• "It should be pointed out, however, that physics is not the only systemic toy upon which fun games can be built. Probability fields, such as those forged by the colours, numbers and suits in a deck of cards, and the stochastic patterns that emerge from mixing those cards up, are another well-known toy upon which many great games are built. In fact, there is a literal infinity of foundational systemic toys upon which meaningful games can be built, yet for the most part, the game industry focuses on building baseline game engines that simulate one single toy that is proven to only be marginally fun: physical reality."
  • "We are making a model of how a product is, to the degree that we can in video. We subject it to as much rigour as we can in terms of the material and technological capabilities we think can be built.

    It must not be magic, or else it won’t feel real.

    I guess I’m saying sufficiently-advanced technology should be distinguishable from magic." This is a lovely pulling-together of things from Matt J, and really manages to express the notions of "physics" and "rulesets" that I always enjoyed so much.

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.
  • "More important: the game, Sand-dancer, is a good game. It is not the sort of example that exists to have one of everything in the manual. It is the sort of game that exists to make IF better. Aaron puts it together on your workbench. You can see the parts going in, and I don't mean rules and action constructs now; I mean character, background, voice, theme, and narrative drive. He explains what he's doing, and what each game element is for. He talks about story structure and shape of interactivity. He discusses what you have to do to get the player involved and what you have to do to put the player in control." This sounds great. Add-to-cart.
  • "I want all the young present-tense storytellers (the old ones have won prizes and are incorrigible) to allow themselves to stand back and show me a wider temporal perspective. I want them to feel able to say what happened, what usually happened, what sometimes happened, what had happened before something else happened, what might happen later, what actually did happen later, and so on: to use the full range of English tenses." There's lots in here. I think it might be good; it is definitely interesting, and worth returning to.
  • "In this programme we hear from colleagues, friends and former students as well as the great man himself about the beauty of nature and the importance of science to our understanding of the world." A lovely Archive Hour on Radio 4, on Richard Feynman; only available for a few more days, so grab it whilst you can. Delightful, and nicely structured.