GDC 2009: Wednesday

Again, the usual applies – these are at-the-time stream of consciousness notes, unedited.  Pure live-blogging with the added disadvantage of not actually being live.  I have to write quickly to keep up, probably missed everything, apologies to speakers I just didn’t understand.  It was a fantastic conference, and you’ve all been a part of it.  My personal additions are in ().  This is nowhere near as good as having actually been here or having the actual audio, I’m afraid.  But here’s something to remind us all with.

On to the Main Conference!

Fault Tolerance: From Inentionality To Improvisation

Clint Hocking

Trying to bridge gap between player intentionality, well understood, and a new area, improvisation. He warns for a deep talk. References his GDC 2006 talk to get us back to speed. Recommends Harvey Smith’s 2003 GDC talk on Orthogonal Unit Differentiation. Pays off on his Cthulhu joke with a Will Wright Spore creature, and then a mix-up of his name – brilliant talk start. And then again by saying this is Designing to Promote Intentionality to Play 2 (GDC 2006) Player Intention is the ability of the player to devise his own meaningful goals and plans, using the resources the game etc., etc. Shows a video of a splinter cell player, using cameras to lead the guards around the environment. Lead? Not sure. Maybe just spy on. The guard falls for a trap when trying to bust down a door. Clint says there are 9 different systems the player had to use to get this all to happen, and the at least 36 relationships between them. Cites the Harvey/Randy talk on emergence, and how removing just one mechanic from the system would completely break the game down, ultimately down to a bullet just kills one guy. Clint also mentions a Deus Ex 2 plan using spiderbots, and the 5 systems and how the player’s plan reflects the player’s intent. There’s 2 phases here – composing the plan and executing the plan. This is a very game-like structure. Can be more ride-like if it favors execution. More puzzle-like if it favors composition. GTA car driving vs. planning air travel. He links this planning to Strategy. Don’t define intentionality to confuse strategy if it doesn’t help. Strategy is a subset of intentionality concerned only with winning. Intentionality can be for any form of play or expression, even non-optimal, which is important because it radically broadens what a game is and aught to be.

How does a player maintain continuity of intent through a chaotic and messy system? He doesn’t, intentionality collapses, see GTA. Physics, Fire propogation, and crowds are messy systems. He predicted there would be more of these messy systems in the future, and he was right. But he failed at this in Far Cry 2. (Not quite clear on this point – is he saying messy systems are good or bad?  Seems like messy is bad for intentionality, but good for player expression.  Anyone catch this?).

9 principle systems in Far Cry 2 – Map System allowed scouting and set up planning, tactics. Informed action choices. Weapon load-outs were heavily contrained and had 3 slots for only 5 tactical slots (assault, long range, explosive, stealth, fire). Safe houses allowed people to quickly get weapons and set the Time of Day to execute the plan. Fire could create creeping death and safe area, using wind to predict intentional goals. Combat AI provided the challenge, and the HMR system (health, morale, reliability) gives faction stats/behavior that weapons could attack, allowing player’s action to propogate to rest of faction, and character classes (mechanic, medic, captains) that countered the player’s actions visibly. Tied into the Infamy system, a positive feedback loop that encouraged the player to damage the HMR system. Mission structure also encouraged striking at the HMR of a specific faction. All this set up intentional combat, hopefully, in Far Cry 2.

So they had a plan, but Murphy’s First Law of Combat Design struck. He mapped which systems made it rhrough and how well. The high level stuff didn’t really come through – HMR, Infamy, Mission Structure. Fire, Weapons, Combats were big and visible. It warped the player’s experience. HMR warped into just H. Infamy was poorly conceived and he didn’t cut it, and continued to be poorly conceived. Fewer deliberate targets meant less and less intentional. And plus, a lot of player’s didn’t care about HMR extra objectives. Malaria kicks in while scouting, player gets spotted, and has to randomly start fires and flee, pull bullets out, and ends in a close combat gun fight. But then the player’s gun jams, player dies, buddy shows up, gets separated, battle winds down, and player finds buddy dying somewhere .

Not what they designed. It got more and more ride-like, and as they failed, Composing got smaller and smaller. What’s funny is that as they failed, game got better and better and better. Not necessarily surprising, FPS are usually ride-like, and can be very good, see CoD 4. But not what they wanted. What was weird was that at Composing got shorter, the game didn’t get more ride-like. Far Cry 2 was always hard to demo because it was impossible to know what was going to happen, missing intentionality. He wouldn’t be demoing Far Cry 2, he would be performing it, like in a band. Far Cry 2 was becoming Improvisation – highly intentional but formless and dynamic mode of play that arises when players abandon classical modes of competing with the game for control and domination and embrace unpredictability, randomness, and analog failure in the system space.

Improvision is highly intentional, fault tolerance, and means abandoning competitive/domination play, and formless and dynamic. How is it highly intentional? Far Cry 2 started intentional, what wa weird is that as Composing compressed, Executing compressed too, and in fact you switched back and forth between them within the battle. They are still balanced, it’s just switching between them rapidly. It’s like piloting the Millennium Falcon, which is an awesome reference point. Unpredictability happen all the time. Randomness is the enemy of intentionality, but is where improvisation is born – it pushes the intentional player to react. Cites the Far Cry 2 randomness systems – milaria, bullet removal, gun jamming. Those are missing from the gameplay systems map he has (the one that looks like world population globe map). He replaces the missing systems – HMR, Time of Day, and Infamy. Looking at systems that kick him out of the plan, force him into the Compose. Usually rides force you to reload the game. It’s success or restart. In PoP there’s only one plan. In contrast in Splinter Cell you can make a new plan, but it’s so slow it’s typically too tedious to try again, a punishment. In an improvisational game getting kicked out is the point. Small unpredictable loses that are kicking him out of execution that forces you to improvise. Small incremental failures in multiple ways that kick players back a bit.

He hates bosses, because it’s figure out what the designer wanted and do it 16 times. Except for the Big Daddy’s in Bioshock – they don’t have a fixed plan, and there’s one easy goal, pound the crap out of them. But you can’t do it all in one go. So you need to engage, retreat, replan, reengage. It leads to a feeling of personal accomplishment. He defines Initiative – the pushing you out to replan. Initiative must change hands constantly, easy to take, easy to lose, hard to keep. And the game must forgive you your mistakes – see Bioshock’s VitaChambers. It’s easy to kick the player out of execution phase, it’s hard to get the player back into Composition phase. There’s no repetition in Bioshock and Far Cry 2 that keeps the game moving forward no matter what. Spatial continuity. Note, this is his preference, doesn’t mean game can’t be good.

On to abandoning classical modes of competing with the game for control and domination. Clint doesn’t think of games you beat, just that games you play – like football – you finish it, but you should play again. It could be “beaten” if you’ve totally mastered it. Modern games teach you how to beat them, and then tests you – so maybe you could pass all it’s tests. But Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory doesn’t teach you a lot of things, particularly in the cross-system relationships. Games test you in lots of other axes. Player’s are fixated on dominating and controlling games. Game Designers can intentionally punish players, but we as a community of designers should reject the idea that all games should punish players. He calls it a fetish. Look how much more beautiful play can be – shows Ali vs. Foreman.

So Sun Tzu has a whole chapter on fire, but the chapter that jumps out at Clint is the one that translates to energy or force. He talks about seeming disorder and no real disorder at all. David Sirlin talks about Yomi layers. Clint says Improvisation is a high Yomi layer, above intentionality and rote. But Clint experiences it in lots of game. While intentional play is a beautiful thing, it’s grounded in domination. While we bend games, it’s grounded in mastery, which means we ultimately destroy it. Mastery is not a prerequisite of play. The prerequisite of a player is only confidence. We just need not humiliate them, nurture them. Players can play freely and expressively, so let’s invite them in.

As my friend said perfectly, Oh My God, Dude.

Question: Chess analog? It is impossible to achieve true mastery in most games, and it’s a wonderful thing. But let’s be careful not to force players to play that way – it’s a beautiful thing to not be in control of the game too, to make the game not jump the players through hoops. Don’t be the circus trainer all the time, be the lion out in the wild. Question: Isn’t there mastery inside of this improvisation? Yes, of course, see his onion with improv on the outside. Don’t require players to only play that way – to not require Miles Davis but all great Jazz players.. Question: How to recover from game’s failures you ran into? Product starts to imitate process that creates it – if you iterate on your failures, then you can get this quick compose/execute design, maybe. Interesting to find out. Question: How much of improv is a surprise? All of it – comes from the emergent behavior of games with a lot of system relationships. Testers don’t spend a lot of time finding emergent play. Question (Chris?): How do you deal with power fantasy? Some people don’t like jazz. There was a lot of push back on what this game was asking from players. Far Cry 2 has such a huge range, he thinks, because it gets closer to taste. Players get intimidated or aren’t interested. They are used to domination, and some players have become so whipped that they are programmed to this. Question (Noah): Ironic talk is so carefully structured (Clint had detailed speaking notes) – but why did the systems have to be quantifiably balanced? Not saying they have to be, but he was trying to draw it in inportance size, not use size. Question (Jon Blow): What about learning, incorporating the randomness, and player’s overcoming that – what about varying the number of systems in the map, adding a lot of things that interrupt you surprisingly, emergent consequence, isn’t that more magical even if harder? First and foremost, the map is not how to build an improvisational game. It’s an examination of how they screwed up. He would look to the point, compressing the phases and getting the player switching back and forth. A river and getting the player to cross from what side to the other rapidly, but not just reactively. Needs time to re-plan. Question: How much of this went into the level design? See Johnathan Moran’s level design talk. Player expression and level talk and world design talk.

Making Friends is Hard: Social Systems in Modern Game Design

Alex Hutchinson

Top selling PC games weren’t made by these domination nerds . There’s these huge markets out there. Alex has been working near Will Wright for a while, and Will’s really about making friends. Relationships between characters/avatars and relationships between players. This talks about the first – characters. Why bother? We’ve already perfect combat mechanic – the perfect game mechanics – inherent risk/reward with clear win/lose states, clear player skill – accuracy, speed, position, timing. And the act of playing resembles the real world act in many ways, the fantasy of it. As in, people don’t use real gun sounds in their games, because it’s too upsetting. It’s also easy to make visual/audio impressive. And based on strong, primal emotions that are easy to example. On the other hand, social mechanics – risk/reward in social situations is often subtle and not final – the end is not clear. Plus, challenging to focus on player skill without resorting to minigames, which undercuts your actual goal. And social interactions are complex and filled with hidden values. Feedback is so crucial, there’s walls of numbers in a strategy game, but social mechanics rely on hiding that. Finally, games do gross movement/interaction well, but subtle is hard.

Shows a graph of generations of US demographics. In 2015 Gen Y becomes the dominant part of the workforce and population. Gen X is making the games, but that’s going to change soon. Audience is also broadening. We’ll get a new spectrum, girls, Gen Ys, broader Gen Xers, and the elderly, which is coming soon. People are doing these social mechanics already – for example, the Sims. In the original Sims, you couldn’t control characters, the characters would just judge your environment. Females at Maxis insisted he make the characters interactive. While that fits Alex’s still worse, he thinks it’s why the game did 2 million over 350,000. The things people criticize bou the Sims, the poor interactions, ultimately don’t matter, but what’s fascinating is it’s non-linear and player driven – friends, enemies, romance, or nobody, all player choosen. Allows for great variety of player expression, and has surprising outcomes that are based on invisible components. The Sims is explorative. And it’s got that simple and accessible one-click interface, focus on act of choice, not type of interactions. And allows people to create interactions themselves.

Moving on to Spore, Spore is built around creating your world, a real 1/3 of the game. A second 1/3 is sharing, that happens automatically, and the last 1/3 is play. The game is only 1/3 of the experience. The sharing seems to have been a great success. But there’s a challenge that if you can make anything you should be able to do anything. So Spore needed social interactions, it needed a win outcome to finish each of the 5 levels. Was pretty basic, just create a creature with social parts that given the right response led to a win. Succeeded in making animation interesting, and kept it continuous, but having a win state harmed storytelling and too linear/repetitive. They knew in development but couldn’t fix it. Simple strategy was also appropriate for casual but not hardcore. He warns that it’s tricky because your team will fight you here, because they are hardcore.

Alex claims GTA is about existing in a city, that you can do anything in this place. They have a social system too. Activities with character raise relationships that leads to unlock. It took up a bunch of time, and reviewers panned them for it. Alex says it deepens and widens the sandbox experience. The invisible likes/dislikes adds exploration and curiousity, makes them into characters and not just cypers. And it’s great it’s not tied to progression, can engage or disengage as you please. Tells story about having to kill one of his characters, but he was forced to kill one of them, and the other one bitched him out. Plus, they reinforce the time/world sense, eg not around at night.

Animal Crossing was designed to get people who couldn’t meet to interact together. Various characters with personalities live in this town, eventually leave if you don’t build relationships with them, which is tracked invisibly. There’s no win state and no permanent consequences. There’s many surprising outcomes based on both hidden and learned components. There’s gruffy annoying characters who become your most loyal friends. Hidden status builds fantasy, player’s imagination. Natural ebb and flow allows players to customize the relationship and town, and a natural mechanic (if you wanted them to stay you would have a relationship). And logical real world consequences – stealing packages makes them angry, for example.

Lastly, Army of Two. It has only one social mechanic, positively or negatively emote. In fact., most reviewers talked about the social mechanic about. In fact, on the sequel he really tried to push it, because that’s why people wanted to do it. He says press has come around. And even in focus groups. It tended to be inappropriate or embarassing. But people had control – were choosing to do it. Player expression. People in the focus group would emulate this in real life too, crossing the game boundary. Allows player to tell story that game isn’t telling you. It helped bridge couch to screen boundary. Also supported the core fantasy. But the random choice of interactions could create inappropriate combinations. Cites Warcraft’s “stop touching me” breaking fourth wall as working because player has asked for it. And in Army of Two doesn’t do quite as much.

GTA/Army of 2, completely optional. Animal Crossing, Sims, storytelling. All 5 are about storytelling. It’s one of the only ways we’ve found to get emotions into games. But it’s tricky – “how would a video game make you cry” – most people miss that that’s about a game – not the character/story but player social powers, a player’s journey. Player expression. Some rules of thumb about social games. Systems with mecahnics that pull are better – carrot over stick. Opposite of combat. Goals people choose to pursue. Avoid progression – player storytelling within a social system is a stronger motivation – things people want to find. Pull. Game directed wins state are far less interesting than player directed win states. Player agency. Non-linear goal structures feel more real and more belivable, more interesting. Allow people to bounce around the system, to even violate human social norms and see what happens. Finally, hidden or secret elements are strong when used to force player to explore system. Hide the numbers, get them to believe things are there that don’t exist. Challenge: Find new ways of enabling player expression!

Question: How do you deal with the hardcore developers, players, reviewers? Massive disconnect between marketing and audiences – build as side optoinal mechanics. Debating marketing now about rewards – wants functional rewards vs. kill and take their stuff. But he argues it’s not reward vs. reward, it’s what the mechanics let you do – the right thing shouldn’t always give you loot – you don’t need external motivators, let the mechanics reward and punish the player for good social actions. Question (Nicole Lazzare): What social mechanic do you want to do? A game that’s only a social mechanics, we are repeatedly forced to sideline it. Only optional mechanics and storytelling would be awesome. Question: How do you know you are avoiding hardcore-ness? Different feeling for good mechanic-ness and good feeling from playing. Loves Sims for it’s clockwork-ness. So get interested in the problem itself, and get the audience focus testing. Social mechanics are more about building tools anyways, so don’t have to worry about big systems, can just pile on. Question: How get around guilt? I think it would be great, and people would keep playing it. Think how porn is guilty but great. And don’t have to be 100% success in this area, if you go broad emotions you could make buckets of cash. Question: Other emotions? Wants to avoid love. Weird senior emotions, get into weird side emotions like embarrassment, shame, etc. Want new ways of expression. Question: Does this mean hentai games is ok? Well, I’m upset that we can’t shoot civilians in Japan but can ship a rape game. It depends on the intention – is it boobies or is it trying to create a deeper emotion?

Meaning, Aesthetics, and User-Generated Content

Chris Hecker

Caveats – still generated thoughts, trouble to make it shorter, compares this to Sherman’s March. Frontal assault, and he’s going to go long. Shows the youtube video from Israel of the music mashups from different artists. Here we go – What, How, and Why of user-generated content.

UGC Taxonomy – one axis – aesthetics to behavior or consequences. Continuum between the two. Another – parametrization vs. creation as in raw space. And there’s versions of aesthetics and behavior for each oth these. There’s also accessibility somewhere, but it’s not clear how orthogonal it is to these things.

Start with aesthetics, parametrization. That’s sliders on screen, say avatar customization on the Wii, City of Heroes editor. Note they’ve got Random and Reset all buttons. Random, there’s something deep about this – obviously it has to be a parameterized space, but all assets are valid. Not our rabbit hole, but something there, that ability, is interesting.

Aesthetics, Creation. Lot creation system in Sims 2 – not really parameterized – Maya for making houses – bueaty saloons, rubix cubes, etc. Couldn’t have random. See Spore creations too. Mostly all on the safe side.

Behavior, parameteriation. Spore has mods, addresses in memory you can change that change the game. FFXII has the gambit system – the AI that you change/create. Reviewers are all over the map.

Behavior, creation: See new Banjo-Kazooie vehicle editor – the shape of the vehicle editor has physics, actually matters. Or Fantastic Contraction – trying to build machine that moves across the screen. Or Little Big Planet, and the 8-bit adder.

So this is all built around the edit, test cycle. This is similar to interactivity in the game, but in game that’s on the millisecond level. It’s more like game development when debugging it takes minutes or hours or years. Talking it even farther – consider Core Wars. Virtual memory against virtual memory fight – trying to gp fault each other. It had a really long edit/test cycle. There’s a lot of companies out there trying to make behavior, creation more successful. The road’s littered with accessible programming failure. He hopes they succeed, but none of it has gotten it’s hooks into people. Obviously VS 2008 is in this boat too. What about Civ IV and Half-life 2 going into Beyond the Sword and Counter-Strike guys? It’s like a farm team for game development – it’s real game development. And note that on Steam Counter-strike blows everyone else away in terms of players, summed up. L4D and TF2 aren’t even close. Is it user-generated content?

Is Diablo 2 loadout screen UGC? Is the inventory screen different from Spore? Changing weapons in counter-strike, setting up crash in Burnout? Influence maps in Eve? Notes the sheer organizations sizes in Eve, the spy networks in the game, and how Eve changed from Feb 5th to Feb 6th, how thousands of dollars vaporized due to corporate spies flipping someone. Hundred of thousands of dollars and hours of work. Is it UGC?

Frank Lantx says it is – of course! Interaction has always been UGC. It’s what distinguishes our games. Frank Lantz calls out the creativity of Street Fighter 2 competitions over that over creatures in the Sporepedia. Runs the Daigo video in Street fighter competition where he does single frame button hits to turn around the tournament with only one point left. Shows Spore creatures to compare – saying use slow hardware to develop on to keep you honest (awesome!) The Spore creatures are all remakes of games characters, how the editor is fairly highly constrained. Shows real creatures too, like dogs, bugs, and notes how hard it would be to make realistic things. Shows a photo of his daughter too – whose UGC in her own way, but also her shirt is from threadless, which is also UGC. 30% profit and $30 million on t-shirts! Nike allows you to color your shoes online however you want, can monogram them. Of course, with UGC, you have a filtering problem. So a guy put “sweatshop” on it and got it in trouble. And there’s metal 3D printing too. There’s ton of technologies for this now, like multiple materials at the same time. The end result of all this is RepRap 1.0 – a robot that can print a version of itself. We make self-replicating versions of robots ourselves for a while. But people are really proud of their robots. Von Neumann machines. Von Neumann thought it would be an incredibly efficient way to explore the galaxy. It’s incredibly fast if you do the math. Enrico Fermi posited the Fermi paradox: why hasn’t any other species done this to us themselves?

Will Wright steps up for the Russian Space Minute. Nasa beat the Russians in the space race, and then spent the 70s re-thinking about how to get into space, how to get it reusable. Which led to the space shuttle. Bringing down the cost – $100 /pound to orbit, but really $10,000 / pounds to orbit. He was at the first space shuttle launch. Russians thought that the shuttle was a trick, because their cost estimates said we were really crazy. They thought we were stealing their spy sattellites, which is way more dangerous. Of course, we know Mothra has an evil twin Battra. The russians knew the space shuttle had an evil twin too, and offensive weapons system. So the Soviets surprised everyone by rebuilding a duplicating the US orbiter. The Russian is also slightly bigger in everyway, including the transport aircraft to transport it. But, in fact, they were very different. The US had reusable boosters and liquid-fuel engines. The Russians used core rockets and liquid-fuel boosters on the outside, which only got them 1/10 the flights and were much more dangerous. Also, the US booster (?) was separate and very reusable, extremely advanced. The Russians put jet engines on their shuttle instead, which meant it could take off and land on it’s own. And, of course, it was a weapon systems. It could carry interceptors to an orbital space complex and in the event of a war it could launch it’s interceptors and attack the US. Might even have been suicide bombers, not clear. Around 1988 it launches, unmanned, flawlss flight. And then in 1989 the Berlin Wall fell and the program collapsed. Some say the cost bankrupted the Soviet Union. And so the Russian shuttles tour now as museums. The one that flew was destroyed in a snowstorm in 2003.

End Russian Space Minute.

Chris starts back up with a shuttle creature. Ships are popular too – you can make amazingly detailed creatures in the vehicle editor but people love doing it in the creature editor. He thinks it’s the constraints and that it’s personable, has a head that looks where it’s going. People even started putting people in their boats. Shows a fantastic boat with guys inside it that actually rows correctly. Someone made a complete set of sushi, Thanksgiving turkeys, paperclips, a tiny drill, a chest, and an office chair. An office chair with serious attitude.

OK, let’s transition into the how of this. Surfing the creature stream, is like haystack searching, like 100,000 creatures a day. Yet somehow someone saw that Chris Hecker saw his creature on the internet. Then he looks at his own wikipedia page’s edits. Cites the Jimmy Wales quote that only 1000 people really matter – but the number of edits is flawed data. Cites the Aaron Swartz article on Alan Alda. Chris calls wikipedia on of the great wikipedia, and that Swartz can download it. Which Swatz did, and analyzed it. And noticed only 2 of the top 10 are even registered. The majority of people aren’t even registered. Not the wikipedia hardcore. 6 of the top 10 made had made less then 25 edits total, some had made only 1 edit. Yet they were in top 10 of editors on the page for content. So it sets the lie to the “1% rule”. There’s not just 1 creator. (Thanks Aaron Swartz!)

So on Spore they were worried about it being too voluntary, not enough low enough stuff. So they slurp creatures just in case. And the Kutiman youtube music video is also involuntary collaboration. Wikipedia isn’t voted, it just sort of happened. The old model of broadcast is biforcating into Crowd sourced and curated web content. See Last.fm and pandora. Last.fm plays things other people liked, whereas Pandora has experts who curate the songs for you. It’s interesting to see the different kinds of songs that come out. Crowd sourced, conventional wisdom says, is the way to go.

Shows an article on Salganik, Dodds & Watts, 2006 – wanted to show how collaboration effects quality. Does the best stuff float to the top in crowd-sourcing? So they biforcated 14,341 into one big group and a bunch of small groups. In one experiment you could see stars and in another got the prioritized list. Shouldn’t collaborative filtering (second) get better results? In both cases, the socially influenced group was more random results, whereas the independent group was basically the same. They seemed to be more objective. The social group was almost completely random, charted out. The socializers are a randomizing quality. And it’s been reproduced – so so much for the wisdom of crowds.

But maybe it’s all okay? Dan Gilbert @ TED. He wanted to know what natural happiness vs. synthetic happiness was – the free choice paradigm for Dissonance reduction. Ranking Monet paintings, and then as you leave you give them a choice of a Monet painting. Sometime later, the same paintings are asked to be ranked. And so people say the one they got is better then the one they rejected. But it also holds true for anterograde amnesiacs – the Momento guys. People who forget this stuff. And they do the Free Choice Paradigm with them. And they still switch the paintings. Something deep is happening in your brain, synthesizing happiness. So maybe they really are the best songs.

Why? The fundamental question of the next 10 years of game design: How do games mean? Competing Theories: The message Model of Meaning (Frank Lantz, Jonathan Blow) – a packet of meaning delivered to you. It works. It’s how linear medium does it. Most people don’t think it will work for games, they are too interactive. Fullbright and Michael at Tale of Tales put forward instead a travel metaphor – the Immersive Model of Meaning. Going somewhere and coming back change. Mahk LeBlanc, Doug Church point to the Looking Glass School – Abdicating Authorship. Getting designer off stage and putting the player on stage. That what happens to the player in 3 seconds is more personal and meaningful then all of Myst, because there’s none of the me there. Chris totally believes in this. But do we abdicate enough authorship.

At first he believed in interactive narrative – he believed in widening out the curvey arc that we create, little packets along the way. Immersive meaning says the packets are sort of all over the graph for player’s to discover. But says still very top-down authorial – placed packets for people to discover. Seems kinda broken. Shows Walton Ford, a painter, an interview with him. His paintings are life-size, giant, tons of detail, layered. A modern Audobon with a twist. They were interviewing him on meaning. He said the “[titles and marginalia] add another layer of meaning to the image that wasn’t visually there…” The meaning wasn’t in the paper, so he was trying to forcing the meaning in, but he’s trying to wean himself from it. But he was “too distrustful of the viewer in trying to direct them too much.” So he just title’s provocatively and does the research and trusts you to figure it out. He’s actually removing meaning. About Rockwell, he says: (paraphrase) “ The only people don’t like Rockwell… is because he doesn’t give you any room for interpretation. He suffocates you with the meaning.” There’s nothing for you to take away.

Is there an Interpretive Model of Meaning? Is there a meaning coming through the player? Clint Hocking said today “We need to nurture [players] when they’re trying to express themselves.” Both playstyle and asset style, player improvisation & expression turn to 11 when you allow it. We segregate UGC into a box. Not sure this is a contrast with the stuff from Frank before. Immanuel Kant has a book “Observations…” in which he seperates the beautiful and sublime, because sublimity has a bit of a fear to it. “It’s a beautiful thing to master something, but it’s also a beautiful thing to not have mastered something.” from Clint – Chris said he meant it’s a sublime thing, not beautiful thing. It’s different from beauty. Both are needed and good, but they are different. Spore creatures are not beautiful, but they are sublime. Chris thinks we keep it too segregated.

Does UGC force Game as Madlib? Do you have to make a game that has slots for the player? We do this in the gameplay realm – where will give the player agency? He claims every artform has a different way of conveying meaning and depth. There might be some sort of shared thing behind all these things we talk about – expression, immersion, creativity, improvisation, play. Game as Platform? Yes, they can make money, but they can be a platform for Meaning, by us trying to give up some of the control, and letting the player take it.

More Spore creatures, showing the total craziness – creatures holding other creatures, the ones with txt in them, simple creatures, separated things (which isn’t allowed). His favorites are 2 creatures back to back, one dragging 2 other creatures around, and a guy attached to another guy at the face, like he’s been eaten.

(Note: Does this invalidate procedural storytelling? I asked Hecker and he said yes. And I agree with everything he said. But I don’t think that’s quite right. I think Interactive storytelling is the painting that Walton Ford actually made, a part of the interactivity that the player opens up for the player, that releases the player to explore the story. Or maybe the tech becomes how the player’s write stories – the players become the designers, Neverwinter Nights style. Getting back to the PnP RPG)

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