Full motion video

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A full motion video (FMV) is a video game narration technique that relies upon pre-recorded video files (rather than sprites, vectors, or 3D models) to display action in the game. While many games feature FMVs as a way to present information during cutscenes, games that are primarily presented through FMVs are referred to as full-motion video games or interactive movies.


The first wave of FMV games originated in arcades in 1983 with the release of Astron Belt from Sega and Dragon's Lair from Cinematronics. Both games used Laserdiscs to store the video used in the game, which allowed for very high quality visuals compared to contemporary arcade games of the era. A number of arcade games using FMV with Laserdiscs were released over the next three years and the technology was touted as the future of video games. Some games released in this era reused video footage from other sources while others had it purpose made. Cliff Hanger, Bega's Battle, and Firefox reused footage while titles like Space Ace, Time Gal, Thayer's Quest, Super Don Quixote and Cobra Command were entirely original.

The limited nature of FMV, high price to play (50 cents in an era where 25 cents was standard), high cost of the hardware and problems with reliability quickly took its toll on the buzz surrounding these games and their popularity diminished[citation needed]. By 1985, the allure of FMV and the Laserdisc had worn off, and the technology had disappeared from arcades by the end of 1987. RDI Video Systems (Thayer's Quest) had branched out into making a home console called the Halcyon, but it failed and they went bankrupt[citation needed]. Cinematronics's fortunes fared little better and they were bought out by Tradewest in 1987. Companies such as Atari canceled more prototype Laserdisc games than they released. Others, like Universal, stopped development on games after only one release despite announcing several titles.

After only a few years, the technology had improved and Laserdisc players were more reliable. In addition, costs had come down and the average price to play a game had gone up. These factors caused a resurgence of the popularity of Laserdiscs games in the arcade. American Laser Games released a light gun shooting game called Mad Dog McCree in 1990 and it was an instant hit[citation needed] and then in 1991 with Who Shot Johnny Rock? , a game that might be the first ever live action interactive movie. American Laser alone would go on to lease almost a dozen Laserdisc games over the next few years and many other companies again rushed to release titles using the technology. Dragon's Lair II, a title which had been shelved years earlier, was released by Leland to strong sales. Time Traveler further pushed the technology by using special projection technology to give the appearance of 3D visuals.

Again, the fad passed quickly. The limited nature of the Laserdisc hampered interactivity and limited replayability, a key weakness in arcade games. American Laser, the chief producer of Laserdisc games during this era, had stopped making arcade games in 1994 and most other companies switched over to newer technologies around the same time. With the rise of 3D graphics and the introduction of hard drives and CD-ROMs to arcades, the large, expensive and small-capacity Laserdisc could not compete and disappeared. While CDs would see some use in the mid and late 1990s, it was hard drives, GD-ROMs and DVD-ROMs that caused the largest jump in FMV use in the arcade. Their very large capacities and mature, reliable technology allowed for much cheaper hardware than traditional hardware systems, and FMV cut-scenes became commonplace. FMV as a major gameplay component had disappeared by this time because of the limited gameplay options it allowed.

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