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16  Creation / Notgames design / Re: No drama on: August 08, 2015, 06:17:52 AM
Like that, games can be about the pleasure of (inter)acting, rather than interacting for the sake of Big Drama. Not to say they cannot be 'dramatic'; Cheongsam is dramatic in a slow character-piece type of way. There's room for a lot in games but we need some different cultural heritage.

What is Cheongsam? If it's a video game it isn't on the digital stores I've heard of or in web search results.

Strikeout: aha. It occurred to me to search these forums for mention of Cheongsam. It looks like it's something you are working on. I also noticed Dinner Date last night.

PS:  Funny "travelogues, pastorals or character-driven pieces" seems like a perfect description of non-arcade video games. If "Big Drama" is more dominant now it's a relatively new development, probably as new as the word "triple-AAA game". Most games that contain drama feel like a ghost town, or a ghost world. How would a travelogue game differ from a pastoral or either from a big drama game? I feel like if there is any kind of game we are drowning in it's colorful quirky gimmicky games. It seems like a lost cause to even talk about those, they seem interchangeable like children's action figures. Drama never enters into them. Games are generally drama deficient, more drama of any kind I think can't hurt, even if it's only implied or suggested, or perhaps even better under the present circumstances.
17  General / Check this out! / Re: Nice games for nice people on: August 08, 2015, 05:28:06 AM
Anyway, I agree on the one hand that games about dragons and magic and soldiers are bizarre. But on the other there's not nearly enough diversity of content in games. So I'd be loathe to discourage the bizarre. But yeah, I like art.

I don't know how we define bizarre. I think maybe you just become divorced from contemporary culture as time goes on and so it seems like it is bizarre. But if so I think filmmakers are similarly still stuck in the older culture (perhaps to be expected since filmmakers are aging people) or video games just tend to be bizarre!

I don't think dragons and magic and soldiers are bizarre at all, because we have lots and lots of movies and literature about these things, they are the furthest thing from it. What I mean by bizarre is that most of the games featured on Kill Screen for instance are setups that have no analogue at all in our culture heritage, no cultural touchstones, they seem to spring fully formed from the wildest imaginations of who are probably young people who know the world through self referential Internet memes and surreal cartoons that have yet to or cannot ever leave a mark on the longer cultural dialogue possibly because they seem to be divorced from it. In a nutshell bizarre to me is the things that melt your grandmother's mind, and that you've learned to tolerate and sometimes even appreciate but still wonder if you shouldn't hesitate to invest too much into it all.


PS: I expect a big reason for the bizarreness is most games are boutique games and so it's hard to conceptualize something for them to be that can still work within the limitations that gamemakers of today feel like they are forced to subject themselves to. Personally I think if 1% of these gamemakers would just get together and focus on tools and resources for gamemakers and have a dialogue about what we really want out of games then this divide would begin to mend itself within a decade.
18  Creation / Notgames design / Re: Depiction of humans? on: August 08, 2015, 04:50:07 AM

I humbly think it is by far too early to say that. I know the anxiety you mean; but that is then also a problem of a game showing you Interesting Things while having a big countdown in the background. In ballet there can be a huge number of simultaneous things happening without viewer anxiety over missing parts (which will inevitably happen). I think the anxiety more comes from badly guiding players and bad scene set-ups than the possibility of looking around. Certainly when you get to something like Koyaanisqatsi, which has far less of a clear "Interesting Things".

What I mean is there is a clear focus, and there is periphery, and if there is a scene and it isn't clear what is its focus that's generally considered poor staging. I can't recall ever having seen such a scene myself. Sometimes there are slow tableau like scenes where there is time to look at all of the different elements one by one like a painting, but the elements themselves will then be overall static. So I don't have a problem with having the option to look around. I just doubt that it will be used unless the viewer/player already knows the scene by heart and it can't hold their attention, or they have something like ADD or autism or can't resist the urge to fidget with the shifting apparatus, in which case that could be a net negative even as an option.

This is why a lot of the time people think holodeck like technology will be a new way to experience movies, but it won't be. It will only work in an intimate setting like a classroom or basically something that can play out in a single room, and it would have to be short and self contained since moving to different scenes would be disorienting, and if there is a narrative again you have the anxiety of not knowing where to focus, so it has to be a much more open scenario where where you focus is more fluid and so it cannot be a substitute for cinema, like 3D glasses or anything like that.

we do need a Koyaanisqatsi of games, too.

Funny that you should say that. I just watched the 'qatsi trilogy in preparation of a new project…

Go oooon.... Wink

In the U.S. you never see the first two parts, only the third, which I think I read somewhere is the more underwhelming of the trio. I'm familiar with it because I regularly listen to Phillip Glass for recreation. You can see the third part on Netflix right now, and the third part was always available for rental when I was a kid, but never the others, so I've never encountered them. Speaking of Netflix I was horrified the other night when I noticed that the to-watch list I'd curated for myself had been reduced to at least a forth. I'm less convinced now that Netflix can ever be a semi-permanent home for older films. It's either been gutted or it's going to rotate it's library like a broadcast television channel when technically it shouldn't have to. I expect it's gutted because there's almost no reason to build a watch list unless you can count on the films to remain available. It's a lot of work for nothing otherwise (on the plus side that night I saw Pasolini's Canterbury Tales for the first time. It's now probably my favorite example of a medieval setting, which is a popular one in video games.)

This week ted.com is featuring random old talks. I caught this (http://www.ted.com/talks/scott_mccloud_on_comics) one which although it's fast I feel like there might be a micrososm for video games in there. I want to start a thread featuring the presentation but I'm a little bit pressed for time. Comics are often compared to games both for being a format that seems overwhelmingly in arrested development but has genuinely progressive things to offer to art, and because supposedly as a medium it hasn't yet experienced a burn out stage where everyone gets tired of arguing about it and so stop and then never recover, that supposedly all other mediums have experienced at some point in their western history as a kind of coming of age. I think all of the ideas on rapid display in the talk are intriguing but also the navigation ones seem almost sibling like to video games.
19  Creation / Notgames design / Re: The trouble with immersion? on: August 05, 2015, 08:26:04 AM
^Continuing here instead,

I don't have any trouble with immersion, but I wouldn't define it this way. For the first time ever immersive isn't being underlined by the spellchecker. So it's officially a word now I guess, or Firefox has switched to a more freewheeling dictionary.

Immersion is unique to games. Immersive would've been a word decades ago if it had anything to do with books or movies. People confuse it, saying immersive when they mean engrossing. You can be engrossed in a book, or a film, but never immersed in it. To be immersed is to be dipped into it.

To be engrossed is to have your full attention. To be immersed is closer to hypnotism or dreaming, your brain is essentially convinced that it is in a new reality completely.

So what can be immersive? Can graphics be immersive? Not really. As long as graphics are not glitch-y they are sufficiently immersive. Can language be immersive? Not really. As long as language is consistent it is immersive. The same goes for all of the senses and uses for them.

For example, cartoons cannot be immersive. They can come in any visual style, and we accept them, just as we accept the visual style of our particular reality. If you dream you are in a cartoon, it feels real, and if it feels real then you are immersed. We don't say dreams are immersive because we don't make dreams as such, but dreams and our reality are the only real analogue to video games we have. This is why guys like David Cronenberg obsess over video games even when they don't know or understand the first thing about them, but they understand their relationship to reality/realities.


In practical terms, what then enhances immersion? Well I think we are incredibly biased to first-person video games where immersion is paramount. This is just because we spend so much time in a first-person reality. If somehow we were freed from that our attitudes/bias might change radically; but I don't think playing lots of non-first-person games could ever achieve that even in the slightest.

The senses have to be excited from all directions. Again this is just a biological bias. We are used to that. In real terms this means everything that can produce a sound should produce a sound. Again it doesn't have to be a realistic sound, but this seems like another strange bias, because there are very few examples of non-realistic sounds in our history of music and recording. Cartoon sounds and computer game beeps.

Also senses of movement have to be engaged. If you push against something it needs to push back. If I had three wishes for video games I'd wish that analog thumbsticks could push back. But for now this means the avatar/perspective needs to be pushed back, it can't merely glide around obstacles like metal on metal.

Textures and suggestions of smells and tastes are very important, but our technology is heavily biased toward audio/visual cues. Still what makes me hopeful is that all of these things are really very easy to accomplish with computers. Still no game that I know of does them well, especially movement is very impoverished even though it doesn't present any hard problems and you can reckon around it just by getting out of your chair and doing some simple kinesthetic experiments with your own body.


Graphically when I look at contemporary games I see glitches everywhere I look. I think if only there were fewer things on the screen at least there would be fewer nagging glitches. One last thing that I find essential to immersion is believability. A shallow reading of this word looks something like the article featured in the OP. But I mean something very different...

Early video games are really feats of design. Something like Donkey Kong isn't supposed to make you believe you are rescuing a potential love interest from a King Kong, still it's an expression of values of design, so it is intricately designed like a mechanical monument to its designer's brilliance. Consider what reality would be like if that was the case? Everywhere you looked you'd see so many coincidences that you'd soon conclude that your world was made by a shrewd watchmaker, and you'd begin to be suspect of their intentions. That's fine if an oppressive atmosphere is what a game seeks to deliver, but if not this kind of over "level-design" instantly breaks immersion. Why should there be a reward at every mountain top? The inverse of this is often explained as game design 101. This is immersion poison. Immersive worlds are chaos, they don't reward, they punish. Walk a hundred yards down an empty corridor, and what do you find? A dead end? There must be something here, why would there be a dead end? So you keep looking, and looking, and looking, well you've been playing too many video games. This is in fact a dead end, and that is how immersion works. I'm not sure we are all ready for immersion, but it's kind of the reason I am so passionate about video games, second only to my frontiersmen curiosity, third to my supreme devotion to media, fourth to ensuring I'm never bored out of my mind for even a second Cheesy
20  Creation / Notgames design / Re: Depiction of humans? on: August 05, 2015, 06:46:09 AM
How does one play a Koyaanisqatsi of games?

It's interesting in a way you ask it that directly, because in a way it is very easy to make Koyaanisquatsi interactive, either through camera movement, translation movement, determining cuts or rates, &c., &c., but it is hard to know whether it is 'good' because for that you need the right audience to experience it.

It is rather temping, now you have me thinking about it.

*Guardedly adds it to the daunting stack of 'rather interesting game ideas'

To me this sounds like a way to make different versions of the same thing. An editing tool. I think we spend too much time making/playing games and not enough making/thinking in terms of tools and improving/studying existing games. I think that's why progress is glacial. I don't like having the option to look around when interesting things are happening, it creates a sense of anxiety, never knowing if you are looking at what you are supposed to be looking at. So I only see something like this as a development tool for if you think you can edit better and are unhappy with the edit, or think an alternative edit would be interesting.


PS: We should be asking these things directly. It reveals that we are not really thinking of them critically if we do not have clear answers. Too often the words here are amorphous, nebulous. Games are anything but.
21  Creation / Notgames design / Re: Games, notgames, notnotgames? on: August 04, 2015, 01:36:50 AM
Your enthusiasm is inspiring! Thank you. But I think it's impossible to create in a vacuum in 2015 and emerge later as a hero from outer space. Acknowledging the progress already made is a good thing, hopefully it can encourage you as you move forward.

It's funny that you say this, because this is entirely my point. The idea of creating in a vacuum, which is literally how games are made, is outmoded, and ahistorical. We need to be creating together asynchronously and acknowledging and studying the entire history of video games. Even if you don't believe that is necessary you only alienate yourself in neglecting to do so, and make your position weaker in the process, gambling with the possibility of bringing everyone along for the long journey ahead.

The same goes for our hero from outer space. The approach I advocate for is self sacrificing and does not brook private fame or fortune. It may be a sad or even strange testament to our time that there'd be just one hero from outer space, but if that's all there is, then that's all there is. Does anyone in their right mind really want to be famous on a world of 7B? And is it not criminal that we are not all fortunate from cradle to grave? Michael is surprised there are a few naysayers out of 7B. I'm not.

I am not convinced Minecraft is a prototypical not-game, but if it is then the next generation may have a radically different concept of what a game is, and if there is anything to Minecraft's creative elements, that could translate into an eagerness to make video game like worlds, and given a "Minecraft 2.0" from somewhere (perhaps even outer space) that could conceivably bring real creative diversity to videogames and fast (CALL THIS IDEALISTIC FUTURIST SCENARIO-A)
22  Creation / Notgames design / Re: Depiction of humans? on: August 03, 2015, 11:39:05 PM
How does one play a Koyaanisqatsi of games?

I find the most effective approach to be not raising the player's expectations in the first place. Characters are NPCs that quietly wait for your interaction and lend you their ear in the most intimate way affordable upon request.

Think of a scene as still life waiting to be interacted with. Better yet if the visual mode of delivery is in agreement with the level of sophistication of the theater troupe. 

This will be off putting to audiences who've been trained to expect feats of the computer that are mostly just heat. But if you pull it all together in a total package it will win their hearts, and either way it will satisfy the bays of the less-domesticated-of-us.


EDITED: If you look back at most of the best remembered games, and you look closely you might not have noticed that none of the characters have faces. Sometimes blotches, rarely eyes, sometimes little to nothing at all to suggest a face. If eyes are the window to the soul, your artwork better look like it has a soul. I think only the Metal Gear Solid games 2~4 really manage to overcome this problem. You were probably smart on Fatale to get a Japanese artist in there to do the model for Solome. The 3D artists in the west don't even have bead on this. It's a suicidal tightrope walk that probably shouldn't be attempted under any circumstances. You can get away with with more with a cartoon style, but that can limit the kinds of things you can do tone/mood-wise (in theory this doesn't have to be so, but no game exists that has cracked this mold. I think you'd have to simulate hand drawings to the point that its indistinguishable that computer is doing them in real-time, and that would also mean making it appear like they are not overly rotoscope-y.)
23  Creation / Notgames design / Re: No drama on: August 03, 2015, 11:24:15 PM
This fits a thought I just had regarding your Patreon post of late.

Games are primitive mostly because computers are primitive. We slap semi-photo-realistic skins on them, but that's divorced from their actual primitive nature. We'd be better off if games' appearances matched their primitive nature.

So, no we are nowhere close to Chris' concept, and should just embrace this primitivism for the time being. To every thing there is a season (edited: I don't mean to diminish Chris' approach; problems don't solve themselves.)

(I do worry about gamifying emotion. It's a novel way to make games less accessible. Input based storytelling is an evolutionary dead-end I'm certain. The only inputs that make sense are navigation. That can be navigating a landscape or navigating a tableau and even navigating a narrative, but it cannot alter the narrative and remain satisfactory. It will only satisfy the simple minded.)
24  Creation / Notgames design / Re: Games, notgames, notnotgames? on: August 01, 2015, 09:37:59 PM
I do think we have to make games that are better than existing games in every way.
...
I'm long resolved to doing it all, alone if I must.

In the last 4 years since this conversation took place, a bunch of interesting videogames were released that heavily featured a notgames design mindset, and some of those released games went on to be commercially successful (most notably selling Minecraft to MS for an under-priced $2.5 billion). I think it really is true that all we needed was to create and keep creating experiences that were interesting enough, and the rest of videogame culture could help build them up. So you're right in the sense that the largest piece of the puzzle is making the right videogame.

I think where you're wrong is that much progress has already been made, and it was by some indie developers who were often working toward this non-deliberately and as a broader community more so than as one collaboration. They talked to each other at conferences and shared ideas and gave each other feedback, as artists do. And they built upon years of evolving previous work in their medium, along with adding some of their own new ideas here and there, as artists do.

Was it about making better videogames? Yes. Is it possible to single-handedly accomplish the task and do it yourself? Certainly not. They've already accomplished so much and have paved so many roads, there's no way you can accomplish anything without standing on their shoulders, unless you both never release your games (which prevents your effort from being proven) and have no prior knowledge of the medium.

Your enthusiasm is inspiring! Thank you. But I think it's impossible to create in a vacuum in 2015 and emerge later as a hero from outer space. Acknowledging the progress already made is a good thing, hopefully it can encourage you as you move forward.

I think my idea of success is much less narrow than this. Minecraft is probably the only classic video game for a decade. And whenever I try to remember how much MS bought it out for I think $25B because $2.5B does seem ridiculous. I see something now called Minecraft Story Mode, or something like this, which is maybe getting closer to what I'd call a form of success if it shakes out. Minecraft does put a tool in the hands of lots of people, but it's more like a proof of concept, since you can't make anything except block worlds out of it.

The next step is to get something like Minecraft in the hands of everyone, only instead of block worlds, real worlds that look like classic video games. That's what I do, virtually single-handedly. I don't think a few small outfits making a few games with tools like Unity that are super time intensive will change the face of games the way I need it changed personally. There's also that Unity games tend to be unattractive, but I'm sure there are less often used ways to use it. What are you using for TDC?

(I think would-be game makers need a firmer hand to guide them than Unity. High-level tools like RPG Maker are the wave of the future.)
25  General / Introductions / Re: Just reading through the forum mid-2015 on: August 01, 2015, 09:27:33 PM
Thank you for elaborating! I was asking not because I disagreed, but because I sincerely did not understand your language.

And now I can see that we are very much in agreement. Smiley

I came here because there were interesting people, conversations, thought experiments, and critique to be had. It wasn't to join a militia. Some people here are more militant than others. I can tolerate it, but I think it drove many others away, most notably Stephen Lavelle, although that case was also due to explicit rudeness.

To answer your question about TDC, Ryan and I started the project together back when it was an interactive art installation in 2012. So I lead the studio with him as his business partner and have collaborated as an artist early on when we were establishing the art direction, and now more as a programmer and designer as we have grown the team. Being busy with That Dragon, Cancer is the primary reason why I stopped being active here, ha.

I like the art direction of TDC. I feel like we should just beat people over the head with this kind of looking game until they learn to appreciate it, and only then let them have something different Smiley

When I asked in another post if we see ourselves as artists or insurgents (revolutionaries) I don't mean in the militant sense, and I know that's not what you mean, but I just want to be clear to readers, that I think if you argue for change, you have to approach it like a coordinated battle, really a movement, and just making games privately doesn't cut it and isn't going to change anything. That's magical thinking more or less.


I'm kind of sad to find my way to this forum in a state of decline. We really need new blood, and this seems like a good historical place to gather to discuss things in general. It's a little bit like finding the motherload when it seemed like there was nothing out there but crickets. It's depressing really, because the Internet hasn't shaken out as a two-way street, I think just because of sheer numbers; the impulse isn't to have the two-way conversation because no one seems to be willing to bother to post comments and talk back, so it seems like everywhere you go about games is "0 comments" until you wonder if there is really anyone out there, or if it's all just hype. It's as if we've all become broadcasters without enough time to be active listeners, and I worry that has created a real vacuum of solidarity.

Michael's Patreon of late is especially depressing for me. It should be more abuzz (edited: the players Michael would call asocial immature I forgets have a lot more than "0 comments" to spare/spread around. We are failing at this level, I wonder if ToT's Beautiful Art Program's suggestion to work fewer hours would help people find more time to talk about things at the end of the day (I know from my own experience that after 6hrs you're doing more harm than good.))
26  Creation / Notgames design / Re: Games, notgames, notnotgames? on: August 01, 2015, 05:15:33 AM
In the same way, people have now made their choice on what they think video games are. I do not think it is possible to lure these people in. I think the only way is to make games that are so damn interesting to them that they simply cannot ignore. And the scary part is that this might be impossible for many.

I do think we have to make games that are better than existing games in every way. And I know that the only way that can be done is deliberately and collectively, and I know if it's not done no one else is going to do it ever. So someone does it, or it doesn't happen...

Unfortunately in our culture I feel like nothing happens collectively ever. One person must do it all, maybe two people if they are a lucky couple, up to a point, about 90% of the way, and then everyone will jump onto that bandwagon. It's just the nature of our species. I'm long resolved to doing it all, alone if I must.


EDITED: I read this thread backward from a quote link. I'm a little worried how often WASD appears in this forum. I don't think most people can even use WASD and when they say it what they really mean is pressing the W key with one finger while using the mouse for everything else. The keyboard should be taken out back and shot. There are no magic bullets in video games but there is at least the certainty that the keyboard is doomed (sorry keyboard Smiley)

I don't know what the answer is, but there's no reason that a game controller should be a second class peripheral. If you have a mouse, then why not a game controller? They are on equal footing, or should be.
27  General / Check this out! / Re: Nice games for nice people on: August 01, 2015, 05:02:00 AM
I find games to be bizarre for the most part. Maybe that means I'm getting old. But the appeal to me of making games more like movies is you don't see bizarre movies, and you don't see movies that simulate being a trucker or anything like that.

If movies were anything like video game or simulator products they would be radically different. So a lot of the appeal of getting away from traditional games to me is to have more games I can identify with. All of the Tale of Tales games except for maybe the Endless Forest are pretty straightforward things that you can imagine as movies. Nothing bizarre at all. I find that comforting.
28  Creation / Technology / Re: Infinite Machinations (game programming) on: July 28, 2015, 04:51:45 AM
This is a response to a blog post Michael put on Gamasutra. This may not be the original:

http://gamasutra.com/blogs/MichaelSamyn/20150612/245971/Infinite_machinations.php

Incidentally I found this link because lately Michael decided to upend his new Patreon page (I'm never quite sure what to call these) and lamented that he was swiftly brow beaten upon publishing his first short article ... which seemed very tame to me. Time will tell what will become of his Patreon, but if anyone saw evidence of a real backlash, please PM me (The links that is. I couldn't find anything that would cow me in his position.)


I develop a "platform" called Sword of Moonlight. It lets inexperienced people make games as easily as possible. It's on course to be the 3D equivalent of "RPG Maker" only I think the level of quality it represents will outshine the video game industry itself.

In Michael's post he wants graph based visual programming. 3D design tool suites have always provided something like this. I've worked on things like this more than once in my life. Not with them (I've done that too) but on such systems. They may be of some modest use to highly experimental game developers. But I think it's almost too soon for real "experimental games". And I don't think these kinds of systems are what we should be striving for.


I make immortal software. I want to share how SOM (Sword of Moonlight) works, and invite everyone to propose other/better/counter ideas in the same vein, without getting too deep into gory details. SOM was originally a product of From Software, but I guess it is abandon-ware... still I wouldn't be surprised if it is the most beloved thing to come out of From Software to many of the people who worked there... especially in the 90s. From Software is presently well-known for "Dark Souls". So expect a kind of mainstream crossover to come out of it. We have a strong opening game for it, made by an artist that I have difficulty communicating with, but it looks very good, and plays amazingly, both thanks to myself and his strong artwork (it looks like Ico/SOTC, which looks a lot like King's Field IV, except for the eyes are like in Etruscan frescoes, whether intentional or not. It's set in ancient Scotland; historically accurate customs wise but with added fantasy elements. Maybe I can get him to make a game set in an Etruscan fresco world next!)


How SOM originally worked is dead simple. I've added some conceptual layers to it. It has a 3D world of course, conceptually built out of 2D tiles. I don't think it has to be that way (using the same proprietary file formats) but that is so simple for people to use that I'm very fond of this approach. I intend to add a way to link the worlds so the tiles can be built up vertically in layers, but not as a 3D cube-grid, just arbitrary layers of interwoven 2D grids. The tiles can rise and fall...

And on the tiles that have landscape/architecture like models built into them you can place interactive elements, and then associate one or more programmable "event" with an element (it's also possible to not associate an event, and I've added the ability to setup worldwide (trans-tile-grid) events, which was kind of a glaring omission from its original repertoire.)


This is fairly bog standard. Each event can be activated in any number of ways. This is a high-level system, so these rules are built into the software itself and you need only select them from a menu. An event has multiple loops, and inside the loop the event can switch to a different loop, or it can switch another event to a different loop...

The basic unit of the loop is a program. It can contain IF/ELSE style branches, but that's all. There is a battery of numbers that can be modified inside the loops and represent the state of the game's scenario. How this may be different from a graph based visual programming system is the "events" are embedded in the world, and the system is essentially flat. It has to be welcoming to newcomers who are afraid to death of programming!


Here is where things get interesting. The program is built up by dropping modules into a sequential stack. There is no way to jump around the stack, only to advance to another stack by the event switching to one of its other loops (a loop can be a character that repeats themselves for instance)

Originally all of these modules were specialized to perform predetermined functions. However this approach doesn't scale well. So what I've done is to take the first two modules, which are used to output text, and to output slightly more customized text, and said that from hereon out a loop just outputs text, and the secondary text module is used by macros (ie. a template) which is text that you can define drop in inputs for, that are defined/imported as needed on a macro definition screen (so that the original instruction set can be emulated by macros)


Best practice now is to not output text, but to output a link instead, just like a WWW hyperlink only just any text will do. Although not any, because the link system works around a legacy condition, namely that the link-text has to be Shift-JIS, which is a kind of text that was used by the Japanese WWW for a long time.


The link text can be a simple description of a scene, like in a screenplay. But like a hyperlink it needs to be permanent. Even if it has typos it isn't a big deal, because it's a link into a transcript, or what I call a gameplay (think screenplay) which is a gettext MO file, that is the standard for translation used on Linux and by most websites on the WWW. How gettext works is it takes a bit of text and uses that as a key to look up the translated text. So this way your short description of what the scene is about, or what the text is supposed to do, is expanded to reveal the real text that appears in-game.


Late last year I began work on what is really just an elaborate gettext MO file editor. I won't get into the details, but it's now the core/main tool of Sword of Moonlight, and it has a heavy focus on literature and translation. It organizes the MO file like an outline, like we are taught in the United States, how to plan an essay or story...

It also optimizes the MO file for memory-mapped-file access, which is a nonstandard feature, and makes it so that users only have to work with one file instead of the PO->compiler->MO file approach promoted by gettext. PO remains an exchange format.

In fact, every step of the way I've based my systems to help people make games on things that we are taught in primary school, so that everyone who graduates high school in the United States should already have all of the skills they require. This breaks down in three basic ways:


1) you have the outline layout. The built-in hierarchy is very loose, so you can decided how to best organize for yourself. The editor also functions a lot like Windows Explorer so you can attach dates and names to individual items in the outline, any kind of meta data you can think of, and collate the items that way like the details view in Explorer. You can even use this as a planner and way for collaborators to communicate since it's a lot like an email client as well.

2) the text is actually XML. Which is like HTML, which I assume people at least have the option to learn in high school. If children are given any exposure to programming, I'm assuming it's in the form of HTML, which is really more markup than programming. Because of the confederated nature of a MO file, the XML is actually called EXML, or Embedded XML (Ex is used to denote extensions for SOM, so this is an in joke) which is optimized for having lots of micro-XML documents instead of one big EXML document owing to how each micro-document is pulled up by one of the links initially embedded within the 3D world itself. Like HTML there is both text and markup, and so its possible to make a pure-program block of text by simply only including markup, so that no text is emitted, and so no text appears in the game, just as how text works in HTML/on webpages.

EDITED: The meta data goes into the head of the XML and doesn't appear in the editor. I just want to stress that inserting/defining meta data isn't the body of the text that is edited. Although there is markup for inserting figures, pronouns, names, etc. into the item body.

3) like HTML has JavaScript, I've developed a much simpler system better suited to high-level game development that works like a calculator. It's a purely functional programming language making it ideal for game software, and keeping the games in order (I'm always thinking about how to tie the authors' hands so they can't make something broken even if they try to.) Of course we're all taught how to use a calculator in school. This form of programming lets authors define complex mathematical functions (everything a calculator can do is there, so even complex numbers, and it uses calculator syntax.) Just like the basic single dimensional bank of numbers used by the event system, the calculator system lets you define banks of numbers/functions, so that a lot of the time it's best to think in terms of "lookup tables" and it exposes the game scenarios internal state as one such table (SOM calls these "counters" based on the description of the simple computer: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counter_machine)

The calculator like formulas are defined inside the extension files, which are INI files, in the [Number] sections or directly within the HTML like parts of the game script like embedded JavaScript. HTML isn't used for text formatting since it's really bad at that. Microsoft's Rich Text (RTF file) is (think like Wordpad.)


I believe this is the ideal context for artists programming game scenarios. The problem is this is all very high-level, and it needs a basis that is high-level to strap onto. Much more high-level than Unity or Game Maker or anything like that. Every kind of game really needs its own high-level framework (or at least one to choose from) although there's probably no reason you couldn't use Unity or Game Maker to make a higher-level platform than they themselves are. Either way the core MO editor I described is completely independent of everything else Sword of Moonlight does (that's kind of the point, to be language neutral text-wise) and I'd recommend it to anyone making a literary game... although fair warning: I've pumped six months into it, and it can probably use another round of upgrades before it's ready for everyone to adopt it wholesale (ie. it's PO-edit on steroids. Source code for using the MO file in-game is tiny.)


In conclusion, a flow chart might look alright, but simple markup embedded within a literary structure is probably much easier to work with, especially for novices. Lines flowing everywhere like a circuit board isn't anymore intrinsically human than a corpus of written code (I'd wager it's less so, which is why programmers mainly work like book writers, even though it doesn't appear that way from the outside to non-programmers)


EDITED: For what it's worth, the text editor provides a text-server, so the text can be edited without closing out the game play session. Changing the events in the level-designer (not the script) requires a game restart, but I think just reloading the current map/level should also work (it would be an improvement to have something always on like Quest3D.) Using links, if some text appears more than once throughout the game world, the link can take its place in all instances so the real text only appears in the script in one place (this was another problem with the original system, as well as arbitrary limits on text lengths.)

The same text is reinterpreted every time it appears/is accessed by the game. There's no real overhead to that. The calculator like formulas are compiled/reduced (so that only variable terms remain. Extensions also use these to change themselves on the fly, for custom game-y formulas, or changing fundamental parameters like the dimensions of the avatar Alice in Wonderland style.)

(The MO file not only translates the game, but the entire project itself, so that combined with language packages for the stock text that tools use, even the text that doesn't appear in the game gets translated, so that there can be collaboration between people without a common language, or people who prefer different languages/jargon/writing styles--not limited to teammates since players/would-be-authors are also encouraged to pick up and run with the projects themselves (SOM is neither commercial nor non-commercial. It's just there and you can do anything you want with it whoever you are.))
29  Creation / Technology / Re: I want to make something, instead of thinking about how to make it. on: July 28, 2015, 03:37:18 AM
This is a really long thread, I don't know if I can possibly read it, but I was just about to make a thread about this subject, so I will leave a link here afterward.

I don't think though that you really want visual programming. It sounds like a good alternative, but it's going to get you to a place that is a jumble of knots impossible to untangle. I think you want literary programming...

EDITED: http://notgames.org/forum/index.php?topic=853.0
30  General / Introductions / Re: Just reading through the forum mid-2015 on: July 25, 2015, 07:28:38 PM
I for one will be taking another step in my future work and much more diligently avoid games. I personally think videogames are a creative  dead end. They're not going anywhere. And I want out.

Maybe I'm just younger than you are, but I don't even think of it as an allegiance or commitment to anything like games. I'm just doing my thing. I wouldn't be doing it the way I am unless I was hungry for an alternative. I'm probably hungrier than you are. I wouldn't be surprised if I'm the person most invested in games alive, which is why I take it very seriously, more seriously than I think you do.

So, wherever you decide "out" is, if it walks like a video game, and quacks like a video game, you'll find me there. I think you've earned the right to call that whatever you want. I hope you don't retreat to old media, or early retirement (my beef with games is I just don't find them compelling. I think people who play games, if they also have a broad media diet, and are intelligent, they will eventually come around to the realization that games aren't pulling their weight. That's the problem with Sunset. It wasn't competing with games. It was competing with real media. That's a completely different weight class. Games were once new and exciting, but they've been around for a long time, so it's time they ought to become compelling. There's no time for excuses.)
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