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May 30, 2011 / jwaxo

3D Movie Maker (Rare Games)

Providing all of the tools to make a movie no one else would ever watch.

Sometime around 1996 a demo for a game plopped into my lap. The problem with looking back on all of these games is trying to figure out exactly how I first encountered them; this is one of the few cases where I will admit to not remembering exactly how it came about. However, I’ve done a bit of research into the subject, and I can postulate a theory. The game in question for today’s (slightly late) post, Microsoft’s 3D Movie Maker, was published under Microsoft Home, a line of educational, entertainment, and edutainment games and pieces of software that were everywhere in the mid-nineties. We had a heck of a lot of programs from it, including the now completely obsolete Encarta, Microsoft Dinosaurs, and Fury3. My main focus was on the line of Magic School Bus games, which definitely deserve a post of their own. It’s from these that I assume I found out about 3D Movie Maker, although the idea of the MSB games having demos on their discs somehow doesn’t sit right with me.

But this demo was amazing. In short, 3D Movie Maker was amazing.

You could pick a set, which was a series of pre-rendered 3D scenes that you could choose a camera angle from, plop 3D actors into, choose their animations and movements, pick sound effects and background music, and, essentially, string together an entire movie.

The demo included two characters, one set, and three camera angles. I made, possibly, every single movie that I could with those three shots and two actors and five animations or whatever. And I wanted more. Oh, so much more.

See, while we may have made many different movies in my childhood, I was never in charge of those movies. With 3D Movie Maker, I was in charge of everything. Even better, you could do things that people can’t do in real life! You could make explosions and people shrink really tiny and kung-fu sequences and everything!

Or you at least would do those things, if you could ever get over the cheesy explosion animation.

The problem was finding the real game.

I was, of course, no stranger to not being able to find a game that I already had the demo of. Especially a game that was less of a game and more of a creation suite, albeit geared towards kids and very simple creations. But with Klik ‘n’ Play I at least had the ability to find it on the internet at some point. 3D Movie Maker was nowhere to be found!

I turned my eyes to local software establishments. My lovely, endearing mother drove me all over tow to every store that I could think of, looking for this game that tended to come packaged with computers and nowhere else.

The first usual locations were right out: KB Toys and Software Etc. had nothing to show for it. I knew that bookstores sometimes had games, so I dragged my mom to them, as well. Borders informed me that they not only didn’t have a software section, but they never had one. Ever. I found that hard to believe, but I had to press on. Finally, as a last hope, we went to the giant electronics store just down the street. I had never been inside, but it had electronics, right? And you play computer games on electronics! It made too much sense. My mom told me it was the last place we would be going, as it was getting pretty late and I still had nothing to show for our efforts.

We wandered all over the store and didn’t find a software section. Finally, head down, I stumbled to a help desk and asked if they, like Borders, only acted as if they had a games section, probably to lure little kids in.

Because little kids always need more amps.

The guys at the help desk were very helpful at informing me that, no, electronics stores do not have games by nature. They sell the actual electronics. They asked me what I was looking for, anyway. I told them.

And, I kid you not, one of the guys pulled out a folder of game discs, flipped through it, found the CD for 3D Movie Maker, and handed it to me.

Now, idiotic kid that I was, I only had $10 with me at the time. Who knows why I was planning on buying a game with only $10, especially one that was relatively new, but I was only 7. I even thought I might be able to find it for $5, have extra money to buy popcorn with at school or something. I tried to give my hard-earned money to the awesome guy working the help desk.

But he turned it down. Ten whole dollars, turned down! And why?

He tapped a label printed on the disc. “Not for resale,” the text read.

My mom, as I recall, was rather unbelieving, but I just wanted to get out of there before the guy realized what a ridiculous mistake he was making. In retrospect, it was probably from his private collection, for whatever reason, or maybe came packaged with the computers they used to track inventory. Whatever the reason, he assured her it was fine and we went home, me, very happily, gazing at the CD perched on my finger.

I movied the heck out of that game.

What did I learn from this all? Well, I learned that sometimes there’s a reason that you can’t find a game. I learned something about pre-packaged games. I learned about working with 3D objects in a simulated 3D environment, something that would come in use quite a few years later down the line.

And I learned that $10 worth of popcorn attracts a heck of a lot of seagulls.

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