• "Alien is a great example of the importance of seeing movies on big screen.  For any director reliant on frequent long-takes, compositions naturally become less didactic: greater scope in field-of-vision grants greater freedom to the explorative viewer’s eye.  For a filmmaker like Scott, compositions are so enlarged that it is as if the audience is looking at the film through a microscope." Cracking article on Alien over at MUBI.
  • "The point isn't nostalgia, that things were better in simpler times, but that the conditions we create (deliberately or accidentally) for and around the practices we pursue have a tremendous influence on the ways we carry out those practices. In the case of computer programming in particular, the apparent benefits of speed, efficiency, accessibility, and other seemingly "obvious" positive virtues of technical innovation also hide lost virtues, which of course we then fail to see." Culture as a byproduct of conditions.
  • "Type words to interact with Fireplace or just sit back and enjoy. The logs burn down to ashes in about 30 minutes each." Charming, delightful.

Kill Screen: To Shape The Future

20 December 2011

My latest Game Design of Everyday Things column is now up at Kill Screen. It’s about the relevance of landscape gardening to game design.

We talk a lot about the influence of architecture on game design. Indeed, it’s something Kill Screen asked me about in the original formulations for this column. We can all see the influence on games of a medium in which geometric form and structure is used to influence behavior and manipulate the movement of people through space. It feels like there’s an obvious comparison between architecture and the design of three-dimensional game levels.

But I think landscape gardening is perhaps a much more interesting comparison point for the structure of game spaces, and one that is oft-neglected.

Landscape architecture shapes the behavior and intent of its observers without walls or markers. Instead, it focuses on surprise and delight: as your eye follows the gentle slope of a path down to a lake, it should feel like you discovered this. It feels like a coincidence of marvellous proportions, a secret that you discovered, that the eye is led so gracefully. In fact, it’s a carefully designed experience.

Also, it’s been illustrated by Trip Carroll with an illustration of John Marston in front of Broadway Tower, which is really quite something.

Anyhow: rather pleased with this. You can read the full column at Kill Screen.

  • "I've now stopped accumulating stuff. Except books—but books are different. Books are more like a fluid than individual objects. It's not especially inconvenient to own several thousand books, whereas if you owned several thousand random possessions you'd be a local celebrity." Books as a fluid!
  • "…one of the things I learned in attempting to produce 50 interesting variants on the text is that it is very, very hard. Whatever is done to the text, it is virtually impossible to extinguish Dickens’ intention without extinguishing the whole work (as in the case of the copies which read simply “Fancy fancy fancy fancy…” or “Facts facts facts…” for 300-odd pages). The text stands; it is greater than paper." This is brilliant.
  • "Brogue is a Roguelike game for Mac OS X, Windows and Linux by Brian Walker." It's REALLY good: stripped-down and straightforward, as Rogue was, but with nice mouse implementation and a lovely auto-explore mode. Really rather nice.

Links & notes for this month