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Blogged Out: Influences, AI, Interaction, Wineglass Dropping

Welcome to 'Blogged Out', the news report that looks at the world of developer blogging and the conversations being had with the community at large. This week we look at ...
Welcome to 'Blogged Out', the news report that looks at the world of developer blogging and the conversations being had with the community at large. This week we look at eclectic themes, innovation in AI and a genre hybridization. - Brett Douville has been taking inspiration from literature this week, as he blogs about 'disparate materials', or the practice of combining many unusual influences and ideas in the same piece of work. "There are very few games I can point to over the years that pull together a significant set of divergent themes into a single game," says Douville "and two of them are by Tim Schafer. Grim Fandango paired tons of elements from film noir with the art style, themes, and mythos of the Mexican Day of the Dead. The narrative richness the game was able to achieve was remarkable. I felt similarly about Psychonauts..." Perhaps, if Douville's desires are to be satiated then the adventure genre needs to return to form with its deliberate attempts at mixed-up obscura. Douville goes on to suggest that an eclectic mix of game experience need not simply be an incongruous or unexpected collection of themes, but might simply come from reducing repetition in game actions. Why, when in Homer's Iliad every death is unique, is every killing in God of War so similar? Perhaps when 'real' physics becomes the norm in games this problem at least will begin to find itself an answer. - Game AI turns to its community this week and asks the assembled AI programmers what they think of the current state of strategies for innovation in Game AI. The responses are various and extremely enlightening. In particular, Lionhead's Adam Russell commented on ways to better stratify AI creation using new team organization, suggesting: "I'm very interested in the notion of a 'Lead Technical Designer' who sits between traditional Design and traditional Programming, with a team of TDs under them implementing content. The idea is to separate design-related AI content (driven and mostly implemented by the TD team) from low-level AI algorithms (driven and implemented by the Programming team), and create a bridge between progs and design." - Finally, Design Synthesis' Johnny Pi gets all synergetic over recently Gamasutra-praised conversation game Façade and the tools from Half-Life 2. He wants a theoretical game design genius to build a game in which subtle interaction, rather than death-mongering, is where the fun lies. Taking his cues from Façade, Pi imagines a weekly 'scene' based game made using the face poser and environmental resources of the Source engine. "I would shift the focus from large levels with lots of movement to small sets packed with detail. Imagine what you could do with over 1,000 well-made models in a few small rooms. Up the level of detail on the character-models, too." Pi's theoretical hybrid would unfold something like acting improv, with physics thrown in for good measure. "Dropping your wineglass could elicit surprise from your hosts," says Pi. Anyone out there want to make one of Pi's visions a reality? [Jim Rossignol is a freelance journalist based in the UK – his progressive games journalism has appeared in PC Gamer UK, Edge and The London Times, to name but a few. Simon Carless also contributed to this report.]

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