Phaedrus' Street Crew
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About circadianwolf

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  • Birthday 07/07/1989

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  1. Winter Wizard Jam Team Building Thread

    yo I will do code stuff for a team I work as a programmer (though not game stuff, ASP.NET c# web applications). I know game maker okay, used AGS a lot many years ago, and most of the other 2d frameworks (construct, etc) are pretty easy to pick up. Never used unity and have always had some difficulty grokking 3d stuff though so don't look to me there unless you don't have any better options. you can contact me @circadianwolf or PMs should send me an email. CST
  2. Akrasian: I agree with much of what you say, and very interesting comparison to architecture. I think one of the problems with procedural narrative that we haven't commented on, but that your post made me think of, is not so much person vs. computer but one author vs. multiple. That is to say, procedural narrative is not hard because a computer is doing it, but because it's trying to create a narrative that responds to the actions of chaotic players, which is bound to create incoherency. It's hard whether it's a computer or a person: in tabletop RPGs, for example, DMs running sandbox games face a similar problem. In such games, the narrative necessarily exhibits many features that would commonly be considered to be failures in computer-run systems but that in that context everyone just accepts as a fact of the game and works to overcome. Your point about chess and anthropomorphiziation brings to mind something else I was thinking about when I wrote my original post but didn't say: why does CK2 come to my mind as narrative but, for example, Europa Universalis III doesn't, despite the two games being incredibly similar mechanically? And the reason, of course, is that EU's principle agents are nation-states, which are abstract entities we don't generally consider narrative agents (except when we do), whereas CK is about people. The difference is not in the rules but in the fictional context. Which brings me, obliquely, to your final point: I'm not in love with mystery, but I do think the notion that we can reduce human beings to mathematical systems is a dangerous one. Bear with me, this is a bit roundabout: While obviously authored stories rely on all sorts of structures and rules and theories, those stories that are solely or largely the product of those rules (e.g. airport novels) often feel hollow and rote; we recognize them as mechanical and repetitive: everything proceeds according to plan, and we can sense it. I think the reason for this, though, is not the use of rules per se, but rather that the rules in use were created with a specific goal in mind: that is, an author has a specific story they want to tell (e.g. "I want to write a Stephen King-esque horror novel") and they work backwards from that goal. If the rules were designed to create a specific story, then that's the story that results, and none other, which while sometimes desirable, is ultimately rather boring. When games and procedural narrative comes up, there's often a conceptualization of this as a game using these sorts of rules--systemizing the rules of plot and such, to create a proper pacing and twists and Checkov's guns and whatever. And games can succeed at that, but I think the result is mostly not very good; even when it works, you just end up with the same kind of story every time, with meaningless differences, like those bad mad lib-style plot generators you find on the Internet sometime (or tabletop procedural storygames like Apocalypse World). In games like CK2, rather--and this goes to Badfinger's reply as well--the goal is less to work backwards from the desired story (although that is certainly still present to a significant degree) and more to create a number of low-level interconnected systems that produce results not even the developers can predict. I think this sort of narrative-out-of-simulation works better than a simulation of narrative, and I think that good authored stories work in the same way: when authors talk about characters leading them in unexpected directions, etc., this is, I think, the video game equivalent. Emergence. This is also really interesting, I think, in light of the idea that we recognize stories as stories due to anthropomorphization. Because if we think in terms of unpredictable emergence rather than adherence to what we already know and expect, then really, we should not be thinking of CK2 as procedural narrative because it applies a fictional context of human beings to its mechanical processes, but because the mechanical processes consist of real agents (in Jesper Juul's half-real framing of games) interacting with each other in a real system that is producing real emergent results even if we don't recognize them in human terms. CK2, in that sense, isn't producing stories about fictional human beings, but rather real digital agents that we can tell stories about. ...okay, I'm not sure where I'm going with this. something something object-oriented ontology something something proceduralism something something Ian Bogost (in the shell).
  3. What would constitute an explicit narrative then? (Obviously part of the problem in these discussions is that "narrative" and "story" are such ambiguous terms.) I'm not talking about inventing stories based on what happens--I mean the direct, mechanical narrative of "the king's brother Claudius wanted to be king so he assassinated the king, but the old king's son Hamlet found out and assassinated Claudius in revenge but then some other courtier assassinated Hamlet and then Norway invaded and took over Denmark", which is totally a series of events and motivations that can occur in CK2 without any embellishment by the player. It's not Hamlet, sure, but that seems like a procedural narrative to me.
  4. I always thought "banana republic" referred specifically to countries where the government is basically a shell for American corporations (traditionally, a banana company, like Chiquita, infamous for paying death squads), so hearing Castro's Cuba referred to by that term was weird. The discussion on procedural narrative is interesting, especially in relation to the Tropico discussion, because my first thought w/r/t successful procedural narrative was Crusader Kings II. By the standards the crew were talking about, CK2 is no such thing (the primary reason being it doesn't have dialogue), but what happens in CK2 nonetheless feels very much like procedural narrative: the events of the game basically systemically create Shakespearean plots (I wrote briefly about this here), with courtiers and generals and kings manipulating each other in attempts to gain power. I think this gets at what the crew were talking about with Cart Life and how proceduralism only works for certain types of narratives. If narratives are about human relations, and proceduralism is about turning things into quantifiable systems, then procedural narrative requires turning human relations into numbers. I think we can all understand how this is inherently a dangerous thing to do--especially given (the idea that) most players optimize numeric systems at the expense of their own entertainment--and thus it's not surprising--maybe even inevitable--that the only successful procedural narratives are tragedies, and specifically tragedies of the failure of quantification: that is, Crusader Kings II, for example, is (in some ways) a game about being unable to see human beings as anything other than tools for conquering more territory, and the ultimate emptiness of that reality. Tropico is about accumulating wealth for yourself that you can never use: create an oppressive society for a high score. They're like BioShock or Spec Ops, in a (much less direct) way: self-hating, mechanics trying to show you how evil the mechanics are. (Postmodernism, I suppose.) Is there a way for proceduralism to be positive? (I mean, outside of shit like Bioware relationships.) I also wonder to what extent the problem is cultural. I mentioned above the idea that most players optimize numeric systems at the expense of their own entertainment--they take the path of least resistance even if resistance is what's fun. (A part of why a lot of people didn't get Far Cry 2, I think.) I say "the idea that..." because while the phenomenon is undoubtedly real, I think its influence is overstated, and I'm very curious to what degree it is (if at all). I mean, essentially that idea is saying that players are self-interested rational utility maximizers (homo economicus) except that (or rather and like that) they are compelled to maximize certain quantifiable goals presented by games even if that optimization is actually detrimental to their experience. And that's obviously not strictly true--I think it's not even remotely true--but I think there is a correlation between the kind of players who do tend toward that kind of play and high-feedback players (forum goers and the like) as well as developers (who want quantifiable things to measure about their game, especially in strategic games where "balance" is fetishized). ...I feel like my point has gotten away from me.
  5. Broken Age - Double Fine Adventure!

  6. Broken Age - Double Fine Adventure!

    I kind of want to give Lee Petty a hug. I mean, obviously documentaries are all about taking a whole bunch of stuff and constructing a narrative and characters out of them, so I'm referring to the "character" of Lee Petty, such as it's presented in these episodes, who really comes across as the unsung hero, the poor guy who has to do the boring but necessary logistical work of actually making sure the game gets made while the "visionaries" of Tim & Bagel get front-and-center attention. I realize that the reality is of course rather different and much more complicated.
  7. Deus Ex responds to the early deaths (or living) of quite a few characters--Paul, Anna, Gunther, Simons, etc. But of course what that means is basically those characters become irrelevant to the actual plot and just used for incidental scenes (or extra boss fights) after the point where they're likely to have died. There isn't really a lot of plot to Far Cry 2, though. I mean, it totally works for that game--the point is that underneath their superficial personalities all these people are sociopathic thugs and interchangeably violent power-grabbers, so they all act the same--but in most games the characters and plot would probably need to differentiate themselves more. ----- RE: XCOM Central's sweater: yeah, it's just a military sweater, but it's still an interesting choice. A lot of people have never seen military sweaters (or at least can identify them as such). I actually like the other two characters (the two Doctors) in XCOM a fair amount too. They're very basic archetypes--the cautious engineer who's worried about the practical impact of all this new power, the scientist who finds mass destruction "exciting" due to the research possibilities--but they're limited enough that they never got on my nerves and I never expected more from them.
  8. Books, books, books...

    Neuromancer is interesting in that it's a depiction of a culture transitioning to transhumanism/posthumanism. While technically the protagonists are augmented, Case and Molly are both very "normal" people by our standards, with their augmentations assisting standard functioning rather than actual changing them very much--Molly has embedded glasses with a HUD and embedded weapons, for example, but she's still recogniziably human (and her and Case together form a fairly traditional white American heterosexual couple). There are a lot more "alien" entities at the fringes of the book, all viewed with hostility, moving from the Panther Moderns (at the boundary of human/alien) all the way out to the Tessier-Ashpools with their clones, hive intelligence, and AI overseers (who are literally at the fringes of civilization, in Straylight). And yet, at the same time all that is going on, there's also a more subtle depiction of corporations themselves as alien, posthuman entities that have already replaced human beings as the primary actors of society--most notably the run on SenseNet and the (bordering on satirical) treatment of its employees but also throughout, such as the way the geography of cyberspace is determined by corporations. And while the text seems terrified or at least very disturbed by the Tessier-Ashpools and their ilk (to a point you can almost make a radically conservative reading of it), it also suggests they're misguided and not actually the future--the future lies with the already-extant aliens, the corporations, and to a lesser degree groups like the Panther Moderns (one of the most fascinatingly obscured factions in the novel). Erm. Anyway.
  9. Steam Greenlight

    I'm imagining Gabe Newell in this position, and it's indeed hilarious. (Although, is there anything not hilarious when you imagine Gabe Newell doing it?)
  10. Molyneux et Molydeux

    Molydeux revealing he has in fact been Molyneux all along would be the best possible outcome of this.
  11. The Walking Dead

    Wow. (huge spoilers for episode 3) I was kind of annoyed that Also, curious,
  12. Assange

    Unfortunately, I don't think it is, most of the time... ...because this happens very, very often. I agree, people don't just fucking know, and it's a real problem when some anti-rape activists assume they should. And declaring rape the act of Rapists, singular individuals are all alike and innately evil and not regular people taught to rape by the culture they inhabit and who don't even understand what they're doing, is unhelpful for the victims, the aggressors, and society at large (though I'm not sure how often that actually happens). But my problem with this is that yes, mistakes are easy to make, but they're also really fucking easy to avoid. Ask.* The amount of effort required to avoid any mistakes (very little) vs. the amount of damage that can be done by a mistake (a horrific, traumatizing tragedy that can damage a person permanently) does make it pretty fucking reprehensible. The objections that people have to asking (it interrupts the mood or whatever) are just so... petty in comparison to the risk. Some people definitely have relationships where you don't need to ask, because they do understand each other that well, and have a healthy and already communicative relationship. But most people don't. Many people will never have that kind of relationship in their lives, which is really sad, and also happens a lot because they think they should just understand from the start, and that understanding (about anything) isn't built from actual communication. That said, again, I agree people shouldn't be thought of as "rapists", because that singles out individuals for a crime that is caused by society. People rape because they've been taught to. Because they've had people telling them, and books and movies and TV and everything else telling them, since they were born, this is how it works. Even beyond the normalization of the actual mechanics of rape, we live in a society of dominating, hierarchical power relations where people are violently subjugated all the time, in many situations, and it's deemed perfectly acceptable and even the Right Thing. People can't fight rape unless they're also fighting the larger inequalities that rape is a particularly visible and nasty product of. *Even when asking, there may be cases of coercion, pressure, etc., but asking at least eliminates the simple mistakes you're talking about. (Also, hopefully I'm not coming across too intense or like I'm attacking you. I agree with most of what you're saying and am just trying to work things out as much as you. It's a really difficult subject obviously.)
  13. Any time you resort to the fictional context of a piece of art/entertainment to justify problematic aspects, you're in dangerous territory. Indulgent fiction always puts things that are problematic or simply unjustifiable in the real world into a fictional context where they are justifiable; that's why it's indulgent. The creators decided on that context, and it wasn't an arbitrary decision. It's wish fulfillment: I wish it was okay for men to think about women as sex objects, so rather than deal with why I want that and how maybe that's wrong, I'm going to create a world where women want to be seen as sex objects. Ugh.
  14. Assange

    Shouldn't it be the initiator's responsibility to err on the side of caution in those situations, Rusalka? Guys are generally encouraged to see consent where there is none, so excusing them for "mistakes" seems really dangerous. This, of course, is a larger problem with how we view a person vs their actions--a person who has committed a crime in the past is a "criminal" forever, a stupid model of morality that suggests you start off pure/innocent and then every bad thing you do stains you forever and you can't ever change for the better, so as result everyone's terrified of admitting to doing something terrible because it means you're a terrible person (forever), which makes the preferable solution almost always ignoring a terrible thing (and allowing it to continue) rather than dealing with it (because generally "dealing with it" would mean examining and critiquing the larger sociocultural systems that allow, encourage, and normalize pervasive rape, among many other terrible things, and make us all complicit in these crimes.)
  15. Yeah, I considered bringing this up too, it's an important point. If you think games are 99% sexist manchild shit, you're mistaking your particular area of games for the larger landscape. There are a lot of games that are not, and a lot of very popular and very monetarily successful games that are not--they're just not commonly popularized and endorsed by geek/gamer culture (because geek/gamer culture is largely sexist manchild shit). It's like making generalizations about all of film based solely on summer action movies. Yeah, exactly. The ludicrously bullshit "fake geek/gamer girl" thing is of course very illustrative of this. Gamers (and geeks in general) were at one point somewhat marginalized (though also, by staking themselves as almost exclusively straight white dudes who can afford video games & the equipment to play them, insanely privileged), and they have (in general, as a culture) responded to their bullying by becoming huge, vicious bullies themselves. It's a common strategy of marginalized groups to try to flip their marginalization into a good thing--"Well, our group is better than you and doesn't want you anyway" in the childish schoolyard version, but it also applies to women and ethnic and LGBT minorities on a more serious level, of course. It's not always a helpful strategy, because it relies on an assumption that most people don't in fact want anything to do with you, and people who genuinely do can get hit in the crossfire, but it's really pernicious here because gamers & geeks aren't actually marginalized anymore. They're not even merely tolerated or accepted; by and large, gamers and geeks run the entertainment industries (and significant portions of other industries as well) (and this of course has a lot to do with their original privilege--they didn't have a whole lot of genuine marginalization to overcome). But they, again in general, haven't been able to or refuse to recognize that they're on top now, and trying to maintain their exclusive club is no longer an exercise in reclaiming their own marginalization but simply in bullying that hurts them and hurts the people who genuinely like games & (aspects of) geek culture. Especially when it overlaps with "men's rights" anti-feminist bullshit, gaming culture is no longer (if it ever really was) about defending a marginalized group, it's about claiming victimization as an excuse for marginalizing others. (And honestly I'm a little surprised it hasn't also overlapped into "reverse racism" bullshit as well, but I suppose that's due to the general class biases of gamers--every man interacts with women regularly, but overt racism is generally the province of the lower-class because upper-class people often simply don't deal with non-whites on a regular basis.)