Preparing for Invasion 6: Essential vintage sci-fi cinema
Welcome to the latest developer diary for Unstoppable Gorg, our upcoming tower defense game with an orbital twist.
This week we have been busy creating the tutorial. Next week we will invite the next wave of testers into the beta to try it out - it is hard to get tutorial feedback from people who already know how to play! Checking the change logs shows that others have been busy adding Steam achievements and working on Game Center integration for the iPad version. Still, with the game still in beta and a lot of art assets and effects still place holder or missing, we don't have game content to show this week. Instead I am going to talk about some of the films we have been watching to get references for the visual style of the game. There are lots of trailers and clips linked from this dev diary entry, so sit back, grab the popcorn and enjoy!
FINDING THE BEST IN B MOVIES
Unstoppable Gorg is inspired by vintage sci-fi films from the 1950s. Many people have a fondness for these classics and we think it will give the game a very distinct style. A lot of tower defense games have a sci-fi setting, but they tend to end up looking very generic and obvious. One of our beta testers remarked, and we agree, that one of the reasons Plants vs Zombie is great is because the game has so much personality in its presentation. We think the 1950s touch will give Unstoppable Gorg its own unique style among a sea of sci-fi games that take themselves way too seriously.
That's not to say we are aiming for a campy parody style. For us, the charm of these old sci-fi films is that they were played so straight. No matter how ridiculous the scenario, you can see that the actors involved are really trying to take it seriously. What a challenge that must have been, working with hopeless scripts, on low budget productions, and having to act terrified of the inevitable, and unconvincing monsters.
To get a grip on the visual style for Unstoppable Gorg, we watched a heap of sci-fi films from the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Many of them were barely watchable, while others have stood the test of time as true classics. Even if we were not always entertained, it was still a great exercise for capturing loads of clips of space rays, saucers, aliens, control panels, communication screens and explosions to use as reference material.
Watching bad films is not much fun; don't be fooled by the "so bad, it's good" label. There were films that were painfully bad, even on fast-forward, yet which ended up providing useful visual references for the game. The films below are the ones we enjoyed the most, regardless of whether they were good references. If you are a fan of sci-fi and haven't already seen them, they come highly recommended.
Definitely not a B movie, Destination Moon was filmed in colour and won an Oscar for visual effects. There are no aliens or monsters, instead the film offers up a serious story of a manned trip to the Moon. Interestingly, it is private industry that gets men to the Moon, a group of tycoons who build a rocket in a year, and then shoot straight for the Moon. We liked it for the scope and the vision, telling the story of the space race to the Moon, more than a decade before it would happen for real.
Possibly the first movie in which the alien was friendly, The Day the Earth Stood Still was also the first to feature the classic scene of an alien carrying away a beautiful woman – a powerful image that inspired countless other movie posters (and yes, we will be using it for Unstoppable Gorg too).
The Classic Sci-fi Movies blog points out that though the film features spacemen, robots, flying saucers and space rays, it has many biblical parallels - a stranger from above delivers a message that humankind can be saved. He takes the name Carpenter - Jesus' occupation - and like Christ, dies and is brought back to life. Still benevolent, he delivers his warning, and then returns to the heavens in his saucer. Some believe Keanu Reeves to be similarly immortal, but this is nonsense and you should avoid the useless 2008 remake and stick with the original.
Produced by George Pal, who also made Destination Moon, this was one of the biggest movies of the 50s. Filmed in colour with experienced actors and crew it set a very high standard for other sci-fi flicks to follow. H.G. Wells' classic tale of Martian invasion is transported to Cold War America. The Americans had great confidence in their military, and especially their nuclear advantage, but when the nukes fail to stop the invading Martians, what hope is left?
Spielberg's 2005 remake laid on incredible special effects but somehow the new version feels flat in comparison. Take a pass, and enjoy the original. We love it for the disintegrators, heat rays, and bubble shields. We are aiming for similar weapon effects in Unstoppable Gorg.
No space ships, saucers or ray guns, but this story of alien pods taking over a town by replacing the inhabitants with emotionless clones is an absolute sci-fi classic. The film is rich with Cold War paranoia – whether you see it as a statement against the McCarthy administration's pressure to conform to a patriotic ideal, or an expression of America's fear of the spread of Communism. It wasn't the first alien take-over movie, and nor would it be the last (it spawned three straight remakes alone), but it is still the best and even now, close to 60 years later holds up very well.
One of the sci-fi movies of the decade, Forbidden Planet was a big budget film with an epic feel released when cinemas were being flooded with cheap B titles. Many people will immediately recognise the iconic Robby the robot, even if they have never seen the film. The promotional poster features the classic image of Robby carrying away a beautiful girl, even though the scene never occurs in the movie. Oh, and a young Leslie Nielson plays a starring role.
We loved it for the intricate sets, spaceship design, gizmos and simply because it is a great film. A possible remake has been in discussion since 2007 apparently. Let's hope it doesn't suffer the usual Hollywood treatment.
The ultimate saucer movie of them all, and our only guilty pleasure on this list. It is not a great film, though maybe it is the best of the B movies. Classic alien invasion storyline, filmed in black and white, low budget, and full of dodgy effects, crude costumes and basic props. A scene where you glimpse an alien reveals the design that would be become the accepted image of "real" aliens, even today - big head, large almond eyes, and tiny mouth leading to a thin neck atop a frail, skinny body.
We loved this film because it best captures the style and imagery we think most people imagine when thinking of 50s sci-fi. This film is a huge inspiration for the visual style of Unstoppable Gorg.
We hope you enjoyed the clips and that they helped you get into the spirit of Unstoppable Gorg. If you would like to know more about any of these films we recommend the excellent Classic Sci-fi Movies blog.
If you are a fan of classic sci-fi, reply to this post and tell us which vintage films you like the most, and why.
Re: Preparing for Invasion 6: Essential vintage sci-fi cinema
1. Queen of the Galaxy – 1968
2. Manos: Hands of Fate – 1966
3. Dolemite – 1975
This spoofy blend of 1960’s beach party flick and 1970’s slasher film (think “Gadget” meets “Halloween”) offers everything