Virtualisation, Dematerialisation

14 11 2008

http://www.flickr.com/photos/monkchips/2886907177/

James Governor has written a fascinating account of his visit to Microsoft’s Virtualisation team, who are attempting to simulate as much as the possibly can. It has potential to improve both the efficiency and the greenness of businesses, as James puts it:

Moving Atoms has a cost. I have recently started talking about Bit Miles as a Greenmonk narrative, defined as is the carbon cost associated with moving a good or creating a service that could instead have been delivered digitally. Bit Miles offer us a moral imperative to digitize: a simulation of the world is a beautiful opportunity to rethink and potentially dematerialize business processes.

Why not Supply Chain Simulator ™, which would pull together all of your plant information (pulled in from OSI, say), where your people are located (Peoplesoft), and how you move goods and services (SAP) around the world? An organisation could begin to run really deep “What If” scenarios about the energy costs of their businesses with simulations like these. But what would really make these models sing is the fact they’d be visual and immersive. Telling is rarely as effective as Showing. What would a low energy manufacturing business look like? With virtual technology we could maybe work it out.

Quite revolutionary stuff for Microsoft, and leaning heavily on their growing expertise in games. Another related post I read yesterday is “Who Stole My Volcano? Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Dematerialisation of Supervillain Architecture.“, which compares the opulent fortresses of Cold War Bond villains with the briefcases and phones that their modern counterparts work from. The utter difference in philosophy and power is obtuse at first, and utterly alien to the old guard, yet is accelerating into an unstoppable force.

I’ve been fascinated with the dematerialisation of physical objects ever since starrting to read Bruce Sterling, notably his book Shaping Things, which looks at the tendency of physical products to become information, ultimately existing as specific kinds of data that can be instantiated in the real world.

While AutoCAD is still the standard for architectural design, all the designers I know who use it regard it as outdated. The tools and skills that game developers use are up to the minute, and stand a good chance of being extremely relevant to the world in much larger ways, not only in terms of simulation, but also designing and producing physical chunks of it.

(CC image from MS Virtualisation studio, by RedMonk Red)

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Invader Interview

13 11 2008

http://flickr.com/photos/kurtxio/2280690723/

“My name is Invader, my mission is to invade the planet with videogame characters made from tiles”

Invader has been placing mosaic 8bit sprites in cities for a decade now, and has moved on to even having public commissions. Jetset Graffiti have posted a video interview with him, which is short but is at least an introduction to him and his most recent projects (unfortunately part 2 seems to have disappeared). The most interesting thing is that he’s now working with QR codes.

(Interview found via Auntie Pixelante, which is one of the smartest indie blogs around)

(CC image by kurtxio)





Grand Theft Auto IV

30 04 2008

Grand Theft Auto hit retail on Tuesday, and is expected to eclipse the launch of Halo 3 last year. GamesIndustry.biz reports that play.com was receiving 80 orders per minute on launch day (though it doesn’t specify how long for), and Jason Kingsley of Rebellion has spoken up for Britsoft:

“This is world’s biggest launch in the games market and the intellectual property is actually British made, he explained. “I think that’s fantastic. It should be celebrated.”

Mainstream press coverage has been surprisingly positive, if quite formulaic, with much of it devoting a lot of time to “Other forms of entertainment have sex and violence too”. This is old hat for game developers, but nonetheless a vital part of pushing this conceptual framework out into culture. Plenty of editors and writers, along with their audiences, could still do with having this point hammered home.

NPR have said many of the same things, but it’s by far the most thoughtful piece I’ve seen in this vein.

Edit: Richard Bartle has written a fairly crowing but pragmatically brutal piece for the Guardian:

They’re no more concerned about “moral decay” or “aggressive tendencies” or any of the other euphemisms for “ohmygod I don’t understand this” than you are about soap operas.

We’ve definitely hit a turning point in the cultural dialogue, with so many more things emerging that we can point to as “games”. Fears over videogame violence are soon going to seem as irrelevant and niche as the same fears over comics.





Ken Levine on Story

10 03 2008

Bioshock

Ken Levine spoke at GDC, and Rock Paper Shotgun have been writing about it, including this very important point: The aesthetic was a much bigger driver of its success than the narrative, and Levine freely acknowledges this.

Levine was doubtless booked for the slot with some expectancy that he’d jaff off about Objectivism or identity or something, and his reponse was to say, no, cleverthinks and soap operas are not the be-all and end-all of a game’s greatness and success. The action and the theme – and also the aesthetic, as Bioshock has successfully proven in the face of a thousand Killzones or Conflict: Denied Ops and suchlike – is still what sells hundreds of thousands of copies and keeps the player playing.





Cloverfield is an FPS

15 02 2008

Cloverfield ARG

Keith Stuart ruminates on Cloverfield’s similarity to Half Life over at the Guardian Games Blog:

I watched it last night, and was astounded by the number of similarities between Valve’s alien invasion series and the digi-cam monster movie. Just as Lost is essentially a survival horror game, Cloverfield is a narrative FPS, employing the visual tricks, shock tactics, weapons and creature concepts we all recognise from sci-fi shooters.

The piece contains a lot of spoilers between that and this:

Whatever, Abrams is at the vanguard of this new generation of movie and TV creatives who’ve had their visual sense filtered, not through grindhouse sleaze flicks or arthouse auteur genius, but through playing games.





Amateur Versus Indie?

13 02 2008

Braid

It started with a GameSetWatch op ed:

The gaming press is conflating two trends in game development into a single category that they label the Independent Game. The first is commercial oriented, casual, independently produced games by people attempting to make a living from writing and designing games without committing to a publisher. These I’m happy to call Indie Games, and they operate much in the same way that the independent labels in the music industry, or independent studios in Hollywood.

The second is subversive, modded, copycat, patched together from pre-built parts, non-commercial or anti-commercial. Amateur game development is done by people who are scratching an itch, who can’t not write computer games, who want to see their ideas in pixel form ahead of trying to generate a return.

and went on to Gamesutra too. The comments on both have been just as polarised as the article itself, but I think he may have hit on a useful distinction, even if it is very rough right now. He’s absolutely right in saying “Most modding efforts are amateur games although their creators may deny it”, and I think the difference between an “arthouse” game and an indie effort aimed at commercial success is going to become more apparent over time as more indie games turn up via digital distribution and others languish in beta on obscure corners of the net.

People seem to feel attacked by the division, as if their work is being called valueless. Some developers are offended by the idea that their games might have no commercial value, and others are offended by the idea that their games have no cultural value.

I don’t think that’s what he’s getting at. Aesthetes and businessmen coldly eyeing each other is an outright caricature of the indie games scene, but such a controversial and quite arbitrarily polarised division raises an interesting question worth examination by all indie developers: Are people doing it for the money or their art? I’m certain most people would answer both, but if they had to give one up, which would it be?

(Pictured: Braid, which as an XBLA game with some very deep thinking and concepts behind it seems to be the most prominent example of both extremes together).





Geomerics

13 02 2008

Geomerics

There they go, chipping away a little more at the uncanny valley. Not long now until we start climbing the other side, but all those photo-real, ersatz humans are going to act in a downright spooky way unless we can bootstrap AI to match the standards of their appearance.