Archive: April, 2008

Immersion, Credulity, and Investment

[General,Research] (04.12.08, 11:28 pm)

How do games get that incredible feeling of immersion and being there? Sometimes, games don’t even need to be believable, but they have a capacity to snare in the player. They just manage to pull the player in to a mental state that is synchronized with the logic of the game world. When this phenomenon happens in a state of performance, the result is flow, which has been examined in many situations. Immersion does not necessarily require high performance flow, it may be as simple as stepping into the magic circle. Realistically, though, the magic circle is a very strange object, and its borders are permeable and fuzzy. How can we understand immersion, or at least credulity, to make use of it in game adaptations? (more…)

The Simulation Gap

[General,Research] (04.11.08, 10:59 pm)

Simulation is important because of the way that it works at a fundamental level. Simulation consists of:

  1. A mapping between things that are outside the simulation to things that are inside the simulation, a representation. The representation converts things in the world to tokens or symbols in the simulation itself.
  2. A set of rules that defines the relationship and interactions between the tokens, a model. Models are interpretations of how things work.
  3. An actual execution and application of the simulation, where the state changes from some set of initial conditions to some later conditions after a period of time. That is the run of the simulation.

Among these is the gap. The gap is a property that emerges from simulation, that is a consequence of its definition. A simulation is dependent on both rules and representation. Without rules, the run of a simulation is nothing more than an arbitrary sequence of states. Without representation, a simulation is just a mathematical entity in abstraction, disconnected from reality. However, simulations can take advantage of one more than the other and still be called simulations. This means that there must be some sort of negotiation between what is handled by the model and what is handled by the representation. The disconnect and distance between these is the simulation gap.

The magic of simulation occurs when the model and representation work synergetically to produce something that seems to work beyond both. Ultimately, the simulation here is something experienced. Simulation authors must therefore use the gap to creative and expressive advantage. Many games are successful because of their care in choosing what to simulate versus what to represent.

Closely related to this is the immersive fallacy. The nut of the immersive fallacy is the idea that a game can be made better by expanding player’s agency in the game world. The line drawn between in this idea is between player agency and simulation. I guess that would be defined as the agency gap. Generally I have been concerned with the simulation gap, but the agency gap is very significant due to its construction of believability through participation. The simulation gap is significant because its construction of believability through mechanics.

Mechanics and Tabletop RPGs

[Games,Research] (04.08.08, 11:55 pm)

We had a longtime friend of ours come by and visit today, which went respectably well. He has graduated from his arduous job at the pizza place and is now intending to take up snowboarding (or something). Said friend is also been a lifelong gamer and was one of the shadow agents whose operations led me to discover gaming. Having spent extensive time in the “académie”, I’ve also gotten to know the Ludologists, the Narrativists, and now, Miashara. It feels like the stars have been aligned to make something really awesome happen. Unfortunately, it may take some time for that to amount to anything, so I grilled him about gaming and where he sees the relation of stories and systems. (more…)

Reading Procedurally

[General,Research] (04.07.08, 10:39 am)

Okay, so here comes an idea that I have been working through a great deal recently: “Everything is a system.” That’s not too unusual of a claim. I am sure that there are many sources who would support such a proposition. Using that umbrella, though, we can focus in on a specific subset of everything: narrative. By narrative I’m thinking more or less of traditional style narratives, ones that can be read in a more or less traditional manner. Tristram Shandy or Finnegan’s Wake may not fall under that limitation of narrative, but the vast majority of literature does. Okay, so the idea is this: narratives are systematic, they contain elements such as value systems, character motives, and external events. These are recorded and the result is a narrative. That is a more specific claim. It would require a little more defense, but it is a little more interesting. (more…)

Painter progress

[Art,General,Projects] (04.06.08, 11:48 am)

So, I’ve been continuing to work on Painter, in spite of everything else that is urgently awaiting my attention. The project is coming along, especially the module for the custom function language that is working as a Netbeans plugin. Very cool.

Anyway, I am at the point of building an actual procedural painting program for Painter to interact with in building its work, and I have been looking around for source material to base the code on. Maybe this is just my gradual corruption as a budding humanities scholar, but I have suddenly been feeling this strange compulsion to base things that I do or create in the context of existing work, rather than creating it all by scratch. It’s very odd. Something clearly must be wrong with me.

I have spent a little while digging though the source for The GIMP. I still fondly appreciate C/C++ as my “native” programming language, but reading through it is reminding me why I migrated to Java. Unfortunately, there are very very few good Java painting and graphics applications out there. In fact I haven’t seen one yet. I want something on the level of GIMP or Photoshop, or, ideally, Corel Painter. The hunt continues.


[General] (04.03.08, 12:16 pm)

Well, I’ve got my first qualifying exam scheduled. Very scary. Unfortunately, this means that I need to review a whole bunch of authors who I either haven’t read yet, or have read a long time ago and subsequently cleared from mind.

Names spring to mind: Barthes, Greenberg, Jameson, Kittler, Lyotard, Manovich, McLuhan, Mitchell, Ryan, Benjamin, and Latour. Gee whiz, better get cracking.

As a side note, for the phantoms reading, I am going to try to write more. This is motivated primarily by my need to get more comfortable with writing for the coming apocalypse. I mean qualifying exam.

Research Directions

[Research] (04.01.08, 10:18 pm)

Warning, long rambly post up ahead: I Have been thinking a fair bit on where the research directions could go, and here is a run through of a couple of ideas which are in my head at the moment.

There are a couple of things to consider in terms of research or technical goals to accomplish.

Research goals are intended to answer a broad research question, and understand a larger picture by looking at various examples, and maybe developing a theory or process or method for doing something. The method in this case would be one for adaptation of certain types of narrative forms.

Adaptation is an extremely broad subject, and so it would be important to narrow the field down significantly. From the perspective of advancing the medium of games, we can look at narratives that are not traditionally adapted into games and enumerate those: dramas, comedy, social narratives, romances, etc. Even still, this is very broad, and we could do with something that is finer. Maybe not by limiting ourselves to a genre, but by limiting ourselves to a type of story or type of framing of a problem.

So, looking into a method for adapting certain kinds of social dramas is very potent. However, the examples would necessarily be very limited. They might be various, but they would need to be small in scale. Questions arise over how the method or approach would be technically shaped. I could see it as a software library, but a library would need to be focused in its scope.

A larger perspective look at the project would leverage knowledge from the Statics project, and exploring how people use models, and build and run simulations to understand things (physical things, social things, any abstract concepts). That would be a supercedent of the adaptation problem.

Still, it would also be possible to look deeper and more specifically, and try to accomplish some technical goals, say, “Build a Pride and Prejudice game,” but this is dangerous. While it would be important, innovative, and necessarily new, it’s dangerous in the sense that developing a method for this specific setting would not necessarily be generalizable and would introduce very challenging specific technical details that might not fit nicely with other components.

An example of a technical solution is Facade,  which is very successful at being something new, but has posed many problems in attempts to extend the character behavior language, ABL, to other projects and domains.

Clearly, there is a degree of freedom here, there’s no real unique solution. We can do something very theoretical with limited technical accomplishments, or something very technical with limited theoretical accomplishments. It seems like a compromise is necessary here, but the question becomes what is optimal, and where does it fit in this larger picture?

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