While television franchises have seemingly done little within the social space over the past year (besides the Family Feud hit) – at least in regards to full on games – the extraordinarily popular American Idol contest is moving into Facebook with its just released application, the American Idol Star Experience. Launching in tandem with the Season 9 finale of the popular television talent show, Canadian developers Ludia and FreemantleMedia Enterprises (FME) are looking to springboard off the show’s fan base by allowing them a means to become idols themselves.
No, don’t worry, Star Experience is more than just a mere avatar creation title. It’s actually two-fold with one half PC download and the other half Facebook showcase. Truthfully, the former is the real bread and butter as users download and enter what is dubbed the “Performance Creator.” From here, users are able to create their very own personalized, American Idol performance.
This is actually a pretty in-depth, game rendition of Windows Movie Maker. After players have chosen what their avatar is going to look like through a fairly decent selection of clothing and body types, they can begin to produce their show for the world. This consists of a few parts: Song, Staging, Poses, and Camera.
The song part is the most self-explanatory, as users select from a list of one minute clips from older, and more popular songs (i.e. works from Alicia Keys’ Fallin’ or Boyz II Men’s I’ll Make Love To You). Unfortunately, the list feels a bit short at the moment, and since American Idol revolves around pop genre music, it will not appeal to everyone. Nevertheless, it would be unlikely that more did not get added in the future. Once the song is chosen, it’s time to put on a show.
This is where the Move Maker similarity comes into play. Players are given a list of stages to choose from, and once selected (along with color), they are given a timeline. On the timeline, players are capable of placing pre-animated effects, poses, and camera angles at specific points in the song; which is generally every five or so seconds. Furthermore, each of the three categories has their own timeline, so you make up to three things occur at once.
The first of the three, effects (called “staging” in the game) is where your flair comes from and consists of confetti, rain, fireworks, and other forms of pyrotechnics. As for the posing, this is the animation of your avatar. After all, it would be a bit boring if he or she just stood there, no? With 52 different animations that can be classified and sorted by movements that are considered dreamy, fierce, seductive, tragic, or up beat, would-be Idols have an impressive amount of personality to grant their digital selves.
As for the camera work, this is everything from close-ups to long, wide shots, and everything in between. Frankly, this is the part where most Idol players are going to shine, because there is such a variety in angle and distance for each shot, that careless planning makes the performance a bit painful to watch.
Of course, there is one more aspect that could make performances a bit more painful…. Star Experience allows its players to… record their own singing, if they want, in a karaoke fashion. Let’s just say that some are good, and others, not so much, just like the show.
Once everything is completed it can then be uploaded to Facebook and displayed for the world to see. Within the app itself, anyone can jump on, view performances and rate them based singing, staging, and styling (the avatar itself). Moreover, users can favorite the best, and share what they like with their Facebook friends. Obviously, this sharing also extends to what they themselves create as well.
Frankly, Star Experience is a brilliant multi-fold idea. Already, it is basing its audience off of something that is popular and that, obviously, millions of Americans watch and love. In some cases, the level of customization feels a bit lacking (namely the songs), but overall there is plenty for most users to make something phenomenal. Moreover, what better incentive for would be singers to play than putting themselves in front of, potentially, 400+ million users?
American Idol Star Experience is a fantastic addition to Facebook and certainly a worthy download for Idol fans everywhere. If there was any one concern to be had, it is that the Facebook half of the game relies on user generated content. There is always potential for extremely bad or offensive content, especially when you consider that people can record themselves. Nevertheless, so long as the developers do a good job policing such actions then this is a game that ought to do well.