Rock, Paper, Shotgun - firstname.lastname@example.org (Duncan Harris)
This is the latest in the series of articles about the art technology of games, in collaboration with the particularly handsome Dead End Thrills.>
When Paul Weir gave a talk at GDC 2011 about GRAMPS, the generative audio system he designed for Eidos Montreal’s Thief, the games press took notice. Not so much of the contents, though, or indeed the subject, just Thief. Here, finally, was a chance to get something> on this oh so secretive game. Maybe, while prattling on about ‘sounds’ and stuff, he’d toss them a headline or two, get ‘em some clicks. Suspecting as much, Weir recommended to his audience that anyone just there for Thief nooz should probably leave the room. Some people did.
We can often seem deaf to game audio in the same way we’re blind to animation. Maybe it’s because the best examples of both are so natural and chameleonic that they blend into a game’s broader objectives. Maybe it has to be Halo ostentatious or Amon Tobin trendy just to prick up our ears; or make the screen flash pretty colours. Or maybe Brian Eno has to be involved, as we’ll come to in a minute. (more…)
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - email@example.com (Graham Smith)
Soren Johnson is a clever man. He was a programmer on Civilization 3, the lead designer on Civilization IV, and then he moved over to Maxis to work on Spore. Now he’s building himself a new home by founding Mohawk Games, a studio dedicated to creating “core strategy games”. (more…)
On November 6, 2012 a profoundly simple game called Curiosity was officially launched on iPhones, inviting people to chisel away at a massive cube composed of millions of blocks.
Players from around the world started poking at the cube. There was a stupendous prize inside that would take players, working in unison, ages to unlock. Presumably to alleviate boredom, Curiosity gamers tried to make their mark, by chipping out the shape of some letters or a simple picture.
According to an official time stamp on Twitter, in the wee hours of November 5, some players had actually already downloaded into the game. They were cracking blocks. And on day -1, what did they etch into that massive blank block?
Why are people doing this? Oh, this called for investigative report, of course! This article, which is all about the results of that investigation, is, obviously, NSFW...
Minecraft (45 blocks long, 27 high, and 13 blocks wide)
Call of Duty
Skyrim (From gamer Papidamelo's "XXL Penis Flaccid Cut and Uncut Nude Male" mod, downloaded about 6,000 times since its creation in February 2012 and the rare example in these mods of a male modder suggesting they're adding a penis to a game because they find them attractive "Not everyone playing skyrim is str8," he's written on mod message board.)
Scribblenauts (Well, ok, not really… but they tried.)
Even if you think it's not possible to draw a penis in a game, people have done it.
Grand Theft Auto IV? Penis-bike.
Battlefield 3? Gamer Oli Gill drew this one with virtual C4.
Why is this?
For the last six months I've not come up with a good answer. I've been asking. I've asked game designers. I've asked gamers. I've asked scientists. I haven't been investigating this constantly. There are, truth be told, better things a reporter can do with their time than to keep asking why people seem to love drawing dicks.
Nevertheless, I did inquire. A bunch.
Game designer Frank Lantz: "You might as well use the question ‘Why do people draw dongs?' as a proxy for ‘Why are we here?'"
"There are many different possible explanatory frameworks for considering this question: Freudian, Marxist, Feminist, Deconstructionist, Evolutionary-Psychologist, Existentialist, etc," game designer and head of New York University's game studies program, Frank Lantz, told me last fall when I began to interrogate the matter.
"You might as well use the question ‘Why do people draw dongs?' as a proxy for ‘Why are we here?' 'What is the good life?' ‘Why is there something instead of nothing?' or any other Big Philosophical Question."
We probably all have good guesses, right? People draw penises because they think it'll shock people or because it's one of society's few visual taboos and because they're not that hard to draw.
I live in New York City, and if you keep your eyes open for them, as I have, you'll spot penis graffiti all over the place.
Around the corner from the office.
On the C-train.
It's part of our culture.
In the 2007 movie Superbad Jonah Hill's character confesses that he spent his childhood drawing pictures of penises.
But you can go back way further than 2007 to chart this societal obsession. You can go back to a massive chalk drawing on a hill in England, circa the early 1600s. (Image via Google Earth)
Or go all the way back to the oldest petroglyph ever discovered on Earth. We're talking about the oldest rock carving by a person anywhere. Carved, scientists say, supposedly about 10,000 years ago.
I recently reached out to Daku Neko to find out why he does this stuff. No response yet, though my message to him may simply not have reached his residence. According to Skype contact info, he resides in "fuckville." He'd announced the mod on YouTube with the line: "FUCKING PENISES EVERYWHERE." So much for making that the headline of this piece.
UPDATE: I heard from Daku Neko, who writes: "Why did i make a penis mod for Sonic Generations? BECAUSE I'M BAT-SHIT INSANE!"
That question of "why would you do this" is often met with a "why not"? But it also seems to act almost as a universal challenge, as if we as a society have agreed that there's one thing that is potentially creatable in any game and that everyone has a shot at making it. And that something is, it seems, a penis.
That's the message I feel I'm getting from gamer "illegalmonkey", who posted a helpful video on YouTube showing how to make a penis in the character editor of fighting game Soul Calibur V.
"Why make this video you ask?" Illegalmonkey asked of illegalmonkey in the description below the video. "Why, to showcase the character creation tool in Soul Calibur 5 of course!! And c'mon, let's face it. If Namco didn't want us to make shit like this they wouldn't have given us the tools to do so, so exactly!"
That Minecraft penis higher up in this article was built by a YouTube user called MinecraftManifestTV, who also built the self-professed largest wheatfield and largest diamond in the game.
Gamer illegalmonkey: "If Namco didn't want us to make shit like this they wouldn't have given us the tools to do so, so exactly!"
He's by no means the only creator of penises in Minecraft. Still, it seems, that he got some flak for making them and felt the need to offer the following defense below his video: "Just because I made a penis in minecraft it doesn't mean I'm gay. I have been dating the same girl for almost 3 years now. As for me not 'having a life', Minecraft is a hobby of mine. I want to make minecraft videos for a living, so I need to put my time and effort into it. I already have a fulltime job, and go to college. I would call that a life. I built this for the sake of having the title of "first functional minecraft penis" built. I obviously don't need this, and there is no purpose for it. I just seen it as a fun challenge. Subscribe if you want to see more."
Minecraft may be today's premiere video game for drawing penises, but before that game there was Spore. The ambitious evolution simulator included a malleable creature creator that enabled people to make adorable or horrifying creatures in virtually any shape that you'd normally be able to mush clay into.
The creature creator was released before the game, which means that before there was Spore there were already Spore penises.
"I do know that I was very pleasantly surprised by the awesome creatures the Something Awful forums produced when we released the creature editor ahead of the game," game designer Chris Hecker, who helped make Spore told me last year. Here's a batch of those creations. "They were incredibly creative, and sure, there were a few dongs, but for the most part the creatures were amazing and intricate and thoughtful, even the Sporn ones!"
An example of a Spore "dong."
Something Awful users didn't have the monopoly on Spore penises.
There are plenty:
Here's a how-two.
And there's this one which more than 400,000 people have looked at on YouTube:
"I do think the "push the boundaries" instinct is important to how games work for people, too," Hecker said, but he doubts that gamers are any more drawn to drawing penises than, say, kids who scribble on school binders or people who are sitting in bathroom stalls with a writing instrument at hand.
The late game designer Jeff Freeman noticed all this dick-drawing and coined a wonderful phrase: "Time to cock," or, "The amount of time it takes a player to use player-created-content tools to create a penis. Measured in microseconds."
The late game designer Jeff Freeman noticed all this dick-drawing and coined a wonderful phrase: "Time to cock."
Freeman's phrase is funny. It's also perfect, because it encapsulates the sense of gamers racing to draw these penises within contraints seemingly not made to permit this action. That they do draw them isn't just a marvel of misbehavior but often a milestone of ingenuity.
The online "urban dictionary" traces the "time to cock" notion back to the late-90's massively multiplayer online game Ultima Online. Supposedly someone realized that you could take fish in the game and lay them on the ground in a pattern for others to see. The pattern they chose was a penis.
"Every time we've given people the ability to arrange things of their own-bread, ships-inevitably people want to leave a mark that people recognize," Ultima's lead creator Richard Garriott recently told me when he recently visited our offices in New York. That mark they leave, he said, is "not just something like ‘Killroy was here,' but something that was purposefully shocking or affronting. And if you're going to draw a purposefully affronting and shocking thing, a stick and balls is a pretty good easy basis to create a reaction."
Like Hecker and others in gaming, Garriott doesn't think this tendency to draw penises is unique to gamers. He also doesn't think it always has to be shocking. In come cultures, it's not.
"People's proclivity when brought into a new world to want to mark their new territory most commonly with things with a phallic nature, I actually do think this is something that transcends games," he said. He cited primitive art and its three common variations: beautifully symmetric objects made with skill, such as spear tips; images of big-breasted women or phalluses.
The globe-trotting game developer told me that he and his wife recently made a trip to the nation of Bhutan, country that had been isolated from Western culture for a long time. He recalled them attending a fertility ritual. "It is interesting to note that in all of the country of Bhutan, this is the decoration," he added, handing me a color print-out of the following:
"This is what we found all over the doors of people's houses…
"Painted on the sides of buildings…"
"All through downtown areas is the cult of the ejaculating phallus. No one was shy about it. It wasn't considered obscene in any shape or form. It is clearly something that is universal that transcends games."
I sought scientific expertise to find out why people do this stuff. The response I got from psychiatrists and psychologists amounted to "good question" and "I've never seen a study about it."
Author Tom Hickman's book "God's Doodle: The Life and Times of the Penis" ("a blow-by-blow account") is full of fascinating and uproarious details that even explain where words like "dick" and "cock" come from, but it too fails to fully explain this obsession.
"I am not sure I know the answer to your question but have some suggestions," the bio-psychologist Nigel Barber recently told me over e-mail.
He rattled off some ideas, which I do think help. "Male genitals are covered in most societies even if people wear no other clothes," he offered, "Implication is that genital display is potentially rude or offensive."
And in the animal kingdom? "In squirrel monkeys and other species, the erect penis is part of an aggressive threat display. Mandrills also said to have automimicry of genitals in facial display according to early German ethologistWolfgang Wickler. Possibly applies to humans?"
Jesse Bering, author of "Why is the Penis Shaped like That?" gamely tossed around some ideas: "First, I'd be willing to bet that nearly all such phallic graffiti were by male hands. I can't imagine girls/women scribbling naughty images of penises to the extent that boys/men seem preoccupied with doing so. If one wants to get a bit Freudian, perhaps it's a way of making public what one isn't allowed to show in public otherwise, a sort of symbolic "unzipping" which may bring some catharsis. It's exhibitionism but not quite exhibitionism, if you catch my drift."
"My first instinct is say that the dick joke never goes out of style — especially for adolescent males," Nando Pelusi told me. He is a contributing editor at Psychology Today and a clinical psychologist specializing in cognitive behavior therapy was willing to take a swing at this too.
"Pubertal male primates show their genitalia only after status has been achieved through either brute strength or brains," he said. "In fact genitalia get attacked directly by male primates defending their territory from intruders, because the penis is the locus of competition. Status, for humans and other primates, means access to mates, a very competitive thing.
Psychologist Nando Pelusi: "Few people are indifferent to an erect penis, because it is either a challenge, or come-on, or declaration of status."
"In an anonymous context, like most graffiti in the modern world, a drawing of a dick is a proximate way of signaling in a manner that is not easily ignored something that most males wouldn't do publicly (at least from an evolutionarily relevant point of view) because it would get called out or punished.
"Usually, penises get covered or sheathed, otherwise males tend to feel very self-conscious; I think that shame evolved as adaptation to social forces that had real consequences for most of human history where punishment and group cohesion could mean life or death, especially for males establishing their status, so graffiti is usually done secretly and anonymously. Few people are indifferent to an erect penis, because it is either a challenge, or come-on, or declaration of status. Males do most graffiti, and pubertal males are most interested in their newfound obsessions; anything relating to status, making your mark — sometimes literally.
"Males compete for females, and the erect penis is a flag that gets unfurled only when you're very confident — unless it's done with a crayon late at night (what we might call the "pussy's" way out)."
As much as gamers draw penises in games; game developers, officially, don't. We may see breasts a fair amount in games. But penises? It's shocking and rare when a developer puts one in there on purpose.
Nevertheless, everyone's got a good anecdote about penis-drawing in games. Since I started telling some colleagues I was looking into this, they'd regularly send me screenshots and videos of the new penises in new games. Developers would always have a laugh about this, too, even though, yes, companies responsibly try to make sure that penis content isn't shown to innocent eyes.
Here's a final anecdote for you, from Jeremiah Slaczka, creative director at 5TH Cell, where, among other games, they created a kid-friendly DS adventure called Drawn to Life. The game let players draw their own lead character and parts of the game world.
"We did a promotion for Drawn to Life, a flash contest where you use the same drawing tool that's in the DS game to make a hero character," he told me a few months ago. "We'd then include that character in the final game as a template you could choose if you wanted. This is a contest, you have to draw something, then fill out an entry form then submit it to us.
"One third of the submissions were penis characters of varying artistic quality.
"Not only did they draw it—have a laugh and then close the window—they had to fill out a form and then know they'd have to submit the work and their info (probably fake) to win a contest which they knew they'd never win.
"It's THAT compelling."
"Its' pushing boundries in its simplest form, like ‘I know I'm not supposed to, but since nothing is stopping me I will. In grade school we did it on paper. [As adults] we don't, because there's no rule stopping us. But inside a game, there is. They know. They want to break the rule."
The original headline for this story was: "The Irrepressible Ingenuity Of People Who Draw Dicks In Video Games"
Following a struggle with the tech folks following a fault in the SimCity press servers, the lost city of Fahey's Folly—aka the SimCity on the Edge of Forever—was found once again. In celebration, I unleashed red-hot dino fury.
Since I'll be using my own Origin account and retail servers for our upcoming SimCity review, Fahey's Folly didn't have long to live anyway. I think destruction by a Spore-looking Godzilla stand-in is what the city would have wanted.
The scaly bugger doesn't do all that much damage anyway—this video is actually the third of three dino attacks. Thanks to the GlassBox engine, any destroyed buildings are quickly replaced once the rubble has been bulldozed. Natural disasters just aren't what they used to be.
EA assures me that the bug that kept me from my city was an issue with the private servers the press preview are being held on, and should not affect retail customers, so hopefully noone should have to lose something they love, get it back and then kill it ever again.
People become gamers by accident, usually when they're young. A school-friend's console turns them into one. Or a parent hands them their first controller. It happens naturally.
But being a PC gamer...as far as I've been able to tell, that happens on purpose. That's something you declare. It's no accident. It's an effort, a conscious act.
I once was a PC gamer. Then I stopped, for years. Soon, I'll start again. I'm ready.
Who a PC Gamer Is
For most of my gaming life, the no-stress ease of the gaming console suited me well. I drive automatic transmission after all, not stick. I don't have any desire to lift the hood of a car. Tinkering is barely a pleasure; maintenance is something to pay others for. I recently installed a ceiling fan and only shocked myself slightly. That was enough home improvement for me.
The PC gamer, I've observed, is the person who will lift the hood of a car. They tinker. They fix. They expect things to not run perfectly and they assume the responsibility to make them run better. The console gamer waits for a patch. The PC gamer finds one. Or makes one.
My PC Days, Pre-Nintendo
I was a PC Gamer in 1985, when, despite my complaints, my parents bought a Commodore 64. I still recall my bizarre reaction, as I complained to my mother that using a computer was "cheating". Strange, I know, but that's how I first came to think of computers. To me, they were shortcut creators. That was their power. We did word processing through Bank Street Writer and practiced typing with a game that involved a wizard whose spell-casts I can still hear in my mind today.
We got a lot of games. Snooper Troops stands out, as does Test Drive and a batch of Accolade adventures. I played Spy Hunter off of a cartridge and Impossible Mission off of a floppy disc. My favorite game was LucasArts' Labyrinth, a text adventure that turned into a graphical adventure based on the Jim Henson movie. But here's the perfect PC gaming twist: We made some games. Basic stuff. My brother and I typed in programming code from Run magazine. I have no idea what we typed in, and I'm sure we never intentionally deviated from the code listed in the magazine. Nevertheless, that was as under-the-hood as I'd ever get.
The PC gamer, I've observed, is the person who will lift the hood of a car. They tinker. They fix.
I liked playing games on a computer, partially because that was the only machine we had games on. We'd had an Odyssey 2, not an Atari, but neglected it by the time the C64 arrived. Maybe it broke. I don't remember. We'd eventually get a Nintendo Entertainment System, later than any of my friends did, and soon we'd have an IBM PC, too (maybe a 286; probably a 386). My brother preferred the computer; I glided toward Mario and Nintendo. He played Microsoft Flight Simulator. A lot. Downstairs, my C64 pulled me back in because we got a modem for it. I logged into a service called Quantum Link, the proto-AOL that included Club Caribe, a LucasArts-looking graphical chat room with avatars and palm trees and whatnot. The gaming diet in my home was typical. We got Tetris on the NES and we got SimCity on the PC.
SimCity became an obsession. SimCity produced the worst gaming purchase decision of my life, when my mother gave me the choice of getting SimCity CD or SimCity 2000. The latter was an actual sequel; a complex improvement over the original. But I asked for CD, a re-packaging of the original game, but with live-action cut-scenes added in (click on the one in this article, if you dare). Thanks, PC gaming: you were making me feel stupid even back then.
We got Myst, of course, and I think I solved all of it. Took notes, even.
Minimum Specs, High Prices and the Breaking Point
Our IBM 486 begat a Pentium 1? 2? I don't recall. One of those went to college with me, along with a copy of SimTower and some helicopter sim. This was 1994, and it was the year I learned about minimum specs and started loathing PC gaming. SimTower only ran well when my tower was one story high. Add more floors and the game started to chug. The helicopter game was smooth during take-off, but not during the moment of having a missile fired at me. I'd brought a Super Nintendo with me to college as well. It did not cause me these kinds of problems. Yoshi's Island just worked and only slowed down when you hit the fuzzy enemies that were programmed to make it seem like Yoshi had suddenly become drunk.
PC gaming began to piss me off. My computer was sort of new and already couldn't run new games well. I think we bought me a new computer. Soon enough, it was lagging as well, and soon enough I was buying my last PC game. I used my computer in college to write term papers. I used my Super Nintendo as a trade-in for a Nintendo 64. I didn't hear about any PC games that were as cool as Super Mario 64 back then, and, as it's been chronicled, I totally missed Doom.
I lived without Civilization and without Quake. I lived without Baldur's Gate and without Fallout. I never played Half-Life, never touched Deus Ex.
In my later years in college I worked part-time at a magazine. The art director there was the first person I met who loved Macs. Somehow that led to me goofing off at work sometimes, playing Spaceward Ho!. This art director guy, Ken, raved about a Doom-like game for the Mac called Marathon. I had no interest. I had GoldenEye on my N64. I didn't need any other first-person shooter. The thing I liked about Macs, from the way my friend at work described them, is that they seemed airtight. They seemed hassle-free. They seemed, more or less, like consoles. So when I went to grad school right after college, I got my first laptop. It was a Mac. So was my second, and nary a game ever ran on those machines. Gaming was for my N64, then for my GameCube, my Game Boy Advance, my PlayStation 2, or, briefly, for the Dreamcast I borrowed from a friend.
I'd often hear that PC gaming was better, but when I'd do the math, I'd realize it was also ridiculously more expensive. So I lived without it. I lived without Civilization and without Quake. I lived without Baldur's Gate and without Fallout. I never played Half-Life, never touched Deus Ex. When I only owned a GameCube, I knew enough that I was missing things to spring for a PS2 and then an Xbox, but PC gaming lived on the other side of a wall I could not afford to surmount, not with the fear that as soon as I bought a PC for today's games, I'd discover it couldn't run tomorrow's.
Fear. That's What It Was.
In my second long-term job after grad school, I made a friend who loved Fallout and who foisted a dual copy of Fallout/Fallout 2 into my hands. I don't remember which computer I tried it on. I think I had a Windows-based tower PC at the time, not for games but for word-processing, checking e-mail and using the web. I loaded the first game, liked it, but got stuck. I'd made my hero too mediocre. He couldn't talk his way past some mean guards. Couldn't fight them too. I backed away from PC gaming again. I moved in with my girlfriend and she went out for a full Saturday once. During that Saturday I went from level 1 to level 12 as a Tauren Druid in World of Warcraft. That was the first and last MMO I'd ever played. Too much work.
My fear of PC gaming persisted. Being a PC gamer would demand too much, I had decided. Too much money. Too much time. Too much work. It was ridiculous to me that just about nothing could run Crysis. I could sleep at night without having played Doom 3. But from time to time I'd hear about a new PC game that must have reminded me of the top-down fun of those old SimCitys. A guy named Peter Molyneux concocted the likes of Black & White and The Movies, sims about being god or a movie mogul, respectively. Games like this started arriving in my mailbox from game publishers who wanted to catch the eye of someone who was now a game reporter. I had no computer that could run things well. Loading a PC game, for me, was like making a new friend, waving to them and then watching them have a heart attack.
PC gaming frustrated me, because I could not make sense of it. Search engines never produced the right solutions to my technical woes. I had the wrong drivers or the wrong graphics card. I didn't know. Maybe more RAM would help, or maybe my processor just sucked. I didn't want to guess if the game I was buying was going to work. I didn't want to always feel that, even if it did, it could run better if only my machine was different. I got an Xbox 360. It didn't give me these headaches.
People began talking about a game called Spore. It was only going to be on PC. I was a game reporter by the time it was close to release. I interviewed people who were making it. So I bought a gaming laptop—yes, a laptop, an acquiescence to the New York city-dweller's lack of space. It ran Spore—the first video game I spent $1500 to play—just fine. Too bad the game wasn't that good.
The Allure of the Indies
As I made a name for myself as a video game reporter, the good people behind the Independent Games Festival invited me to judge indie games. They'd send me half-made works of wonderfully imaginative creators. After years of playing consoles games—after years of never having touched a mod—the first batch of indie games I downloaded to try on my gaming laptop were the rawest games I'd seen in decades. The rawest games I'd seen since those ones my brother and I typed into our C64. I struggled to get some of these games to run. Some were bad; some just badly made. But they fascinated me. I played Braid this way, more than a year before it came out. I played batches of physics games and shooters, some weird adventure games and other creations that were more abstract.
For one thrilling week per 52, I was gaming on the frontier instead of on the safe terrain of consoles.
For several years, I only played PC games once a year, when it was time to judge games for the IGF. That was an uptick in my rate of PC gaming. It gave me one thrilling week per 52 when I was gaming on the frontier rather than on the safe terrain of the Xbox 360, the Wii and the PlayStation 3.
A few years back, I had the sense not to tell the folks at Valve Software that the Steam press account that they gave me—the account that would unlock, for free, the majority of games available on Steam—was something I couldn't really use. I could play some indie games, but I couldn't run a lot of other games from Steam. Or, maybe I could. I wouldn't. I'd fancied myself a gaming omnivore, diving into games on any console or handheld, but I'd made a dietary exception for PC gaming. That was just too much. And, I must admit, I did not mind the signs of PC gaming's decline, because I knew it would leave me fewer gaming platforms to worry about. (To make matters worse/slightly-better, I did use my Steam account to redeem Bejeweled 3, which I liked very much. Defcon, too.)
Time For a Comeback
My gaming laptop is now obsolete. It hasn't been able to run any new games of note in a few years. I'd stuck to consoles, handhelds and iOS devices for my gaming since then. In these last few years, I fully lost my ability to call myself a PC gamer, something this chronology shows I let slip away, bit by bit.
I can no longer ignore it, and I now feel as if I am missing an extraordinarily exciting section of gaming. I won't ignore it any longer.
Two years ago, I should have been playing a lot of Minecraft and The Witcher. One year ago, I should have tried Amnesia. This year, I should have been playing DayZ. I couldn't play Star Wars: The Old Republic. I can't play League of Legends. I could Bootcamp my Macbook Air, but I don't think that would be the right way to dive into the world of the so very many fascinating, indie games being made for the PC.
My computer gaming diet can't simply consist of the oddly captivating FarmVille 2 that runs now in my browser. I need to try FTL. I need to be ready for Cube World. I need to play a Paradox game, at long last. And I need to be ready, appropriately enough, for a new SimCity.
There is a cardboard box at my feet right now. In it is a brand-new gaming PC. It's a laptop, space still being tight. But it's my ticket back. I don't know if I ever really was one, considering all the classics I missed, but I'm ready, at least to make the effort. I will be a PC gamer. It's finally important to me.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - firstname.lastname@example.org (Alec Meer)
Increasingly nebulous mega-brain Will Wright has finally revealed what the hell he’s up to next. He’s spent his post-Spore years working at an outfit he calls Stupid Fun Club, which has had all sorts of wild ideas about TV shows and toys, but now he seems to be turning those historically ingenious eyes back to games.
He’s working on adapting a short story about a karmic computer, by sci-fi writer and technology ponderer Bruce Sterling, and he reckons he can get it turned around within a year. (more…)
Will Wright is making a video game inspired by a short story by science fiction author Bruce Sterling.
The game, which The Sims creator hopes to have up and running in a year, riffs off of the Sterling short story Maneki Neko.
"He describes a karmic computer that's keeping a balance of payments between different people, and causing them to interact with each other in interesting ways to improve their lives even though they're strangers," Wright told Eurogamer in a new interview conducted at E3 in Los Angeles.
"They earn karmic points that are redeemed by having somebody else help them."
At the Game Developers Conference in March Wright announced he had begun work on his first new game projects since 2008's evolution sim Spore.
Wright told Eurogamer that the Sterling-inspired game he's working on is likely set for launch on tablets, smart phones and social networks such as Facebook.
"The rate of change is increasing almost exponentially right now, which means I don't think it makes sense to go through even a three or four year development cycle any more," he said.
"Unless you can get something to market within a year, at least an initial version within a year, you're hosed.
"So that's the new model for development, which has totally changed my thinking. Almost any project I want to work on is going to be something I can at least get some version out there in about a year and then iterate from there."
But that's not all. Wright is working on other games, "one or two" of which are intended for home consoles.
"But most of our work is going to be everything else: PC, tablet, Facebook and mobile."
Wright left EA in 2009 to run entertainment think tank StupidFunClub. It's already launched a user-generated TV show, and plans are in place to manufacture toys.
If you've ever seen Will Wright, the big brain behind games like The Sims, Spore and SimCity, deliver one of his humorous, hypnotizing talks, you're probably going to want to settle in and watch this one too. If you've never had the good fortune to be assaulted by Will Wright's smarts, well, you're in luck.
Earlier this year, Wright spoke at the Summit on Science, Entertainment, and Education, tying together a ton of ideas, anecdotes and thoughts on games, toys, science and a bazillion other things and how they might relate to education. He'll talk about video games and his own experience in development in this roughly 20 minute talk, but he'll also blow your mind in other ways.
If you've got the time to spare to hear Will do his thing, watch the above recording of his Summit speech.