"Emotion Capture" - Directing Milo from John Dower on Vimeo.
The Milo concept, as suggested, allowed the player to actually speak to the main character, a ten year old boy - essentially carrying on almost-human conversations (and employing, as Molyneux himself admitted, a bit of smoke-and-mirrors trickery). Later details would reveal the game's actual story to be somewhat dark in nature, suggesting the possibility of a uniquely immersive, terrifying experience.
Despite the derision of a good part of the gaming community, the concept actually held great promise. The demos, while largely staged, were intriguing. Though I wasn’t a gamer, I would have shelled out a few hundred dollars just to experience what would likely have evolved into form of entertainment all it’s own. I think it would have brought legions of other non-gamers into the gaming world.
Unfortunately “Milo” never came to be. It was nowhere to be seen at Kinect’s debut. Molyneaux would later admit that the project was dead and buried.
Why? In Patrick Garratt’s interview with Molyneaux, just published on the VG247.com gaming website, Molyneaux reveals that “Milo” was abandoned precisely because he and his Lionhead (a Microsoft-aligned gaming company) associates decided that it simply didn’t fit into the current gaming environment. In other words, it was simply too far removed from the industry norm: it wasn’t what current gamers would buy.
Like any industry, there’s always the bottom line. Reaction from the gaming industry, from this non-gamer’s perspective (full disclosure: I eventually bought a PS3), was tepid at best. Part of that was due to Molyneaux’s reputation as one who tends to exaggerate his upcoming projects. Apart from that skepticism, there seemed to be an unwillingness to buy into the vision of gaming that could be immersive to this extent.
Part of the problem, I believe, is that gaming is a huge, mature multi-billion dollar industry. Many games, at their core, are similar in nature - but it’s what their core audience wants. Gaming companies are not in the business of being pioneers; they’re in the business of making money.
The danger, however, is that their intransigence will one day leave the current gaming industry far behind.
Case in point: Before Amazon.com became the go-to place for nearly everything, there was the Sears catalog. For near one hundred years, Americans could be anything and everything from the catalog, and have the items delivered to their doorstep (even prefab homes, at one time). Sears, however went out of the catalog business in 1993, just before online retail began it’s rise. In 1994, Jeff Bezos created Amazon.com. In 1995, Amazon began operations - eventually becoming, in effect, the Sears catalog of the Internet age.
It took Sears over 100 years to become a creaky old company that didn’t have the vision that might have changed it’s fate.
Things move more quickly today. It only took 35 years or so for the gaming industry to become creaky...
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