Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Navigating the Commentary

I just watched the first chunk of the first episode of This Spartan Life, which is a talkshow built in Halo 2. I haven't seen much of it, but I've enjoyed what I've seen. It's really targetted at a computer-savvy, game-weak crowd, which is unique. I just finished watching their interview with Bob Stein. I'm going to have to read up on him: he gave me a fantastic idea.

Apparently, lots of people think that "books", or whatever you want to call them, are going to essentially evolve into games, or at least 3D representations. I really just never thought of it, but the answer is: durrrrr, of course.

Think about it. I could (and maybe will) write a long post about the evolution of games. They started as one-dimensional games (even if they were often in three-dimensional space), then two (usually board games). Three was too hard until computers came into existence, at which point there was a sudden re-evolution.

The first computer games had one dimension of freedom: pong, Space Invaders. The second generation had two dimensions: Centipede, Mario Bros. The third generation had three: Ultima Underworld, Doom. It can be argued that we have evolved into four or even five dimensions, depending on how you want to count it, but the undeniable fact is that we have been gaining more dimensions.

Moreover, each dimension brings a new depth in content. Whereas Space Invaders displayed little in the way of deep and meaningful content, many 3D games take a stab at it and produce beautiful (or grotesque) little "ideals" about how the government should rule and how people should act.

Now, I'm looking at writing. Originally, "writing" was simple marks or pictograms on a rock or cave wall which conveyed simple ideas. "Bears here", "we kill deer", etc. Zero-dimensional writing. Then came one-dimensional writing, which scrolled along, symbol after symbol.

Now we've gotten into two-dimensional writing - writing in which the ideal is conveyed in a branched "game board", such that you can take different paths and see different views. Whether this is a simple game storyline or a detailed simulation which contains the author's beliefs (such as the need for public transportation in SimCity).

What would three dimensional writing be? I don't even know what the dimensions ARE. But I do know this: representing a story in 3D would be a very good next step.

Think about this: you've seen the popular bloggers. They post something, and suddenly there's 189 new comments, largely just saying "Yo, kewl." It's a pain to wander through, because they are displayed in one-dimensional space. Each one is after the previous one.

Why? Why? That makes no sense.

Some have "threading", but this is a lame attempt to make it 2D using "closable" 1D threads. Threading might be cool in "real" 2D. Imagine a visual representation of the post - not the text, say, just an icon. All of these comments have an icon, maybe a name, spread out in a field with a latticework of connective rays. As you run your mouse over one, the full text appears somewhere else - maybe at the top of the screen, or off to one side. Or maybe you're using the DS. Whatever. The map reorganizes, displaying all the posts connected to that post.

With a simple click, you can hide or highlight a post, and rate the poster. After a while, maybe you don't even see DickHead90's posts, but BrilliantWriter03's post icons are two hundred pixels wide and impossible to miss.

Why is this not available? It's not even that hard!

Not cool enough, we COULD go entirely to 3D, or at least immersive 2D. There's NO REASON we're still stuck in representative 2D, save for sheer inertia. Someone downloads your special client and suddenly, instead of seeing a 2D representative display, you see it in 3D or immersive 2D. Connected rooms with glittering objects which display or read aloud when you click on them.

You could easily have 3D-specific posts, which are demonstrations and animations. Restrictions to the physicality of objects could be handled either on a user-specified level (I like BrilliantWriter03, so his objects are represented bigger and more powerful) or on a "game world" level (BrilliantWriter03 has enough "reward points" for being a good writer that he has the "special ability" to create giant, roof-hanging posts), or both!

Enter them, and they become their own room, with the representations changed around so that it's centric to that object.

The posts are malliable. Pick them up (duplication). Add them to your inventory. Refer to them in your own posts, which are, of course, rooms. Trade them, use them to argue points. A very careful inventory system would be necessary, because people will collect a lot of cruft. Maybe posts decay over time when taken.

Make your posts interactive. I know that my posts are a fraction of the interaction I would want them to be. Someone picks up an object and it isn't a comment, it's a piece of the post, part of an idea-puzzle that fits into other objects to produce a clear result.

I would do it! In a heartbeat!

Of course, you'd need some KILLER tools.

But could we at least have the 2D thing? This 1D crap is really useless.

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