Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Perceptions Of Space

I have been  creating 3 dimensional environments exploring the possibilities of virtual space. Initially I was just experimenting with the world, trying to think of ways to implement non-Euclidean geometries inspired by the games I looked at in my previous post. 

When coding the virtual camera there is a parameter that defines the field of view of the screen. I accidentally entered the 'wrong' number and discovered some pretty exciting results that enabled the field of view to extend beyond that of a human eye. This produces some pretty warped and twisted visuals that completely disorient the player - a fish-eye-like effect hat can be extended to impossible extremes.

Beyond the visual intrigue of this experiment, such technique opens up a unique dialogue in the discussion of virtual space. Bending the 'field of view' effects the virtual camera, adjusting the way which we as an audience experience a space. The significance of this is that despite appearances, the actual game space remains unchanged, objects occupying the same coordinates of Cartesian space despite the apparent ocular aberrations which may occur. 
It is not the space that is changing, only our perception of it.

This concept highlights the relativity of our own spacial experiences; we expect virtual worlds to behave a certain way based upon the understandings we have of our own and when they don't conform, these spaces become powerful mechanisms of affect.

Space perceived from a 'normal' field of view
The same space, viewed from a distorted perspective

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Recursive Space

I've been reading a paper by Aylish Wood about what she terms 'Recursive Space'.
Recursive space is a concept discussing interactive space as a space which exists through the relationship between the coded world itself and the input of the player. Space is generated by the interactions of the user and reconfigured by these actions. It is the agency of virtual objects inside and outside of the frame and how they affect and are effected by the player that truly defines this space.
"Space is actively created when a gamer becomes entangled with the game world and the possibilities of the game's code" - Page 2
There are undobutedly representational qualities in all forms of virtual space it is however, important to consider that interactive spaces are not soley representational (perhaps aesthetically) but are much deeper in that they are generative. While players negotiate interactive spaces through the lens of social construction they are more than a passive entity but an active force constantly reconfiguring the space itself within the confines of the code from the perspective of the spatial frame.

One interesting stance which Wood suggests is that "The game does not exist in any active sense without the input of the gamer." I'd say that this is contestable, without a player perhaps the recursive space doesn't exist but game spaces can certainly be 'active' without the need of a human participant. 

Something interesting about this idea of recursive space is that you can apply it to any form of game or interactive media, it is a way of describing space which is not specific to certain genres or titles but an all encompassing concept which is what makes the idea useful in that I can apply it directly to my own work.

Recursive space is conceptual, I suppose all definitions of space are conceptual really but by this I mean that it is not physical, it is a relative space which exists only by the interaction between a person and a virtual interface. It is the result of the agencies of game space and player constantly affecting one another - a space of affective energy.

Non Euclidean Space

I found a few examples which explore the use of non Euclidean spaces in virtual environments - a refreshing dose of innovation in the way we have come to think about virtual spaces.
"Euclidean space - a space in which Euclid's axioms and definitions apply; a metric space that is linear and finite-dimensional"
So then, non Euclidean space is a space which is non linear, operating beyond the bounds of Cartesian geometry and polar coordinates. This space is not topographical but a manifold of space within space, illogical to the laws of the physicality of our own world.

Feign is a game created by Ian Snyder which explores non euclidean space in a fairly simple way of navigating a maze. What makes this interesting is that there are 'impossible', overlapping spaces in this world - endless corridors, rooms that change depending on the direction you are facing, entire areas compressed within what is seemingly a single tile. You can walk around in a circle and find yourself not back where you began, but an completely new space. It could be argued that these spaces aren't non Euclidean in the sense that they are experienced through the representation of a three dimensional world on the two dimensional plane of the screen but being that what we consider '3D' games don't actually have any physical depth, I think it is reasonable to accept these representations of non Euclidean geometry as being perfectly valid.

Thirteen Gates
Thirteen Gates takes the ideas expressed in Feign to an entirely new level because while the author's previous game was mind bending, the configurations of the virtual world were still rooted in an aesthetic resembling our own (walls, floors, characters). Thirteen Gates on the other hand is far more removed from the indexicallity of reality, it presents a space so foreign that it feels completely unnatural to navigate not in terms of the user interaction but in the sense of how the player understands the space and is meant to interpret it. In my view is an incredible achievement, after all, interactive space is virtual, constructed and illusionary so why must it always be representational? It is important to point out that it its not the aesthetics of this game which make it interesting or different, the surreality of the graphics undoubtedly enhance the immensity of it all but it is the mechanics of this world the very nature of this space which is so alien. The player basically navigates a maze of patterns with a distorted perspective and a non existent depth of field.

Some further examples of spacial manipulation:

Echo Chrome plays with expectations of space through perspective shifting:

Fez twists the conception of two and three dimensional space by having multiple two dimensional planes exisitng within the same world:

Thinking back to the prototype I made using multiple frames to fragment the on screen space makes me consider some of the possibilities of spacial manipulation within even a two dimensional realm. Although not non Euclidean in itself, separating the screen into multiple sections undoubtedly plays with some of the same ideas which this concept expresses. What if frames changed as new ones were entered? If 2D worlds can be made to overlap or intersect in some sense then a myriad of new potentials could unfold.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

I Remember The Rain Response

I released I Remember The Rain a couple of weeks back and since then it's gotten a fair amount of response from emails to twitter mentions as well as a few reposts! Small success I know but still, it's great to know that people are getting to play it and even better to know that they're actually liking it!  I was featured on which is exciting because the site has a lot of readers which definitely brought some exposure. It's been neat coming across this kind of thing, the other big one was making the front page of Game Jolt! Feeling pretty inspired to start on a new project soon.

I've gotten some good feedback from a few forums which I will definitely keep in mind when starting the next project. Overall I think I need to refine the text system to make it more interesting and flow smoother with the dialogue as well as make the environments a lot more interactive. Perhaps certain decisions will have direct effects on how the story (or space) develops. A lot of people have commented on the short length of the game though I wonder if that's to do with expectations of the medium (most games are longer than 5-10 minutes). I kind of like how short it is, though I can see making a slightly longer work could allow connections with characters to be developed a lot further.

Someone did a video play through as well, it seems to be running slower than it should for some reason but it's cool that he liked it enough to make this, his commentary is also quite entertaining:

There are at least half a dozen other pages floating around but these are the ones which have gathered the most response:

I Remember The Rain - Game Maker Community
I Remember The Rain - The Independent Gaming Source - The Weblog Freeware Game Pick: I Remember The Rain (Jordan Browne)
I Remember The Rain - A Freeware Game | Game Jolt
Game Tunnel

Reception-wise, I've got to say the project has been extremely successful, from responses both online and from people who I've showed it seems the atmosphere and mood I was trying to capture was conveyed perfectly.

"an excellently told, stunningly illustrated and touchingly narrated story and I do believe most people will savour the experience it provides." - Indie Games The Weblog

"I must have played it 3 times in a row and each time I was blown away by how I Remember The Rain pulled at my emotional strings."  -

It would be great to display the work in a public place as an installation - I've never seen anything like that locally but I guess there's always room for a first.