Tuesday, April 27, 2010

His Name Was Sonic

Today, I found a hedgehog on a busy road.


I took him home (riding on Metro throught the whole city), showed him to Jitushka and the dogs, tried to feed him and then let him go.

Note that if I'd left him alone in the first place, he would be certainly killed by cars.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

How Much Freedom Can You Have In A Game?

I like games. And videogames. However, I don't like the fact that vast majority of today's games are all the same. That's why I enjoy seeing something that dares to be different. Unfortunately, most game publishers don't dare to be different. Apart from some freak coincidence (like Ubisoft rather succesfully trying to re-shape RTS genre for consoles), the exceptions usually are independent developers and Japanese companies.

One of the things I am still waiting for is: When will you really have freedom in the game world and when will you be able to really shape the story? I don't say "Dragon Age: Origins" is not a great game but it's very clear, even with all the supposed "freedom", there is rather rigid "master story" that you have to stick to if you want to play the game. You are never really "in character" because you are always trying to "cheat the system", where "the system" is a computer program which can never anticipate all your intentions. For the same reason I don't like pen & paper RPG games where most of the gameplay is based on rolling dice and consulting charts (i.e. "Dungeons & Dragons"). I very much prefer things like Universalis where you have freedom to create any sort of world and characters you imagine (without knowing what exactly you are going to create in advance).

This requires, even with today's computing power and advanced AI, a live person as the "moderator", or "Dungeon Master". However, that still doesn't solve all the problems.

Even computer games like "Neverwinter Nights" (with live "moderator") don't work very well because the moderator can only do things that are prepared in advance and present in his "library" of locations, characters and actions.

I almost thought this meant that games where you can do whatever you want can only be done as pure text games (or MUDs). However, I am very glad Jason Rohmer proved me wrong.

His latest game, "Sleep is Death" is based on an ingenious twist. There is one player and one "controller" ("Moderator" or "Dungeon Master"). They exchange "turns", each of which must take less than 30 seconds. The genius is that the game provides you with an audiovisual interface which is so simple it can be used to audiovisually represent very broad scope of ideas in those 30 seconds, including modifying or creating new game assets! Have a look at these examples of play sessions and don't tell me that isn't amazing.

I very much hope this game (or rather, "interactive fiction tool") breaks into mainstream and starts a torrent of new exciting game ideas.

As a first step, I am sure with today's technology, something at least as good as "Sleep is Death" could be implemented as a purely browser-based game!

P.S: There is some interesting discussion in the comments below.

Thursday, April 22, 2010