Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Birds, Beauty, and What We Eat

I was watching birds a little today. I was musing on the sexual dimorphism in birds and how extreme it is in many species, and (almost) always the males. The males are brighter and the color more vibrant. Some species have a fantastic spectrum of colors. The females are more subdued and more practical. Well, someone needs to tend to the nest. I was wondering why that is, and not so in mammals. Dimorphism in mammals, if present, tends to be more about body shape, or exaggerated features. In human culture, masculinity has alternatively associated with bright colors or subdued tones.

Then I noticed a bright yellow butterfly flitting about. I thought, well, consider what birds eat. Insects and seeds. Many various insects and seeds are multicolored for whatever reasons. Beauty could be linked to what is good to eat. A constant evolutionary force (because it definitely affects reproduction over long terms) acting with or against practicality.

In all animals, down to the lowliest of jellyfish, the brain is never far from the mouth. Eating is the basic action of life, it would make sense the decision maker be various close to the eating information center. Consider kissing, we explore each other by eating each other. Kind of an odd thought isn't it, but, I'm sure I'm not the first person to think beauty and eating are connected on a fundamental biological level. I should really take an aesthetics class.

What does this have to with games? (not that you were thinking that but it's a nice transition) That eating is an easy verb that should be done more in games. Pac-man and Katamari are not enough!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Boredom Hatred

I hate being bored. I'm not ADHD or anything. My patience is at the very least about normal, if not more. But if something does not grab my attention within that span, then I'm bored. And I hate being bored.

When you're bored, you're asking yourself "Why am I doing the thing that I'm doing?" It might be "Why am I listening to this boring old man lecture?" or "Why am I mowing this lawn?" It's because you're brain is tired with what is happening. It's forced to watch the same results from the same actions with no or very predictable changes, unable to switch to thinking-about-something-else mode. It's not being stimulated. That's a very painful state for the brain. The attempts to resist the paralyzing effects fail. It's like a slow rack, slowly pulling your I hate brain paralysis. There is two possible escapes either find something interesting or 'zone out' which is essentially finding something else so interesting, you are no longer paying attention. I've gotten pretty good. I interested and amused by a lot of different things. That's why I don't feel like I deserve to be bored or even zone out. I'm mad when I'm forced to zone out. I shouldn't have to.

Boring games are bad. Games are supposed to be fun! Boring is like diametrically opposed to fun. It's at least in the totally wrong direction. Bad, bad, games. And yet, terrible writing and unbelievable characters make bad movies. Bad, bad movies. And yet I love 'B' movies. I love 'B' comics. I enjoy the ironic joy and laughter watching them. Bad sci-fi is my favorite kind, but I'm not exclusive. Here's the thing that makes good 'B' movies. They do something right. And more importantly, something right that's cinematic. Flashy lights, shiny machines doing stuff, beautiful ladies wearing something hot, invoking schadenfreude, these are things that look good on screen. A 'B' movie needs a saving grace which becomes its raison d'etre. Even if it's just the idea of watching giant insects stomp through a major city.

Of course, you see where I'm going with this. We do play boring games. We enjoy boring games. We sometimes get bored and continue playing. Now a lot of games get boring sometimes. Hell, nothing's perfect. But some games go beyond that at take boring to an excruciating degree. And then perhaps they circumnavigate and end up good. They find a saving grace, a raison d'etre. The enjoyable monotony of smashing things, the strangely realistic action of doing something implausible to see some hot ladies, a intentionally hilarious results, etc, etc...

Monday, July 09, 2007

Game Playing; some results

Well, I completed a campaign in Battle of Wesnoth; "Tale of 2 Brothers" I think it was called. The writing was atrocious, however the missions were immense fun. I really like the map design in some of the later missions, because it had some really crunchy strategic options and choices. My complaint was that it could have been longer, but whatever. There are plenty of campaigns to choose from. I play around with some more.

I also completed a 'world' in Which Way Is Up. 'World' meaning a set of level. The game is interesting for the rotate level mechanic, which while it created some cool experiences became rather gimmicky after awhile. And it one had one enemy type, so by the end it got rather monotonous. So I wasn't going to continue to world 2, but I got a what-the-heck attitude and decided to try out the second world. Oooo a new enemy type! Oooooo more puzzley level design! Maybe I'll play it some more. But......

I started playing Wilfred, The Hero. Holy crap, this is engrossing. The art design and level design are well done enough that just walking around (usually the boring part of RPGs) is fun. Wilfred also puts in a lot of side bits, which are impossible for you to get right now, but seem enticing enough to make you want to try to get the ability to get them. Treasure chests on islands just out of reach, or behind a big, scary monster. My only real complaint is that there perhaps a little too many treasure chests. They don't exactly feel like uncolored keys yet, but I'm worried that I might be seeing a bit too many chests and then they will bore me. However, for the moment I remain cautiously optimistic. Because seriously, if even I'm wrong, would treasure chest saturation really make this game much worse? I say no, but who knows? The story seems cool enough, but I'm worried it might become too hamfisted for me sit through. Though really, a very subtle RPG story might only exist in parallel universes.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Everything/Nothing Fallacy

I always hate when I hear someone say something in the form "If you x everything, than you x nothing." Like if you believe in everything than you believe in nothing, or if everyone is special than no one is. The latter, of course, being an always trendy thing for guy into counterculture platitudes. The shorter version is "If everyone's unique then nobody is." The more correct argument is "If everyone's unique than nobody is, in particular." I mean, you wouldn't say, "If everyone's alive than no one is" because that is retarded... I mean absurd. It's also a premise used against an egalitarian distribution of wealth or equal education. Probably other ideas too. Point is, it's a bad argument that keeps getting repeated. Stop it. Please.

Disclaimer: This only applies to non comparative x's. If everything is hot, then nothing is makes sense. Special is not a necessarily an adjective that compares.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Game Playing

I finished Within a Deep Forest, thus finishing another indie game I just had to. I definitely like atmosphere of it. What I find interesting about both WaDF and Knytt (nifflas' other game, which I finished awhile ago) is that while both have a fair bit of backtracking, it never really felt tedious. Despite the games being low on the enemy count, traveling around was fun and compelling. I figure the blame lies in the fact that the level design in both are quite elegant. The levels were never too hard for too long, often after one difficult screen will be some easy relaxing movement. Also the nonlinearity of these games lends very nicely to exploration fun of it.

I'm now playing Battle of Wesnoth and Which Way Is Up? With Wesnoth, I'm very interesting in the possibility of designing campaigns or modding it in some such way. Turn based strategy is a favorite of mine, so I figure it'll do me some good to mess around with it. Which Way Is Up is 2d platform game done for the PyWeek competition, where python game coders will spend a week on making a game based on a particular theme. The game is obviously inspired by And Yet It Moves, but so far I actually like this one more. Some how the movement feels more polished, but I'm willing to go back just to confirm. I'm also interested in the idea of using open source games written in Python/Pygame with the possibility of playing with the code and seeing if I can make something fun.

Oh and I also started an imageblog, HUD Burn-in. It's an experiment, so I'm just running with it, seeing how far it goes, if keep up with it, etc, etc...