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The Esoteric Beat: Coders, Warriors, Invaders

Welcome to 'The Esoteric Beat', the news report that provides new and unusual ways to think about games and culture. This week's column looks at developers and dice, inte...
Welcome to 'The Esoteric Beat', the news report that provides new and unusual ways to think about games and culture. This week's column looks at developers and dice, interactive immunology, art and speculative science. - One of the most interesting threads of conversation to emerge this week is the latest 'Ask Slashdot' article, which posits a link between coding and role-playing. A good grasp of table-top game mechanics certainly do seem to inform design in videogames too, with many pen and paper systems - such as Dungeons & Dragons - directly informing how all kinds of games play. From RTS titles like Dragonshard, through to the RPG excellence of Knights of The Old Republic, the old polyhedral dice still have they say. In fact, wherever you look in the games industry you seem to find designers who used to work on pen and paper projects. Which leads us to something else linked in the Slashdot article, which is a Wizards Of The Coast call out to potential game developers, which includes a hardcore questionnaire with which WOTC intend to judge the prowess of potential candidates. Those who answer this questionnaire will have to know the answer to questions like: "What is the most powerful class in the Player's Handbook, and why is it the most powerful?" Surely the wizard? But anyway... - From imaginary dragoon questions to virtual immune systems, and the nature of an interactive artwork called Fugue. This peculiar, game-like project has emerged from a meeting of art and science, and will be used to interactively demonstrate the workings of the immune system at University College London. As the team explain, the project (which was originally a purely artistic endeavour funded by Britain's Arts Council) entered its latest phase when it was shown to a group of medical professionals: "Dr. Bentley, a specialist in artificial immunology and collaborator on the project, showed the visual model produced for the art work to some practicing immunologists, their strong interest suggested the possibility of developing a new method for the visualisation of the immune system, giving equal weight to art and science." The immune system will be a persistent interactive system, hosted, MMO-like, on the UCL servers, which should generate both insight into a complex subject, as well as the beautiful visuals already visible on the project website. - Also experimental, but a whole lot less immunological, are the latest batch of games from the Experimental Gameplay Project at Carnegie Mellon University. The project produced a stack of simplistic but imaginative games last time around (which the authors will be discussing in a Gamasutra article debuting tomorrow), and with their new semester, CMU is inviting the web community as a whole to submit their ideas. The games are usually action-puzzle driven and are produced according to the course's set themes. Take a look, and if you have some ideas, why not submit a game of your own? - Finally this week, we have some of the more gorgeously produced game-inspired art we've ever seen, thanks to French artist Invader, which includes a series of Space Invaders sculptures inspired by a cross-over between the classic invader iconography and puzzle-toy classic, the Rubik's Cube. Oh, for $6000, and a house grand enough to give a home to that giant invader... [Jim Rossignol is a freelance journalist based in the UK – his game journalism has appeared in PC Gamer UK, Edge and The London Times.]

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