Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Update: The Smattering

I'm an uncle
for the second time as of Monday, the 23rd. My new nephew is unbearably cute and, as Cerberus remarked, looks just like Winston Churchill.

E3 is done with for another year. I didn't go. I've never been. Instead I'm stuck reading reviews from jaded developers bitching about how shallow the industry is getting. Or gaming newspersons bitching about the dearth of creativity.

And while they all make excellent points, I would at least like the chance to become disgusted by the atrocious spectacle and leave the industry in a disappointed huff instead of, y'know, watching it from the sidelines.

A friend of mine, however, did get to the Expo (for the second year in a row, the bastard), and had a few recommendations, which I will present here since he has no official web outlet.

-Much praise was heaped upon Rebelstar: Tactical Command for the GBA, which he described as 'combat rounds of X-Com', so I'm totally hooked already.

-Another Ratchet and Clank game is forthcoming - sweet.

-Apparently the Starcraft: Ghost game still exists and will actually be released someday.

-Black and White 2 'didn't reinvent the wheel but this is like . . . the second version of the wheel'.

-His pick for best of the show goes to Battlefield 2: Modern Combat, but only the PC version - as if any other version could be as good.

The link for A Gamer's Manifesto has been passed around quite a bit because, well, it's informative and well-written and just a great fucking plea for some change in an industry that is becoming endlessly and needlessly autophagous. My favorite aspect of the manifesto is that most of the suggestions can be implemented with only a change in focus - they require no specialized hardware or yet-to-be-written software, only that developers and publishers make an alteration from the typical videogame creation cycle.

I've been reading this discussion over at Grand Text Auto, concerning making believable interactive characters. While I have an intense interest in Artificial Intelligence and making virtual organisms and creating wonderful, emotional, incredibly interactive game characters, I think one of the big reasons why we haven't seen one yet is because of this: Why?

I'll try to explain.

My answer would be: "Because." But this is hardly satisfying, and it certainly wouldn't be sufficient to whomever would be asked to fund such an undertaking. Much of the discussions seem to concern how this is important and interesting to the video gaming world, but I don't see the advantage so much.

I wasn't bothered that the humans in Half-Life 2 (or the original, for that matter) only spoke their lines and reacted at a bare minimum to what I did. They had powerful lines and completely believable emotional reactions as far as I was concerned. In other words, there would have been no benefit to extending their behaviors and abilities (and there would have possibly been a detriment, in terms of tension and game flow).

The question I would like answered (and that I will contemplate myself): What are some examples of games that would benefit from having broad, detailed, believable characters?

What I like to explore in terms of virtual characters are the ways in which they could form parts of software that are not necessarily games, though they may be game-like. An emotionally-complex avatar could assist with all manner of mental disorders and illnesses. A dedicated AI could be used as an extension of memory, as a patient and caring nurse, as a friend. The benefits to psychiatry, personal development and social interaction could be considerable, given a clear direction.

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