Today I’d like to go over the “Film Window” system, why it’s important, and provide some basic info about how it works.
The 1990s was a boom for text-driven games across many different genres. From RPGs to point-and-click adventure games–text ruled the 1990s. The problem with that is text is static, and can be visually boring to present. This was enhanced by the fact that digital displays in the 1990s were definitely harder to read than printed text.
Grasshopper Manufacture’s solution to this problem was the “Film Window”. If you think of every object on screen as an individual element, a director would want to move things around as he sees fit. So by treating text, 2D elements, and 3D elements as individual parts, it would now be possible to move those elements freely and give the game director more control over the screen.
It was thanks to this Film Window system that SUDA51 was able exert directorial control over the whole screen’s layout, without limiting himself to game info/gameplay on top and text on the bottom. Now 2D, 3D, and text elements could all be layered and shifted around in a single scene to enhance the drama through presentation. While other directors were beginning to develop similar ideas around the same time, The Silver Case was a major influence on the Japanese market, and SUDA51 continued to refine it in his next two titles, Flower, Sun, and Rain and killer7.
The Film Window system is controlled by a complex scripting system. The script gives control over both element location and timing within each scene. Window elements are not just visual, but include music, sound effects, text boxes, name indicators, 2D images, 3D scene camera, location indicators, and more. Music can be started and stopped easily; images displayed, moved, and then hidden as quickly as the director wants. As it is a scripting language, it is more feasible for creative, non-programmers to edit scenes, allowing scene editing to proceed at a decent pace without using up precious programming time.
In the HD remaster, this script is functionally similar to the original PS1 version: our lead programmer, Yamazaki-san, was able to write a conversion script that took the PS1 version of the Film Window script and make it readable in the Unity version of the game. This is how we were able to start development earlier this year and still expect to release this year: we didn’t need to recreate the scripts! Instead, we are spending time reviewing the HD remaster version against the PS1 version to ensure that no scripting elements or timings were lost during the script conversion process.