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Will Wright - The Games Master

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the i'm-a-gamemaster-too-roll-for-initiative dept.

40

The New Yorker has a profile up of Will Wright, referring to the designer as 'The Games Master'. The lengthy article delves into Wright's past, and deals with the enormous venture that Wright has undertaken with the now much-hyped Spore. From the article: "At a certain point in the performance, the crazy ambition of Spore became clear: Wright was proposing to simulate the limitless possibility of life itself. The simulation falls between Darwinism and intelligent design, into new conceptual territory. Wright had worked out the algorithm for life, as described by the philosopher Daniel C. Dennett, in 'Darwin's Dangerous Idea.'" Mr. Dennett's book is well worth checking out, if you're interested in evolutionary thought.

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40 comments

Just a Game (4, Insightful)

Speare (84249) | more than 7 years ago | (#16657323)

Wright had worked out the algorithm for life, as described by the philosopher Daniel C. Dennett, in 'Darwin's Dangerous Idea.'"

Okay, it's just a game. Props to Will and all, it's a neat idea and so far it looks to be a fun exploration of the concept, but let's not get carried away.

Many games provide a limited simulacrum of deity simulation: Populous and Black & White come to mind instantly. Someone might even be influenced in thinking about their personal theological views by playing these games, which I find healthy and useful.

But there's a lot more to "the algorithm of life" than what Spore has to offer. From John Conway to Will Wright, you're not going to find 0.00001% of the algorithm in any one place. Enjoy the game for what it is.

Re:Just a Game (1)

ichigo 2.0 (900288) | more than 7 years ago | (#16662367)

But there's a lot more to "the algorithm of life" than what Spore has to offer. From John Conway to Will Wright, you're not going to find 0.00001% of the algorithm in any one place.

While I agree that Spore is a simplified view on the "algorithm of life", I don't think one needs to exaggerate and start talking about that kind of percentages. Life isn't that complex in all honesty, and we already know how it came to be which surely accounts for more than 0.00001% of the "algorithm of life".

Re:Just a Game (1)

Nataku564 (668188) | more than 7 years ago | (#16667389)

We have possible theories regarding how life might have arisen, but to say we "know" how life came to be is an exaggeration at best. The theories we do have are rather hard to test too (at least the ones I know of), so I wouldn't put too much stock in them just yet.

Re:Just a Game (1)

ichigo 2.0 (900288) | more than 7 years ago | (#16670147)

The word "know" was poorly chosen, as we can never know the exact conditions that existed back then, but we already have a good model on how e.g. amino acids can spontaneously appear in the right environment. After the organic matter reaches a sufficient complexity, it starts to operate under the principles of evolution. Theories that life could have come from somewhere outside Earth have no bearing on this, as the same models apply to life from other planets as well.

Overly simplified? Yes. But good enough for the purposes of a slashdot post. :)

I'm all hyped out (1)

ShadowsHawk (916454) | more than 7 years ago | (#16657341)

I'm tired of the Will Wright hype. I bought into the B&W hype and preordered the game. I was moderately interested in B&W2, but was leery from getting burned by the original. I think I'll just skip it this time around since nothing could live up to the amount of hype that Spore is generating.

Re:I'm all hyped out (1)

chrismcdirty (677039) | more than 7 years ago | (#16657447)

B&W was Peter Molyneux hype. And I'll agree. That man is all hype about what his games could be. It's too bad they never turn out like that.

Not all hype (1)

roguegramma (982660) | more than 7 years ago | (#16676163)

I liked Popolous 1 and Magic Carpet - very simple games that gave what you expected them to give - fast-paced and simple action. Later on, expectations on a game were much higher and were often failed.

Re:I'm all hyped out (1)

daranz (914716) | more than 7 years ago | (#16657561)

I think Penny Arcade [penny-arcade.com] got it right...

Re:I'm all hyped out (1)

beckerist (985855) | more than 7 years ago | (#16662193)

Please stop with the Penny Arcade links! I've never found a single strip funny, and it's now basically one giant cliche.

Also, what was wrong with Black and White? I loved that game! I played it for months as I had nothing else to do, but didn't need anything else to do, it was that great!

And as for the hype, I'm psyched for Spore. I can't think of any other game that gives you that much control over building your own character, I have a feeling this will attract a lot more than the hardcore gamer!

Re:I'm all hyped out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16657807)

Er, Black and White was made by Peter Molyneux at Lionhead, if I remember correctly.

--Greg

Spore to be an other black and white (3, Insightful)

rednuhter (516649) | more than 7 years ago | (#16657511)

I loved the initial island of black and white, doing what I wanted when I wanted etc, but step through gate and all that is gone you HAVE to build your armies, you HAVE to fight, challenging yes but much less fun (for me anyway) .
From what I have read about spore the 'freedom' will not be as free as we perhapse envisage, especially the transitions of phases.
Never the less I wait with baited breath for the WII version.

Re:Spore to be an other black and white (1)

moongha (179616) | more than 7 years ago | (#16658553)

I agree. Once the dust settles I'm expecting spore to turn out to be another resource management RTS game, something I can do without.

Game master? (3, Insightful)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | more than 7 years ago | (#16658393)

I don't know if "Game Master" is an appropriate title for Will Wright. I'd say "Toy Master" is more appropriate. Most of his games are actually little sandboxes for people to play around in. Sim City, The Sims, and now Spore. Not that there's anything wrong with this approach, but how do you win? Winning seems to be an essential key for games, IMHO.

Re:Game master? (1)

Purity Of Essence (1007601) | more than 7 years ago | (#16659181)

What are you talking about? You "win" by accomplishing goals and trying to improve your performance. All the Will Wright "toys" have goals. And if you don't like the one's they provide, there is nothing stopping from making up your own. That's the main strength of sandbox games over games that mandate your every move. I do agree with you about Wright's games being toy-like, but that does preclude them from being game-like as well.

The press call him a "master" in the sense that he's a vocal, somewhat inscrutable dreamer -- a gaming mystic, if you will -- who has repeatedly reached a large level of success not producing cookie-cutter games, games which are popular with the masses and which have designs that excite other developers. It's that success that seperates him from other vocal visionaries like Crawford or Molyneux. Other visionaries, who aren't as vocal, will never be noticed by the mainstream press. It's simplistic but somebody has to be the "master" and Will Wright just happens to fit the bill.

Re:Game master? (1)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | more than 7 years ago | (#16660299)

What are you talking about? You "win" by accomplishing goals and trying to improve your performance. All the Will Wright "toys" have goals. And if you don't like the one's they provide, there is nothing stopping from making up your own. That's the main strength of sandbox games over games that mandate your every move. I do agree with you about Wright's games being toy-like, but that does preclude them from being game-like as well.

I'm not slamming Wright, because I think he does some pretty interesting stuff. I've played various versions of SimCity & The Sims before, but I was somewhat turned off when I made an interesting discovery while playing The Sims. I left the game run for a few hours on its own one day, and when I came back, my unemployed Sim had more money than when I left! Apparently he was making his money by answering the phone and winning contests.

Re:Game master? (1)

IpalindromeI (515070) | more than 7 years ago | (#16661303)

who has repeatedly reached a large level of success not producing cookie-cutter games

Ahem:
        * The Sims
        * The Sims: Livin' Large
        * The Sims: House Party
        * The Sims: Hot Date
        * The Sims: Vacation
        * The Sims: Unleashed
        * The Sims: Superstar
        * The Sims: Makin' Magic
        * The Sims Bustin' Out
        * The Sims 2
        * The Sims 2: University
        * The Sims 2: Nightlife
        * The Sims 2: Holiday Edition
        * The Sims 2: Family Fun Stuff
        * The Sims 2: Glamour Life Stuff
        * The Sims 2: Happy Holiday Stuff/Mini Pack
        * The Sims 2: Open for Business
        * The Sims 2: Pets
        * The Sims 2: In Season

Re:Game master? what about all the Sims editions? (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 7 years ago | (#16662203)

Good point, except for the fact that each one of those expansion sets actually added entire consistent and novel things to the Sims and Sims 2 franchises. Except for Holiday Edition and Family Fun and Glamor Life, which are just clothes and things.

For example, Open for Business added elevators, running businesses (with sales, time rentals, restaurants, and robot/toy/flower making), and more. Nightlife introduced restaurants and vampires. University added a fairly realistic 4 year college experience (even if it's severely flawed in that it has no post-grads, no community colleges, etc).

Besides, he's working on The Sims 3 right now. It's one of the most profitable EA games franchises in gaming, quite frankly. And a lot more fun than FPS - I just had Hillary Duff grow up from High School and move to college with her sorority sisters (who keep falling in love with her - hard to manage them not getting their feelings hurt ...)

Re:Game master? what about all the Sims editions? (1)

IpalindromeI (515070) | more than 7 years ago | (#16663281)

Good point, except for the fact that each one of those expansion sets actually added entire consistent and novel things to the Sims and Sims 2 franchises.

Sure they added things, but they aren't new games. They're the same game in a different setting. Like decorating the same cookie differently.

Obviously this interpretation depends on your viewpoint. Someone who likes The Sims type games will probably see the expansions as novel and entertaining. I don't really like those games, so I see the expansions as cookie-cutter, because to me they all share the same kind of dullness.

Besides, he's working on The Sims 3 right now.

Yeah, maybe they'll use green frosting this time.

Re:Game master? what about all the Sims editions? (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 7 years ago | (#16663563)

If you'd actually played all the Sims variants, you'd know that Sims 2: University is very unlike Sims 2: Night Life.

While all exist, the motivations and objects tend to make them very separate. Even Sims 2: Pets is a very different flavor.

Re:Game master? (1)

10Neon (932006) | more than 7 years ago | (#16663817)

Wright himself was only directly involved in developing two of those: The Sims and The Sims 2.

Re:Game master? (1)

Kuciwalker (891651) | more than 7 years ago | (#16660503)

How do you win at tag?

Re:Game master? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16665991)

According to the US school system, it is a strange game.

The only way to win is not to play at all.

Re:Game master? (1)

fj3k (993224) | more than 7 years ago | (#16666829)

The only way to win is not to play at all.

Which is a very geeky perspective on all active games.

Winning is an essential key to games? (1)

Flentil (765056) | more than 7 years ago | (#16661389)

They said the same about "The Sims", which as far as I know is still the best selling PC 'game' in history. They probably said the same about the original SimCity so you'd think they would have learned by now that a game doesn't need to be won to have fun. Perhaps if you can destroy all the planets in the Milky Way Galaxy, you can declare yourself the winner? Or maybe go for a galactic cultural domination, or total univeral annihilation. Or maybe just getting off earth is the big win. You can decide, and that makes it 10x more a game than any of the always-on-rails FPS games that are so prevalant these days. When I play those I'm left wondering why didn't they just make it into a movie since it plays the same every time.

Re:Winning is an essential key to games? (1)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | more than 7 years ago | (#16662079)

When I play those I'm left wondering why didn't they just make it into a movie since it plays the same every time.

Ever tried Deus Ex? [wikipedia.org]

Re:Winning is an essential key to games? (1)

Flentil (765056) | more than 7 years ago | (#16666131)

Yes I loved Deus Ex and even liked Deus Ex2...I'm talking about more modern shooters like Doom3, Quake4, Prey (these are all pretty much the same game) and most any other shooter released in the past 10 years that isn't Deus Ex or System Shock 2. Even Half-Life 1 & 2 are basically long corridors to the end with no real divergent paths.

Dennet Links (4, Informative)

MrCopilot (871878) | more than 7 years ago | (#16658669)

Wright had worked out the algorithm for life, as described by the philosopher Daniel C. Dennett, in 'Darwin's Dangerous Idea.'" Mr. Dennett's book is well worth checking out, if you're interested in evolutionary thought.

For your perusal: (Guessing the editors couldn't pick just one)

Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darwin's_Dangerous_Id ea [wikipedia.org]

Video Pesentation at TED
http://www.ted.com/tedtalks/tedtalksplayer.cfm?key =d_dennett&gclid=CJvOo4LXo4gCFR4IUAodOhKBVQ&flashE nabled=1 [ted.com]

Book
http://www.amazon.com/Darwins-Dangerous-Idea-Evolu tion-Meanings/dp/068482471X [amazon.com]

HomePage
http://ase.tufts.edu/cogstud/~ddennett.htm [tufts.edu]

Re:Dennet Links (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16660987)

This is pure karma whoring if I ever saw it. You're not even familiar with Dennett enough to spell his name right!

As for the actual topic here, who the hell cares about the algorithm Dennett "described"? "Darwin's Dangerous Idea" is just your average pop science evolutionary tract. To invoke Dennett here is as absurd as calling, say, quicksort "the algorithm implemented in 2006 by John Doe, comp. science freshman at MIT as part of his algorithms 101 class". Yes, he may have implemented it. But so what? Thousands of others have done it before him, for decades.

I'm tired of the spore hype. It's a game. It might be interesting, it might not be. It certainly isn't Ulysses, and Wright certainly hasn't worked out "the algorithm for life".

Re:Dennet Links (1)

MrCopilot (871878) | more than 7 years ago | (#16662113)

This is pure karma whoring if I ever saw it. You're not even familiar with Dennett enough to spell his name right!

Wow, and here I thought it would be helpful to people who were reading this wondering who this man was. I found the information at the other end of these links at least informative.

My apologies for mispelling his name. I see it upset you greatly.

And no I have yet ti read the book but it is on order now.

My son has been lobbying Will for Spore on Wii (3, Interesting)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 7 years ago | (#16662085)

Seriously, he's been sending Will emails - and apparently getting responses - trying to convince him to release Spore on the Wii sooner rather than later. Amazingly, he says that Will is going along with it.

Mind you, when he was 11, he took on a powerful city councilmember for the district endorsement and won, embarrasing him.

Re:My son has been lobbying Will for Spore on Wii (3, Insightful)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 7 years ago | (#16662939)

That's one of the best things about Wright - he reads emails that people send him, and actually responds to them. He's added features from email suggestions, and sent out plenty of "this is why we can't do this" responses. Great guy.

Hype will eat itself (1)

mabu (178417) | more than 7 years ago | (#16703705)

I've been excited to see Spore, but at this point, it's been so long coming, I'm really concerned that this game is not going to live up to its hype. The early phases look interesting for about 45 seconds, then it seems to be heavily repetitive and boring for extended periods of time. The game shifts across genres, which might seem interesting at first, but could also turn off a lot of people who may enjoy games like Pac Man and Tetris and then suddenly realize they're playing Warcraft or Unreal.

I am suspecting Spore is too ambitious for its own good. It will probably sell well, but it could turn into a huge flop by trying to be too much. This game should have come out this holiday season.
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