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Will Wright Talks Research, Astrobiology

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the long-talk dept.

44

Yesterday saw Will Wright give a keynote ostensibly called 'The Future of Game Design'. The creator of the Sims took the opportunity to address two of the topics that went heavily into the background work on his current title: Spore. Mr Wright was attempting to make the point that lots of research in the pre-production phase of the project is one of the best ways of knowing what it is you're setting out to do. Folks at Kotaku, The Game Chair, and Game Girl Advance have some notes from the talk. Read on for my own brief impressions from the event.The key idea I took away from the event is the level of intelligence Wright possesses. I always knew he was *smart*, but the man went almost a full hour, racing from topic to topic, at a speed that was almost breathtaking to behold. I initially started taking notes but the man just moves so dang fast, I eventually gave up and enjoyed the experience. He went from the Fermi Paradox, to Drake's Equation, to Panspermia to the Rare Earth theory in a series of four slides, only pausing very briefly to explain what he was talking about. Rather than confusing the audience, lots of the elements he brought up were totally understandable just within the context of his talk. He really hit his stride after the thirty minute mark, and actually managed to talk even faster than he'd started off. It was sort of like watching a manic college prof teach an entire semester-long class in an hour.

He did talk about Spore a good deal in there, detailing how all of the Astrobiology and research were distilled down into usable ideas for game environments and creatures. This was a talk, though, less about games and more about the joy of learning. Will Wright's gift as a speaker is to make his audience excited about something they may never have considered before, simply by the sheer amount of enthusiasm he exudes. I heard some shifting in chairs towards the end of the talk, but despite the highly technical nature of the presentation the Civic Auditorium was still packed when the event ended. Like the Battlestar event, Wright's talk only peripherally talked about games, but it managed to be all the more valuable (I think) to the audience as a result.

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hi (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14988098)

eat my nuts bitch

Will Wright again (-1, Troll)

Eightyford (893696) | more than 8 years ago | (#14988127)

What's with all the people having man-crushes on Will Wright? Ugh, this starting to get worse than the Joss Whedon worshipping.

Re:Will Wright again (1, Redundant)

metrunecs (956777) | more than 8 years ago | (#14988188)

The man's a genius. Lets see you come up with some of the things that he has. He's done more for the videogame industry than pretty much anyone out there and he continues to innovate. Now personally I don't care for the Sims, but SimCity was always awesome and I just can't wait for Spore.

Re:Will Wright again (1)

KingBraden (959219) | more than 8 years ago | (#14988237)

I agree he is a genius, and I appreciate the fact that Wil Wright articles have replaced PS3 delay articles, but perhaps, maybe /. could avoid putting up everything he says?

Re:Will Wright again (2, Insightful)

Eightyford (893696) | more than 8 years ago | (#14988238)

The man's a genius. Lets see you come up with some of the things that he has. He's done more for the videogame industry than pretty much anyone out there and he continues to innovate. Now personally I don't care for the Sims, but SimCity was always awesome and I just can't wait for Spore.

Oh, I can't wait for Spore either, and I agree that Will Wright is one of the greatest game developers of all time. There are only a few that I would put ahead of him, even. Lord British, John Carmack, Sid Meier, and David Crane come to mind. My point is that most people here haven't even heard of Will Wright, but now we have 15 slashdot articles on him that all say the same damn thing.

Re:Will Wright again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14989107)

How could you forget Shigero Myiamoto?

If you look at the history of videogames you will see that most genres (with exceptions like FPS and RTS) were created (or popularized) by games that Shigero Myiamoto created. I'm not going to claim that Myiamoto is the "greatest designer of all time" (or anything like that) but no list of great or important developers should lack his name.

Re:Will Wright again (1)

Eightyford (893696) | more than 8 years ago | (#14989202)

How could you forget Shigero Myiamoto?

I don't know! Another great Japanese developer that I forgot to mention was Yu Suzuki, the creator of Hang-On, Virtua Fighter, and Shenmue.

I don't care when you were born.... (1)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 8 years ago | (#14990074)

If you haven't heard of Will Wright, you don't need to be reading games articles on Slashdot.

That's like reading the IT section and having never heard of that old Internet thingy.

Re:Will Wright again (1)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 8 years ago | (#14990460)

Most people may not know who Wright is, but I can guarantee you that the vast majority of Slashdot's readers know of his games.

Re:Will Wright again (1)

Hawkxor (693408) | more than 8 years ago | (#14991863)

For a genius, he sure had a poor showing in getting last place in the mental arithmetic competition that Nintendo used as a demo at the show...

Re:Will Wright again (0, Flamebait)

corrosive_nf (744601) | more than 8 years ago | (#14988380)

Let's see, Will Wright created some of the best games ever made for the pc, while joss whendon made a shitty show no one watched that turned into a shitty movie no one saw.

Re:Will Wright again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14989812)

Let's see, Will Wright created some of the best games ever made for the pc

Hmmm games like...
SimAnt - a game my friend once won (that is to say, he conquored the other ant colony) by leaving it running. Unattended.
SimEarth - a game where 9 times in 10, nothing happens.
The Sims - A game about going to the bathroom!

Don't get me wrong - Wright talks a good game. Sim City was fun. And the Sims has made a shitpot full of money. Wright gets points for being smart, and has created stuff a whole lot of people have bought, but none of his games rank in my top oh... 20.

Joss Who? (1)

N_Piper (940061) | more than 8 years ago | (#14989949)

Made A tv show? The man is responsible for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" Movie and Tv Series
a good, geeky, series in the beginning and at the wrap-up, I won't talk about the "popular" days.
"Angel"
no comment since I'm not a Junior High School girl in love with David Boreanaz
and He also Co-Wrote on "Toy Story"!

Before you go and call something Shitty you might also want to consider what else the "Fox Network" has managed to kill off

Re:Joss Who? (1)

corrosive_nf (744601) | more than 8 years ago | (#14992766)

okay he co-wrote on one good movie. The rest of his work has been geek fap material.

Re:Will Wright again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14989333)

Im with you on this, fuck Wil Wright.

Ostensibly? (0, Troll)

knewter (62953) | more than 8 years ago | (#14988281)

Right, so 'ostensibly' is roughly equivalent to 'apparently,' and it hardly seems likely that you mean to get across your own ignorance of the title of his speech.

Perhaps the word you're looking for is ostentatiously?

Re:Ostensibly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14988428)

Idiot.
Ostensibly isn't exactly the same as apparently. The meaning being conveyed here is "despite the talk being having title X, it was about Y". It's a perfectly standard usage of the language.
Read some books and get the hang of English, before you start criticising.

Only notes? (1)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | more than 8 years ago | (#14988371)

No video or audio yet? I loved his speech last year. I'm very interested in hearing about his thoughts on Rare Earth, especially how he related it to Spore in his speech. Does anyone know of a link to a full write-out or video or other media?

Re:Only notes? (1)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | more than 8 years ago | (#14988415)

Nevermind, I found a transcript off a link from one of the above:

http://www.kotaku.com/gaming/keynote/index.php

Yes but all I want to know is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14988492)

will Spore come out for Nintendo Revolution?!!??!!11~`!one!exclamation1questionmark //.>

Re:Yes but all I want to know is (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 8 years ago | (#14989203)

No but he claims there will be DS, PSP and cellphone versions.

smells like I.D. (0, Flamebait)

Goldsmith (561202) | more than 8 years ago | (#14988561)

For a second there, I thought you were talking about science. You know, testable theories... never mind.

Re:smells like I.D. (2, Informative)

Spaceman40 (565797) | more than 8 years ago | (#14989807)

Astrobiology (the study of the potential of life on other planets) is more statistics than testable science; the idea being that if you can figure out exactly what is required for intelligent life, you should be able to figure out the probability of each requirement occurring in a large system (like the universe). From that probability, you should be able to estimate the number of intelligent alien societies (using Drake's equation). Interesting stuff.

Guesses for this galaxy range from 1.25 (including our own) to over a million. Of course, we haven't found any yet (that I know of, anyway), and that's the [Fermi] paradox: if it's so likely, why haven't we seen any? The Rare Earth hypothesis (capitalized because it's the name of a book) is that this isn't really a paradox at all, because it isn't that likely. The general take is that we'd only be here to think it was unlikely if we were actually here to begin with (if Earth didn't have life, nobody would ask the question "why not?").

Panspermia could either be in reference to alien seeding of life on Earth (pretty unlikely, IMHO), or some other way of life getting to Earth besides it just emerging from natural elements. Neither of these is very provable at this point from the available evidence (you'd need to see absolutely no evolutionary evidence before a certain level of life), but interesting ideas, nonetheless.

That's what Will Wright might have been getting to: when developing games, you turn to the interesting ideas you have at hand, and bring out the coolest parts of them for people to play with. Spore uses the ideas of panspermia (whether or not it's true) and lets you take life to other planets, a really cool idea. Wright took Drake's equation and ramped up the probabilities, making it really likely that there are other civilizations nearby, and actually produced these civilizations from data grabbed from other players (what if the Fermi paradox didn't exist, because intelligent aliens were all over the place?).

So, whether or not you think these ideas have any explanational merit, they're interesting enough to make a really great game (if Spore turns out to be what it seems).

Re:smells like I.D. (1)

Hydrophobia (954418) | more than 8 years ago | (#14990437)

Another thing you need to understand is, look at the rapid advances in tech, how long do you think an electromagnetic society would last in any given alien culture. For us, its only been going on for what 100 years? Now extrapolate that, electromagnetic communication is getting more and more specific, and soon(define soon however you want) we may even break into communication devices operating on a quantum level, how long do you think a society will last using communication methods that you can observe over the vast reaches of space? 200 years, 400 years? Not much time at all, because we would have to be listening for it, and how much longer will we be listening before we just move onto expanding into space? I'm sure there is a lot of room for arguments on both sides, but to me it seems less likely that we haven't seen evidence because seeing the evidence would take FAR more coincidence than forming life from the soup does.

OT: The Singularity is Near (1)

Spaceman40 (565797) | more than 8 years ago | (#14990588)

Ideas straight out of Kurzweil's The Singularity is Near. I completely agree with the argument that not seeing the evidence might just be that we don't know what to look for, but then you have to deal with the idea that if other civilizations exist at a completely higher level of tech than we are, why haven't we noticed them? Why haven't the effects of such a society been seen?

Finish Spore Already? (1, Insightful)

aldheorte (162967) | more than 8 years ago | (#14988643)

Maybe he should talk less and get his game finished. Spore's been getting hyped for quite awhile now, with multiple talks and demonstrations. Although a neat idea, it's not as revolutionary as people think. The central wow factor in the magnitudes of scale, zooming out from the very small (spore) to the very big (galaxy), is very old news and comes from an original short by Charles and Ray Eames called "The Power of 10" (it may precede them, but that's as far as I have traced it back), and a similar short plays or has played at the Smithsonian in Washington at the Air & Space Museum). The other wow factor, the procedurally generated mechanics of the critters, is impressive, but other than that it's nothing more than a Civ/Sim game with multiple levels of zoom. So, although interesting, chill folks. Sliced bread reigns supreme. My speculation is that the above makes for good demonstrations, but lousy game play, and that's what is taking time to figure out, as well as the very nebulous MMOG elements mentioned in one of the demonstrations.

Re:Finish Spore Already? (3, Insightful)

Lobo42 (723131) | more than 8 years ago | (#14989468)

Right, because having the player design (in a physical sense) their own species and then procedurally extrapolating from that the behavior and attributes of said species, the civilization it would create, and the planets that civilization would terraform and launch colonies on is sooooo 2005. Gosh, there's so many games that have implemented this already I can't even think of them all or take the time to list them at this particular moment. Let's face it - compared to "sandbox" games like GTA, where I can shoot any hooker I want IN THE ENTIRE CITY, Spore is practically linear.

Re:Finish Spore Already? (1)

angrymilkman (957626) | more than 8 years ago | (#14989635)

Spore must be the most expensive game ever made by now, eclipsing daikatana?

Re:Finish Spore Already? (1)

ichigo 2.0 (900288) | more than 8 years ago | (#14993207)

Procedurally generating art instead of having artists manually create it costs nothing. In fact, expect this in all future games as the growth of game budgets are becoming impossible to sustain.

Re:Finish Spore Already? (1)

yuktar (178244) | more than 8 years ago | (#14995062)

It's no longer called procedural. He's calling it generative art and animation. Seriously, we voted on it at the keynote, because people have complained that every third word from him mouth was "procedural".

Re:Finish Spore Already? (1)

angrymilkman (957626) | more than 8 years ago | (#14995625)

well still the basics need to be created right? Not everything in spore it generated that way I guess, how about water and trees etc?

Re:Finish Spore Already? (1)

earthbound kid (859282) | more than 8 years ago | (#14992612)

Wright freely admits to being influenced by "Powers of Ten." The trick is, that's a movie, but Wright is making a game. It's one thing to make a movie of powers of ten; it's another to make an entire sandbox universe that users can interact with based on it.

Re:Finish Spore Already? (1)

ichigo 2.0 (900288) | more than 8 years ago | (#14993209)

Wright is a game designer, and I'm guessing the game design is pretty much complete. So I don't think we'd get Spore any faster even if he didn't spend an hour speaking at GDC.

Game Girl Advance? (1)

ringbarer (545020) | more than 8 years ago | (#14988762)

That's the site which advanced the female place in the gaming community by running that article of that slut shoving a peripheral up her cunt, isn't it?

videos of talks (1)

angrymilkman (957626) | more than 8 years ago | (#14989155)

You can find some very interesting videos of will wright talks on google videos. http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-553408056 8776365031 [google.com] WW talk at SDForum. I must say I didn't like him at first but man... the guy is smart and funny, he knows what he's talking about you got to give him that. But hey, there are so many game developers out there with failed games (although some of these games are brilliant but never got the right marketing), so is it smartness or just plain luck that he's considered to be one of the game gods?

Gameplay video... (1)

EvilNight (11001) | more than 8 years ago | (#14989521)

Google Video has a video of Spore's gameplay demonstration. [google.com]

Hey, we all take these 'revolutionary game' ideas with a bit of salt, since we've been let down so many times in the past, but... still, that was a pretty damn awesome demo. Sooner or later, someone is bound to actually come up with a brilliant game.

Re:Gameplay video... (1)

Spaceman40 (565797) | more than 8 years ago | (#14989834)

If it comes out with that evolutionary sandbox mode (where you get to modify your creature), I'm sold. Honestly, just screwing around with procedural animation will be worth it, especially when most new games are just old ones with better graphics.

Re:Gameplay video... (1)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 8 years ago | (#14990436)

Not only do you get to modify your creature in that mode, but you also get to modify other things in similar ways, like the buildings your creatures build.

As someone who spent hours in City of Heroes' character creator, I forsee myself playing with the editor more than with the game.

Re:Gameplay video... (1)

Spaceman40 (565797) | more than 8 years ago | (#14990613)

I forsee myself playing with the editor more than with the game.

Looks like we'll be sharing that timesink with Tycho [penny-arcade.com] (of Penny Arcade):
I could tell things were going to go off the rails almost immediately, when [Gabe] suggested that I stop screwing around with the character generator. That's not something I do. If anything, I've been known to keep on screwing with them - I mentioned a few months ago that the character creator in City of Villains had practically become the game. But elaborate character creation in the absence of multiplayer is, for him, a sort of masturbation. If you create a character, and no-one is there to see it, what's the point? I suppose it's the John Gabriel version of a Zen koan.

Headlines (1)

mgabrys_sf (951552) | more than 8 years ago | (#14991113)

"Will Wright Talks Research, Astrobiology"

This is news?

I'm sure when Will's hungry we'll be subjected to:

"Will Wright Talks bagels, cumquats"

Or when at a stripper club:

"Will Wright Talks Boobs! Buttocks!"

Or when drunk:

"Will Wright Talks Blarforg Splabbappo!"

I can't wait Slashdot - don't let me down.

The value of listening to Will Wright... (1)

Pearson (953531) | more than 8 years ago | (#14991799)

...is not so much to learn about his games, or even his ideas about what make a great game. It is to learn that *anything* can be used to inspire/guide game design. Too often developers set out to make a game and just look at the competition to figure out what (not) to do. That leads to this kind of thinking: "well, game 'X' let you do backflips, so we'll let you do TWO backflips!!" followed by many pats on the back for being 'revolutionary'.

Even if you don't like Will Wright's games (he has a fascination with sandboxes), his design philosophy is what should impress you when you hear him. I think it's the same kind of approach that led to games like Pikmin, or Katamari Damacy, or Brain Age. The way he can bring two totally unrelated things together is amazing. One example off the top of my head was when he explained how he used a model for the evolution of various animals as the basis for handling the desires for the characters in The Sims.

gameplay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14994404)

he's my predictions on the gameplay:

kill 100 things
evolve
kill 100 things
evolve
kill 100 things
evolve

sounds like EVO on the SNES. This would make a great MMO.

but will the game be fun? (1)

Tedium Unleased (764661) | more than 8 years ago | (#15001526)

as much as he talked.. I wasn't convinced it all lead to a fun game. Everything he went over with the game made it seem like what the player does doesn't really matter.

It looks like you can create any half assed creature and it will survive long enough to build cities; that it doesn't really matter how you build your creature.

You can custom design buildings where the design has nothing to do with what it does - add a mushroom looking thing here for what?
The game looks interesting and I suppose will be fun for some novel interfaces and ideas... sort of like one of those pin art toys impression... but like that toy, you'll get bored of it quickly. It doesn't really look like a game any more than a graphics package looks like a game.
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