Spelunky, a game created in 2008 by independent video game developer Derek Yu, has much more to it than avoiding enemies and collecting treasure.
The most striking thing about this game is its level generation, which can be seen in action here (works best in Chrome), along with a detailed explanation courtesy of Darius Kazemi.
In short: A level consists of 16 rooms, with the starting room always at the top of a level, and the exit at the bottom. In level generation, a room is chosen from a set of templates dictated by where the room is on the solution path (the red blocks in the image above) between the entrance and exit. On a room-by room basis, each template has various obstacles, trap locations, and gold locations based on probability.
Such level design allows for incredible replayability, creating an exponential amount of content from a few relatively simple rules. Well-done generative design allows relatively small teams to create huge projects, and will likely play a significant role in independent games for a long time to come.
The original (free) version of Spelunky, as well as its source code, can be downloaded here. For the 2012 updated re-release, click here.
During a long study session sophomore year, my group listened to music in an infinite loop. I mentioned that it was upsetting that the amount of time that passed could be too easily realized each time the end of the song came. A fellow student showed me the infinite jukebox. It takes a song and plays it forever by finding similar spots within the song and randomly jumping back and forth. I was amazed that a song could be stitched together so seamlessly by a computer because I had previously done a bit of work trying to stitch songs together and found it to be a hard task.
It would be interesting to see this platform expanded to take several songs and play them together or mix songs over each other.
February 27th in London, I saw a performance and installation at Cell Projects by MSHR, a project developed by Birch Cooper and Brenna Murphy. In the dark rectangular room were two long, matching tables on either end of the room, each illuminated by an array of complex, multi-layered decals just below their surfaces. Like the way plateaus of cloud pass over one another in the sky, the appearance of these shapes were defined by the varying opacities of their smaller overlapping geometric components. Both psychedelic and organic in form, but equally referential of the aesthetics of circuit boards, unintentionally silly visualizations of proteins, and the fractal structure of organisms and natural phenomena. In the center of the floor between the two tables was a kitschy arrangement of custom-made synths, conch shells, lightbulbs, and these bio-techy metal decals depicting linearized dendritic structures.
The artists began to play with their synths — noises, using various participatory mechanisms to modulate the cacophony that was slowly building. For instance, in the center of the room between the two artists on the floor, two people would stand facing one another on mats sensitive to the movements of their body and loci of touches between them. So I watched as couples rubbed one another up and down and poked, prodded, knealed, and so on, and listened to the music change. Reminiscent of David Rokeby’s foundational 1986-1990 work “Very Nervous System,” in which his differential [and admittedly funky] movements through xyz space were recorded through video camera[s?] and translated into respective changes in the pitch and speed of the soundtrack he danced to. Rather however, the self-described “ritualistic,” and what I think of as the ‘earnest kitsch’ of MSHR’s interface conscious installation seems to point to an ambiguous, yet charged, humorous, and non-cynical stance towards the techno-optimism of the 90’s new media work it is derivative of.
I deeply respect HEX, a four-foot humanoid robot advanced enough to show itself as a modern marvel. Why do I consider HEX to be so special, especially when there are so many other large, more advanced humanoid robots currently in development, such as ASIMO by Honda? The answer is not in the technology used, but rather who built it. HEX was built by one man, Mark Haygood, a retired police officer from Baltimore. See, Mark had no experience in robotics, but he had grit – he learned how to do it through countless hours of research, trial and error, and raw determination. Spending over four years and tens of thousands of his own funds, he finally brought his imagination to life. HEX, when directly compared to robots like ASIMO, falls short in just about every technological aspect, but shines in another: HEX stands as a testament to the human spirit and proves to the world what just one person can do.
Quadratura is a site-specific installation that is video projection on architecture made in 2010 by Pablo Valbuena. I admire this project because of its minimalism and how Valbuena has framed this installation, he made a story behind it and made it more meaningful than it is just on the surface. The name “Quadrarura” is related to walls that have been painted in architecture, to manipulate the space it is on, just with material not related to physical world. It is not a breakthrough or any new technology, but its really good at making something old (projection mapping) and turning it into something that intrigued me.
He used a virtual version of his site to map out the projection of light.
When one thinks of current computational art, one instinctively assumes the presence of electricity and the substantial processing power that comes with it. However, Theo Jansen has made it clear to me that one does not need either to create elegant works of art:
Jansen has single handedly created what he calls “Strand Beasts”: giant walking physical computers made out of nothing but PVC piping, twine, plastic bags, and a few empty water bottles. Using ingenious mechanical logic gates, Jansen programmed his beasts to, powered exclusively by wind, prowl the beaches, avoid water, and even hunker down in the event of a dangerously windy day. In the future, Jansen’s beasts could be entirely autonomous entities, surviving on nothing but wind power and their own decision making. The elegance and efficiency of this project has inspired me profoundly, and introduced to me the idea that the actual method of computation can be a work of art in and of itself.
During my senior year in high school, a tech convention was going on in the hotel across from my school. During the lunch break my friend and I decided to go check it out. At the convention, I tested a virtual reality hamster ball game. I admire the fact that this piece forced the user to physically move in order to work the game. This was much different than the kinds of games I had played in the past. This VirtuSphere is a creation of Ray and Nurulla Latypov. It has many function such as military training, museum education exhibitions, gaming, etc. Since I am usually a technology sinic, I fear that this device will have people virtually exercising rather than getting outside and exploring the real world.
OFF is unquestionably my favourite video game. It is, essentially, what happens when a Belgian surrealist makes a game.
Interactive narrative is still a fairly young medium, and has relied mainly on more conventional narrative forms as a result. OFF represents a new direction in this field, one that is aware and critical of both the medium and audience, and it’s a damn good game to boot.
The team behind OFF, Unproductive Fun Time, consists of only a handful of people, headed up by Mortis Ghost. Ghost was something of an auteur on the project, although his 2nd did have significnat influence on the final vision.
I see OFF as a herald for a future of greater experimentation in interactive narrative, as creators continuer to develop their understanding of the medium.