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”.

4 Comments

  1. I think that big fat men wearing speedos is much more appropriate. Oh well.

  2. In much the same way as there are now middleware apps for generating Trees, there needs to be a method for people (devs) to share (via a standard protocol) their assets. If a developer does the motion capture, draws the art, codes the AI for a woman on rollerblades, why can’t they add that element to an online repository that other devs can just purchase and add to their gameworld? A few clicks and you have a fully interative, intelligent woman on rollerblades in your game. Write once, use many!

    Developers would have to be prepared to share and not be so scared of protecting their assets though – not likely in the current business model.

  3. Andreas Öjerfors

    Wizrider, I’ve been thinking in similar ways for quite some time. It’s actually what my next blog post will be about.

    Some developers create “module sets” which they use to craft cities and similar environments. There’s very little that says that module sets could not be created and sold for a profit.

    But I think that some of what you are saying is going to be difficult to achieve. Being able to share AI would be tricky as AI is written specifically for the needs of your system.

    I also think that it would be hard to get devs to share resources; they might end up having their own product looking derivative and generic if plenty of others use their stuff.

  4. Andreas Öjerfors

    Wizrider: I guess what you are proposing is some kind of unified data structure that would allow full chunks of content to be shared. While a very interesting though, I find it hard to see happening with an ever-changing games industry, and with titles that have so very different needs.

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