Way back in the past I was lucky enough to see Ilya Kabakov’s installation work School #6 out at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas. It’s pretty much as per its title: a school. Specifically, an abandoned Russian school with bits and pieces of evidence of life remaining. A guitar, displays, pieces of paper, etc. Open to the elements. Wonderfully mysterious and evocative. A place within a place. And I think to myself: games can do this, right?
My mind has been diverted from LovePong momentarily by another little Processing project I’m now enamoured of. Basically, I really like the idea of “procedural content generation” and I’m trying to piece together, in my inept way, a little procedural world you can run around in.
The screenshot to the left shows what I have at the moment. It draws a kind of hilly terrain, shading on the terrain, and a bunch of variable-height trees. And an avatar (the little red thing) which can run around on the terrain – though currently it’s a little glitchy. The landscape and trees are both generated based on Perlin noise and actually come from the same seed or “time”.
My next step is going to hopefully be to integrate some other people into the world and have them be interactive via one or more chatbots like the ELIZA program. So in theory you’ll be able to move through this (infinite) terrain and have conversations with people along the way. That’s what there is so far.
I’d initially intended to make a more urban version of this, but a “natural” terrain is kind of easier from this unnatural generation perspective – fewer hard and face rules of composition, for instance.
Not entirely clear to me where to push this to after the conversation ability is added in, but the whole thing is feeding into my general interest in “realism” in virtual worlds. Worlds that are “just there” (like Minecraft‘s, for instance) are very appealing to me. My question to myself is whether I, with my limited abilities (and imagination), can piece together anything that feels remotely like a world, and which will be different each time you enter it, but consistent (spatially at least) for as long as your there. And, crucially, not reliant on canned responses or storing particular responses/values/etc.
Centrally, I suppose I’m trying to make a world that, as much as possible, is empty of built in rhetoric and value systems. In favour of the “well, here it is” experience I’d like to see more of in contemporary games.
We shall see.
Friend Chad is building an island. I repeat, he is building an island. It’s a virtual recreation of an amazing-sounding abandoned island in Japan called Gunkanjima. There are some images and more information over at Chad’s website.
I find this kind of extensive project absolutely fascinating. A big part of it, for me, is that I find the idea of committing to such a long process, and to carry through on so much detail (every window on every building, say), utterly horrifying. It seems like exactly the kind of thing I can’t get my head around (despite having done a Ph.D., which bears some similarities, I suppose).
The results of this kind of thing are astounding, too. I was just looking at a couple of images from Chad’s site, and was struck by how much you ‘get’ by building such a substantial project. You get every possible viewpoint. You get light falling through windows. You get evocative, empty spaces.
Which is why it’s so worth doing these kinds of large-scale things. But I personally seem able to do little more than scrawl a comic in chalk on a wall and run away smirking.