Ping

I’ve been asked not to write a post that simply says “I know I haven’t updated in a while”, so I won’t.

Still, how awesome that the word of the day for May 25th 2005, i.e. my birthday, is ‘artifice’. If that isn’t a sign from the gods, I don’t know what is. Thanks for finding that Stéphane!

My addiction to World of Warcraft is slowly abating. It is being replaced, rather ungeekily, with an addiction to sunlight and light physical exercise. Soon I will be unable to use this complicated machine with all the fancy buttons.

Before it’s too late, let me dig through the many comment-worthy things I’ve seen fly by the last few weeks.

This preview of King Kong, and the various screenshots and movies, got me excited. It sounds like a very cool game. Too bad I can’t read this article in the New York Times about the cooperation between Peter Jackson and Ubisoft Montpellier – where a friend of mine is game designer, salut Seb! Ça a l’air tres cool. It’s not Beyond Good & Evil 2, but still :) There’s another preview here.

Gamasutra has a report on the “The Path to Creating AAA Games” panel at this year’s E3. It’s about:

[…] designing a videogame that bridges the unfortunately rare gap between being very cool and selling a whole lot of copies

So they’re saying that games that are very cool sell a whole lot of copies and that this is unfortunate? I’m confused. Anyway, read it for what Will Wright had to say, such as:

In discussing the traits of a good game designer, Wright commented that he or she must be a designer first, and a videogame player second. “But ultimately, at the end of the day, game design is an intuitive black art, just like in any other field. There’s a certain amount of game design possibilities that will forever be unknown, and that keeps things exciting.”

“It’s like writing,” Firor added, “how can you teach that?”

Exactly – yet some people don’t get it.

There seems to be an awful lot of speculation about whether the video for Killzone 2 is pre-rendered or actual in-game footage. My opinion was that it’s pre-rendered: the lighting and the character animations are just too perfect. The latter was the biggest giveaway for me: the transitions and the reactions of the other characters to what the ‘player’ is doing are too good, and I’d be very surprised if anyone had really achieved that yet. It’s one of the biggest obstacles to believability, and it’s made worse by realistic settings and art styles.

I have since heard from people I trust that the video really is pre-rendered, no matter what “a rep from Sony” said. However, it is a great video, and a great way of communicating look and feel to everyone involved in the project.

In general, there were only very few PlayStation 3 videos that I believed to be actual in-game footage, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of them were not even running in real-time on a PlayStation 3. After the Unreal presentation, it’s hard to tell anymore.

A person who, rather ironically, is intimately involved with one of the next-gen platforms pointed out this amusing game design rant. It has all the elements of a good rant: jokes, profanity, graphics, crates.

If only more gamers were to demand new genres:

Why isn’t a there a spy game where we actually get to be a real spy rather than a hallway-roving kill machine? You know, where we actually have to talk to contacts and extract information and tap phones and piece together clues, a game full of exotic locales and deception and backstabbing and subplots? A game where a gun is used as often as a real spy would use it (that is, almost never)?

Where’s the game where we’re a castaway on a deserted island and the object of the game is to find food and clean water and build a shelter, a game where we can play for one month or six months, because whether or not we get rescued is randomized? Where every time we restart we get a different island with different wildlife and vegetation and water sources?

Where’s the game where we play a salty Southern lawyer who has to piece together evidence to exonerate a black man falsely accused of murder, breaking down witnesses and spotting inconsistencies in testimony?

Half of the gamers are now over age 18, and almost a quarter are over age 50. Where are the games for the old-timers? Where’s the game where we get to play as Dr. House and diagnose mysterious illnesses while crushing the patient’s spirit with cruel insults? Where’s the game where we’re a pre-op transsexual where the object of the game is to gather enough money to complete the operation?

What he said.

But innovation is not dead, as this preview of Okami shows. It appears to be a cool idea that is well-implemented:

Okami puts players into the role of a white wolf, the living avatar of the sun god Amaterasu, who is fighting to restore a world that’s been spoiled at the hands of the legendary monster Orochi. Gameplay will center around a particular village of human survivors who Amaterasu can help in various ways, with each deed adding a bit more color back to the ravaged landscape.

Okami’s adventures are brought to vivid life through highly stylized graphics meant to simulate the distinctive look of ancient Japanese “sumi-e” drawings, with thick black lines, pastel colors, and parchment-like textures. It looks like nothing else out there, and is stunning to behold.

However, the real fun comes from the innovative “celestial brush.” Holding down a button pauses the game and “flattens” the graphics onto a piece of parchment. From here you can use a brush to paint onto the page, and when you unpause the shape you’ve drawn will cause some sort of interaction with the world.

It reminds me of Paper Mario and Zelda: The Wind Waker. Yum.

More later.

Comments 6

  1. Mark wrote:

    If you’re looking for something worthy of comment, buy the innaugural issue of the new magazine ‘Now Playing’, turn to page 32 and read the article titled ‘This Game Is Far From Over.’ As you read, pay particular attention to the section of the article sub-titled ‘The New Storytellers?’

    By my count this will be at least the fourth wave of people who have it completely wrong. If you want to get rich, now’s the time to ring them up and tell them all about the possibilities.

    Posted 26 May 2005 at 18:34
  2. Jurie Horneman wrote:

    Chances of getting that magazine in Europe are somewhere around 1%. But anyway, who are the first three waves?
    1. Late 80s early 90s
    2. Mid 90s multimedia / Hollywood
    3. PS2 / Xbox?

    Posted 27 May 2005 at 13:10
  3. Stephane Bura wrote:

    You’re back! Happy birthday :)

    About Okami, the addition of the celestial brush makes it even more interesting. I’m very curious about its verbs.
    Also, I’m still convinced that the long-term transformation of virtual worlds is one of the great untapped design ideas.

    Posted 27 May 2005 at 16:30
  4. Mark wrote:

    Jurie,

    “But anyway, who are the first three waves?”

    Here’s the way I tend to think about it:

    I. From the Dawn of Time up to and through the Parser Era.

    Dreams of using a CPU for storytelling go back a long way, but the first real attempts seem to have involved the adventure game genre. Start with Infocom and work your way up to LucasArts. In the end everyone was leaning on comedy so hard nobody noticed it wasn’t working. Until 3D showed up.

    II. The Silliwood/FMV Era.

    This is the period when storytellers like myself migrated into the industry – although Lee gets a nod for beating us all – and I think of those years fondly. The attempted synergy with Hollywood was a disaster in every way, but most disappointing to me was the fact that almost everyone misunderstood what went wrong. Lots of finger pointing, lots of ego-driven excuses, and in the end not a whole lot to show for the effort.

    III. The Persistent World Era, wherein the dumb CPU is replaced by much smarter human players, who unfortunately turn out to be worthless storytellers when they’re not actually trying to wreck the game for everyone else. A nod to Gordon Walton for always calling a spade a spade and never getting sucked into the hype.

    Posted 27 May 2005 at 22:54
  5. Lee Sheldon wrote:

    Mark, you’re up off the floor. Cool. Happy Birthday, Jurie.

    Posted 29 May 2005 at 3:42
  6. Jurie Horneman wrote:

    Thanks :)

    Posted 29 May 2005 at 20:56