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The Joy of Falling Through the Floor
March 23, 2012 2:09 PM   Subscribe

Jim Rossignol, of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, explores the strange beauty at the edges and behind the scenes of video games. The article uses images from artist Robert Overweg.

The images are captivating. More about the artist:
Overweg proceeds to the outskirts of the virtual world which he dissects through his photography. In doing so, he draws our attention to environments that are often overlooked and yet ironically appear eerily familiar.
His work is collected here. You can start with these.
posted by gilrain (17 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Duke Nukem 3D" had a cheat code which turned off the boundary checking. In one of the levels of the third story, there's a place where the level designer put a note on the wall saying something like, "What are you doing here?" which could only be seen if you used that cheat code.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:34 PM on March 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hitting F5 counts as photography now?
posted by mrnutty at 2:54 PM on March 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


This guy is going to flip out when he sees this.

(Credit to empath for this one)
posted by The Michael The at 2:57 PM on March 23, 2012


mrnutty: Hitting F5 counts as photography now?

You can do this for photography, too: hitting a shutter button is art, now?

It's generally understood that good photography is about composition, subject selection, unusual viewpoints, or just a firm sense of how to frame something as moving or interesting. I suppose you could argue that lighting and exposure choices are removed from taking a screenshot... but not entirely, and even so, there's a lot leftover.
posted by gilrain at 3:01 PM on March 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


The Michael The: This guy is going to flip out when he sees this .

The Far Lands are one of the subjects of the article.
posted by gilrain at 3:01 PM on March 23, 2012


These images really are captivating. Times when I've been playing a game and accidentally (or through clumsy cheating) fallen out of the world, it's been such an eerie experience, that breaks the illusion of the game world but in a really interesting way. When you go behind a stage or film/tv set, you see the artifice behind the illusion, but you're still aware of being in a physical world. In a game, you're still in the world (in your chair), but "you're" also in some kind of phantom zone within the game world. It's like you've slipped through the crack between illusion and reality, some infinite no-land of total emptiness. Whoa.

Also: the idea of being a "virtual photographer"...easy to scoff at as some kind of phony art, but I wonder how many visual artists felt the same about photographers -- who didn't even have to know how to paint or sculpt, who just pointed boxes at their subjects! -- at the dawn of photography.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 3:39 PM on March 23, 2012


Gamers of a certain age will remember fondly the experience of placing Atari 2600 cartridges halfway into the machine to see what would happen. Sometimes what would happen would be a Bizzaro World version of the game.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:47 PM on March 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hitting F5 counts as photography now?

You decide
posted by palidor at 4:01 PM on March 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


"There’s an extraordinary beauty to this: the unintentional collapse of laws that generated a world:"

I agree with this sentiment, but what I find beautiful about glitches in games is how they often reveal the true laws of the game software. By removing some artificial restriction on the view we can often see behind the curtain at the artifice that comes together to make the real game.

See also: the Pac Man kill screen.
posted by Nelson at 4:12 PM on March 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Far Lands are one of the subjects of the article.

Oops. I did look over Overweg's portfolio and didn't see anything but forgot to look through the article. Color me embarrassed with glitchy 8-bit pixels.
posted by The Michael The at 5:10 PM on March 23, 2012


Gamers of a certain age will remember fondly the experience of placing Atari 2600 cartridges halfway into the machine to see what would happen. Sometimes what would happen would be a Bizzaro World version of the game.

Oh man, we used to do this with the Spiderman game for the 2600 and it was fucking awesome.
posted by joe lisboa at 7:08 PM on March 23, 2012


I just discovered that Stella now emulates the 2600 frying technique. Cool cool cool!
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:18 PM on March 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Minecraft is interesting beyond the Far Lands in the way it is unlike most other games in this respect.

Ghost-cheat (noclip) through the walls of Portal 2 or mountains of Skyrim and you'll see that both are paper-thin facades painted to look like solid rock or steel.

Ghost-cheat into the side of a mountain in Minecraft and you'll find exactly the same thing you'd see if you dug your way in or found a tunnel. The mountains in Minecraft are "real" in a way that the mountains (and other solid objects) in almost every other 3D game aren't.

This isn't strictly true, as each meter-cubed building block is an empty, paper-thin facade painted to look like a block of dirt or a block of wood -- but then you could say the same for the real world as well if you try to look too closely at matter. Minecraft has very large atoms, but everything you see is actually made of atoms. (Also, the exceptions that prove the rule, everything that isn't actually made up of blocks -- shovels, arrows, eggs, etc. -- is an obviously flat 2D image.)
posted by straight at 8:20 PM on March 23, 2012


Actually straight, Minecraft does the same tricks other games do as an optimization. A 2X2 cube of blocks is sent to the renderer as just that, a 2X2 cube, it discards the interior surfaces. If you could move the camera inside them you'd see this. This is actually the basis of a cheat: have a block fall into you so that your view is halfway inside a block and half out, then turn around and the part of the view that is inside can see through the wall, and actually, spot the outlines of distant underground dungeons.

These kinds of things have been in video games for a long time. The first Atari 2600 game with an exploreable world is probably Adventure, and Warren Robinett hid his famous easter egg in such a space, a room not ordinarily accessible.

8-bit Nintendo games encode game world information in a kind of compressed format. Zelda stores its overworlds as identifiers that point to vertical strips of tiles, and its dungeons as a bunch of pre-made room layouts. The Mario games use a technique where playfield elements are painted onto portions of the game screen that are not yet visibie, using a coding system that involves "elements," multi-tile playfield entities, along with a drawing location.

Metroid does something similar, but also divides the map into a grid of screens. There is a well-known bug in Metroid that allows you to move vertically through walls at any vertical-scrolling area with a blue door, that allows you to scroll out of the intended region of the game and enter areas with garbage data, or data for other rooms or even regions that decode incorrectly. But the nature of the compression used is such that these areas seem to decode into quasi-coherent level data. This sparked one of the most interesting bits of Metroid lore, the idea that there are "lost worlds" in the game, whole areas of the planet that are locked off, outside of the play area. Metroid's intended world is already weird and chaotic enough that it barely looks like it was designed, so it's easy to see these places, which sometimes even have enemies roaming around them, as being part of a vast secret area. Unfortunately the game's scrolling messes up in these regions, and it's also easy to get trapped in the wall or off the scrolling portion of a map this way, requiring a reset, but they're interesting to explore, as far as that is possible, just the same.

Castlevania II has fun with this idea. In its "Mansions," there are large black regions outside of the level where the screen scrolls through out-of-bounds regions. But in a couple of places late in the game you actually have to enter these regions to complete the dungeon! It sets up an expectation early in the game then purposely breaks that expectation later on. C II definitely has its faults, but that part at least was genius.
posted by JHarris at 10:14 PM on March 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


(More technical information on Metroid's level decoding: the world is a collection of regions -- like Brinstar, Norfair, Hideouts and Tourian), scrolling areas, and screens. Each screen is saved as an identifier that points to a section of entity data in the current area. The game's reckoning of the current area is only changed in elevator rooms. It's possible in places to enter the level data of other areas without having loaded their graphics and entity at an elevator room, which produces weird results.)
posted by JHarris at 10:21 PM on March 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


idspispopd !
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 5:43 AM on March 24, 2012


I just discovered that Stella now emulates the 2600 frying technique.

They added frying to the emulation seven years ago, in 2005.
posted by jscott at 8:02 AM on March 24, 2012


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