slayemin

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slayemin last won the day on September 28 2017

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  1. Why A.I is impossible

    I get what you're trying to say, but I FEEL that you are wrong. By your line of reasoning, if all feelings are real, then it's most likely the case that your feeling and my feeling contradict each other. Since contradictions cannot exist, at least one of us is wrong (which doesn't mean the other is right, we could both be wrong). I also feel that you place too much value on meditation and use it as a replacement for intellectual rigor, and you end up with wishy washy spiritual mumbo jumbo like "Feeling is a pre-cursor to 'being'". You then look for confirming evidence to support your hypothesis instead of looking for counter examples (which are extremely easy to find). Here's a few: -If feeling is a precursor to being, does something not exist if it doesn't feel? -If all it took for the wright brothers to fly was to "feel" a calling for it, how do you explain the hundreds of other inventors and their failed attempts at flight? How do you account for people feeling something strongly, and despite that, being failures? -I feel a strong calling for a billion dollars in my bank account. Why doesn't that come into being? -How do you explain hallucinations brought on by drugs such as LSD? What's the connection between the mind and feeling and the outside world? Really though, this line of thinking reeks of the spiritualistic nonsense in the book "The Secret". I encourage you to dig into "Meditations" by Rene Descartes. This was an infamous philosophical piece from the 17th century and effectively established the foundations for meta-physical philosophy. It's a wonderful work on skepticism and doubting sensory input. Here's a link to a free version: http://selfpace.uconn.edu/class/percep/DescartesMeditations.pdf I think this would interest you and work as a good counter-balance to your existing belief set, or at least, give you additional breadth to complement your existing belief set.
  2. Input on Adult Content

    For brief moments, but the larger concern is about how supporting every orientation and queer gender would inflate scope and production costs. I think it might turn into too much work.
  3. Why A.I is impossible

    I actually believe that intelligence is an emergent property of our neural topology and the underlying mechanics for neural behavior. The electrical activity in the brain is not where intelligence comes from. I think we may need to split some hairs on the role of electrical signals and chemical signals within a neuron. A neuron has synaptic receivers which receive chemical signals from neuron transmitters. The neuron also has a potassium pump at the cell nucleus which causes an imbalance of charged atoms to build up over time. When the charge exceeds a particular threshold, the neuron fires and an electrical signal is sent down the axon membrane which triggers the neural transmitters, which in turn, slightly increase the charge of downstream neurons. The firing neuron then goes into a short refractory period where it balances out its potassium ions, and then it returns into a "ready to fire" state. The activation of particular neurons and the subsequent downstream activation of other neurons (happening tens of thousands of times simultaneously) is what creates a "thought". The human brain is composed of trillions of neurons, and the neural connections vary between people, so ... we don't really have a good understanding of the human brain or the capability to process 1 trillion neurons simultaneously. When we learn something new, a few neurons are reconfiguring their connections to other neurons. The more often a connection is used, the stronger it gets and the more intricately and efficiently connected it becomes. If a connection is unused, it eventually decays and we experience "forgetting" something. Brain science and AI is barely scratching the surface, and if you ask an AI researcher or neuroscientist how a particular part of the brain works, 80% of the time the answer will be "Nobody knows..." You bring up something that reminded me of a really fascinating thought experiment I have been toying around with. Imagine that you go to sleep tonight, and while you're asleep, the robots rise up and take over the world, and in your sleep, the robots have decided to replace you with a robot. To do this replacement in place, they pretty much take the brain out of your skull and place it into a robotic host body which looks and feels exactly like your organic body did, except now you're a robot with an organic brain. You wake up the next morning, feeling no different than you did every other morning of your life... except, you can't help but feel that something is very off but you can't quite place what it is. So, the question for the thought experiment: What is noticeably off? What gives away the fact that you're a robot instead of a human? The underlying question: How much does our physical body and its state, drive our mind and its state? Is there more to the human experience than being a brain in a vat with a bunch of electrodes hooked up to it to create an illusion of reality? And even deeper questions: What role does our hormones play in our thoughts, behaviors and actions? How does adrenaline influence the mind? Is it possible to experience love without a body, purely on an intellectual level? Or is a physical body a prerequisite for love? What things would we lose if our mind was transferred into a robotic host? And the killer question: If we make an exact copy of an organic mind and then we run it digitally, and a key part of the minds experience comes from stimuli from a host body, is it ever possible to run a correct simulation of an organic intelligence in a disembodied digital setting? In other words, is an AI forever doomed to be incapable of love because it doesn't have a host body which is a necessary component for it? (that could make an interesting fiction story: a sentient AI questing for love) Anyways, sometimes I find myself thinking, "The robot revolution hasn't happened because I did something stupid, and a robot wouldn't screw that up like I just did. Yep, I'm still human... for now."
  4. Input on Adult Content

    In my game, I've wanted to create an encounter with a demonic succubus. I really liked how Dark Messiah played with the idea of a demonic succubus sharing the mind of the protagonist/player. I think there's a lot more landscape to explore, and the topic of demonic possession fascinates me in some ways. I have listed out a bunch of demons and the vices they use to prey on mortals as a means to corrupt and possess their souls. This is partially inspired by Dragon Age : Origins, with their pride demons, lust demons, rage demons, etc. So, I think it would be a really fascinating, interesting exercise to try to use each of the various vices to try to tempt and corrupt the player. The underlying motive is to examine our own susceptibilities to real life vices and get a better understanding of our own human natures. Some people could, feasibly, have their ego and pride stroked in such a way that they become enslaved by their pride. Maybe other players are constantly enraged by troll NPC's, who then become pawns of a rage demon. Also on the list, would be a succubus demon who uses sexual desire and gratification to entice the player into temptation. In each case, demonic domination would be a gradual descent into oblivion rather than something that just happens instantly. I want the player to be a frog which swims in water, but never realizes it's starting to boil. The descent into irreversible demonic possession is gradual and hard to see. I think this deeply speaks to the human condition and the human experience, and if its done right, can become a very powerful take away which causes players to carefully examine their own lives and make more informed decisions about their own actions and how they might affect others. I'm a bit wary about the sexy succubus. In order to do it right, the succubus would have to be legitimately sexy and tempting to the player and be flirtatious and tempting, using every means of seduction available to bring the player under their control. In some ways, the succubus would have a dominatrix style of relationship with a submissive type of player, and that could be a fun way for players to explore their own sexuality and interests. The way I see this gradual demonic possession working (in all cases), is that the player is like a fish and the demons have baited fish hooks, and if the player bites at a baited hook, then the demon slowly starts reeling them in. If you know anything about fishing, you know that you need to play the fish a bit. You need to know when to reel them in and when to release some line, but you're gradually reeling the fish in more than you're giving out line, and eventually, you can lean down and grab the tired out fish. In the case of the succubus, it has to play the player like a fish. To reel in the player, it needs to seduce the player into having sex with the succubus, and the experience the player has needs to be rewarding enough that they want to keep that hook in their mouth, but not so rewarding that they're done -- the succubus has to keep reeling them in, more and more, enticing the player with greater and greater temptations, while also playing the player by slowly asserting dominance and issuing commands. Does the player obey the succubus to get subsequent sexual rewards? Or does the succubus have to release some fishing line to keep its fish thinking its free? The other really interesting area to explore is what happens to the player after they have become fully possessed and dominated by a demon. What happens if the succubus finally catches the player and the player can't escape? The player can't resist coming back for more, over and over again, and can't deny the succubus its demands (ie, "Go kill this priest! For me, baby!"). As you can imagine, there's a lot of darkness to explore, and what kind of scares me about all of it is that it can hit close to home for a lot of people because it exposes their own inner darknesses, possibly stuff they didn't even know existed? This itself could be even more shocking to the audience than the sex acts with the succubus. When it comes to the sex acts, I'm particularly wary about how its presented. What I *don't* want is to have the sex act to be pornographic in nature and style. That would mostly undermine the narrative and philosophical intents and just cause the game to become cheap and seedy, and any deeper value the player gets out of the experience would be lost. And yet, the experience has to be somewhat pornographic at the same time in order to fit the reward of the succubus? It's a very challenging and delicate line to balance. Obviously, there would have to be nudity and a gradual escalation of sexual interactions. But, how do I do this in an artistic way such that the entire game is not seen as just a flimsy pretext for video game porn? And even more concerning, how do I make sure that my game isn't censored from the various online distribution channels such as Steam, GOG, etc just because it has sex acts and nudity in it? Would they be willing to touch a game which helps people discover and explore their inner darknesses, including the vices of sex, even if it informs the human experience and presents a new life perspective for players? Are American's too puritan to even seriously consider it? The other consideration I'm thinking is that my players may also be female, so if that's the case, then I need to have an equivalent male lust demon to entice the female player into being seduced/tempted. That's particularly challenging because the things which seduce men won't seduce women in the same way or to the same effect, and I am... a bit too clueless on how to effectively seduce women, and any online resources I find lead me to the "pickup artist" bullshit everyone hates. Anyways, I looked at a the content guidelines for Steam and a few other distribution channels for guidance but it was very vague and unhelpful, so I'm mostly just holding off on this for now. What happens if my game is currently rated for teens, but a few months down the line, I release a content update which causes my game to be rated Mature or Adult? What happens to the teen customers when the rating of the game changes and they (or their parents) would no longer find the game suitable for their age group? Should I rate the game as Mature/Adult, just in case I want to go down this road in the future?
  5. Why A.I is impossible

    I can't seem to figure out the new forum interface, so forgive me for quoting this whole post. There's a lot of good stuff in here to respond to. I think the first step towards finding valuable knowledge and wisdom comes from asking the correct questions. I think you're on the right track. The first question: "What is an AI?" Well, AI stands for "Artificial Intelligence", which hints at the correct answer and correct question to be asking. The correct question to be asking is, "What are the defining characteristics of intelligence?" Until you can come up with a rigorous definition for what constitutes intelligence, you won't be able to create an artificial simulation of that intelligence. Like I said in my previous post, our models for intelligence are still pretty rudimentary and have a lot of gaps and unanswered questions. I think the best approach for defining intelligence itself is to look through the animal kingdom and try to observe behaviors which suggest intelligence. The first question to ask and answer: "What is the lowest threshold for intelligence?". I think, to answer that question best, the observer should have a very generous level of tolerance for intelligent behavior. I personally would start at the microscopic level and observe single celled organisms to determine if there is any reactionary intelligence, or if its all instinctive behavior. IF true intelligent behavior can be observed at the microscopic level, then looking towards multi-celled organisms and complex organisms would be unnecessary. Let's assume that we can find true intelligence at the single cellular organism level. The subsequent task of the researcher is to figure out how the intelligence works. Since the organism is single cellular, we can say that the mechanisms for intelligence are going to be extremely simple/rudimentary, so dissecting it would be relatively straight forward. I think this would probably yield some pretty fruitful discoveries, definitions, and generalizations. The next task would be to slowly move up the life form complexity scale, trying to determine if they too have intelligence and if the definitions and generalizations still hold. Eventually, you can start looking at insects such as ants and flies, and spend a lot of time determining how their cellular composition creates the behaviors they have. I think at this level, you'd start to see some emergent patterns which are universally consistent across all life forms. They may have neural type cells which drive behavior, and their brains are small enough that you could probably examine each and every neuron and its connection with other neurons under a microscope, and then create an artificial replica of that system in a computer program. Now, let's say that we perfectly captured the neural topology of an ant brain and the neural behaviors, given all stimuli and inputs. We've effectively recreated the brain of an ant. The interesting realization I think we could make here is that whether the brain is composed of organic cells or digital representations, as long as the underlying mechanisms for behavior are exactly the same, the resulting intelligences are indistinguishable and indiscernible. If you consider two indiscernible objects to be the same thing, then the organic and digital brains are exactly the same. In light of this, the next interesting question to ask: What makes the intelligence "artificial"? What's artificial about it if its indiscernible from the organic version? To put it another way, if we somehow could read the type and position of every single atom in an ant brain and make an exact copy of it at the atomic level, such that the copy is an organic equivalent to the original ant brain, would that organic equivalent be "artificial"? I think the underlying question is about what makes something "artificial"? If we want to define the atomic copy of the brain as a natural intelligence, then you can't ignore the fact that it was manually created, atom by atom, cell by cell until it had the exact same behavior as the original. But, if we can make a perfect simulation of the underlying behaviors of each atom and each cell within a digital model of the brain, then is not that digital model of the brain no less natural than the organic version? Our digital model would be so precisely defined that if you wanted to, you could create an organic equivalent, atom by atom, cell by cell, such that it would be atomically indistinguishable from the original. If you agree, then we would have to say that the digital version of the brain isn't any more "artificial" than the original, and if the digital brain exhibits all of the hallmarks for intelligence as previously defined, then we have a digital intelligence rather than an artificial intelligence, and the term of "artificial intelligence" is a poor description for what we have. I think, if we're armed with this fundamental idea for intelligence, then the concepts of higher levels of intelligence and thinking are within our grasp. I also think that we would have to start defining intelligence along a gradient level, because the intellect of a single celled organism will be vastly inferior to the intellect of a crow, and the crow would be vastly inferior to the intellect of a human being, and the intellect of a human being could be vastly inferior to the intellect of some other creature or intelligence. The question for this intelligence gradient comes down to a problem of demarcation of observable hallmarks of intelligence. Great care would have to be taken to define the various hallmarks at each gradient level, such that an intelligence could be precisely and accurately assessed. When it comes to "souls", I personally don't believe souls exist. It's a religious invention and a relic of the past, which was an attempt to explain consciousness and the human experience. It's a pretty weak concept, because religious people necessarily have to insist that animals don't have "souls", even though animals are 100% conscious beings with distinct personalities, and experience the world much like how we humans experience the world (their sensory inputs and physical capabilities might differ, but at the core, we humans and animals are all intelligent agents). Religious people are dogmatically bound to deny the existence of "souls" in animals because to embrace the idea of a soul within a non-human being would both suggest that those souls too must be "saved" (which opens a huge can of worms) and that humans don't actually have a unique position of dominion over other animals in the animal kingdom. When it comes to game AI, we *really* don't need to create the level of true intelligence I described above. In film and cinema, there's this concept of "Suspended Disbelief", where the audience momentarily let's go of their belief that the film world is fake. I think games can have that same suspension of disbelief. We only have to create illusions or reality, and as long as we're consistent and our illusions are believable, we maintain a good suspension of disbelief with the audience. So, if you're designing an AI for a game, we only have to create a level of complexity which creates an illusion of actual intelligence. The illusion of intelligence can be created by creating sufficiently complex conversation / response trees, intelligible behaviors in response to game events, and faking as much as we can get away with. Computationally, this is much cheaper than running an accurate simulation of intelligence at the cellular or atomic levels. We can create some pretty convincing intelligence with a sufficiently complex state machine
  6. Playing your own game

    I think this is more about story writing than actual game play. The game play of a point and click adventure drives a story, and you're complaining that since you know the story already, playing the game you crafted doesn't hold the same appeal. I think you can compare this to tickling yourself vs someone else tickling you. When you tickle yourself, you don't feel tickled because you're in concious control over where your fingers contact your skin. When someone else does the same thing, you don't know where their fingers will go (because you're not in complete control) so the anticipation of mystery and potential touch is what actually causes you to feel tickled. So, how does this work for story writing? When you're the reader of a story, the author is the tickler. You don't know where the story will go, what plot events will happen, so you get feelings of anticipation, mystery, suspense, and wonder. You just don't know what's going to happen next, and that's exciting. If you re-read the same story, you lose a lot of that suspense, but not all of it. Okay, so how do you create a fun story? I think... stories sort of write themselves. You, the author, are just sort of the conduit/medium for the story. You just have to let your fingers rest on the keyboard and let your mind be a stream of conciousness, and write whatever comes to mind, and write it well, and the story that wants to come out, will present itself. The first time you write a story as an author is also the first time you're reading that story, so in a way, it's a unique privilege to be an author because you get to be the first person in the whole entire world to read this new story. What twists and turns will there be in the plot? What happens to the characters? What exciting events will unfold? You get to decide and find out! When it comes to story writing, I think it's a mistake to look at the finished product of other authors and think that they wrote the story one sequential word at a time. The reality is that a book is like an office building. You can look at the finished product and be amazed at its elegance and design, but a casual observer will never see the scaffolding it took to build that office building. With writing books and stories, you're going to probably be iterating over the same story about 20 times. The first few iterations are going to be you fumbling through the darkness of your imagination, trying to figure out what the story being told is even about. With each successive iteration, you get a better and better feel for the story, and instead of trying to figure out what story to tell, your focus shifts more towards figuring out how to gracefully tell the story you've been practicing over and over again. You can be more like, "I know I have this plot event coming up, so how can I setup the current narrative to nail that plot event?" Eventually, you become more like a musical conductor, coordinating players and their instruments, creating a synchronized dance of words on the page. This process in itself is a pleasurable activity, so if you thoroughly enjoyed writing your story and its practiced variations, and then you put that story to a point and click adventure, you can almost be certain that the game will be amazing.
  7. Why A.I is impossible

    I think the greatest limitation to our development of a sentient artificial intelligence is currently limited by our model for the human mind and how intelligence works. The model is extremely limited and poorly understood, even by neuroscientists and brain surgeons. However, given enough research and time, that particular scientific model will progress towards higher levels of correctness (which is interesting in a different way, because it would be the first model which is self aware). As far as intelligence goes, I think its more of an emergent property of our neural topology. There's nothing magical or fancy about it, and to some people who wish to see magic where it doesn't exist, this may be disturbing on an existential crisis type of level. A narcissistic part of our identity wants to believe we're unique and special, but the reality is that we're really not and that may be hard to deal with. To say that creating sentient artificial intelligence is "impossible" is a completely foolish and absurd claim which hints at a level of unawareness/ignorance on your part. Just because you don't know how to do it, doesn't mean it isn't possible. Although our current scientific models for general intelligence have big gaps, there is no guarantee that those gaps will continue to exist far into the future. You just can't say with reasonable certainty what type of technological achievements will never be possible, because you'd just be applying modern ignorances towards the future.
  8. Writing the story for Spellbound

    Spellbound is intended to be a story driven game. I feel that's the only thing which can make the game interesting on its own. The story of Spellbound has gone through a lot of evolutionary changes throughout the development process. When I initially conceived of the game, I just had a game concept: "Throw fireballs at zombies in VR, using your hands". As a game premise, that's mildly interesting but it would quickly lose its novelty and appeal. How do I make it interesting? I needed a story. Initially, my writing approach was to ask hard questions about the world: Why are there zombies? Where did they come from? Why is the wizard in a zombie infested graveyard? What's going through the wizards mind? What was his life like? What was his past? So, I tried to find answers which made sense, given that you're just some red cloaked dude in a wizard hat, slinging fireballs at zombies. The first version of the game and story was embarrassingly bad. The synopsis of the story: "You were a wizard whose wife had died, and you were searching for a way to bring her back to life because you missed her. So, you casted a spell promising to bring her back to life via resurrection, but instead, it just reanimated her and turned her into a zombie. The spell worked so well, that it also brought all of the corpses in the nearby graveyard to life as well! Your undead wife flees to the graveyard, so you have to defeat infinite waves of undead zombies. After a while, you face a big boss monster who was behind it all!" As far as stories go, that was pretty pathetic but also short. I'm a half decent writer with imagination, I know I can do better if I just spent some time to work something out. I needed to ship something playable to people, quickly. I thought that the main map would be my main game play, but it wasn't completed yet and ready for public consumption (it didn't satisfy my quality standards). So, I created an early "prelude" level. I also needed a main menu in VR, and since this is needs to be a seamless experience between game world and game menu, the menu itself can't be a static 2D screen like you'd have in traditional 2D games -- the menu itself had to be a level which you interact with. I was ruminating on story in the back of my mind for a while at this point, and I decided that I eventually wanted to have five wizards, each from a different school and theme of magic, each with unique story lines. My game universe was growing in complexity. But, I can't focus on developing the story. I need to ship as soon as possible to get something playable out there! I had chosen the "Red Wizard" as the first school of magic and theme to focus on. I didn't know what the story would really be, but I had written a really rough outline which served as a rough map on where I wanted to go with the plot. I would come back to the story much later and flesh it out, but for now, I just needed to create the prelude story and introduce players to the game universe and introduce a character or two. I wrote the prelude story in a day, polished the dialogue, and kept it somewhat vague, but also left a cliff hanger as a lead in for the main story. Then I shipped it. Currently, you can still only play the prelude and experience that story, and its short at best, but it shows the story telling model I'm using for VR: 1. I introduce an illustrated storybook and a narrator reads the first six pages. This serves as an establishing shot / context, and also establishes the narrator. 2. I fade to black, load the game world, fade in, and the story resumes from the first person perspective. The wizard talks to himself as a way to guide the player on what to do (a bit weird), and the narrator adds story as well, sort of like how a dungeon master would. 3. At the end of the VR experience, we fade to black and return to the library menu, and resume reading 1-2 illustrated pages as sort of an "epilogue", which can serve as a seamless lead-in for the next story. This month, I decided that I was a bit too aimless with my development and I needed to get more focused on shipping the next set of content. Okay, where do I begin? I don't have a level made, no story, barely any functioning spells, no crafting system, etc. What have I been wasting my time on?? Oh right, an AI system with machine learning. I realized that the pragmatic thing to do is stop everything else and focus on fleshing out the story for the red wizard. Once I have the story complete, I'll have a much better idea on the scope of the project, what scenes need to be built, what's important and what's not important, and I can start focusing on actually building my game around the story. This seems like an obviously good idea in hindsight. The story is like my game design document, and if the scope is too big, I can change the story until its achievable. So... I just have to write the story. The problem is, I just had a really rough outline on what I think the story should be about. Despite the outline, I actually don't know what the story is. Okay, so how do I figure that out? I just have to start writing. But, I can't just start writing blindly! I need to spend some time crafting the world, the characters, the history, the lore, etc! My approach to writing my story is to write out the very best first draft that I can, as completely as I can. The point is not to have a story ready for production, but to just figure out what the story is. What story am I trying to tell? Why is it interesting? What captures the readers attention and holds it? What can the audience get out of the story? What makes the story emotional? What creates a sense of wonder and amazement? What are the high points and low points of the story? Who are the protagonists? Who are the antagonists? Who are the supporting characters? What is every characters motive? Every character needs to have a flaw to be interesting, so what are the character flaws? How do those flaws get revealed? How does the character flaw play into the story? How does the story begin? What's the problem the characters are trying to solve? What's the struggle? How do the characters overcome the problem? How does the character need to grow in order to overcome the problem? How does the problem get resolved? How does the character feel about the resolution(s)? How does the audience feel about the resolution? How do we set ourselves up for introducing the next episode? Oh, and by the way, all of this has to be done in VR so we have to assume that the protagonist has total agency over decisions made, so story has to account for that. It's a bit of an overwhelming puzzle to work out. It's extremely important to note that since my game is going to be story driven, where the story either makes or breaks the final result, I cannot afford to half heartedly write a mediocre story. I have to write the greatest story I'm capable of writing. My game depends on it. The future of my one man company depends on it. My income depends on it. The story is the backbone. It's my secret sauce. My secret weapon. It's going to be what makes it a "must have" for every VR gamers library. And it can't just be a story which was shoved into a VR game, it has to be a story built from the ground up, specifically for VR, to make use of the unique story telling capabilities VR offers. So, I cannot just write out a first draft, call it good, and move forward with production. If it takes two weeks or two months to get the story perfect, then so be it. So, I'm thinking that I'm a bit of a novice when it comes to story writing. I have never published a novel. Never wrote a screen play. Never wrote a story for a game. At best, I've written a few short stories for a community college class. But, I have good story ideas, damnit! That's my stubbornness and ego peeking through, insisting that despite my lack of experience, I'm more qualified than anyone else to be the one who writes the story. How do I account for my lack of experience with "officially" not being published? I say, "It doesn't matter, I don't care, fuck it, I will just have to write 20 drafts to be on par with a professional." I think that's the right intuition though: Write 20 drafts of the same story. The first few drafts are going to be exploratory. You don't know what the story is until you've written it. You don't know who the characters are yet. You don't know their motives. The first version of the story is just a congealing of the oatmeal, where you bring it all together and sort of figure out what the real story is. This is where you answer all of the questions I listed above. You might need to write several versions of the story. Think of each version as sort of like a parallel universe, where each version can explore different possibilities in plot development. Eventually, you'll find that you're drawn to certain plot highlights and themes more strongly than others, and those become your story. At this point, you have written your story about 3-5 times. You're familiar with it, but not intimately. Now, the story becomes more like sheet music to you (the author), and it's a bit of an unfamiliar song. You can kind of play the notes and create a semblance of what the song sounds like, but it's rough and spotty. You know what notes you need to hit and when, so the only way to properly hit those notes is to practice, practice, practice. This means you're going to be rewriting your story, over and over again, each time getting more and more familiar with the plot. There isn't a fixed number of times you need to rewrite the story, but you'll know when you've written the final version: It'll flow like beautiful music off the paper, wrapping the reader in a warm hug before fleeting away. The reader will be embraced in a feeling of warmth and happiness for a moment, and then left wanting more, more, more. You've now got a page turner. A novel people can't put down. A movie which demands your attention. A game people can't stop. What happens next?! ...Turn the page to find out! I was recently encouraged by a blog article I read on the writing process of William Shakespeare. Most people think that his writings was pure genius, written from divine inspiration, and it just flowed to him easily via unnatural talent. Historical records of his writings show that actually... he wrote many, many revisions of his plays over the years. Even Shakespeare wasn't some savant writer who wrote perfect first drafts, and he's considered to be the best writer in the history of the English language. But I realized that I can't just start writing successively better iterations of the same story. There's SO much more to the story world than what people read on the pages. You know how when you pick up some fantasy books, and on the first page they have a map of the world, with kingdoms, city names, mountain ranges, rivers, oceans, and all of that stuff laid out? There is a whole story universe which the story events are set within! Each kingdom may have different politics. Different cultural customs. Different building construction aesthetics. Different values. Those background differences will and should make an impact on the story as its being told! Is slavery legal in one kingdom but not another? How does the climate affect clothing and customs? How does a traveler from one kingdom deal with the differences in culture in another? Is it a source of character conflict? What are the motives of each kingdom and its political leadership? What is the history which shaped the current state of the world? How does the past factor into any current conflicts? There's a LOT more investigatory questions to ask, but you get the idea. I realized that this narrative background stuff is very important to establish! It is literally the foundation upon which your story rests. The presence of this background scaffolding may never actually manifest in your story directly, but it is the world which contains your narrative events. If you don't build the world, your story doesn't rest on anything solid and it will be very wishy washy. So, before I started earnestly writing my actual story, I spent a lot of time writing about the world and its history. When you read my story, you are only experiencing 10% of the universe/work. The other 90% was scaffolding which was put into place, and then stripped away when it was no longer needed. People will just see the finished product and think, "Oh wow, this looks easy. I bet they just started writing from pure inspiration!", but that illusion is so far from the truth of the underlying writing process. I spent nearly a week just writing scaffolding background material. What are all the races? What are they like? What are their values? What institutions exist in the world? What is the history of the institutions? What is the common sentiment in the kingdoms? What landmarks exist? Why are they important? What creatures exist? What's their lore and background? etc. etc. You know what? I'm glad I did this. It created a nice background framework for me to work within. I, the writer, know everything about the Academy of Magic, who's really running it, where it's located, and its deep history, but the reader gets to discover little tidbits about this institution and they can gradually put it together like a puzzle. At the end, the reader may not know everything there was to know about the Academy of Magic, but maybe there will be more content later which brings those interesting details to the surface? Just think about it: How much did you know about Hogwarts after the first Harry Potter book? How much did you really know about Luke Skywalker after only watching Episode IV: A new hope? And after you experienced all of the content and had a better understanding of the world, and then watched it again, how much more sense did the actions of the characters make when you understood the background context? Anyways, I'd like to share with you a few select pieces of narrative content I've worked on recently. Keep in mind, all of this is first draft material, so there's a high likelihood that the 20th version will be very different: ~~STORY BOOK OPENS~~ Page 1: [Narrator]: “The legend of Rupert the Red… goes something like this” [Narrator]: “Over three thousand years ago, there was a grand battle between magicians of ages past. They nearly ruined the world, but instead, they set civilization back by thousands of years.” *Picture of wizards at war, volcanoes exploding, land tearing up, red sky* Page 2: [Narrator]: “The kings of old, never forgot the calamity. They unanimously decreed that henceforth…” [Kings voice]: “all magic must be banned. Those caught practicing sorcery, shall be put to death!” *Picture of kings sitting around a round table, one king is standing and leaning forward with a raised fist, addressing the other kings* Page 3: [Narrator]: And kingdoms across the lands, knew peace... With the exception of magicians. [Angry crowd]: “Burn the witches! Burn them all!” [Narrator]: “But while magicians and sorcerers can be hunted and killed, magic itself can never be extinguished. What the kings of old didn’t quite understand, is that magic itself is a gift bestowed upon mortals by the gods themselves. Oh, how they tried to kill magic though.” *Picture of an angry mob with torches and pitchforks, surrounding posts with silhouettes of people tied to them, as a massive fire burns them* Page 4: [Narrator]: The gift of magic was a sliver of the gods themselves, given to mortals to fight against darkness. When darkness came again, the kingdoms were defenseless and fell like wheat to the scythe. [People] : *anguished screams of terror* [Monsters] : *roaring, gnashing and slashing* *Picture of men, women and children being chased and killed by demon spawn. Sky is red, filled with smoke. The face of a grinning devil can be faintly seen in the clouds* Page 5: [Narrator]: A few sorcerers who had evaded the murderous clutches of men, stood united against darkness and sealed it away at heavy cost. [Magician Group]: Chanting in unison *Picture: 5 men and women, holding hands in a circle, with red, blue, white, black and green magical flame pillars, and connected lines of magical color in a star pentagram shape. In the center, stands an old man (Sassafras). Page 6: [Narrator]: The kingdoms were safe again, but the kings… they blamed the magicians for their destruction. *Picture of a group of soldiers nailing wanted posters to lamp posts* (Hammering sounds) Page 7: [Narrator]: A young boy, with the reddest hair you’d ever see, was born to a pair of humble farmers living on the edge of the Black Forest. [Baby] : Crying sounds *Picture of a crying baby being held in the arms of a mother, with a red shock of hair on its head* Page 8: [Narrator]: His father named him “Rupert”. The boy grew up, as all young boys do, and trouble followed naturally, as it does with all young boys. *Squealing pig noises and boyish laughing sounds* *Picture of a young freckle faced farm boy with a pot on his head, chasing a terrified pig with a stick* Page 9: [Narrator] : But, as fate would have it, the natural troubles of boyhood soon turned into supernatural troubles which only followed Rupert. *burning house & inferno sounds, screams* [Narrator] : Rupert was a magician. The villagers were afraid and angry. [Villagers]: “Rupert is cursed! He’s a witch! Burn him!” Page 10: [Narrator]: Rupert ran, and he ran, and he ran, deep into the black forest. The village hunters eventually gave up. (picture of rupert hiding under a stump while a dog search party with torches looks for him in the distance) *barking sounds in the distance* Page 11: [Narrator]: Rupert wandered through the forest for days, getting hungrier and hungrier. He stumbled on an old, broken tower of mossy stone, and made it his home. He lived on bark and berries. *picture of a young boy trying to eat bark in a forest, with teeth almost breaking against it* Page 12: [Narrator]: He lived for years, completely alone, terrified of the supernatural troubles which seemed to follow him everywhere. [Narrator]: Last night, Rupert discovered a book as old as time: The lost book of Sassafras. He was about to change the course of history -- FOREVER. *Picture of Rupert sleeping soundly on his back, with drool coming out of his mouth. A black crow with red eyes watches.* Snoring noises, followed by “Caw, caw! Caw!” from the crow. ~~FADE TO BLACK FROM STORYBOOK MODE, FADE INTO GAME VIEW~~ Note: Cawlin has somewhat of a German accent. [First morning, wake up] Rupert is sleeping in his bed after his late night journey into the undead infested crypts. He has been sleeping restfully for 11 hours and it is now nearly noon. An impatient crow stands at the foot of his bed. RR: "ZZZzzzz...ZZZzzz...huuuurffffgll, guuurffflllghh..." (deep snoring) Cawlin: "Cawww... Cawww... Cawkadoodlydoo! Wake up, you!" RR: "ZZZz---huh? Who said that?! Who's there?!" Rupert awakens slowly, the VR camera opens eyelids slowly, blinking awake. The player is looking down the foot of the bed at the crow. Cawlin: "Caww.." RR: "Oh… it’s just a stupid bird." Bird cocks it head to the side in curiosity. Cawlin: "Caww?" RR: "Oh, just listen to me. I'm already going mad -- first it starts with talking to the birds, then its rocks and then its trees." Cawlin: "Caw!" RR: "Say now, how did you manage to get in here? I didn't leave a window or door open last night, did I?" Cawlin: "Caw… Caw..." We wait for the player to get out of bed. They can either click the bed or walk out of the bed zone. Once they move out, we quickly fade to black and fade back in, to the wizard standing at the bedside. RR: "If I'm going to be a raving madman talking to bird brains, you must ... have a name... I shall call you..." Cawlin: "Caw... Cawlin." RR: "...Cawlin." Cawlin: "Caw! It's about time you got up, it’s well past noon! And just who might yewwwww be??" RR: "What?! A talking bird?! Now, I've certainly gone mad!" Cawlin: "Yes, yes, you’re a certified loon and I’m a crow.” (rolls eyes) Cawlin: “Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, who are you?" RR: "Well...I'm Rupert!” Cawlin: "RRRrrrrupert… what is it that you’re doing in these woods?" RR: "This is my home! I live here." Cawlin: "Ho… how unusual... a huuuuman living in the black forest..." RR: "Unusual? ...Why?" Cawlin: “Humans haven’t ventured into the black forest for centuries. Those that do… never come out alive. There’s something… peck-uliar about you Rupert… What ees it?” *Rupert feels afraid for a moment because his secret about being magical might be given up* RR: “I… I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Cawlin: “No, there’s definitely something about you…. I can… smell eet… ah, there eet ees again! You’re… magical!” RR: “...Magical? I don’t believe in magic...” Cawlin: “You fool! Here you are, speaking with a talking bird, and you don’t believe in magic? I watched you last night as you rrrRRrroasted the walking dead with fi-yar.” RR: “Wait, you were there? You saw that?! It was real?!” Cawlin: “Of course I was... I had been waiting for you... all night! Quite the pyrrrrrotechic display, if I might say.” RR: “I still can’t quite believe what I saw. I almost thought it was just a bad dream -- I just -- haven’t been sleeping well lately.” Cawlin: “Yes, yes, it was all real. No matter! … Eet has come to my attention… that you have acquired a certain… book.” (pronounced almost like “buch”) RR: “Yeah, it was a really weird book… I heard it speak! A strange voice called out to me.” (Cawlin jumps up and down in excitement, flapping his wings) Cawlin: “Ah… do you know what you’ve found? Theees ees sooo exciting! You’ve finally found eet!” RR: “Ehh… what?” Cawlin: “The buch! The long lost book of Sassafraaaaaas! …. Eets verrry special to me. I must see it!” RR: “What’s so special about this book?” Cawlin: “Oh, eet ees only the most powerful buch of magic in the heestory of the world! It has been lost for thousands of years, but lost eet ees no more! You have eet! Eet is very special.” Cawlin: "Thees book, you know, it doesn't just get found by anyone. It... choooooses... Yes, that's the right word.. The book chooses ... who it uses. Many wizards think they use books, but never does it occur to them that the book uses them! Sassafras was it's last chosen wizard, and that was thousands of years ago! And last night, it seems to have chosen… RRRrrrrrrupert. Now, ...Why did it choose rupert?!" RR: "I don't know! I barely know anything about magic.” Cawlin: “The book must have it’s own reasons… muahahahaha” RR: "So, what now?" Cawlin: “We must read the magic buch, of course! Let’s go find eet!” Cawlin jumps onto the left shoulder of Rupert. There is no further dialogue until the player goes downstairs. A large book sits prominently on a table next to the door. It is sparkling and glowing, softly illuminating the darkness with red light. Cawlin: “Oh… there eet ees! ...thees ees so wonderful. I can feel eet… so close… yet so far.” (said in a deeper ominous voice) Cawlin flies from the wizards shoulder to go over to look at the book on the table. This helps direct the players attention. RR: “oooh...kay…” (said in the tone of, “who is this bird?”) Cawlin: “Open eet! Let’s see what secrets eet contains!” We wait for the wizard to use the book. When he uses it for the first time, the book opens and a bunch of green energy swirls from the book to the wizard. Upon the pages of the book is nothing but symbols and gibberish. RR: “What was that?!” Cawlin: “I don’t know. Magic maybe? Who cares, read the book!” Cawlin: “Well? What does eet say? What do you see?” RR: “It’s just a bunch of symbols and gibberish. I can’t read any of this!” Cawlin: “What?! Oh no...I hadn’t counted on thees. Why did eet have to be him? ... Why?” RR: “What? What do you mean?” Cawlin: “You… you don’t actually know magic. Not yet, at least.” RR: “I don’t? How is that possible? I was just throwing fireballs last night.” Cawlin: “Ahem… yes… you’re welcome for thee assistance.” RR: “Uh… what?” Cawlin: “That fire essence you used last night… I put eet there for you. Eet was just a temporary conduit for your latent magics… You don’t *actually* know how to use magic yet...” RR: "Okay, so what? How do I read this book?" Cawlin: "I don’t know. I’m just a bird, I can’t read!" RR: “So… then this book is useless to both of us.” Cawlin: “Maybe you can find a clue which could help us?” Cawlin flies back onto the left shoulder of the wizard. When the player walks away from the spellbook, it disintegrates in a puff of green particles. RR: “What happened to the book?! Where did it go?” Cawlin: “Oh… amazing! …Eet’s bound to your magical spirit. Eet ees always with you!” RR: “I don’t understand.” Cawlin: “The buch! You can call eet back at any time, and you will never lose eet! Try it now… Just focus on a hand, imagine the book in it, press your fingers inward…” We wait for the player to press the book button on the motion controller. When they do, we spawn the book in that hand in a shower of green magical glitter. Cawlin: “...and poof! There eet is! What an extraordinary book!” The book is turned to the first page, and as we look at it, some of the symbols transform into letters and words. RR: “Well -- I suppose, but again, what use is a book I can’t lose if I can’t read it?” Cawlin: “Well, It’s a magic book, and magic itself is composed of symbols or something like that -- don’t ask me, I’m just a stupid bird -- but I’m sure there’s some way you can figure out how to read those symbols? Yes? Let’s open eet and see what clues we can find!” The wizard opens the book, and on the very first page is a small set of instructions on its use, written in a poetic style: It’s an empty book It stores the spells a wizard learns It has a few left over runes from Sassafras Cawlin: “Oh, dear! The years just haven’t been kind to the pages of parchment. Even magic itself can’t protect its pages from the sands of time forever… Oh, no… oh, woe… it seems, knowledge… it has all been lost. Whatever will I do now?” RR: “Uh… you make less and less sense by the minute. You seem to know more than you’re letting on, so tell me bird, what do you know about magic and this book?” Cawlin: “Ehe. Well. ahem… Magic is just a tool used by mortals -- I mean, men… and eet can be used for evil or good. It just depends on the contents of the heart of the magician. Good magicians, naturally choose good magics, while evil magicians will choose… so called “evil” magics.” (Cawlin says “good” with disgust, and “evil” with affection) RR: “So what? How does that help us?” Cawlin: “One thing you must understand about magic, is that eet is composed of magical words and symbols. Without the proper words of a spell, there simply is no magic! So, men with the talent for magic, would often work very hard to find the proper symbols for magical spells. Sometimes, these… experiments, would go… very wrong! And they’d explode. Or turn into toads. Or become green for a day or two. Either way, playing with unknown magic is… dangerous.” Cawlin: “Once a good sequence of magical words have been found, the magicians would write them down in their spell books. Then, they could say the magic words at any time, and… POOF! The spell would just happen!” RR: “Just like that? It doesn’t sound so bad!” Cawlin: “Well, it’s not quite so easy… There are lots of symbols to choose from, and just as important as the symbol itself, is the color of the symbol! Without the right rrrrecipe, you might be using the right words but never actually working the magic.” RR: “So… magic words, magic orders, magic colors… why does it have to be so complicated?!” Cawlin: *chuckles* “heee heee hee, you’re barely even a novice. Of course it seems difficult for you now, but in the hands of a master magician, magic can be wielded to shape worlds...and… make fooooood. Like… delicious corn! Let us start there -- you haven’t had breakfast yet, have you?” RR: “I was just going to step out of the house to nibble on some delicious tree bark for breakfast…” Cawlin: “You -- with your talent for magic -- have been eating bark this whole time?! Unbelievable! It’s time to change that. Fortunately for you, and my oh, so generous mood this morning, I happen to have found a few symbols of magic.” RR: “What? You’ve been holding out on me. Why didn’t you say so sooner!” Cawlin: “Well, they won’t do you much good unless you know how to scribe them into a proper spell.” RR: “Where do I begin?” Cawlin: “First, we must go forage the forest for ingredients with magical properties. The first thing we’d like to collect, is a red pepper. Let’s go find some.” Rupert and Cawlin go wandering through the forest until they find a red pepper growing on a bush. Cawlin: “There! Right over there! A red pepper!” Rupert picks the red pepper. RR: “Okay, I’ve got the red pepper. Now what?” Cawlin: “The red pepper has the essense of red magic! That’s why it burns your mouth when you eat it. We must extract this magical essence and use it to write your first spell. Let’s go back home.” Rupert and Cawlin return to the mossy tower. Cawlin: “Everything has a bit of magic in eet. It is the job of the alchemist to extract this magic and brew bottles of magical extract. Many mortals don’t rrrrealize what they’re actually doing, but they treat these magical extracts as ‘medicines’, but it’s actually magic at work. A brewed potion has potency, depending on the skill of the alchemist and the ingredients used.” RR: “I’ve never brewed a potion. Where do I begin?” Cawlin: “Well, you don’t really have a prrrrroper alchemist work bench, so we’ll just have to use the most rrrrrrudimentary tools available to extract the magical essence from the red pepper. You must crush the red pepper between some rocks, and you’ll get a little bit of red magic essense. Try it now.” Rupert places the red pepper on a slab of rock and smashes it with a rock. A few seconds later, small vial of red liquid emerges. Cawlin: “You did it! A vial of red magic!” RR: “How do I use this?” Cawlin: “If you drank it, it would burn your mouth and upset your stomach, but we’re going to use it as ink to write magic symbols. Let’s go to your test chamber… Oh... you don’t have one. Well, that table will have to do then...” When Rupert approaches the table: Cawlin: “Fortunately, I happen to know two magical symbols -- ‘Li’ and ‘Tu’. We can write them down on a magical parchment, in any order and with any ink, and if the symbols match a spell, you’ll be able to save it in your magic book and cast it any time.” Cawlin: “To begin, grab a parchment and a quill!” Rupert performs a “use” action on parchment paper. The spell crafting UI pops up on parchment. Cawlin: “You’re barely even a novice, so you can only discover spells with two magical symbols. Later, you can cast much more complicated spells. Let’s begin with novice level magic.” Cawlin: “You don’t have a lot of parchment to work with, so you’ll need to find a spell quickly. To begin, select a symbol slot with your quill…” Rupert places his quill on a slot icon and a dialogue window pops up. Cawlin: “You only have a red magic essence, so choose that as your ink. Then, pick a symbol to write in this slot.” Rupert chooses a symbol (either “Tu” or “Li”) and writes it into the slot. After the symbol has been picked, it is written into the slot. Cawlin: “See? Even a novice can do this! Next symbol!” Rupert repeats the same process for the second symbol. RR: “Now, I’ve got two red symbols written down. Now what?” Cawlin: “Now, you try to cast these words! It’s already in your hand, so just give it a throw and see what happens…. I will just fly over here… and stay well out of the way...” Rupert throws the current magic spell. It either creates a magic spell (if correct), fizzles out, or creates a magical disaster. (Let’s assume it fizzles out) RR: “What? Nothing happened!” Cawlin: “You’re spell fizzled. Consider yourself lucky! That combination of symbols and ink was not a spell, let’s try again.” Rupert uses the parchment again. Cawlin: “This parchment is magical! As you can see, you got the right symbols and right color, but in the wrong order. Now, we can try a different sequence.” Rupert keeps trying out different symbols, until he writes out “Tu-Li” in red ink. When he gets this sequence: Cawlin: “You did it! You created your first spell! This is so exciting… I remember now! Tu-Li is fire, but your TuLi is very weak because you used a red ink with low magical potency. However, this spell is now saved in your spell book!” RR: “So, I can fling these little fire darts at any time now?” Cawlin: “Yes… you’ve begun the journey of a magician! You can find more symbols to discover other spells, and brew more potent potions to create stronger spells.” RR: “Wait a minute… my essence of red magic is gone! Did you steal it from me?!” Cawlin: “Relax yourself, Rupert! Whether you fail or discover a spell, the used ink is consumed. Magicians are always scavenging for ingredients to brew -- you magicians are scavengers, just like me!” RR: “Now what?” Cawlin: “Well, I must go. I smell a dead racoon down by the lake, and I’m absolutely starving. As for you? I saw an abandoned ruin this morning, but it was too dark and scary for me. Maybe your fire could shed some light on the situation? Or perhaps, you can find other ingredients?” RR: “You’re leaving me?!” Cawlin: “I’m getting rather...peckish. I’ll be back... Muahahaha!” Cawlin flies away and the wizard is left alone. There’s not much to do, other than hunt for ingredients or check out the abandoned ruin. At this point, we spawn clovers, blueberries, red peppers, orchids, and black lotus flowers. These are collectible ingredients which can be ground up and turned into vials. We also unlock the ancient ruins and make it accessible. Within the ruins is a new magic symbol which can be learned and a mortar and pestle. The player can summon a small flame to light their way through the darkness. There is a section of the ruin which is sealed off with a heavy door and some other strange symbols of magic. When the player emerges from the ancient ruin, the day has turned to evening. RR: “Wow, it’s evening already?” RR: “It’s getting late, I’d better get home before the forest monsters come out!” When it’s dark, we start playing large monster noises in the distant forest, mixed with snorting noises (like a sniffing pig), and something large crashing through undergrowth. RR: “There’s something out there… it’s hunting me!” Rupert returns to his wizard house. He’s tired and ready for bed. RR: “Whew, safely home at last. I need to get some sleep.” We wait for Rupert to go to sleep OR until it is 2AM in game time. Either way, we fade to black and we begin to hear snoring noises.
  9. A Turd's Life

    I think your market demographic is going to be 10-14 year old males.
  10. Reinventing the wheel

    I fully agree with ApochPiQ; his position most closely aligns with mine. I would add a few extra notes though: 1) If you are reinventing the wheel, think very carefully and prudently about why you are doing so and what your objectives are. The best reason to reinvent the wheel is for practice and skill development. If you move through the motions of implementing something that already exists, you can use the original to check your work -- its like doing a math problem and checking your answers. The goal is not to get the math problem correct, but to understand the broader process necessary for arriving at correct answers. Reinventing the wheel can be a good way to develop your research and development skills. When you hit the current boundary of tech / state of the art and you need better, you are capable of pushing the boundary forward. 2) If you are working commercially or professionally, reinventing the wheel is a waste of time. Time is money, so you are wasting money as well. If you are a professional and find yourself reinventing the wheel, spend some time thinking long and hard about why you are doing this and what the business case / justification for it is. Talk to your boss / manager / client for sign off before moving forward.
  11. The million monkeys approach.

    I'll bet my money on the 250 professionals any day over the 250,000 total novices. With 250 professionals, you have a large team of people who are experienced and organized. Each seasoned professional you add to a team is a force multiplier, provided you have the infrastructure to effectively organize and manage them. In this case, whole whole is greater than the sum of its parts. If you have a team of a quarter million people who don't know what they're doing -- give it three years and you'll still have a team of a quarter million clueless people with zero progress. Sheer numbers does not make up for lack of skill or expertise. This can probably be applied to many industries. I imagine 250,000 clueless people working to assemble an airliner wouldn't get very far without spending significant time developing the required expertise. I bet... in the case of game development, you'd have greater chances of success with a team of 25 novices than a team of 250,000 novices. There's probably a point where adding more people to the team is overall more detrimental than beneficial.
  12. In project management: Project = Resources * Requirements * Time Resources are people, money, tools, etc. Requirements are scope, features, etc. Time is schedules and timelines. As your requirements increase, so must your resources and time. The AAA studios come up with these massively scoped projects with timelines in the 3-4 year range. They have to staff up with programmers, artists, producers, designers, etc. From what little I understand from the AAA side of project management, they dont staff up to maximum capacity at the beginning of the project, but the do staffing based on project phases, only for the duration of the project phase (ie, artists are hired in bulk a year into development when the project moves into production). This is more efficient and saves money and allows for slightly bigger projects? You also have increasing production values in modern games as well: You can have very high poly character models with animations which are recorded with motion capture studios using actors, lots of voice actors reading tons of script, loads of level designers making huge detailed worlds, etc. Every time a triple A studio raises the bar on production values, every other studio gas to match the same quality level or risk being ridiculed by critics and gamers. This means the future will hold ever increasing requirements, which need more resources and time to accomplish. Some day, we may see a game which costed $500 million to make.
  13. Spellbound: October Update

    This update is going to show you guys what an idiot I can be. Be warned, this could happen to you too! For the past month, I have been focusing almost exclusively on developing an artificial intelligence system which uses machine learning to play the characters within my game. This is a primary objective. I have spent several weeks learning more about artificial neural networks, reinforcement learning, and a few other AI methodologies. I am by no means an expert at any of this -- I'm just a novice/beginner. I have also spent considerable time working on developing my own AI system which combines the best elements from the existing methodologies but also introduces a model for actual intelligence. Digging into this has felt like a series of intellectual epiphanies exploding in my head and has been extremely rewarding. I feel like I have a strong grasp on intelligence, learning, consciousness, and sentience, and am on the verge of creating a successful conceptual model to emulate intelligence. Okay, that's a bold claim to make. I'm going to just cut to the chase and discredit myself. This is like saying, "I found a compression algorithm which compresses anything by 97%". Strong claims like this, require proof to be believed, and I have not implemented this. Instead, I'm going to share my design progress on this: AI 2.0- Reinforcement Learning.docx (~8 pages, 10 min read) Within Spellbound, I have spent a lot of time refactoring the AI and preparing it for a machine learning system. An AI agent now has memory and gets signal inputs about the state of the world through its senses. I have implemented sight, hearing, and smell. Sight is a cone of vision which is oriented to the characters head position and rotation. I collect a list of all objects which overlap the cone, and then I do a line trace from the eye to the object to see if there is a line of sight. If an object passes the cone test and the line of sight test, then it is registered as a visible object. Hearing works a bit differently than sight: Sight is looking out into the world to perceive objects, hearing is waiting for object noises to come to us. So, when an object creates a "noise", I create a sphere at that location and set an intensity value to be proportionate to the decibel value of the sound. Then, I change the radius of the sphere at the speed of sound and stop when the intensity of sound attenuation reaches zero (via inverse square law). If this sphere overlaps an ear, and the ear hearing threshold is capable of hearing the current intensity of the sound, then we register the object as being "heard". The sense of smell is a bit different. Some objects emit odors over time, and the odor of an object slowly radiates outward (probably following an inverse square law for intensity as well). The important note to make distinct about odor is that an object is continuously emitting odors over time. Again, an odor is going to be represented by a sphere which grows over time and only overlaps noses. As an odor emitting object moves, it emits more odor spheres, and we get an "odor trail". A smart creature with a nose can detect an odor, and then find what direction the odor gets stronger, and then it can follow the odor trail to the odor source. So, a hungry zombie can smell living flesh and follow the smell to a living person. All of the sensory inputs are stored in the short term memory of a brain. If a sensed object is no longer sensed, the lack of sensory information doesn't mean the object stopped existing -- it's sill persistent in memory. Instead of using raw sensory information as our input stream, I use short term memory as the input stream to drive behavior. We can think of memory as a representation of world state for the AI agent, and then operate based off of the state. We can either use this state information as inputs into a state machine based expert system, or we can feed this into a machine learning system. Either way we handle the inputs, should not matter: The output of both systems should be the most optimal behavior for the given state. Currently, Spellbound uses the state machine based expert system for AI. It works. It makes a believable illusion of intelligence. The code for each characters behavior is roughly 200 lines. That's kind of manageable, right? Keep in mind, the behavior is currently scripted only to suit what is necessary for the prelude chapter of the game, so every time I want to add new game mechanics or capabilities, I will have to script out more behavior. This is where I become an idiot. My line of reasoning: "Okay, I am probably going to eventually have up to 50 different characters. They will all need AI scripts to drive their behaviors. My game is constantly changing, so that means every time I make a significant change to the game, I will have to update each AI script. That sounds like a lot of work! Okay... I also don't even know what the most optimal behavior for every character will be, so that may mean that some expert systems are not going to be very good. Wouldn't machine learning be able to handle this gracefully? Let's do that." Okay. Why am I an idiot? Because machine learning is a trap for engineers. I recently learned about this new term called "Nerd Sniping". Let's take a reality check on what I'm trying to do here. I'm trying to create a generalized AI system which is so good that it learns how to play any character in my game as an expert, without any coaching or training from me. To date, the DeepMind team funded by Google, has been able to create AI systems which play Go so well that they can beat world champions, they can play atari games perfectly, etc. Now, I'm asking that same type of intelligence to play any character in my game? It's possible, yes, but it's not easy. After spending a month doing R&D on this, I realize how hard this would be to accomplish, and if I were to put an estimate on how long it would take for a novice/beginner like me to implement this, I'd be looking at a minimum of 3-6 months. That's 3-6 months in developer time, which means the realistic estimate would be multiplied by any number between two and ten. Just as I have the capability to write my own game engine from scratch (which I spent 12 months on!), I also have the capability to create this kind of general AI system. The hard question is, "Is this really the most important thing for me to work on for the next six months?". Let's put this into a different context: "Is the alternative approach cheaper and faster and less risky? (yes)" and "Do you want to ship games today or build technologies for 6-12 months away?" You know that "Always be closing" scene from "Glengarry Glen Ross"? The equivalent for game development is "Always be shipping!". The focusing question for everyone on the team should be, "What am I doing to make this game ship as soon as possible?" And the other question: "What am I doing to increase sales?" If you don't sell, you don't make money. If you don't make money, like it or not, you are on your way out of the industry. If you don't ship, you don't sell. If you ship garbage, you don't sell. Therefore, by hypothetical syllogism: If you don't ship or you ship garbage, then you are on your way out of the industry. If you want to stay in the industry, then ship fast, ship quality, ship often. My AI system, while interesting, does not help me ship my game faster. It's a trap. It's a premature optimization to solve a problem I don't have yet (and may not ever have!). There's a bigger problem to solve: I need to ship quality content asap. I could continue working on this AI system and I could develop it to work and be so good that it can be reusable within any game, and I could turn it into its own product/technology and license it out to other companies, even outside of the game industry. I eventually plan on doing this. However, the right time is not right now. I need to ship my game, and whether I have machine learning AI or expert system AI, won't matter to 99% of the customers. So, I'm going to focus on wrapping up the production of the Prelude episode, shipping it asap, and then switching gears to working on the content for Episode 1. I'm going to design the content for Episode 1 to keep AI behavior relatively simple for now. If I ship Episode 1 and sales completely suck despite my best marketing efforts, then there's no point in creating Episode 2. If Episode 1 is a success, then I can build Episode 2, and *that* may be the right time to build out my machine learning AI. Certainly by Episode 3. The key is to build a customer base first so that releases actually have an audience to see them. I've recently been talking by email with a developer relations rep from Oculus. He wanted to drop the price of my game for their online store to better reflect the content. Initially I resisted the idea, but started thinking about alternatives. I currently offer my game on Steam for $20 in early access, which has Episodes 1-3 included, whenever the production finishes. I like the simplicity of that structure because it means I can just release builds which have content updates included. Another option I am now considering is releasing each episode as a separate purchase. I could release the prelude for free to act as a teaser/loss leader, and then have in app purchases for each episode. It might be a good way to build out an customer base, because people like free shit and if the content for the free episode is great and I leave a huge cliff hanger at the end, people will want to buy the next episode. The problem is that the current build on Steam only contains the prelude, so if I give the prelude away for free, nobody has any incentive to purchase the full set of content for $20. So, my current solution is to set the current build to the "premium" version when Episode 1 is released, and then make the prelude free. Existing customers won't feel cheated because they'll get all of the future episodes included. If people want to buy episodes individually, they'll cost a little more per episode ($7.99?) than a bulk purchase of $20. This also solves a future problem as well: What if a future customer isn't interested in the "Red Wizards Tale", but they do want to experience the content for "The Sorceress of Light"? Instead of spending $20 for content they don't want, they can spend it on what they do want. Anyways, I need to refocus my efforts on shipping the final update for the Prelude. Get it done! The next step is to write the script for episodes 1-3. I've been reading a lot of fantasy books lately to get a better feel for writing fantasy, but I now just feel like an amateur writer in comparison to J.K. Rowling, Brent Weeks and George R.R. Martin. I guess it's important to remember that writing a good story is like constructing a skyscraper. If you only look at the finished product in wonder, you won't see any of the scaffolding it took to build it. The scaffolding of a writer is 20+ iterations of the story? So, I have to write my script about 20 times. The first five drafts will probably be garbage, and will mostly be about trying to find the story I want to tell. The remaining 15 drafts will be refining the story I found and polishing it to perfection. And writing for VR games is more like writing a movie script than writing a book. The reason I need to write out the full story in advance is that I need to know where the story is going so that I can go back to earlier sections of the plot and drop foreshadowing hints, cliff hangers, and sharpen plot twists.
  14. Motion Capture pipeline

    https://vimeo.com/blog/post/making-a-shot-list
  15. Motion Capture pipeline

    My friend runs a motion capture company here in seattle. Here's his website: http://www.mocapnow.com/ They offer motion capture services for companies large and small. Usually, you'd rent their studio for a day or two, bring in an actor, they'd help you setup the trackers and run their system, and then you'd capture motion data. After you capture the motion data, you may have to do some data cleanup. Generally speaking, what you're trying to do is map an actors bone structure to your animation bone structure and replay the actors bone rotations on the animation bone rotations. It's important to note that you only want to capture bone rotations, not bone positions (because bones don't stretch!). You have two options: You can try to setup your own mocap hardware/software or you can rent out a studio for a day or two. If you look at the costs between the two options, renting the mocap studio is generally far more economical. If you setup your own mocap studio, you are going to be purchasing hardware, space, and spending time to setup and get proficient with the technology. Not only does it cost money, it also costs you a lot of time (and time is money!), and you don't have seasoned experts to help. I would only setup an internal mocap studio ONLY if I have a ton of mocap to do on a frequent basis (ie, large company with heavy production). If you're just an indie or a hobbyist, rent it out. Obviously, you want to plan out your shot list before renting studio time...