To the CG community, game-related videos – trailers, intros and in-game FMV sequences – are often seen as a bit of a laughing stock. But the latest generation show that they're a match for Hollywood's output.
There used to be a good reason why CG films for games received so much scorn. Produced on the microbudgets left over after the game developer had blown its wad on flashy in-game effects, there was little time or money for anything more than the mediocre. These films were clearly considered less of a priority for budgets than T-shirts with the developer's logo on it, which when combined with the components of most games -- aliens, orcs, explosive magical effects, and/or swords and guns the size of your average telephone pole -- you end up with something of about the same VFX level as the films you knocked up at
The epitome was the FMVs from the Command and Conquer series of games, whose hokey sequences were full of B-list actors from sci-fi TV shows and sets wobblier than Neighbours in its heyday. The visual effects and full CG sequences were less impressive than those in Neighbours too. Command and Conquer's FMVs had a certain camp charm to them -- like Flash Gordon -- but if you'd worked on them, you wouldn't have wanted to list them on your CV.
Over the last few years there's been a massive improvement though as budgets have raised and the cost of VFX and CG technology has come down, and recently the bar has been pushed to a level where it can compete with the best work from the movie, TV and advertising industries. The quality of CG found in the latest trailers for World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King and Darksiders: Wrath of War -- it seems wrath is the in thing in games this year, following on from last year's cake -- is up to the standards of Dreamworks and Pixar. We've also seen trailers that add poignancy or humour to commercial-grade CG and VFX. Now, if only the games were this good...