The System and The World

27 May 2011

11 million player deaths in Just Cause 2 – a big open world game – plotted in 3D; a map of the world made only out of player-deaths.

What happens is: the map becomes visible, but not it’s quite the “real” map. Unstead, you see obvious things like the really tall buildings – skyscrapers – and the really tall sites – mountains – becoming very evident.

Strange things happen underneath tall stuff – under the biggest skyscrapers, and the casino that hangs in the air like an airship – the shape of the object is very clear at the top, but then disappears into fountains and fluid shapes underneath it, as everybody falls off, hits things on the way down, corpses collecting on the ground underneath the airship – see 00:58 for a really obvious example.

So it visualises both the objects in the world, and the physics of the world. Yes, there are surfaces where people have been shot or run out of health for other reasons, but then there are all the points that extruded from those surfaces according to curves defined by velocity and world-gravity. The world and the system all at once. You could, I suppose, reverse-engineer one from the other. And, of course, what you’re seeing here isn’t geography – it’s just the visualisation of a systemic layer in the game (player-death).

And in that sense, the visualisation shows just how closely the world and its systems are linked. Pretty.

  • " For our project, we had to find three scenes from any movie or TV show and use physics to find out if something was or wasn't possible. I got 100% on it." In this case: 'Physical Impossibilities in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic'. He's really not wrong about the animation.
  • "Prototypes for Mac turns your flat mockup images into tappable and sharable prototypes that run on iPhone or iPod touch." Nice.
  • "My dream cloud interface is not about booting virtual machines and monitoring jobs, but about spending money so my job finishes quicker. The cloud should let me launch some code, and get it chugging along in the background. Then later, I would like to spend a certain amount of money, and let reverse auction magic decide how much more CPU & RAM that money buys. This should feel like bidding for AdWords on Google. So where I might use the Unix command “nice” to prioritize a job, I could call “expensiveNice” on a PID to get that job more CPU or RAM. Virtual machines are hip this week, but applications & jobs are still the more natural way to think about computing tasks." Yes, this. And: lots of people _think_ the cloud works like this, but it really doesn't, yet. Parallelization/adding computing power is more practical, but it's not been made easy like a bunch of other things have (so far).
  • "I have this colleague of mine who is an avid rock climber, and I’m trying to get him to play GIRP. He says that what I’m saying is like, “I’ve come up with this new formula of crack that’s ultra-addictive; why don’t you try this new crack I’ve cooked up?”" Wait, Bennett GIRP/QWOP Foddy was in *Cut Copy*?! Awesome.
  • "…another Monorail Society Exclusive!" The decision, you might have guessed, is turning down a monorail. Does sound great, though, and easy material for writing alternate-pasts.
  • "Unlike the movies that influence it, LA Noire takes place in a world where editing hasn't been invented yet." Really good writing from Tom Chick; this was perhaps my favourite quotation. I genuinely wonder how many people playing this game have never played a "proper" adventure game – be it an old Sierra point-and-click, or something from the Phoenix Wright/Hotel Dusk school. Chick's line about the matchbook is exactly the thing adventure gamers got fed up with in the *late nineteen-eighties*. We don't need the bad parts of Sierra coming back to haunt is.

Links & notes for this month