Fortress Occident Developer Blog


Wor(l)d creation

Video game production gives us an opportunity to take a more detailed look at how reality is layered. What experiences of reality can be depicted in game form, that would be un-expressable in, say, a written story? Science has done its best to prove that something’s existence as a story does not mean anything. We could fantasize whatever, and however much we talk about it, it will not acquire more physical existence than it had before the story was made up. Storytelling is not omnipotent, unlike the popular myths would have it.

Let’s think of a woman. Let’s call her Klaasje. We know what she is supposed to look like (blonde hair, silvery jumpsuit, nine-inch heels). Klaasje is a dancer. There’s more to her, but this will have to do for now. And after that… nothing happens. Klaasje has been invented, yes. The literary ingenuity as lauded by authors and readers alike allows us to picture Klaasje exactly how we please. There are a billion Klaasjes and the author is dead, as he should be. (The meme of the author’s death illustrates the impossibility of the author intruding into the reader’s thoughts and dictating how they’ll picture the author’s characters).

So, there’s a potential Klaasje, but nothing happens, because the place where we release her is not a book. No one has told her that her being a dancer means she should be able to manage mere walking with ease and grace. This is why Klaasje just stands there. And when she tries to walk and there’s even a slightest imperfection in her animation, we as viewers *will* notice it for some reason and we will fail to believe she’s a dancer. We will shake with laughter or disgust, depending on the side of the uncanny valley the logic of her movement will throw us. Somebody else will have to do the work usually done by the brain’s motor cortex. It’s an enormous amount of work. The evolution has done it once already, but it won’t be any help to a moving character model or a moving robot. Thus the animator and the programmer find themselves in a world full of problems.

Of course we all know this, it is elementary. Yet naming this elementary does not aid the animator or the programmer either. Inside our heads in a story it is very easy to merge various aspects of a character into a cohesive whole. A few twists and turns of the proverbial quill and the readers have a nice carcass on which they can easily generalize a character. Go on, enjoy the awesome character I just came up with using your heads and imaginations! Suddenly I feel the all-encompassing power of storytelling! All manners of possible worlds are lined up behind the door, patiently waiting for me to give them a shape.

Now let us imagine all the mythopoetic narrators who have utilized their outstanding powers of imagination in assembling the various religions, beliefs, myths and fairy tales we know so well today, let us imagine they had to tell those stories in the form of a video game. All those characters and critters that need to be animated, one by one. What would it be like to animate God? How should he walk? What should the horrible cloud look like under his feet, spitting lightning and coughing up thunder as God addresses his people? What’s its texture like, how large should it be, what level of transparency? What exactly should the damn lightning be like? And oh, did I just say “people”? You have to animate every single one of them now and make them walk properly before they escape the wrath of God (stop fooling around, this is not an epic escape, it’s comical, do it over). And that was one runner, but we have 3500 of them.

And now please construct all of the prehistoric mythoi in a similar, preferrably even more detailed manner.

And now please construct all of the prehistoric mythoi in a similar, preferably even more detailed manner.

Do you think the problem could be solved à la “Thou shalt not make five different variations of your God’s walk cycle!”? No, instead you’ll agree with me here that it is so much more convenient for an author to just tell the story in as much detail as they please and avoid going through the hassle of simplifying so much for the player. It would be so much easier to just trust the reader’s/player’s imagination to do all the heavy lifting for you. Writing won’t make anyone do a reality check. The author will finally see the weak links in the art of storytelling when the story starts manifesting in a new and tangible form – a video game for example. That is when they begin to appreciate the detail level of animating and coding.

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