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Bit transitions

Edge has an article on their site that didn't make their 118 issue. It's an interview with Jon Hare of Sensible Software fame, about the transitions from 8 to 16 to 32 bit game. It's quite interesting and covers a lot of business issues. It contains the following memorable line about the fallout of Czech-born media tycoon Robert Maxwell's mysterious death and subsequent problems at Mirrorsoft, their publisher at the time:

"The history of 16bit gaming could have been very different if the Czech hadn't bounced."


CNN on Enter The Matrix

CNN on Enter The Matrix

CNN has a report on the launch party for Shiny's Enter The Matrix, a game which represents an unprecedent integration of Hollywood moviemaking and game development. There are some other comments on the relationship between the two industries.

"Despite the increasingly close ties between the two industries, even some backers concede that the technology is still not far enough along for games to inspire the same range and depth of emotions for an audience as film."

Honk! I disagree. Apart from the old and obvious danger of wanting to emulate Hollywood too much, I don't think the problem is technology. The problems that I think need to be solved before games equal movies in emotional range and depth:

Game design. How do we expand the emotional range? My feeling is that over the last fifteen years, we've slowly gotten more effective at producing certain emotions, but we haven't made any serious effort to produce new emotions. New for games that is - they're very, very old for other entertainment media.

Process. How to not screw up the basics. This touches on something I intend to write, about why game design is hard.

Technology. We probably need a level of AI-ish technology that is still uncommon in the games industry.

Money. How to get the money to try new things.

Market. How to teach our audiences about new things.

These last two are related. It's interesting to note that Chris Crawford is convinced that there is no smooth path from where we are to where we could be: he says it requires a revolution. I disagree, but I can't be sure. It's sure taking a long time...

(Thanks to the anonymous stranger for the link.)

Site note

I've alphabetized the links on the left. I would like it to be known that although I consider myself a sane, reasonable person in most aspects, you should assume I am an insane and cruel despot where those links are concerned. This may apply to other aspects of this site as well.

Level building blues

(I've previously posted this on a private mailing list, so stop me if you've heard this before. The topic remains... well... topical for me.)

All of the following is based on 'typical' 3D game technology as I know it. Your mileage may vary.

One of the things which has always bothered me about using CGI tools (MAX / Maya / SoftImage) for level building, is that at a deep conceptual level it just doesn't do the job. A level is not a list of polygons. An (indoor) level is more usefully represented as a connected set of volumes. There is a ton of spatial information you need, and you may also need multiple sets of geometry (one for collision, pathfinding, physics, AI, one for the display). Yet CGI tools are built to output pixels, and they tend to not care where those pixels came from. So what you tend to have to do is a) restrict graphic artists (e.g. don't use NURBS) and b) extract the information you really need from the list of polygons you export from the tool at some point. Compare that with level building tools that directly allow you to edit volumes.

Long turnaround times (for the edit - test cycle) are a problem but it's getting better because it has become easier to integrate your own real-time output into the CGI tool.

Integrating your custom tools into CGI tools can be a pain - especially since you tend to be tied to their UI, data structure, save mechanism etc. E.g. if you want to edit dialogues in a Maya scene and save them in XML files stored in a version-controlled on-line database, good luck trying to integrate that in a sane way.

Significant productivity improvements can be made by using element libraries or toolkits instead of modeling / copying and pasting each tree when you need one - especially since that tree may have lots of game-dependent custom data. Cramming that into a CGI tool is a pain as well.

Working on really large maps, handling multiple people working on a level, correctly handling different aspects of a level (say geometry and population): they're all useful, and they're all a pain in CGI tools.

Obviously many people have managed, but I still think it's a fundamental problem. Whenever you want to edit anything that's not visible geometry, you're straining the boundaries of the CGI tool.

Am I wrong? Did I miss something? I've discussed this more than once with various smart people, but no-one has managed to convince me this is not a problem, just that the problem can be made less irritating.

Welcome to a world of fun

An extract from a Dark Age of Camelot message regarding recent changes:

"Savages will no longer be able to resist their self parry buff (Nails of Kelgor line).

The Purge realm ability is now properly available to Necromancers.

All Savages now are properly awarded Ignore Laceration at L48 Savagery.

Necro pets now only get item resistance bonuses from their controller (previously resistance bonuses from buffs were being passed down as well, allowing double effects).

The monsters that have taken control of Grallarhorn Faste on Gaheris have become stronger.

The "Famine" one-time drop is now do-able by necromancers.

The encounters at Hildskialf Faste, Bledmeer Faste and Nottmoor Faste have had their difficulty increased."

I have had all of the following reactions: * They're sure doing a lot of tweaking over at DAoC. * I can't believe I almost understand this. * This is GREAT free association poetry. Someone should put this to music. * Now I remember why I don't play MMORPGs.

I have briefly considered writing a little program that generates this kind of text.

(Thanks, Tobe!)