"In order to ensure the continuity of the global life support system, in an era of civil unrest, corporate usurpation and mass ignorance, Gaia chose to create a special, distributed human enterprise: GSs. The individual members of this emergent group were born, raised and cultured in relatively typical circumstances, but by way of a naturally embedded personal imperative have self-selected to be transformed into other-worldly creative forces. The transformation occurs upon each individual reaching psychological maturity. This process includes an initial reaching out to others of their kind with just-in-time communications innovations, and through positive contact developing the unique and super-natural powers which will be required to transmute the apparent symbols of world-wide catastrophe into a new epoch of growth and sustainable creation. Are you GSs?"
visit gss.universalsoldier.ca & hack github.com/revlin/gss
Now I will present this excerpt from 'Game Design Theory & Practice' by Richard Rouse III:
"Interview: Will Wright
How would you distinguish between a software toy and a game?
Toys can be used to build games. You can play games with toys. But you can also engage in more freeform play with toys. It doesn't have to be a goal directed activity. I think of toys as being more open-ended than games. We can use a ball to play a game such as basketball, or we can toss the ball back and forth, or I can experiment with the ball, bouncing it off of different things. So, I would think of toys as a broader category...
Games tend to be isolated universes where there's a rule set, and once you leave that universe the rule set is meaningless. Another way to think about it, and this is a more recent version of the same idea, is that I tend to think of the games we do in more of a hobby kind of way, whereas most games are thought about more in terms of a movie or cinematic form. Movies have a beginning and an end, there's a climax, there's one particular story line, and a lot of games are built more on that model.
Our games are more like a hobby, which you approach in a different way. Like with a model train set, some people get totally into the scenery and the details on the cliffs and the hills. Other people get into the little village in the middle. Other people get into the switching on the tracks. And sometimes these will play off of each other when a community builds around a hobby. You'll have certain people in the community who are very into certain aspects of the hobby and they have expertise which they can teach to other people. And you have sub-specializations within the community. People can create things and trade them, or they can just share ideas...
The biggest complaint I've seen about SimCity, and I've seen this mostly from other game developers, is that since it is not a game and there aren't any goals, it doesn't hold the player's attention very well.
I think it attracts a different kind of player. In fact, some people play it very goal directed. What it really does is it forces you to determine the goals. So when you start SimCity, one of the most interesting things that happens is that you have to decide "What do I want to make? Do I want to make the biggest possible city, or the city with the happiest residents, or the most parks, or the lowest crime?" Every time you have to idealize in your head, "What does the ideal city mean to me?" It requires a bit more motivated player. What that buy you in a sense is more replayability because we're not enforcing any strict goals on you... And that's where it's become more like a toy.
Simulations in general give you a much wider game-space to explore. There are probably no two cities inSimCity that are identical and created by different people. Whereas, if you look at a game like Zelda, I'm sure there are tens of thousands of saved Zelda games that are identical. Computationally you can look at this as the phase-space of the system, or how many variables does it take to describe a current state of the system. Another way of looking at that is it's how much creative exploration the player is allowed. How unique is your game from my game? In some sense this implies a certain level of creativity available to you. In some situations that can also be interpreted as how many different ways there are to solve a given problem. So is we start with the same exact city that has a lot of traffic, there are a huge variety of ways that we can attack that problem successfully. In a lot of games there's a locked door and until you find that key you're not going to be able to unlock that door.
So it provides the player with a lot more variety.
There's a lot more variety, but also, because every player can take a unique approach, they can be more creative. And the more creativity the player can realize in a game, the more empathy they tend to feel with that game...
SimEarth seems to be a logical extension from SimCity. How did you come up with the idea for the game?
It was more my interest in certain subjects that drove me to it. I was very interested in certain theories, most notably the Gaia hypothesis, and also general environmental issues that a lot of times are counterintuitive. I thought it would be interesting to have a model of a global ecosystem. I learned a lot from SimEarth. Actually, I was very proud of the simulation of SimEarth, and pretty disappointed in the game design.
How do you mean?
It wasn't a terribly fun game. It's actually a very nice model, and we did a lot of research of the current climatic models, and I have still never seen anyone do an integrated model with an integrated lithosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere together like that. And we were getting some effects in the model that were real effects, that really show up, that even some of the more elaborate models that NCAR makes weren't capturing. But as far as the game goes, I started realizing that you can roughly look at all of our Sim games and divide them into one of two categories: the economic ones and the biological ones. And, in general, the economic ones have always done better.
Which ones would you include in that group?
SimCity, SimTower, SimCity 2000, The Sims, and SimFarm, though that's a bit of both. The biologicals would be SimAnt, SimEarth, and SimLife, roughly.
Why do you think the economics ones have been more successful?
I think it has a lot to do with how much control you have over the systems. The biological systems tend to be very soft, squishy things that you can do something to, and then it kind of reacts and adapts. It's not really clear what you did to it, because it'll then evolve around you. Whereas in the economic ones you have much better credit assignment. When something goes wrong, you can say, "Oh, it's because I forgot to do this. I should have bought one of those." I think people can reason through their failures and assign credit to the failures more easily with the economic models. Plus the idea that you have money and you make money this way and you spend money on that all seems very natural to people, whereas when you get into the complex things like diversity, food webs, and things like that, people just don't have an instinct for it.
And nothing's more frustrating than playing and not understanding why you're losing...
Right, exactly. And so in SimEarth people would be playing and all of sudden their planet would freeze up and they'd have no clue why it happened. And I, as the simulation engineer, couldn't tell them either!
One thing I like about SimEarth was how it could play tones that would communicate information about the stated of your planet.
I always wanted to do more with that, but I never really got around to it. There's been some interesting work on data auralization. Instead of visualization, you can take complex data and map it to sound, because there are certain sound ranges that we're incredibly good at discriminating. There was actually some work done at the Santa Fe Research Institute in those areas. One of the things that they did that was remarkable was taking seismograph data, from earthquakes and whatnot, and mapping it into sound waves, using pretty much the same waveform just mapped to a different frequency. And they did the same with underground nuclear test. From the seismograph, if you look at the waveforms, they're pretty much identical. It's really hard to tell any difference at all between the nuclear test and the earthquake. But when you map it to sound, there's a very definite tinniness to the nuclear test which you can instantly recognize. And it's interesting that, no matter how they mapped the waves visually, they couldn't find a way to discriminate between them. But as soon as they mapped it to sound it was obvious.
So you thought you could better communicate to the player the condition of their planet through sound?
Well, it was just kind of a stupid little experiment in that direction. At some point I'd like to sit down and do it right. The one that I though worked pretty well was where it would map your atmosphere into tones ongoingly, starting at the North Pole and going to the South Pole. And if you left that in the background with the volume down, it was pretty useful, because you could tell changes from that much sooner than you could actually see them reflected on the visual graphs. And so, as a kind of threshold alarm, I though that worked pretty well. Because you could actually be doing that subconsciously. After a while, you start getting used to this little tune, and the all of a sudden when the tune changes, it come to the foreground if your mind. And it can be doing that while you're doing other things, so you don't have to be sitting there starting at the display all the time. I alway thought that was pretty cool"