Since iClone 4 can run video-file backgrounds behind your characters and props, I was thinking about which open-world games allowed the player to remove all or nearly all the interface elements from the screen, leaving a clear widescreen view of the game world. The best and most usable which came to mind is the free game TheHunter, which is set in a beautifully realised photo-realistic woodland / island environment. This free game allows you to remove all interface elements, apart from the top of an animated hand holding a camera. But this is a section of the screen which (for relatively static shots) might easily be covered by an alpha-channel billboard showing a close-up of a bush. Or by the ground plane. The Hunter is free, but is no piffling little Flash game — it’s a proper 3D game-world that runs at 50fps x 1920 x 1200 quite happily.
Of course, any video footage you might record from the game with FRAPS would not be royalty-free. But for amateur non-commercial fan films I doubt you’re going to have mega-corporate lawyers hounding you on YouTube (although don’t take my word for it, please). TheHunter is a small indie joint-venure enterprise. The UK co-partner who developed it recently had severe financial problems, and they’ve just sold the game to a new owner who’s going to carry on running it as an indie venture. The other co-partner is the Scandinavian indie developer of the forthcoming open-world game Just Cause 2 — and frankly I’m not sure if they’ve also sold their stake in TheHunter ahead of the launch of their new action blockbuster, or not.
Anyway, you now know the facts and the risk of using such footage is entirely yours. But it’s certainly a lovely-looking game, it’s free-roaming, and the woodland soundscapes are also very fine. One of its advantages over the lush SpeedTree woodlands of Oblivion is that these woods don’t look as “computer gamey” as those in Oblivion do. Fantasy fans who plan to make machinima/iClone hybrids should certainly be taking a look at it. All that’s really lacking in the game is more variety in the weather — but there’s a realistic real-time night/day cycle. Some genuine in-play screenshots from The Hunter…
I’d love to see the new owners permit royalty-free usage of video and screenshots in non-commercial fan films. Maybe something along the lines of Microsoft’s much-acclaimed plain-English legal agreement with fans on game-based fan productions?