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C4 Education launches digital drama with virtual actors

C4 Education launches digital drama with virtual actors
Staff Reporter
31 January 2012

Channel 4 Education is launching SuperMes, an online drama played out by virtual actors.

SuperMes has been created by content design company Somethin’ Else in collaboration with US-based games publisher Electronic Arts and uses The Sim 3 as its platform – a virtual studio and soundstage.

Inspired by Robin Burkinshaw's Alice and Kev, a story of two homeless people in The Sims 3, the project was devised by Paul Bennun and Jo Roach, and was commissioned by Jo Twist at Channel 4 Education. The editor is Gemma Brady.

Using The Sims 3 engine, each of the virtual actors have been given very detailed character notes, traits, ambitions and motivations. They will then improvise the drama taking direction from the production team. The team will follow them everywhere, capturing the action in the style of an observational documentary.

SuperMes is part of Channel 4 Education's work helping teens deal with life challenges and a new component of the award-winning SuperMe game and content system.

Set inside a fictional English town digitally designed right down to the bicycle racks, SuperMes centres on the lead characters' shared house. The cast includes the pretty — and difficult — Anita, the perennial couch-surfer cum party animal Robert, the constantly-on-the-verge-of-tears Clare, and Ryan, who dreams of taking his band to a sim-stadium one day.

Paul Bennun, Somethin' Else chief creative officer, said: "This is one of the most exciting projects we have made yet and points to the future of interactive storytelling. It's incredibly moving and funny at times, and a true collaboration between humans and robots. We have become very attached to them. We are delighted to be able to work with Channel 4 Education to make it real."

Gemma Brady, Channel 4 Education, said: "This is an exciting and experimental way to tell stories about coping with life using a game that millions of teenagers love. It is exactly the kind of creative innovation we love to see at Channel 4 Education.”

Claire Ridley, The Sims UK business lead at Electronic Arts, said: "It's no surprise a game like The Sims 3 can be put to such creative use, but we are still incredibly excited by this truly novel use of our world-beating technology."

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