Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Programming AI to Program...Us? (part 2)


In Google's defense, they stated that the internally circulated Selfish Ledger video was only a “thought experiment” by their Design Team using “a technique known as 'speculative design' to explore uncomfortable ideas and concepts to provoke discussion and debate.” Supposedly, according to Google, “It's not related to any future products.” Yet one of the ideas in the video suggests that your data doesn't belong to you—an idea that is already becoming more mainstream in our society today. The data on our actions, decisions, preferences, movement, and relationships is collected through our phones and used by Google to form our data profile. Perhaps our only recourse for privacy is turning our phones off, because the mindset that our data doesn't belong to us fuels the concept that our phone is a user data-collection device for Google and other interested parties. Google knows that very few of us will choose to turn off our phones or do without them, so we are tacitly ushering in a new age of monitoring and manipulation. But how does Google plan to manipulate us with this data?

Monday, May 21, 2018

Programming AI to Program...Us? (part 1)


An internal video from Google in 2016 revealed how Google is already working on using data collection to reshape the future of society. The video, called “The Selfish Ledger,” was filmed by Nick Foster, the head of design at Google's “X” division. This video was shared internally to demonstrate how data collection from users could be used to nudge or “guide” those users towards Google's goals. The main idea is focused on what Google terms a “ledger,” which is what they use to describe all the data that they collect about you—it's a data profile of you. They state that the way we use our phones is a “constantly evolving representation of who you are,” and Google is interested in using that data to modify our behaviors. Google goes even further, though, suggesting that this data can be passed on to others just as genetic data is passed on to our offspring, generation after generation. The concept is to sequence a data genome of sorts into a huge social engineering effort. An effort to reshape humanity.

Friday, May 18, 2018

New Solar Echoes Comic Short #3 on Youtube!


I hope you enjoy the new comic short on Youtube called, "Rage Paint." If you're unfamiliar, Chiraktis warrior drones often paint themselves with Rage Paint, a chemical laced with pheromones that drive them into a heightened battle frenzy.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Future of Single-Player Games (part 4)


Open-world games are often extremely successful when compared with more static, linear experiences. When I've played through a linear singleplayer story campaign in a game and finished the story, there is seldom any reason for me to go back and play the game again. Gamers often sell their games back to the store after solving them. The video game retailer, Gamestop, buys used games and a large portion of their returned inventory are singleplayer, linear, story-driven games. Developers have been figuring out how to keep players engaged long after the story is over by investing more in the open-world environments and side-quests, but how is this affecting the stories being told through the game? Pacing changes a great deal if players are allowed to pursue the story arc at their leisure—a distracting side-quest here, a few item collection runs there, and suddenly the urgency of the story fades from memory. It's interesting how the story can eventually become a reason to keep playing the game after a player has gotten the wanderlust out of his system in the open-world. At least, until a new environment is unlocked through the story—then the story is often put on hold as the player is off to explore again. Story is crucial to a game, but locking players into the story without giving them the freedom to experience the game world on their own terms is starting to look like a bad game-design choice. What do you think?

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Future of Single-Player Games (part 3)


It's interesting that story-driven singleplayer games once dominated the market. Massive role-playing games like the Final Fantasy series or action-adventure/survival-horror games like Resident Evil were the rage in the mid-nineties. Over the years, these franchises still remain, but they have undergone some interesting changes that reflect the general trend in singleplayer gaming. No longer are most games designed in a linear event-driven fashion. Instead, the story is told at a more relaxed pace while paired with open-world exploration, optional side quests, and random events. Massive open-world environments that allow for a “sandbox” style of gameplay encourage players to explore and play the game the way they want, rather than to follow a linear series of rail-roaded events. Gone are the days of static environments and camera angles. Instead, free-movement and open-roaming options allow players to wander and play the game entirely apart from the story if they choose. Games like The Witcher 3, the Farcry series, MadMax, Skyrim, and Fallout are singleplayer games that all involve open-world exploration with a variety of sidequests to choose from. Why is this form of singleplayer so successful?

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Future of Single-Player Games (part 2)


With so much focus on multiplayer video games, a lot of developers are adding sub-par singleplayer modes to at least seem like they care about the gamers who want to play alone. Developers have learned from EA, a giant in video game development that owns the license to the Star Wars universe. The infamous Star Wars Battlefront online multiplayer game received a very negative backlash from gamers when EA didn't include a singleplayer mode at all. Yet despite this incident, singleplayer games are clearly not the focus of most large developers. Few remain dedicated to making singleplayer only games, though some developers such as Bethesda Softworks (Skyrim, Fallout), Santa Monica Studios (God of War), and Naughty Dog (Uncharted, The Last of Us) excel at it. However, many critically acclaimed singleplayer games such as Dishonored 2, Prey, and inXile's Torment: Tides of Numenera all saw extremely disappointing sales. There are interesting trends emerging for these types of solo experiences, and traditional styles of singleplayer games from past decades are disappearing fast. What is changing?

Monday, May 14, 2018

The Future of Single-Player Games (part 1)


When video games first began, it was all about single player. For at least two decades, video games thrived on singleplayer, and multiplayer--if it was included--involved couch co-op (sitting together with friends or family.) Once online gaming became possible with the internet, though, the landscape slowly began to shift. No longer was multiplayer tacked-on, but instead, it was often the focus. Some games are now only playable through multiplayer with online communities driving the game. Once players tire of a game, though, some competitive online games can no longer be played, which is possibly one reason gamers get upset when a game does not include a single player mode. But what is the future of the single-player game? Will it survive?