Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Context Stacking

Only makes sense if you've read this post on simplifying complex content creation. It has a flash "game" that is the topic of this post.

While it's easy enough to create fun brushes, and it wouldn't be hard to make a fun little doodling program, there's really nothing interesting in it on its own. A doodling program is just a doodling program, regardless of how fancy or friendly it is.

But the point behind creating "brushes" is that they come with context. Something like this is no fun unless you can say "this svirtziwhatzit I just drew will (captivate audiences worldwide/eat villages/let people fly to the moon)!" And then you can watch it happen. This effect will be enhanced because the NPCs in the game can interpret what something is based on the metadata of the brushes that created it.

There still has to be a something for it to interact with, of course. And the idea is that that something will ALSO be built using this kind of brush strokes.

Obviously there would need to be some kind of base "atomic" level: "this is ground." "this basic brush means 'soft and floppy'." "This is a human." Etc, etc. But the majority of the content could be built using brushes that form and affect these baselines. "A fern is something attached to the ground made out of the soft and floppy brush" or whatever.

Build ferns, the people will interact with them. Soft and floppy and not a weird color? Edible. Large and aggressive with big teeth? Run!

Simple stuff. The real strength comes from being able to create new contexts out of what used to be simply a collection of brush-strokes. Your people can become canvases, allowing you to create clothes, tattoos, hairstyles. Your monsters can become canvases as well, and you could create clothes, tattoos, and hairstyles for them. Weapons too, of course.

Or a brush might go the opposite direction. Instead of painting using an elemental brush tweaked for paths, pressure, and color, you might instead find yourself painting using a "people brush" which drops people where you drag it. Or a fern brush. So on, so forth.

Depending on how carefully the elements are chosen, you can probably paint inside people's (or monsters') minds, changing their personalities and preferences. You might be able to paint fairy-tale storylines. All of these canvases can interact in straightforward ways.

For example, you might make a house of some kind of firm physical brush, then splash it with a homeyness brush that would make people want to live there.

Exactly how these elements would intertwine I haven't figured out yet. But the basic idea is that the things you build become the context for the things you will build later.

Also, everything will to some extent be alive and reproducing, slowly mutating. If you paint a fairytale plot, it will try to have children and they will spontaneously attach themselves to various people/things. The children will be slightly mutated. Sexual vs asexual reproduction will have to be tested...

I'm also thinking that this is not only a 2D system, but an UNANIMATED 2D system, where 'walking' consists of bopping along muppet-style. I know roughly how I would animate things - it involves pseudo-3D with a mirroring algorithm, don't forget that I know the joints and so forth - but since I'm thinking Flash, I know that kind of computation would slaughter it.

What do you think?


Patrick said...

I think this is the start of something majestic, and reminds me of the memetic algorithms idea, but more concretely than I was able to put it. I'd like to see further prototypes along these lines.

The challenge for you, of course, is to concieve of a way which this meta-game line of thinking might intersect with your day-job doing metrics.

Craig Perko said...

I have no intention of letting the two intersect... but I do want to create a prototype. I've got a lot of thinking to do, first.