because we don't want to be giving away elements before the fact. And also I think one of the cool things about an MMORPG is that you have to have a lot more possibilities for characters than what you see in the film. The film is really just a leaping off point, so we've got to create a rich and diverse world that lives well beyond the films.
Beyond the games, what would you like to see in the Avatar Disney World Pandora that will be built in Orlando?
I definitely want to do a flight attraction of some kind. I love "Soarin' Over California" (at Disney's California Adventure Park in Anaheim). Flying is a big part of the movie. One of the things people liked the most at test screenings was going up into the floating mountains in the flying sequences. We may have banshees, Leonopteryxes, maybe some other flying creatures that don't make their appearance until the second and third films.
What excites you about 3D today compared to when you were working on the original Avatar film?
Well, I think that there's been a tremendous migration into what would be considered the home viewing environment, sports, and we did some ballet stuff. What excites me is we're taking the bookends of what we understand 3D to be contained to, a sci fi film or a horror film, and really removing them where the possibilities for 3D are really endless. When done correctly, it brings out more emotion, more character, more athleticism than any other medium out there.
By John Gaudiosi