Will Wright Keynote at SXSW
March 14, 2007 12:33 AM   Subscribe

Will Wright Keynote at SXSW Will Wright shares his thoughts about the difficulty of telling stories in games, player-driven stories and some of his favorite games and books. During the demo, he apparently also showed sneaks of "An Inconvenient Truth - The Game". Okay I was kidding about that, but there was apparently a part in the demo where he showed creating a global warming disaster scenario. For those of you who like your keynotes with timestamps, Joystiq has a live-blogged version. No bootleg video or photos of the SXSW demo are out yet, so for now this video [Flash] taken during GDC will have to tide us over. [via].
posted by your mildly obsessive average geek (21 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Okay I was kidding about that
posted by slater at 12:54 AM on March 14, 2007

"Computers can start understanding what story a player is following, and the game can change on the fly to adapt to that type of story. Eventually games will learn player behavior a lot faster through adaptive mapping and story parsing, so the player's intended story can change, via music, events, lighting, and even the events that happen in the game."

First, Spore looks amazing. But I think beyond the ultimate God-game that Spore represents, the type of game described above would be the ultimate gaming experience. I would die of joy if it ever came to be. It would be amazing to be able to take your character through a world, and have the world react and build a story based on what you do as you go. He's right in that the best stories are the unexpected ones you create yourself. I hope he's eventually able to create something like this...

On a related note...
"His point is that linear storytelling shows the causal chain of events as they happen. If a director shows something sitting on a table, you tend to focus on it and know that it will become important later."
I've always felt this was a huge weakness in the TV and movie formats. Especially in detective shows, where the camera will linger on some minor detail that always turns out to be the key to the case. Is there a way around that's perhaps a little less bizarre than Mulholland Drive?
posted by Sangermaine at 12:55 AM on March 14, 2007

When the heck is Spore coming out? I remember hearing about this stuff almost a year ago.
posted by mullingitover at 1:00 AM on March 14, 2007

This is highly embarrassing - the article I had actually wanted to link to has disappeared in the FPP, thanks to my klutzing around with the titles.

The article I was aiming to link to can be found at this site.

mullingitover - The current rumour is for a release date sometime in 2007. the gamingsteve article I had linked in the FPP itself suggests a 2008 release (or even worse, 2009) is more likely.
posted by your mildly obsessive average geek at 1:44 AM on March 14, 2007

I look forward to the Cheat Codes for "An Inconvenient Truth - The Game".
posted by srboisvert at 2:23 AM on March 14, 2007

YMOAG has ruined metafiler! Ban him!

Also, neat post.
posted by bardic at 2:33 AM on March 14, 2007

Well that didn't take very long at all.

This site * has a video of the Spore demo at SXSW - obligatory camera shake and flash-glare included for your viewing pleasure.

bardic - I'm working on that time machine that will let me go back and slap myself up the head just before I hit the post button. Can I request the hive mind not to haul out the ban-hammer just yet?

* - The site is currently on the front page of Digg - YMMV
posted by your mildly obsessive average geek at 2:55 AM on March 14, 2007

Black and White pretty much forever ruined the link between "amazing concept for a game" and "amazing game". It just wasn't fun.

I can imagine a game that faked together a story with some sort of simple grammar, but I'm in the middle of Final Fantasy XII right now, and let me tell you, it's a heck of a ride, and it belies the point that any plot interesting enough to justify further gameplay will be far too complex to automatically generate.

(Side note: Sanger -- what they're trying to do, is create the sensation that if only you had paid a little more attention, you'd have deduced the pattern. It's fun deducing patterns; there's a theory that says our brains are essentially just pattern recognition machines so we like teasing apart complex things from subtle clues. The problem is that people aren't paying all that close attention, so if you don't at least subconsciously cue the trigger object, people don't pick up on it at all.)
posted by effugas at 3:15 AM on March 14, 2007

Black and White pretty much forever ruined the link between "amazing concept for a game" and "amazing game". It just wasn't fun.

I think Wright's big success, The Sims, had the same problem. (Although teen girls seemed to like it.) It makes me very wary of Spore. Plus these games invariably run like ass.
posted by smackfu at 6:14 AM on March 14, 2007

Sangermaine, the first thing the description you quoted made me think of is the game in the novel Ender's Game.
posted by smeger at 7:37 AM on March 14, 2007

Will Wright NEEDS to write a book. He has a 'Godel, Escher and Bach' in him, I'm convinced of that.

Btw, he gave a mindblowing speech at GDC several years ago about emergent systems. I have the powerpoint slides and teh video and I've been meaning to upload them to youtube for a long time, since they're both no longer available online. Maybe I will do that soon.
posted by empath at 8:12 AM on March 14, 2007

empath: I would love to see that.
posted by papakwanz at 9:44 AM on March 14, 2007

Why are they showing start-to-finish demos for a game that doesn't come out for a year and a half?

We've seen this type of hype before, and it never ends well.

"He's right in that the best stories are the unexpected ones you create yourself."

No, the best stories are written by great writers, not computers (at least not for a very very long time).
posted by belling at 10:28 AM on March 14, 2007

I understand that, but that's exactly my problem with it. I know the pattern they're using in presenting the story. If they zoom in on a hole in a bleach container in the room, I know that of course later that's going to turn out to be a vital clue. It takes an element of surprise out of it for me, because it becomes so mechanical. But the alternative, just randomly introducing elements for seemingly no reason at all, seems worse than purposefully introducing elements for careful reasons, so the problem seems difficult to solve.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:10 PM on March 14, 2007

Well, yes. I love when a game can have a well-written, engaging story (Grim Fandango, anyone?) I was merely saying that it would be cool if we ever developed the technology to do something like Wright is describing. Perhaps I should have said, "The most engaging gaming experiences are the one you unexpectedly make yourself." If in the future computers could help guide you along a story path that you can alter and interact with on the fly and still be great stories, that to me would be the ultimate game. Perhaps one day writers would write games in such a way that what they would develop would be story modules or story elements that have variable "parameters" that are filled in by what the user does. The game has information on general player behavior models, story models, etc, and can generate a story with these "modules" on the fly based on probabilities. But I'm not saying this is possible now. It would just be fun if it came about.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:18 PM on March 14, 2007

If you haven't already, take a listen to the Long Now seminar (mp3) with Brian Eno (who's doing the music for Spore, sort of) and Will Wright. It's fascinating, all about procedural techniques and emergent behaviors.
posted by Skorgu at 12:43 PM on March 14, 2007

So I was playing final fantasy 8, and like I was supposed to go find this dog or something in this town near where the game starts. I go to where I think the dog is supposed to be, it's not there. The point of getting the dog is to wake up some bad guys. I go back and forth for a while, talk to my friends, read walk throughs. They all say the dog is supposed to be right there and it's just not.

Eventually the bad guys woke up from their "nap" on their own. It was really annoying.
posted by delmoi at 1:48 PM on March 14, 2007

delmoi, Will Wright's games are night-and-day different from schlock like Final Fantasy. It is the difference between learning to cook and eating at McDonalds.
posted by JHarris at 2:08 PM on March 14, 2007

Partial amateur video of the keynote, courtesy of Zach Inglis.
posted by armoured-ant at 2:30 PM on March 14, 2007

armoured-ant : Thanks for the link to the viddler video, it seems to be the same one I had posted earlier in the thread, but it's streaming a lot faster.

smackfu - While Peter Molyneux and Will Wright are often spoken of in the same breath when it comes to such "God games", Molyneux's games have consistently failed to deliver on their initial promise - see Fable as another example. I'm a little less inclined to lump in The Sims into the same category though - Will Wright's games tend to show a lot more intelligent game design than the Molyneux games; which adds up to a better gameplay experience.

I attribute this to the fact that Wright started off with simulation games, where presenting a lot of information on-screen without overwhelming the user is critical and this carries over into The Sims.

Also, I'm a bit surprised you suggest The Sims is laggy on lower-end machines. I've played it on laptops with integrated graphics and never noticed any problems.

belling - Well written games are wonderfully absorbing yes - I consider games such as max payne, elder scrolls: oblivion etc fascinating for the amount of effort that goes into setting up a believable universe in which you participate, but at the end of that day, that well written story introduces linearity in the game - subtle or obvious.

And issues with the scripting in games like this (the FF series included) leads to the sort of frustrations that delmoi talks about.

"Sandbox" games (marketing spiel I know, but I could not think of a easier description) such as the Sims or GTA (such as what WW refers to) can be frustrating as well because the game does not seem immediately engaging. However, even the silliest story that a player comes up with or creates in these games is far more compelling to the player, because well, you made the story up so it has to be good right? A game which is as good as your imagination can be is almost guaranteed to be enormously successful.
posted by your mildly obsessive average geek at 10:28 PM on March 14, 2007

Also, I'm a bit surprised you suggest The Sims is laggy on lower-end machines.

The Sims did come out way back in 2000. I think I had a 300MHz processor at the time. Today's low-end is yesterday's high-end.
posted by smackfu at 6:35 AM on March 15, 2007

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