Age of Conan has launched

We’ve launched Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures!

I’ve spent almost three and a half years as a designer on Conan, and it is with joy and pride I see our depiction of Hyboria leave the Oslo offices to meet the world.

Here is our launch trailer.

DICE believes in the web as platform

Something I’ve touced briefly on in an blog entry about indie game production is the realization of the web as a gaming platform for “real” games. Apparently, Ben Cousins – executive producer at DICE – agrees with me:

‘In a response to a question about the possibility of a ‘one console future’ Cousins answered, “Yes and it’s going to be the web, and it doesn’t care if it runs on a phone or runs on a Mac or the PC.”‘

Quote from gamesindustry.biz.

The beauty of Mirror’s Edge

I should probably not let myself get carried away, I know. But if Mirror’s Edge is anything like this teaser, I think they’ll succeed in creating a very special experience and emotion.

Watching the gameplay gives a sense of flow. The pace is quick but not frantic. The woman’s body interacts and reacts to the environment in a way that seems to establish a very physical presence. She’s not a rigid camera; she runs, jumps, climbs, tumbles. And through all of this, you can see her body.

I guess it’s been done in 3rd person, but doing it in 1st person – a feat that must be far more difficult – seems to be much more immersive in this case as in so many others.

Then look at the art direction. It seems obvious that they’ve chosen to color code where to go, what to interact with, to keep the pace and flow high. That could have looked rather unappealing and odd, but they’ve chosen to be consistent and use clear, simple colors to paint the entire world. Through that, they’ve created a unique, beautiful and emotional cityscape.

Obviously, the music adds a lot to the trailer. Hopefully, the game will have a similar, “aery” soundtrack.

Woman on rollerblades

I had spent the whole day inside, so I felt the need to get out for a while. I took the bike to the Vigelandspark, just to chill out, read for a bit and watch people. When I moved away from all the tall buidlings I was pleasantly surprised to find that the sun was still up. So I sat there on a bench for quite a while, having a good time just watching the sunset.

The evening light fell in a spectacular way on the many statues. People walked about. A woman on rollerblades went back and forth on a small square, doing simple tricks, showing a sense of grace. It was a beautiful scene.

Watching the woman on rollerblades made me think. How difficult would it be to add her to the background of a narrative you were crafting, in different mediums?

For a novel, it would be very simple. The idea already exists, and all it would take would be to find the right words and then type them down.

For a movie, it would be more complicated. You’d have to find someone with the necessary skills to play the part as the woman. You’d need to make sure she’s dressed properly and has the gear she needs. The cameras either need to make sure she’s in or out of focus. She needs to be lit properly.

For a game, the complexity would sky rocket. You’d need someone to perform the rollerblading, have it be motion captured and then have the animations cleaned up by animators. An artist would create a concept of the woman, and then other artists would create a model and texture it. Someone would have to write the logic for her; will the player be able to interact with her? What happens if the player gets in her way?

It’s obvious that it is much more expensive to add even a small element to a game compared to a book, or even a movie. The manhours necessary to add something as simple as a woman on rollerblades to a game is staggering.

I call this the “author to experience” factor. It stands for how much work that is involved in manifesting the author’s idea in the experience of the consumer. For every new generation of hardware, this factor increases as the complexity grows. If we are to be able to create games as interactive fiction in the future, with all the demands that follows, we need to find ways to reduce the author to experience factor for games.

A big reason why the games industry is so homogenous is because every title is such a huge investment. When dealing with large investments, you make sure to minimize risk, and innovative titles are risky. They must be mainstream to be greenlit.

What we need is excellent middleware. Engines, tools and pipelines that will speed up the process. Getting good middleware has been a dream of many in the industry for a long time, but we still have a long way to go.

Perhaps, when games and interactive fiction are much cheaper to produce, we could see a market that carries a wider range of game genres. I hope that translates into “interesting games”.