Saturday, March 25


I'm thrilled to the gills that winter is finally in retreat. My spirits have lifted, small things make me smile, and cute kids seem cuter. I even feel taller. Yesterday as I came home from the movies (Way Down East, 1920), I saw three flushed couples smooching like there was no one else around. Spring rocks!

An Hypothesis

All hesitation is fear of emotion.

Rock 'n' Roll performances I have witnessed, in no particular order, for no particular reason

Neil Young
Bob Dylan
Sloan x2
Stereolab x2
Kid Koala
Beck and The Flaming Lips
The Animal Collective
Yo La Tengo
Medeski Martin & Wood
Godspeed You Black Emperor x2
Channel 4/Crystal Sheep/Orjazzm xmany times
Foo Fighters
Smashing Pumpkins
Finger Eleven
A Perfect Circle
Sonic Youth
Bell Orchestre
The High Llamas
The Books
The Arcade Fire
Hot Hot Heat
The High Llamas
Super Furry Animals
The Wailers
Half of The Pogues
Two songs by Wolf Parade

Friday, March 17

Games I'm psyched about

Wow, game designers are outdoing themselves. Those of you who haven't kept up with computer game development since, oh, Mario Kart, do yourself a favour and check out these links:

First is Spore, a game currently being developed by Will Wright, the designer of The Sims, among others. Spore will take the player through an environment of unprecedented scope and variety. Beginning as a single celled spore and "ending" as a large race of space-travellers, the player can design any form of vehicle, building or organism along the way. The link is to the game's Wikipedia entry, from which you can access the flashed up website and a 35 minute demonstration movie with Will Wright.

Then we have .kkrieger, a state of the art first person shooter, with up to date lighting and other standard visual effects, that is 96kb in size. 96 kilobytes. That's the size of, oh, this web page. The game requires a fairly heavy duty machine to run, but if you have a computer less than a year old you'll likely have no problem. The visual effects of this game, as you can see from the screenshots, are better than a classic like Half-Life, but you can fit a dozen copies of the game on an old floppy disk.

Both of these games are heavily reliant on a developing technology, or rather a developing technological methodology, called procedural generation. Currently, games like Grand Theft Auto and World of Warcraft rely on digital artists to create the colours and shapes of all the objects in a game: buildings, cars, trees, people, whatever. The artist creates an image called a texture, and wraps this around a wireframe model of the object to create the illusion of a solid three dimensional object, when in fact what is actually generated by the computer is a series of two dimensional images linked together to cover up a hollow model of the object, like a sheet draped over a chair. The illusion often collapses during a game when the camera is forced to move inside a supposedly solid object, and the two-dimensionality, the flatness, of each texture can be seen. The point is, all of these textures are stored inside the game, on the cd or whatever, as rigid, unchanging, and fairly low resolution images, like a bitmap or .gif, and that takes up a lot of space, especially if there are dozens or hundreds of objects in the game. Consider the number of unique buildings you can look at in GTA: San Andreas, for example.

Procedural Generation does away with this rigid and space consuming method. Instead of relying on a prefabricated, stored image, a texture and its underlying wifreframe model will be generated at runtime by a complex algorithm, with parameters for colour, shading, size and shape, etc. A certain amount of randomness or adaptability is even conceivable, an impossibility in the current model. Instead of relying on the video card and stored image to put an object on the screen, the CPU will be in charge of creating or developing the complete object and sending it to the screen. Skilled coders who can model algorithmically the development of a tree, in the case of SpeedTree, or an entire species, in the case of Spore, or a landscape, or a city, or god knows what else, will take the important place in the game development process that artists occupy now. Because each object or environment is not stored as a fixed and unchanging element but is instead driven by code that allows for randomness and adaptability, we will begin to see in our games unforeseen objects and environments that come about as a result of the creative impulses not of the developer but of the player, and that is why I'm really fucking excited.

Wednesday, March 15

If you could pick your own category for Final Jeopardy! what would you choose?

I would probably pick "The Music of Pink Floyd," because I know a lot about their albums and what was going on while they made them, but I don't know too much about the band members, like who the oldest one is or where they were born. Either that, or "My Life," because who's going to know more about that than me?

Thursday, March 9

My latest game idea

A puzzle game in which the player must divert a steady flow of water into one or more buckets using certain pipes and tubes. If any water is diverted the wrong way and falls off the screen, then the playing field shrinks, which means that a poor player will quickly have the screen shrink right away into nothingness. But the more water the player gets into a bucket, the larger the playing field gets. As more and more area becomes available, more buckets become available as well. But! Each bucket can only hold a certain amount of water and so will eventually fill up and water will overflow over both sides. So a good player will eventually have a large network of pipes and tubes and different streams of water falling into different buckets all over the place.

Potentials: Some degree of rotation. User created tools, i.e pipes and tubes.

Friday, March 3

This is kinda cool

It's like an old choose-your-own-adventure book but it is in the form of a comic. You follow Jimmy as he explores an inventor's laboratory. It's called Meanwhile
Just click on the picture at the top of the page.

Thursday, March 2

Oh, you know

I think Kid Koala and Captain Kirk were both in my store at the same time just now.

I want to make a computer game that incorporates evolution as a primary game mechanic. I've used the idea in my card games already but I need to bring the idea into computer games. How about a "game" in which any player can alter an image by drawing a new line or changing a colour, but only once in a while, per day for example. So over time and with enough participation an image grows out of the chaos. Now consider this: give a few users the ability to duplicate an image so that both new ones can be taken in different directions. Thus new images will form that have the same start; one will likely become more popular and receive more attention. Communication is key, of course: each image would have an associated discussion. Perhaps other users could be given the ability to erase a line, and so bring an element of entropy into it. More of an art project than a game, but interesting nonetheless.

Would this idea of slow small changes building on one another work with Story? Right now I don't think so, but damn that would be cool.

Wednesday, March 1

That's a Bummer

I want to change Bela's Handstand's background colour, but it turns out that the rounded corners you see on all the boxes here come from a .gif file that is layed on top of the box. For an example, click here. The .gif file is stored on another computer, and the colour of those little corners is, of course, set to match the original background colour of the blog template, known as Rounders. Thus the illusion that the boxes have rounded corners is complete only if the background colour never changes. So I either have the usual background colour or square boxes. Oh well.

Haven't they come up with a transparent colour yet?