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The Truth Is Out There

X-Files Interactive descends on the desktop

By Elizabeth Stevenson Marchant

Scully and Mulder have a new assignment. It's top secret, it's out of this world and it's interactive.

Fox Interactive, which will release a live-action CD-ROM version of The X-Files next year, hopes to capitalize on the enigmatic mix of alien abductions, conspiracy plots and paranormal phenomena that has attracted a devoted following to the Fox television series. The CD-ROM, like the series, will feature Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny as the FBI agents Dana Scully and Fox Mulder, and will have an original plot piled high with paranoia. The creator of the show, Chris Carter, and its Emmy-winning director of photography, John Bartley, are working with HyperBole Studios of Seattle, which is developing the title for Fox, to capture the tone of the series.

Though it will stop short of endowing users with telepathic powers, the X-Files Interactive CD-ROM will allow them to become central characters in the story, where they can collaborate with Scully and Mulder in pursuit of the unexplained. Behind it all is a proprietary software engine called VirtualCinema 3.0, developed by HyperBole's founder and creative director, Greg Roach. VirtualCinema's object-oriented database records user responses, from the definitive to the oblique, and integrates them in to the ongoing story. Built in C++ and using the QuickTime compression standard, VirtualCinema 3.0 displays full-letterbox video and lets users interact directly with video streams.

"From the user's point of view, this is a radical shift," says Roach. "Multi-threading was at the core of VirtualCinema 1.0 and 2.0" - earlier versions of the software, used to create Quantum Gate and The Vortex: Quantum Gate II, HyperBole's first interactive movie titles. "But given the advances of the past year and a half, we were able to start from scratch for this project and build an engine with an extraordinary level of interactivity."

X-Files Interactive will be released as a multi-disc hybrid Windows 95/Macintosh title in the third or fourth quarter of 1997. VirtualCinema 3.0 software is also available from HyperBole for license to outside developers.

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