A hardboiled detective, femme fatales, missing people and money. The Dame was Loaded (1995) has all the hardboiled elements of film noir and is just as cinematic.
Created using innovative Full Motion Video (FMV) technology, which was developed in-house at Beam Software, this point-and-click adventure incorporated real footage of actors that players interact with to solve the mystery. At the time when computer graphics were limited, PMV games tried to generate empathy in players by putting them in the protagonist’s point of view and presenting other characters as real people in a fully realised game world.
When it was made it was the largest multimedia production in Australia, with game developers collaborating closely with actors and film crews, who used iconic Melbourne landmarks as settings like the art-deco former police headquarters on Russell Street.
The overwhelming desire for better computer graphics was a dominant narrative of 1990s computer gaming. Computer hardware and computer games were in an alliance, combining more processing power and more powerful graphics cards to liberate 3D games from their cartoony, low polygon look. Game reviews frequently spent more time reflecting on the improvements to graphic fidelity than actual gameplay, and game artists carefully rationed their ambitions within tight memory budgets. But there was another way to move beyond the limitations of the low poly worlds; these technical advancements also supported the inclusion of the use of recorded video of live-action within videogames, known as Full Motion Video (FMV)
When it was released in 1996, The Dame was Loaded was the most ambitious multimedia production attempted in Australia. The project received funding support from the state government of Victoria and was heralded as an exciting new chapter in multimedia downunder. Game Developers Beam Software had created their own full-motion video compression technology in-house and had the compressed video interfacing within one of their custom game development engines. However, managing a tight memory budget was still a major constraint on the game’s design. The live-action video was therefore used in high-impact moments, to showcase the game’s emotional landscape.
Director Jo Lane (Vixen Films) wrangled shooting the 600-page script that needed to capture all permutations of possible actions allowed by player choices. This required multiple versions to be shot of most scenes, with each clip carefully timed to the second in the script.
Still images of the actors in action were also used extensively in the game, stills requiring less memory than the video. David Giles, the game’s producer at Beam recalls checking anxiously that all scenes and images were correctly captured during filming as without them they would be missing critical content needed to make the game.
More than anything, The Dame Was Loaded’s end credits capture the game’s place between creative worlds: videogames at this time rarely required the elaborate credit sequences of cinema, as development teams were still quite modest in size. By contrast, The Dame was Loaded features a full cinematic scrolling credit sequence, complete with a soulful noir torch song with lyrics by Beams Craig Duturbure and music by Marshall Parker Beams Composer.
Dr Helen Stuckey | Play it Again Project
Works in this group
Not in ACMI's collection
On display until
9 February 2023
ACMI: Gallery 1
The Story of the Moving Image → Games Lab → GL-03. Cluster 3 → GL-03-C03