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What if Game Graphics Never Aged?

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the everyoung dept.

398

An anonymous reader writes "If you've heard of Procedural Synthesis, you already think it's amazing. It's been used to create some extraordinary visuals in tiny packages, like .kkrieger, which is less than 96 Kilobytes big but still has graphics that look like like a modern PC title. Beyond that, there's even more that Procedural Synthesis might be able to do; what if your old video games never aged, never looked out-of-date? Imagine putting Halo 2 into your Xbox 360 only to have it automatically upgraded to look like Halo 3 in graphical quality. This article examines the unexpected way that Procedural Synthesis might impact gaming in the generation after the Xbox 360, PS3, and Nintendo Wii."

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398 comments

Disposable Games Vs Design Patterns (5, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707147)

When I read this Slashdot article, all the rules of software design came flooding back to me. Low coupling, high cohesion, encapsulated complex structures, all that jazz. Before you even started to program a complex FPS game, you might start by carefully separating the layers and keeping things like two dimensional surfaces rendered to be de-coupled from other things like the AI of the enemies. Separate the garphics from the rest of the gameplay. I completely buy into the possibility that games can be designed well enough to abstract their graphics to a point where the same exact graphics package can be used in even several different types of games.

When I read this article, it sounded like a classic example of someone going nuts with the design patterns [wikipedia.org] that encourage encapsulation and separation of layers to improve modularity. Like someone had actually put in a lot of effort to the game to reduce the amount of effort that will be required later when new platforms and libraries come out for the game. On top of that, the imagery doesn't come from a data file but instead is derived on the fly from a library of procedures--something easily achieved by the strategy pattern [wikipedia.org] . The funny thing is that if other games have abstracted their graphics packages sufficiently, they should be able to rework the libraries to be procedures instead or maybe even build adapters to .kkrieger's procedures.

Why don't we see this more often in all games? Because I think most games today are disposable. They're built for one console or platform with the intent of only running on the current version of Windows or Mac and with no interest in coming out with new releases that support new hardware or software. They do this because games are construed as novelty software that expire as the user tires of them. Games like WoW or other MMOs might bring about a shift in the way game designers spend their efforts. Maybe games will start to take a longer time to develop but last a hell of a lot longer than they traditionally have?

Re:Disposable Games Vs Design Patterns (3, Insightful)

andrewman327 (635952) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707178)

Maybe some of them will even invest in these silly radical concepts called "storyline" and "plot."

Re:Disposable Games Vs Design Patterns (3, Interesting)

Tharkban (877186) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707251)

There's more probability of that if the graphics automatically upgrade on new hardware. It would make the graphics less of a selling point.

Re:Disposable Games Vs Design Patterns (1)

suggsjc (726146) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707471)

To be honest, when playing a game (mostly newer titles) I think there has been almost too much focus on the "storyline" and "plot." I hate watching 2-3 minute video segments every time I do anything. I just want to go though it as fast as I can so I can acually PLAY the game. That is why I PLAY games...to have an interactive experience...something I'm in control of. If I wanted to watch a static video, then I'll put in a movie. When I'm playing a game, I want to play...screw the story line (tapping A as fast as I can...) LET ME PLAY ALREADY!!!

Re:Disposable Games Vs Design Patterns (4, Insightful)

andrewman327 (635952) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707509)

I am not talking about adding more movie clips. I am sometimes as annoyed with them as you are. I would like to see, however, more reason provided as to why, exactly, you are killing the red dragon to save the blue one.

Re:Disposable Games Vs Design Patterns (3, Funny)

suggsjc (726146) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707551)

Red dragons are bad...blue dragons are good.

C'mon, EVERYBODY know that one.

Re:Disposable Games Vs Design Patterns (2, Funny)

andrewman327 (635952) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707653)

"Red dragons are bad...blue dragons are good."


And green dragons mean you need to adjust your monitor.

Re:Disposable Games Vs Design Patterns (1)

utopianfiat (774016) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707664)

More specifically, RPGs with puzzles sometimes use plot points to define the solutions to certain dilemmas in a game. One person says "I saw a person duck under the counter and ZAP! Just disappear into thin air! Do you think I was hallucinating?", perhaps you should try ducking under the counter...

Re:Disposable Games Vs Design Patterns (5, Insightful)

xenocide2 (231786) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707495)

What a silly progression. Games aren't nessecarily stories. PacMan was no less a classic for it's shallow plot, nor Tetris less addictive. I'd much rather see them focus on innovative gameplay than improving the plotline in "The next epic quest where a lone boy finds some friends and saves the world." It's a lost cause; if you seek a story, read a book, watch a show. Games are not storytelling.

Re:Disposable Games Vs Design Patterns (4, Insightful)

andrewman327 (635952) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707552)

You seem to forget that pen and paper games, one of the origens of computer gaming, was all about story telling. There is still substancial room for story and plot in modern video games.

Speed (4, Insightful)

everphilski (877346) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707221)

Why don't we see this more often in all games?

Speed. Running algorithms to generate every damn thing takes a lot more processor time than loading a pre-rendered object file. Disk space is dirt cheap compared to processor cycles, so the appropriate trade study is made....

Re:Speed (1)

androvsky (974733) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707304)

Well, everyone (except the Wii) has extra cores to play with now, looks like someone may have found a decent use for one of them. :)

Re:Speed (1)

in2mind (988476) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707501)

Speed. Running algorithms to generate every damn thing takes a lot more processor time than loading a pre-rendered object file. Disk space is dirt cheap compared to processor cycles

Gotta agree with that.I was expecting the 96 kb .kkrieger to run in almost any system - mistaking the small size to being able to run on old hardware - until I read the minimum requirements:

The "official" minimum specs for .kkrieger: chapter 1 beta are:

* A 1.5GHz pentium 3 / athlon or faster.
* 512MB of RAM.
* a GeForce4Ti (or higher) or ATI Radeon8500 (or higher) graphics card supporting pixel shaders 1.3, preferably with 128MB or more of VRAM.
* some kind of sound hardware.
* DirectX 9.0b.

My Pentium III 650 MHz 256 MB RAM Machine - I agree,its old - is my primary internet workhorse & it cant run this 96 K game!!!

Re:Speed (1)

AllenNg (954165) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707599)

Once the media is loaded into memory, it's all the same, isn't it? I don't know what they did exactly, but I would imagine they simply replaced
LoadMediaFromDisk()
with
CreateMediaOnTheFly()
in which case, you're looking at, at the most, a little longer load times and nothing else.

Re:Disposable Games Vs Design Patterns (4, Insightful)

telbij (465356) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707255)

Why don't we see this more often in all games? Because I think most games today are disposable. [snip] Games like WoW or other MMOs might bring about a shift in the way game designers spend their efforts.

Bingo. Game developers aren't interested in technology that will extend the life of games (unless people are paying a subscription). This technology is very cool and we'll certainly be seeing more of it in select areas (notably open-source games), but it doesn't really make business sense on a wide scale.

Re:Disposable Games Vs Design Patterns (2, Insightful)

mrxak (727974) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707581)

In other words, people will need to buy more and more games if their older games don't live long. One only has to hold people's interest long enough for the next title to come out. Still, that doesn't win the hearts and minds of your customers. One of the reasons Blizzard has such a large fanbase is due to their excellent long-term support of their older products. Heck, they're still coming out with patches for Starcraft, and I know people still playing Warcraft II Battle.net Edition and Diablo I. That fanbase translates to millions of people eagerly paying money for World of Warcraft subscriptions even while endlessly complaining about server problems and balance issues. One could argue about the reasons for WoW's popularity all day, but you have to admit the Blizzard logo makes a difference. Companies with the business model of "give them cheap thrills for a short time, rinse and repeat" might want to take a look at the longer-term game support approach.

Re:Disposable Games Vs Design Patterns (3, Insightful)

hey! (33014) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707326)

I would think the main reason to do this wouldn't be to "future proof" your game. That's the last thing you want to do. If games kept getting better by themselves, you'd undermine your own future revenue, either from upgrades or from new titles.

But I can think of several reasons to do this, none of which is about doing the consumer a favor in the future at your own expense.

The first is to cut down on marginal development expenses. I don't know much about game development, but IIRC artwork is a large expense. Perhaps by having the artists work at a more abstract level, setting ranges of values for scenery and character generation, you could reduce the amount of hand detail they deal with. So, if you have the resources to create a world a thousand hectares in area, perhaps you could machine generate a million hectares.

The second reason I can think for doing this is to have the game automatically expand and adapt to the player. If you liked dungeon crawls, it could make more dungeons for you. If you preferred outdoor play, it would create more terrain for you. You would never finish exploring the world of the game because it would expand as you explored it.

The third reason I can think of for doing this is that you might want to deliver the game on line.

In any case, the result would not be, artistically speaking, as good as if a team of talented artists was given the time to do things by hand. The screenshots confirm this: they are cliched and uninteresting. But even Miyazaki uses some computer generated effects these days, although he strictly limits the amount.

Re:Disposable Games Vs Design Patterns (1)

jdray (645332) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707511)

You would never finish exploring the world of the game because it would expand as you explored it.

Yeah, they could be retro-reference cool and paradoxical at the same time and call it "Ender's Game".

Re:Disposable Games Vs Design Patterns (1)

Ruff_ilb (769396) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707341)

Quote:

"Why don't we see this more often in all games? Because I think most games today are disposable. They're built for one console or platform with the intent of only running on the current version of Windows or Mac and with no interest in coming out with new releases that support new hardware or software. They do this because games are construed as novelty software that expire as the user tires of them. Games like WoW or other MMOs might bring about a shift in the way game designers spend their efforts. Maybe games will start to take a longer time to develop but last a hell of a lot longer than they traditionally have?"

Ah, but these games NEED to be disposable to ensure that the companies continue to profit. To address the question posed in the title:

Current system (roughly, of course):

Step 1: Company develops game
Step 2: Company sells game
Step 3: Company profits
Step 4: Game becomes obsolete due to graphics, etc, company stops profiting, go to step 1

If game graphics never aged, we'd be in a system where the game developers would have to continue to make better and better GAMES, instead of just producing games that render the old games obsolete. Thus, for a game to sell, the cycle would be altered to more like:

Step 1: Company develops game. If the game is better than the old game, people will buy it. Otherwise, they wont.*
Step 2: Company profits to a varying degree depending on how good their game is compared to the previous attempts.
Step 4: Game DOESN'T become obsolete due to graphics, etc, company stops profiting ANYWAY, because everyone would already own a copy, go to step 1

*(Note that this is much like the current system, except games are almost always "better" than their predecessors because of improved graphical/physical/aural qualities)

Of course, the publishers would never accept such a system, so they MUST continue to update the CURRENT and NEXT generation ONLY with newer and better graphics. Even if they did develop such a system, the only way to make it commercially viable would be to have multiple competeing graphics upgrade-esque systems, with the consumer paying a high price for every upgrade in the underlying graphics base.

Also, when you asked "Maybe games will start to take a longer time to develop but last a hell of a lot longer than they traditionally have," you must realize that the companies would never do this because it's MUCH less profitable (or at least, much more of a gamble). If a company can just crank out another NCAA '0X game, or another "Generic FPS Number Q" game at low cost, even if they don't sell as many games, they still make quite a bundle. The only reason MMO's take longer to develop (and have more dedicated on-going development, patches, expansions, tech-support, etc, is because the consumer has to CONTINUALLY pay the company, so the business plan changes slightly... development time isn't as much of a big deal, because they need to both get the consumer to buy the game, but to also pay them 15$ a month for a year, and buy their expansions.

~Ruff_ilb

Re:Disposable Games Vs Design Patterns (1)

danielk1982 (868580) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707500)

Step 4: Game DOESN'T become obsolete due to graphics, etc, company stops profiting ANYWAY, because everyone would already own a copy, go to step 1

I don't think so, in fact, I think the opposite is the case. Old books and movies continue to be revenue generators for their respective publishers years after they have been released. Furthermore they don't seem to affect the sales of new books and movies. Considering that the primary cost of games (like other forms of IP), is in the creation, with the duplication practically free, I don't see why games shouldn't make the publishers money years after their release. And I don't see why publishers wouldn't want to continue selling something that makes them money and costs next to nothing to produce.

Re:Disposable Games Vs Design Patterns (1)

Xymor (943922) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707579)

Up to date Graphics aren't going to make a game last forever.
People will get bored of the storyline and same characters over and over.

Your sollution could allow developers to invest more in story and design, releasing a software platform, and then gradually developing episodic content for it(like they did with never winter nights).

I can see this doing wonders(ok, maybe a stretch) for the next generation RPGs(specially NWN2).

Re:Disposable Games Vs Design Patterns (1)

guabah (968691) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707418)

Maybe games will start to take a longer time to develop but last a hell of a lot longer than they traditionally have?

Mmmmm...

Maybe that explains why Duke Nukem Forever is taking that long

Re:Disposable Games Vs Design Patterns (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15707512)

Maybe games will start to take a longer time to develop but last a hell of a lot longer than they traditionally have?

A possible explanation for the Duke Nukem programming paradigm? With the amount of time it's taken so far, that game should last about 50 years...

Re:Disposable Games Vs Design Patterns (1)

27,000 (987534) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707677)

I have no idea how a developer would future-proof a game. Yes, System Shock's graphics are outdated... the game is also unplayble in stock state on any modern machine. There's a half-decade swath of Windows/DOS games that we've 'lost', and no amount of graphical updates will bring them back. So too the stories, even Half-Life was flat and simple in comparison to new titles. The gameplay as well, if a studio updates the graphics without updating the style of play, well... Doom III was slammed for that. I personally would drag my feet if someone offered a 'merely' graphically updated version of my old games - I've already played it, after all.

So to support your point, yes, updating graphics would be nice, but all the other disposable natures of the game would have to be removed. The developers would need to renovate/port code, the gameplay/weapons/balance would need to evolve with the pace of modern gaming, the stories would somehow have to grow deeper and fuller. MMOs don't change anything, they last longer, but each title never adapts and grows with the times - EQ couldn't last forever even with its expansions, and has spawned a sequel. All games are disposable in some sense, but I don't know developers could possibly change that without completely re-creating their games every few years. Too much seperates generations.

Never (1)

andrewman327 (635952) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707151)

this would eliminate much of the need for new versions of games. Unless game developers intend to move entirely to the subscription model, this will never happen.

Re:Never (2, Interesting)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707375)

This would be AMAZING, though, as an open-source project. Get an amazing, constantly-updating engine down, and let people release all the content they want for it. It would be like Doom WADs on steroids.

Re:Never (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707424)

#### this would eliminate much of the need for new versions of games

When somebody comes up with a way to generate good dialog, story and gameplay via procedural algorithms, then maybe, but I wouldn't hold my breath. For today I am very happy with good old hand crafted storylines, dialogs and well designed gameplay, graphics, while important, really are secondary to the rest of the game. That said, there is a lot of benefit in these algorithms, Elite was a perfect example of this in offering a whole universe on a tiny 5.25" disc, while Elite didn't exactly have lots of story, there is nothing that would stop an developer to generate the universe itself proceduraly and then add here and there some handcrafted events to keep the player involved. Procedural algorithms also have the advantage that they keep things consistent, if you want to have a huge releastic looking landscape, there is simply no better way then to go procedural, since handcrafted stuff simply has its limits and you don't want to have the some less visited parts of your world look ugly and boring just because the developers ran out of time.

My graphics haven't aged... (5, Insightful)

suggsjc (726146) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707153)

Super Mario Brothers, Duck Hunt and Rad Racer still look just as awesome as the day I first got them!

Re:My graphics haven't aged... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15707182)

I second your statement

Re:My graphics haven't aged... (3, Interesting)

noidentity (188756) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707299)

If those old NES games looked like modern games, I wouldn't play video games at all! What we need is the opposite, something that makes current games not look crappy and 3D.

Re:My graphics haven't aged... (1)

not-enough-info (526586) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707354)

Super Mario Brothers, Duck Hunt and Rad Racer still look just as awesome as the day I first got them!

Do [google.com] they [epicempire.com] ?

Re:My graphics haven't aged... (1)

suggsjc (726146) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707398)

Was actually thinking this was going to get modded funny.

I think that the whole graphics aspect of games is overplayed. I don't care how "real" a game looks if the gameplay isn't good and I'm not having fun while playing it. The oldschool games had awesome gameplay becaues that was the only differentiating (sp?) factor. They were easy to pick up and start playing (you only had two buttons A and B) without having to study a manual. They were usually challenging but could be beaten in a reasonable amount of time (before you got burnt out). And they weren't too expensive...so when the sequel came out, you didn't mind buying it too.

Re:super mario 64 kb ! (1)

in2mind (988476) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707440)

Though I have come across many 'makes' of super mario , i was stunned with one version - Its just 64 kb & it looks as good as the orginal nintendo console version!
That was when I came to know a whole nice looking game can be packed into 64 kb!

Duke Nukem Forever (2, Funny)

OctoberSky (888619) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707157)

Screw Halo 2 in your XBOX 360, I want to put Duke Nukem in my 360 and have it play with Duke Nukem Forever graphics.

Re:Duke Nukem Forever (1)

andrewman327 (635952) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707189)

"I want to put Duke Nukem in my 360 and have it play with Duke Nukem Forever graphics."


You mean screenshots?

Re:Duke Nukem Forever (1)

jdray (645332) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707542)

Did you notice that the total size for the two screenshots in the Wikipedia article were just shy of the total size for the game? Interesting.

Re:Duke Nukem Forever (1)

JayDot (920899) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707219)

I thought you could already do that! Yeah just try it out. Stick the Duke Nukem disc in the XBOX 360 and turn it on. You will see Duke Nukem with DNF graphics... What, you're screen is black? Yeah that's normal. Like I said, DNF graphics...

Re:Duke Nukem Forever (1)

poot_rootbeer (188613) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707368)

What, you're screen is black? Yeah that's normal. Like I said, DNF graphics...

I dunno, black screen sounds more like Doom 3 graphics to me...

Re:Duke Nukem Forever (1)

greenegg77 (718749) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707355)

I want to put Duke Nukem in my 360 and have it play with Duke Nukem Forever graphics.

You only get that on the Phantom console.

Waste of Resources for the Company (1)

bigtimepie (947401) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707159)

Seems like upgrading the old games would be a waste of time and costs for the company. Why would they want me to upgrade Halo 2 if they're trying to sell Halo 3? Maybe if they charge for the upgrade...

Re:Waste of Resources for the Company (1)

gatkinso (15975) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707180)

Well, it wouldn't be "upgraded" (regardless of what the text of the topic states. The gfx would just be rendered differently (i.e. better) by the new hardware.

Re:Waste of Resources for the Company (1)

bigtimepie (947401) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707222)

Still incentive against buying the next version of the game, which would cut profits; thus incentive against implementing the feature.

Re:Waste of Resources for the Company (1)

kyouteki (835576) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707243)

I disagree, especially with the ending Halo 2 has. It almost commands you to get the sequel.

Re:Waste of Resources for the Company (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15707285)

Halo is for fags.

MOD PARENT UP (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15707385)

+1 insightful

halo players love teh cock

DON'T (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15707456)

Man, I wasted like 4 whole seconds clicking on the parent!

Re:Waste of Resources for the Company (2, Insightful)

gatkinso (15975) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707272)

Not really - the game remains exactly the same... it just gets "prettier" when you pop it into the XBox "720".

The onus (real word ??) to improve and change the game then falls onto the model rather than the graphics.

Re:Waste of Resources for the Company (2, Insightful)

FMJaguar (988485) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707352)

Popular movies come out with 'remastered' versions that are basically the same movie but sell as well. If you look at games like Megaman powered up, DS Mario, and a few upcoming titles, people are obviously willing to pay for old games with new graphics. In fact i would say we already have the same games with newer graphics, what we don't have is an industry that has room for innovation because all the time is spent on just getting the things to work on different systems and getting it to market. What would help is if we could actually preserve the originals and work on serious gameplay enhancements that we know will last virtually forever, instead of spending the budget on just getting it to work on new hardware with new graphics. It's not a waste of resources if you've created a loyal base of players that know they can expect a constant increase in quality and visuals, instead of a debate of one vs the other.

Re:Waste of Resources for the Company (1)

timster (32400) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707458)

Remastered versions of popular movies are intended to look the same as they once did, not "better". Colorization is an abomination and not very popular. The new DS Mario is a new game, not an old game with new graphics.

Visual design is an art form, and part of art is the way its limitations allow the imagination to flourish; that's why people still paint even though photography is more realistic, and why people still write books. The original Super Mario Bros. from 1985 is still one of the best looking games ever made. Better looking games require better artists, not faster processors.

What about gameplay quality? (2, Interesting)

gasmonso (929871) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707183)

There's all this hype on graphics and technology, but the heart of any game is still (and always will be) gameplay. Sure the games of old look "crappy", but in many cases they provided a great gaming experience. I for one hope that we just get to the point where graphics are real-life quality and we can focus on gameplay. Just my $.02

http://religousfreaks.com/ [religousfreaks.com]

Re:What about gameplay quality? (1)

greenegg77 (718749) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707327)

Agreed. Some of the best games are from the early '90s and are still played because of their quality gameplay, not their fancy-schmancy graphics. I still break out the original Sid Meier's Pirates! because of the great playability. Same with the original MOO. Sequels rarely exceed the quality of the original, generally just becoming a re-hash with better graphics. A few exceptions in this regard: the new Pirates!, Half-Life2, Battlefield 2. I know, your list contains more items, so sue me. Or post your additions. I don't care.

Re:What about gameplay quality? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15707404)

Procedural synthesis cannot be used to improve gameplay as titles age, but since you're claiming that old title gameplay is excellent, where is the problem?

Krondor (1)

Dareth (47614) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707652)

Betrayal at Krondor

Some of the best RPG fun that can be had on a computer. Graphics are good enough, gameplay is just well... AWESOME!

Where did I put that spider... I want to poison my blade again!

Nintendo Wii (1, Interesting)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707185)

It would be nice if they incorporated some of this technology into the Wii. The old games are great but they would be even better with the graphics turned up to today's standards. I've played with a few emulators that added Anti-aliasing to old SNES games and such. The games looked a lot better. I recently bought a new computer, and hooked up my old copy of Descent 3. It still looks amazing. This is because I was able to turn up all the effects to the max. Whereas before, I was stuck with everything at half. I'm sure the same thing still holds for video games. Most people can't play new games at full res and full effects. However, in 5 years when they buy a new computer, it will be able to pull it off easily.

Re:Nintendo Wii (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707499)

Disagree. WHen I play SMB1, I want it to be the same SMB1 I played as a kid. Yes, down to the annoying you can't scroll left thing. I don't want the graphics changed. It wouldn't improve the game, and it would diminish the nostalgia value.

scalable? (2, Interesting)

kyouteki (835576) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707216)

.kkrieger is certainly a feat of software engineering (pretty much anything .theprodukkt puts out is) but procedural synthesis can only go so far. When you get to elements of the game that should be static (such as specific characters) then a static model would probably be more efficient than an algorithm to generate the same. Of course, I could be (and probably am) wrong.

Re:scalable? (1)

Xzzy (111297) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707449)

Procedural graphics also have a finite amount of "flair" they can depict. We see patterns in every day life, from carpet to concrete, and it seems like a decent idea that all that stuff can be realized on a computer with an algorithm.

The part this misses is the randomness, such as stains or scratches. Procedural textures are pretty bad at generating non random features. Blending between two textures, say a shiny metal surface with rusty bits, is also hard to convincingly create.

In theory it's possible to program that in, but by that point you're starting to edge away from the elegant simplicity of a procedural texture. Instead of manually pushing pixels in photoshop, the artist is now writing custom functions.. and it probably takes an equal amount of time to finalize.

Re:scalable? (1)

koreth (409849) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707480)

Instead of manually pushing pixels in photoshop, the artist is now writing custom functions.. and it probably takes an equal amount of time to finalize.
True, but the point is you only have to do that once and you can use it in a bunch of different games (and even on several generations of platforms, if your future games are written in the same language). Hand-drawn environments tend to be less reusable.

Open source games (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15707223)

Most open source games look like they were made in the 80's.

However, I don't know if they apply in the context of this submission since they are not fun.

Major problem with this technology! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15707227)

As the DNF team found out is this ageless technology is stillborn. The law of conservation of twilight zone posits that any attempt at software immortality will come with unforeseen downsides, one of which is that your timeless software can never come out of alpha.

Didn't FarCry do this? (1)

Beached (52204) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707235)

FarCry has been upgrading the graphics for some time now just by changing the engine to support newer graphics chipsets.

The Good? (5, Interesting)

MiceHead (723398) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707237)

That's an interesting thought. The article makes it out to be a bit like a magical cure, but some aspects of it sound good to me. You can often improve the "wow" factor by tossing in "more" of something. Denser foliage; more of the tiny rocks that make up the detail; and so forth. Procedural generation would mean that these wouldn't have to be placed by hand, so this could make it easier to scale the visuals with system power. Similarly, particle sprays are often done procedurally, so being able to tweak those "up" to create more complex fireworks for mysterious future hardware could also work.

Some games are still played for years after they've fallen behind the curve on graphics; this might mitigate the future ugliness, adding longevity to a popular title. Keeping gamers interested in (and talking about) your game makes sense, whether you'll be producing different titles in the future or will be focusing on sequels.

Ultimately, though, my hope is that algorithmic content generation will bring game development costs down for indies. Maybe I'm dreaming. :)

_______________________
Indie Superstar - A video webcast for gamers who play indie games [indiesuperstar.com]
Dejobaan Games - Indie games for people who watch video webcasts [dejobaan.com]

Re:The Good? (2, Interesting)

Das Modell (969371) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707498)

Still, you can't retrofit certain things afterwards, like better architechture and more polygons. Take a look at Black Mesa: Source [blackmesasource.com] and compare it to the original Half-Life... the improved level design makes a gigantic difference. You could add improved textures and effects into Half-life, but it would still show it's age.

Will Happen for Select Games (2, Insightful)

murraj2 (987249) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707238)

There's no way that video game companies are going to take the time to do this for every game, especially considering the fact that only some parts will be upgraded while some will look like the shitty blocks they were originally. You will definately see some of the classics re-released with this technology because it will be a way to actual increase revenue and profits without being too much work. People want to play classic games like Zelda with modern graphics, I doubt there will be the same interest in 'Echo the Dolphin'.

Oblivion is a bad example (4, Informative)

raygundan (16760) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707241)

Despite what the article says, everyone sees the same trees in Oblivion. The trees were generated using procedural synthesis (SpeedTree) *once*, and then the whole shebang was saved as a huge map and put on the disk. It's an example of the opposite of something like kkrieger, which puts the math on the disk and lets the end-user's machine to the generation, rather than the developers' machines.

The grass, on the other hand, is randomly placed and might qualify. About all that could happen on better hardware in the future is "more grass," though.

Re:Oblivion is a bad example (1)

JFMulder (59706) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707357)

Really? I thought that they would only have saved a couple of parameters on disk for a tree and then the software would procedurally create the tree based on those numbers... If this is the real way SpeedTree works, it's kinda disappointing.

Re:Oblivion is a bad example (1)

raygundan (16760) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707484)

I'm pretty sure SpeedTree generates the LoD models up front, already set up for proper animation. The piece of their software that runs during the game is just an engine for efficient rendering of tree models.

Of course, I've been wrong before. Anybody know for sure?

Game Graphics Haven't Aged (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707245)

It's just your perception that newer-flashier eye candy is superior and preferable to the simple, eligent graphics of yor. Honestly, Pac-man rendered with crisp graphics would actually look tawdry, losing it's original charm.

Was there already an article about Microsoft releasing classic arcade games such as Frogger and pac-man for the XBox 360? It's in the news anyway. [playfuls.com] All it really needs is PC emulation as the games have been on PC's for ages.

One major reason (4, Informative)

Have Blue (616) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707280)

From talking to artists I'm acquainted with, one major reason procedural rendering is moving so slowly is that it's difficult to exercise real creative control over it. All you have to work with are the inputs, and their linkage to aspects of the output may not be clear. It's very hard to tweak a procedural generator with any kind of strategy; all you can do is poke around at random values until the result looks pretty close to what you originally had in mind. Compared to the precise pixel/texel/vertex-level controls artists are used to, it's a step backwards and won't make game development easier or faster.

Re:One major reason (1)

jonno317 (807642) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707496)

I think that the whole point would be that the software is the artist. As I understand it, when you're doing procedural rendering, the goal isn't low level control of the graphics, but is to have a lot of graphics where everything follows the rules (every tree has a trunk, branches, and some leaves) and then the details of individual instances vary within the rules. With that in mind, there would only be a need for a "master" artist that set what the general things should have and then the software would take care of the details.

Re:One major reason (1)

Dalambertian (963810) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707585)

Looking at the creatures in spore, I think it's clear that the ability to add artistic touches has come a long way. I look forward to seeing the industry following Will Wright's lead.

Since we're on the subject... Exult 3D! (4, Interesting)

WWWWolf (2428) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707281)

Exult [sourceforge.net] was a good example of "procedural" "growth" of a game.

Ultima VII was a 2D RPG. Yet, all objects in the game world have height. One guy at Exult hacked up a version of Exult that runs Ultima VII in 3D mode - basically, mapping all 2D tiles around cubes as described by their dimensions and height data.

The results were quite interesting [sammatthews.com] (buildings looked kind of good, creatures and many plants and natural formations not so good, so they are being replaced by 3D models).

But it is a good example and exercise in extracting more detail from the game than the original developers intended or envisioned.

you know what would be nice... (1)

lakerdonald (825553) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707289)

If developers would spend even as little as 10% of the time spent on squeezing in that one last polygon per square unit, and other graphical nonsense, and take that time to maybe develop a few more decent games that aren't just sequels building on the hype of prior sucesses.
Nevermind, that's a dumb idea. After all I have like -23423423 karma so what do I know?

A bit OT (5, Insightful)

trianglecat (318478) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707296)

I've often wondered if the bloat in modern games is somewhat intentional as a deterent to piracy. If a game is 96k (or 300 megs for that matter) it is easily moved, stored, downloaded etc. whereas a game that is 4Gb takes much more effort, bandwidth and energy.

Re:A bit OT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15707554)

4GB+ sazes hasn't affected piracy of full DVD rips thanks to BitTorrent

Yeah, that's not that hard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15707302)

what if your old video games never aged, never looked out-of-date?

Yeah, you don't really need complicated technology for that. All you need is competent art design.

Graphics that age poorly, paradoxically enough, mostly only occur because of an overemphasis on graphics. Or rather, they stem from trying to make graphics that look "impressive" rather than graphics that look good. A game which impresses because it has more polygons than anything you've ever seen before, or some fancy new graphical special effect, you'll love it the first time you see it-- but that's because it surprises you, it's better than anything you've seen before. But that won't last; five years from now it won't be cutting edge anymore, cutting edge will have moved onto something entirely other, and the game will fail on its own merits because it can't dazzle anymore. A game which impresses because it has legitimately attractive artwork doesn't have this problem.

Super Mario World still looks gorgeous over ten years after it came out; Katamari Damacy, simplistic even for its day, will still be visually great ten years from now.

But if you don't have that spark of imagination and cohesive vision... well, it doesn't matter, with time you're going to look dated, aged, and crappy, and no amount of fancy technology will help you-- no, not even if you use "procedural" as a buzzword. If anything this procedural thingy will be even harder to make ageless than normal, becuase it will take a fantastic amount of artistic vision to design things such that the procedures scale to hardware you don't even have around to test on.

What if... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15707313)

the gaming industry finally stopped pushing bigger/better graphics as the magic cure-all for a stale market?

.kkrieger download (5, Informative)

in2mind (988476) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707324)

For those who want to try the 96 k game kkrieger :
Download here (beta version) :http://kk.kema.at/files/kkrieger-beta.zip [kk.kema.at]

Re:.kkrieger download (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15707513)

That does not run properly. Error information is
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-16"?>
<DATABASE>
<EXE NAME="pno0001.exe" FILTER="GRABMI_FILTER_PRIVACY">
    <MATCHING_FILE NAME="pno0001.exe" SIZE="97280" CHECKSUM="0x384919F6" MODULE_TYPE="WIN32" PE_CHECKSUM="0x0" LINKER_VERSION="0x0" LINK_DATE="04/11/2004 21:45:03" UPTO_LINK_DATE="04/11/2004 21:45:03" />
</EXE>
<EXE NAME="kernel32.dll" FILTER="GRABMI_FILTER_THISFILEONLY">
    <MATCHING_FILE NAME="KERNEL32.DLL" SIZE="983552" CHECKSUM="0x4CE79457" BIN_FILE_VERSION="5.1.2600.2180" BIN_PRODUCT_VERSION="5.1.2600.2180" PRODUCT_VERSION="5.1.2600.2180" FILE_DESCRIPTION="Windows NT BASE API Client DLL" COMPANY_NAME="Microsoft Corporation" PRODUCT_NAME="Microsoft&#174; Windows&#174; Operating System" FILE_VERSION="5.1.2600.2180 (xpsp_sp2_rtm.040803-2158)" ORIGINAL_FILENAME="kernel32" INTERNAL_NAME="kernel32" LEGAL_COPYRIGHT="&#169; Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved." VERFILEDATEHI="0x0" VERFILEDATELO="0x0" VERFILEOS="0x40004" VERFILETYPE="0x2" MODULE_TYPE="WIN32" PE_CHECKSUM="0xFF848" LINKER_VERSION="0x50001" UPTO_BIN_FILE_VERSION="5.1.2600.2180" UPTO_BIN_PRODUCT_VERSION="5.1.2600.2180" LINK_DATE="08/04/2004 07:56:36" UPTO_LINK_DATE="08/04/2004 07:56:36" VER_LANGUAGE="English (United States) [0x409]" />
</EXE>
</DATABASE>

Re:.kkrieger download (1)

in2mind (988476) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707657)

Yes it did not run for me too - I think that was because my system does not meet the high system requirements.

That game is in beta. Check if your hardware meets the requirement......
The "official" minimum specs for .kkrieger: chapter 1 beta are:

* A 1.5GHz pentium 3 / athlon or faster.
* 512MB of RAM.
* a GeForce4Ti (or higher) or ATI Radeon8500 (or higher) graphics card supporting pixel shaders 1.3, preferably with 128MB or more of VRAM.
* some kind of sound hardware.
* DirectX 9.0b.

User created content in MMORPGs (0, Offtopic)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707325)

I think MMORPGs would improve immensely if users had greater control over the environment. Nowadays, the paradigm seems to be to hire quest designers who regularly churn out boring, unoriginal quests.

If avatars were allowed to amass power (i.e. labor) and wealth, they could build castles and form alliances to protect their wealth. They could dig dungeons and spike them with traps and seed them with moster populations. Of course, the greater the treasure, the greater the incentive to find it, and the greater the incentive to protect it, leading to ever more creative dungeons, more daring heroes and quests.

To carry the thinking out of the dungeons, if you have Kingdoms that control wealth, and royalty that commands armies, then you make for the kind of human drama that makes for interesting quests. People would form alliances, and break them and double-cross each other. Someone would try to make an ally look like an enemy.

I think for this to work, there needs to be some kind of lego-type feature for building new, creative things. You start with a basic, finite set of elements, and allow for their combinations to affect the world in novel ways. Put them in people's hands and you will witness creativity you never thought possible.

Basically, make the world creative, generative, and put people in charge, and you will have sustained, user-created content.

Re:User created content in MMORPGs (1)

dhakbar (783117) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707438)

Ultima Online had basic elements of player control. Housing was used to store the vast wealth players could accumulate. At one time, long ago, housing was inherently insecure in UO. This spawned house break-ins and rivalries, guild wars and just a general sense that dying and losing your shit was IMPORTANT. The importance of your success or failure is not gauged by what other players can take from you or do to you in most MMORPGs.

UO, while inherently flawed, had the winning combination of meaningful geography and legitimate ways to cause permanent harm or help to other players. I've never again experienced such raw, fun competition as I did in UO.

Procedural Paradigm (2, Informative)

GreggBz (777373) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707402)

The whole concept of procedural creation in games has not been fleshed out as I would have hoped. Procedural methods can do much more then make great FPS graphics fit on 800K. Way back in 1986, I played a game called Starflight. Starflight used fractal algorithms to create a pretty diverse universe with about 200 star systems and 800 planets. You could land on and explore each planet. Close up. Let me say that again, you could land on each planet, collect it's life, find unique artifacts and rove your little tank around for hours. All of this fit onto two low density 5 1/4" floppies. Now, the CGA graphics and restrictive CPU power did no favors. Things got pretty repetitive, but the enormity of the game went unmatched for about 12 years.

In reflection, and now that I better understand it's design, it seems to me to be a microcosm of the real universe. You have a set of rules and a set of elements and by happenstance, (not by human hands in 3ds max) worlds are born.

For a long time, we've been stuck with with character models, human built maps, plot-lines on rails and worlds confined to the imagination of the story line department. Procedural graphics and world creation could make the universe out of a few megabytes.
There are a few games here and there that use this idea. Here is a game in development using procedural graphics and fractal planet creation: Infinity [fl-tw.com]

Allow me to translate.... (4, Insightful)

Duncan3 (10537) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707409)

"Console companies have gone ot such great lengths to make sure their API is so specific that we have to spend a year porting from one console to another, that we'll just come up with a way to make it all never change."

At least half the design time of a console these days is making sure it's HARD to port games to another console, so that it will be an exclusive title, and they can make more money.

I fyou think Microsoft hates things like OpenGL, you've never seen the fires of hell hatered that people like Sony, Nintendo etc have for anything that makes game development easier.

Off topic: RSS error (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707448)

I know this will be marked off topic, but where can I tell people that there are errors in the RSS feed. It worked great till a few days and No I get to a wrong page with several articles.

Total Annihilation (2, Informative)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707453)

This game... created in the 1990's looks as good as ever. And in fact, recently went to a true 3d environment ("Spring"). All those tiny 1/2" objects were 3d objects from the beginning. As the 3d cards got better, the game got better.

Likewise, the AI engine and other aspects were forward thinking- table based, programmable and over the years the AI for the game and units and maps have all only improved with age.

It is the *only* game that I purchased back then that I still play and enjoy.

What would happen? (1)

jacoby (3149) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707466)

More than likely, the money for creating the newest, coolest thing would drop off and you'd get fewer players in the field, and far fewer games. Technology is good, standards that allow technology to expand is better. But money drives it.

Makes sense, depending on your point of view. (2, Insightful)

Onuma (947856) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707472)

The games are disposable today. I don't know how many I own or have rented and played, but never finished - or just never picked up again. Yet again and again I go out and get these asinine games which I will not remember in the future, but merely use to burn up time. I think i'm going to start going to the library to get books more often, at least I will gain something from there, rather than wasting my time on pointless games. It's cheaper and healthier that way.

The gaming industry is like medicine, there's no money in the cure. Return customers are where they make their bucks.

I'm not convinced that this will work that well... (1)

Lendrick (314723) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707534)

...but let's say that it does. Why on earth would a company want to sell you a game that will never start to look dated? If Morrowind looked like Oblivion, a lot of people probably wouldn't have bought Oblivion. This goes double for games that lack any sort of story or plot, like basically any cookie-cutter sports title ever made.

So, in short, don't expect this to happen. As long as graphics continue to improve, game companies will use that to sell you new games, not improve the old ones for free (or even a small cost).

Messiah did this.. anyone remember? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15707596)

The game "Messiah" did this, released March 31, 2000. The character's poly counts would increase if you had enough hardware. Supposedly when the game was released, no video cards or pc's existed which could show the game in full detail. It would add detail until you get 30fps and try to keep it smooth. Of course, it didn't help that the gameplay was boring. Anyways, the problem with procedural generation is readily apparent, as can be seen using this game as an example. Gaming hardware changes, and the programs would have to be re-written to take advantage of this hardware. Sure, you can keep adding in polygons or textures, but procedural generation won't write a more detailed or efficient shader. It won't help with the physics or AI either. If your AI is handled by a neural net, you may be able to scale it up and down based on the hardware, however with neural nets there is an efficiency ceiling which is hit around 1000 nodes. Anyways, I think that the game Messiah was maxed out around 2 years after release.

Demoscene, anyone? (2, Informative)

seadoo2006 (679028) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707634)

Procedural synthesis has been around for quite awhile in the demoscene. These demos are computer programs that have been specifically engineeered to impress in both sound and graphics quality?

Check out FR-08, circa 2000, by Farbrausch...this demo goes on for nearly 15 minutes at 1024x768 graphics that certainly blew away anything of that time, and its 64KB.....64KB!!
Download Here [pouet.net] [pouet.net]

Also, see FR-025, circa 2003, this "popular" demo absolutely blew my mind when I first watched it.
Download Here [pouet.net] [pouet.net]

Heaven Seven, circa 1999, the demo completed by Exceed, is a journey threw time with beautiful textures and graphics. This is also a 64KB demo, so beautiful...
Download Here [pouet.net] [pouet.net]

The demoscene is alive and well, publishing the most beautiful and interesting works of art in modern days. Even the largest demos (~50MB), blow away HL2 and any other 4GB+ game. Check these out at http://www.pouet.net [pouet.net]

That will NEVER fly (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#15707642)

How would EA sell you the same game again next year if they couldn't at least point to the better graphics?
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