The future of video games

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Blorx
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The future of video games

Post by Blorx » Sun Mar 28, 2010 10:43 pm

So I came across some interesting things today.

First off, I came across this. Essentially, it talks about how artists are no longer needed for the true artistic skills. With advances in technology, artists are creating a type of tree and not just some random tree. I'm not sure what Guay was getting at with that statement, as a tree isn't a random tree. It's a hand-crafted tree made specifically by the artist for a specific situation that that tree is put in, whereas creating a type of tree just generalizes them all into the same cut and paste category.

The guest speaker, Dominic Guay (Far Cry 2's technical director) then uses a better example by saying that artists are playing more with parameters than vertices. It means that artists are now designing the object through an artistic vision, rather than creating it.

Then, I found this. This game, one of the IGF competitors, is completely procedurally generated. Everything, from graphics, to sounds, through the use of OpenGL, OpenAL, and SDL, is created all from a set of complex algorithms. The game, in its entirety, net code and all, is only a single 494 KB executable.

Anyone who's tried to program anything knows that this is an epic feat of programming. However, anyone who's ever picked up a pen and paper and tried to draw knows that it's the death of artistry. It's not art anymore. There's no soul to it. You can put as much care into it as you want, tailor it exactly, it's still not created with the love that true art is created with.

It's the programmer's best friend, and the artist's worst nightmare.

What could this mean for the future of gaming? Could we be seeing a lot more games like this? Could we see a lack of the need for artists in the future?

I shudder at the thought. I want creativity, not epic feats of programming.

However, not all is lost. Whereas this could be the death of true art in video games, it could just as well be an old door reopening. Consoles like the Atari systems and the NES forced programmers to code their own graphics in with the console's native assembly language. Perhaps, instead of this being a replacement to pen and paper, or a brush and canvas, it's simply another road, long forgotten with time.

One thing I really would hate to think about is that music can be created with a few complex algorithms. As a musician, I'd hate to think that I could be replaced by anyone with the brains to do a few extra mathematics.

Another thing simply to think about is: if this procedural generation era begins, does this mean we will no longer have the need for such expensive storage devices as blu-ray or dual layer DVD disks?

Opinions?

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Post by Zhukov » Tue Mar 30, 2010 9:40 am

Hey, why has nobody responded to this? Come on folks, lift your bloody game. You're going to make Blorx feel bad.

...

-Ahem-

Anyway, I think the dread of "true artistic talent" being replaced by "cold lifeless algorithms" is one born of simple misunderstanding and good ol' insecurity.

Personally, if the end result is good then I don't give a damn how it was made. So long as it's not, y'know, powered by the flayed skins of Indian orphans or something.

People tend to have some funny ideas about this artistic merit stuff. They keep putting it on some sort of mystical pedestal. At the end of the day, art and science have an awful lot in common. Painting an epic picture or composing a great song is in many ways a mathematical process. Sure, it's a bit more abstract and intuitive then solving an equation to find the value of X but it's not as different as people like to think.

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Re: The future of video games

Post by invertin » Tue Mar 30, 2010 10:12 am

If art is involved in a videogame, it should be the character design. Not the randomly generated trees that I'm going to see a thousand of anyway.

And even with random generation, it can't replace a good artist because it's a computer, it can't have an opinion or emotions or understand either. So if I want a piece of art to convey anger, a randomly generated splash of pixels is not going to do it. If I want a character in a videogame to look really badass, a randomly generated humanoid shape is not going to do it.

Random generation for trees and random scenery, fair enough. Randomly choosing from a few pregenerated parts to make a full city or a full character, fair enough. Apart from that, random generation can't replace human development of ideas.

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Blorx
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Re: The future of video games

Post by Blorx » Tue Mar 30, 2010 11:28 am

Yeah, I see both of your points. However, it's the age of technology and the age of lazy people.

I look at things like GameMaker and Photoshop CS5, and such, and I think "hey, that's cool, people with great ideas can make their ideas come to life as long as they learn what each program function is" and then I think "wait, isn't this just going to make everyone lazier? is it eventually going to come to the point where truly talented people are a rarity, where companies fight over those people, and where programs that make everything easier become the industry standard?"

I don't know. I'm a guitarist and an aspiring programmer. It just seems that with every move forward, we're really taking a step backwards.

Oh, and Zhukov, don't worry about how no one responded. I just took it as a "wow, he's actually talking about something in which we can put on a display of intellectual discussion...oh wait...better avoid that!" :lol:

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Post by Zhukov » Tue Mar 30, 2010 11:56 am

Blorx wrote:Oh, and Zhukov, don't worry about how no one responded. I just took it as a "wow, he's actually talking about something in which we can put on a display of intellectual discussion...oh wait...better avoid that!" :lol:
More likely it was a case of "Oh dear God, that post has more then 5 words! Tl;dr, bitch! Now I must flee lest my brain implode!"

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Re: The future of video games

Post by zoidberg rules » Tue Mar 30, 2010 12:05 pm

whilst i think that this is an amazingly cool feat of programming i spend most of my time asleep or playing, not making, games i agree greatly with invertin, your never going to get a full compliment of emotions with a splash of pixels brought together by the computer. in my opinion, we should just leave the complexity of the game generating engines where we are, we already have the AI Directorhttp://left4dead.wikia.com/wiki/The_Director. all we should be doing, as far as i'm concerned, is further developing things like the AI Director, and just leaving it at that.

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Re:

Post by Blorx » Tue Mar 30, 2010 12:48 pm

Zhukov wrote: More likely it was a case of "Oh dear God, that post has more then 5 words! Tl;dr, bitch! Now I must flee lest my brain implode!"
In that case, as soon as I finally get work done on my Atari game, I'm going to explain in great detail how everything works. That should be fun to see their reactions. :twisted:
zoidberg rules wrote:all we should be doing, as far as i'm concerned, is further developing things like the AI Director, and just leaving it at that.
I have to agree.

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Re: The future of video games

Post by h2ostra » Tue Mar 30, 2010 1:37 pm

Well, this is interesting. I had looked into procedurally generated music before, and have some previous thoughts on the subject. First off, does the emotion of art have to come from the input side? I think it's entirely possible for randomly colored pixels to end up creating some emotionally powerful design, despite the lack of emotional input. Anyone who is familiar with experimental composer John Cage knows too that this is not necessarily a new phenomenon, nor is it necessarily a product of the computer age, as Cage was known for trying to minimize the human aspect of music by composing his music through chance, rather than conscious decision-making.

To go on a more music-related tangent, I'd like to bring up something that interests me greatly: wind chimes. Wind chimes were created by humans, and carefully crafted and tuned to have very specific pitches and intervals when struck, made specifically to be pleasant to the human ear. they were then consciously left in a place where they would be exposed to the wind, for the purpose of creating sound. And yet, after all this, they are not played by humans; their music is left up the the chance of the wind. There is no emotional input, no selection of rhythm or specific melody. So where does that fit in? Art or no Art?

Personally, I have a pretty open-ended definition of art– pretty much, If you call it art, it is art. Although I highly doubt that it was intended in such a way, many parallels could be drawn between your entirely procedurally generated game and the minimalist/dadaist movements.

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Re: The future of video games

Post by Assaultman67 » Tue Mar 30, 2010 1:48 pm

I love the idea of algorithm generated things ...

I remember toying with the idea of an NPC enemy that would reproduce organically and evolve dynamically ...

Like the NPC's would literally lay eggs in the game which would then grow and eventually break open to produce a baby NPC which would grow to lay more eggs ...

The NPC's would collect statistics on how they die and what characteristics need work for the next generation of NPC's

for example, Say the first generation mostly died of shotgun blast to the face ... the second generation is born with more resistance to shotguns ...

The actual models themselves would be artistically made, but the species evolution algorithm could tamper with things like growth rate, adult size, maturity rate, speed, resistances, etc ...

Also you all have to realize that we are really FAR away from all models being completely computer generated (especially in real time) considering the expectations people have for graphics in games today ... but we are to the point where we can make component models and have an algorithm piece them together ...

For example the tree, we would still need someone to model individual things such as bunches of leaves, a bunch of branches, and the base, but an algorithm could piece it all together in different ways to make billions of combinations of trees, pretty much making every single tree in the game unique 8) ...
h2ostra wrote:Personally, I have a pretty open-ended definition of art– pretty much, If you call it art, it is art. Although I highly doubt that it was intended in such a way, many parallels could be drawn between your entirely procedurally generated game and the minimalist/dadaist movements.
I think that pretty much is the definition of art ... if someone admires it, its art ...

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Re: The future of video games

Post by Blorx » Tue Mar 30, 2010 2:01 pm

Assaultman67 wrote: Also you all have to realize that we are really FAR away from all models being completely computer generated (especially in real time) considering the expectations people have for graphics in games today ... but we are to the point where we can make component models and have an algorithm piece them together ...
No, we're really not that far off. That's why I referenced A New Zero. I'm pretty sure with just a bit of tampering to those algorithms, we could create more complex imagery. Maybe not PS3 or 360 level graphics just yet, but much more complex than the developer there showed. Notice also how he procedurally generated particle effects for the smoke trails.

Also, h2ostra, that was a very enlightening position on it. Especially the wind chime reference. Definitely food for thought in my mind. Don't really have an answer just yet. :mrgreen:

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Re: The future of video games

Post by Assaultman67 » Tue Mar 30, 2010 4:05 pm

Blorx wrote:... No, we're really not that far off. That's why I referenced A New Zero. I'm pretty sure with just a bit of tampering to those algorithms, we could create more complex imagery. Maybe not PS3 or 360 level graphics just yet, but much more complex than the developer there showed. ...
So whats the point? i mean if we can't achieve the level of today's graphics with procedurally generated models, how will we ever reach the point where procedurally generated models meet the expectations of the public for graphics?

Keep in mind that the bar for graphics keep getting higher ...infact, that seems to be the only bar that continually gets raised over time from game to game ...

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Re: The future of video games

Post by Blorx » Tue Mar 30, 2010 4:50 pm

Assaultman67 wrote: So whats the point? i mean if we can't achieve the level of today's graphics with procedurally generated models, how will we ever reach the point where procedurally generated models meet the expectations of the public for graphics?

Keep in mind that the bar for graphics keep getting higher ...infact, that seems to be the only bar that continually gets raised over time from game to game ...
Well, what's the point in increasing graphical quality? Part of the fun in NOT being realistic is being able to stylize. The fact that procedural generation adds increased support for stylization through algorithms is what scares me.

stylism > realism

Video game graphics will never reach photorealism, and in that truth, we will eventually see that the novelty in graphics supported by systems such as the PS3 will eventually wear off and people will seek the days of old when things were stylized.

I have no problem with procedurally generated art assets. I'm aspiring Atari 2600 programmer, and as such, I should mention that, in a way, all Atari 2600 art assets, including music, were procedurally generated.

For example (ripped from the infamous Adventure source code):

Code: Select all

GfxDrag0:
       .byte $06                  ;     XX                                                                   
       .byte $0F                  ;    XXXX                                                                  
       .byte $F3                  ;XXXX  XX                                                                  
       .byte $FE                  ;XXXXXXX                                                                   
       .byte $0E                  ;    XXX                                                                   
       .byte $04                  ;     X                                                                    
       .byte $04                  ;     X                                                                    
       .byte $1E                  ;   XXXX                                                                   
       .byte $3F                  ;  XXXXXX                                                                  
       .byte $7F                  ; XXXXXXX                                                                  
       .byte $E3                  ;XXX   XX                                                                  
       .byte $C3                  ;XX    XX                                                                  
       .byte $C3                  ;XX    XX                                                                  
       .byte $C7                  ;XX   XXX                                                                  
       .byte $FF                  ;XXXXXXXX                                                                  
       .byte $3C                  ;  XXXX                                                                    
       .byte $08                  ;    X                                                                     
       .byte $8F                  ;X   XXXX                                                                  
       .byte $E1                  ;XXX    X                                                                  
       .byte $3F                  ;  XXXXXX                                                                  
       .byte $00                             
All of the ".byte $xx" parts are the 8-bit hexadecimal values making up the image that you see in the commented version, denoted by a ";". Each of those can easily be translated to binary, such as "$3F = %00111111" or "$8F = %10001111". When put together in such a way, we can easily see the comparison between:

Code: Select all

00000110
00001111
11110011
11111110
00001110
00000100
00000100
00011110
00111111
01111111
11100011
11000011
11000011
11000111
11111111
00111100
00001000
10001111
11100001
00111111
00000000
and its commented counterpart:

Code: Select all

     ;     XX                                                                   
     ;    XXXX                                                                  
     ;XXXX  XX                                                                  
     ;XXXXXXX                                                                   
     ;    XXX                                                                   
     ;     X                                                                    
     ;     X                                                                    
     ;   XXXX                                                                   
     ;  XXXXXX                                                                  
     ; XXXXXXX                                                                  
     ;XXX   XX                                                                  
     ;XX    XX                                                                  
     ;XX    XX                                                                  
     ;XX   XXX                                                                  
     ;XXXXXXXX                                                                  
     ;  XXXX                                                                    
     ;    X                                                                     
     ;X   XXXX                                                                  
     ;XXX    X                                                                  
     ;  XXXXXX   
So, in effect, like I said, it's not that this is a new thing, it's just that this is the "now" generation, and I don't want that attitude to start transferring over into art.

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Re: The future of video games

Post by Assaultman67 » Tue Mar 30, 2010 5:25 pm

Blorx wrote:
Assaultman67 wrote: So whats the point? i mean if we can't achieve the level of today's graphics with procedurally generated models, how will we ever reach the point where procedurally generated models meet the expectations of the public for graphics?

Keep in mind that the bar for graphics keep getting higher ...infact, that seems to be the only bar that continually gets raised over time from game to game ...
Well, what's the point in increasing graphical quality? ...
I honestly don't know ... and i agree that gameplay/style beats graphics but it just seems to be the industry's standard trend ...

It does indeed kinda suck because alot of games lack decent physics because they wanted to aim for realism ...

But Honestly, I simply can't imagine coders taking over the artists jobs via regenerative algorithms ...

Its hard enough to find an engine smart enough to be able to cut a mesh in real time and recognize it as two separate objects nowadays let alone make completely unique meshes based off of super complex formulas on the fly ...

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Re: The future of video games

Post by Blorx » Tue Mar 30, 2010 5:42 pm

Assaultman67 wrote: Its hard enough to find an engine smart enough to be able to cut a mesh in real time and recognize it as two separate objects nowadays let alone make completely unique meshes based off of super complex formulas on the fly ...
Oddly enough, the low budget Afro Samurai game has technologies that allow cuts in character meshes that then become 2 separate objects and let physics take over and, in fact, it's done rather elegantly. If they can do it, why can't larger companies? Hell, why can't indies? Indies tend to be the innovators.

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Re:

Post by Renegade_Turner » Tue Mar 30, 2010 6:34 pm

Zhukov wrote:
Blorx wrote:Oh, and Zhukov, don't worry about how no one responded. I just took it as a "wow, he's actually talking about something in which we can put on a display of intellectual discussion...oh wait...better avoid that!" :lol:
More likely it was a case of "Oh dear God, that post has more then 5 words! Tl;dr, bitch! Now I must flee lest my brain implode!"
Nah, I read it, I just did not find the original subject matter sufficiently meaty or interesting to respond to. I was puzzled by how using technology to create pictures was somehow less artistic. That's like saying that modern films are less artistic because of all the new technology. Theh Matrix isn't artistic, they're just using fancy technology!
Last edited by Renegade_Turner on Tue Mar 30, 2010 6:43 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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