The Path

The Path is out.

I've bought it. I haven't played it yet. I haven't even watched the trailer. I haven't read any reviews because I don't want to risk reading any spoilers.

This is the new game by Tale of Tales, the indie game development studio that brought you The Endless Forest and The Graveyard. Neither of which I have really played. But I've been a follower of their blog for years now.

The Path looks poised to be their breakthrough game. It's been getting a surprising amount of critical attention. And it may be the first real example of the kind of game they've been talking about in their Realtime Art Manifesto.

"The Path isn’t much of a game. But whatever it is, it’s one hell of one of those." (Fidgit)

Try it out.


Google Is the Future of Games

It seems to me that the future of game development, in terms of minimizing the barrier to entry so anyone can easily make a game, would look a lot more like Google than like Photoshop. And it wouldn't look at all like Visual Studio. ;)

I can imagine a knowledge network of algorithms and components and behaviors, built up by people searching a space, as in Electric Sheep, and then organized and filtered by people participating in some kind of social network metagame.

If I am putting together an environment sketch and I'm looking for some procedural water ripples for a fountain, I'd be able to search for these procedural components as easily as I would for a web page. I'd be able to navigate through the space of algorithms at a finer level, too, like Biomorphs, to tweak an existing component without ever touching any code. And if I wanted to, I could modify the code directly.

Whatever social rewards I'd gather through my creation would automatically trickle down to those who created the components I used to make it. In this way, there would be an ecosystem of people creating, evolving, filtering, and combining this procedural material from which games are made and recycled back into.

I'm not saying it will happen, but something like that will have to happen before creating games becomes a mainstream activity. It's a tough problem, but I'd love to see it solved. How do you turn software engineering into an art form?

*image from one of my favorite flash animations, Pencilmation*


Instant AI - Just Add People

Even today, in the age of the Wii, video games still have a predominantly male image. To explain this historic lack of games that appeal to girls, many people point to the extremely high complexity of social or emotional systems compared to the movement of objects and projectiles. Making Space Invaders is a lot easier than making an interactive adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

This may be true, but this complexity gap need not stop us any longer. Why bother simulating any social or emotional nuances when real live humans are so easy to co-opt into willing participants in a social space facilitated by web technology? Don't waste your time writing advanced AI, just use people.

Say you have some item, like a virtual item in a game. If you are making a social game, you might be tempted to try directly specifying its effects on a player's social network. This would be hard to do effectively. But if instead you structure your players' social interaction and communication to meaningfully involve and be affected by this virtual item, these players will construct a much more nuanced meaning for it themselves. There is no need to abstract it away.

Provide opportunities for the players to create significance themselves out of the elements you provide. Come to think of it, this approach can even apply outside of social games, sort of like how Tale of Tales would like to see more games as instruments.

Now I think that abstracted formal simulations of social dynamics have their place, particularly for educational purposes or to illustrate a certain point. But I wonder if either of these goals might still be compatible with the structured socialization approach, using real players. It's an interesting idea. How far can you go in simplifying these interactions and dynamics before people are unable or unwilling to play in your world?

*image from the excessively cute and catchy Less Than Three*


Planet Earth Is Awesome

And I mean that literally. It inspires awe. Have you had the chance to see any episodes of Planet Earth yet? Amazing. I really want to start watching those again.

The Earth is a beautiful place. I never realized how out of touch I was with the rest of life on this planet until this film brought it home to me. The sheer scale of this world, and what it means for all these millions and billions of species of plants and animals to exist. They're not just pictures in a book. Each one of them must do, and be, in a different way, every day.

There is life being lived beyond the human world and even if all humanity faces extinction, I am content that life continues to live, fragile but vigorous.

I should make a game about that. ;)