[It's time to lower my standards for these posts. I have a backlog of draft posts from yesterday - coming soon. Reminder that these are notes, and any pithy observations, etc. come later.]
First, Mark Finnern, the organizer of Bay Area Future Salon and co-producer of conference, is saying that he has seen the future and it is Second Life. One day Second Life will allow you to 3D print what you created in Second Life; even something as large as a house.
Will Wright, creator of SimCity and Sims, founder of Maxis. Topic: Sculpting Possibility Space is the first keynote.
A lot of people consider games related to story. You can put story on one end and game-play on other end of spectrum. Story games like Myst use a branching structure topology. In a story format, the topology is linear and the game developer creates narrative. In interactive format, the topology is dense and the player creates the narrative. Thus the appeal is empathy in story, and agency in games.
You could look at a game as a possibility space, a landscape. You want to have a wide set of options. Now showing a 3D terrain graph and there are peaks and cliffs and the goal-oriented players want to move "uphill" (success) and overcome challenges. With Sims there are material, social 2D terrain axis and success is height axis.
There is also issue of language - it's a different language than designers are using. If you come across a dog, even in real world you might parse out the following in your mind: Noun- dog - me, Verb - bite - run or (more complex) Purpose - Companionship - Safety. And advectives. Big or small tank.
Most games have primary metaphor or primary verb. And it's KILL.
They've used a shopping catalog to give choices of nouns and verbs in the game. Shopping catalog metaphor provides for description and gives impression of limited resources and trade offs.
Models. Communication is a process of constructing models. Science is a process to build models. Science is moving away from analytic models like calculus and more into simulation. This parallels game play trend. These possibility spaces become scaffolding for the imagination of the player.
Dynamics. I think about the raw material we use to build these virtual worlds... How do these things interact over time (the behaviors)? What are the paradigms (network theory, cellular automata, system dynamics (Jay Forrester), cybernetics, chaos theory, complex adaptive systems, adaptive landscape )?
Wright is showing a complex 3-D model of this "raw material" or game elements. The three dimensions are: Agents/Networks/Layers; Paradigms; Dynamics. Dynamics could include: Propagation, grouping, allocation (gambling, shopping), mapping (matching), specialization
Interesting thing about games is the nested feedback loops. There are short cycles like 10 sec - each level has success and failure. In SimCity (or Sims?), there is nested success/failure levels progressing from Basic Control -> Needs -> Job/Skills Economy -> Social-Friends -> (missed this last one). The game designers spend a lot of time on the failure scenarios because they found that players spend more time here and that they don't mind failing if they know why they failed and it's fleshed out in details and it's interesting.
The future is usually highly extrapolated. When skyscrapers just came out everyone envisioned Metropolis.
Cybernetics is about feedback structures - and by chaining these together you can have elaborate structures. Cellular automata is the first that allowed for emergence. SimCity is combination of paradigms of system dynamics and cellular automata. CAS have internal rules systems (neural networks, genetic algorithms fall into this area). An offshot of AI. Actually what biologist calls fitness landscape influenced the idea of having 3D terrain maps to represent "possibility space." Especially interested in scale-free social networks. People could define friends and enemies in Sims.
All of these are not reality - they are just trying to explain - they are models. Relativity theory and quantum mechanics - but neither can explain the reality of a duck. Other elements in the game toolkit: Disordered<-> Ordered, Local<-> Global, Cooperate <-> Compete.
Just finished The Sims 2. In 1984, one person created SimCity and in 2004, took 130 people on the Sim2 project. If you extrapolate we'll need 2.5M designers not too far in future. Content teams within the project team are the group growing faster. So how can we get players involved with creating content? Maxis created 500 characters, 800 objects. And the fans created 16,530 characters and 10,600 objects.
In The Sims 2, players can also cast their characters into movies and shows and film them. This is something they call "derivative content."
A whole online community around games formed. Comprised of: Collectors, storytellers, webmasters, content artists, casual players, browsers.
Metrics. We can formally measure everything you do. We can build profiles on what the player tends to do and compare to other players. We can see what they buy. We can look at relationships they develop. We can even see how they are traversing through the possibility space of the game. We can do things with that data - perhaps introduce them to other players, what content they might want to use or interact with. You see this happening in TiVo (at a much slower feedback loop). The computer can see where player is going in the possibility space and dynamically alter the possibility space (for instance, if you just met a new girl, your ex could show back up in the picture).
Question on comparing to Second Life. Second Life players are more advanced than our audience. Sims audience is 55% female and most of them have never played another computer game. Both are very open-ended. (Also Sims mostly offline game.)
If you have more women on your developer team it's like falling off a log - you don't have to do focus groups on how to reach women's market.
We found for our players biggest barrier to online game is business model - many (and I don't) want to pay $15/month. I like the computer understand what I'm trying to play and it starts evolving around me. It knows I'm doing a scary movie or if it's a sit-com suggests appropriate music. Your version of game and mine end up different after a month.
We see our players as co-developers. We spend a lot of time with the people who run the websites, etc. We ask them at Sim University (a gathering/conference) about what they think of microtransactions. Experimenting with microtransactions for allowing users to sell their content. We don't have digital rights management (yet); so you could change a few pixels.
Question on if you could have avatars move between two worlds - i.e. Sims and Second Life. Not now but it's theoretically/technically possible with Sims 2 characters.