Monday, February 29, 2016

A Window On The World : Ninelives, EQNext

In the comments on yesterday's post Dahakha mentioned the proposed inclusion of the  Storybricks AI in EQNext. It was one of the many things that got a lot of people very excited around the time of the big EQN reveal. Can you believe that was two and a half years ago?

Since then a lot has changed. Okay, no it hasn't. The Storybricks team has been jettisoned from the project after, supposedly, having contributed as much as needed to allow the work to continue in house. Along with all the other invisible work being carried out by invisible people, invisibly, one assumes.

I'd forgotten about Storybricks. Indeed, the degree to which it had vanished from my memory can be measured by the fact that, even though ex-Storybricks developer Brian "Psychochild" Green was the very person to bring Ninelives to my attention, I still didn't connect the two until Dahakha reminded me.

There's a connection? Well, yes, in a way. Conceptually. Potentially. It has something to do with the discussion on single player RPGs, virtual worlds, immersion and authenticity.

It occurred to me while I was playing and enjoying and feeling part of and yet strangely isolated from the compelling world of Ninelives that we don't seem to have any virtual worlds that aren't games or gamelike simulations. We could.

A very long time ago, most likely in a Philip K Dick novel, I remember coming across the concept of living pictures. Art that hangs on the wall of your house but which shows not the same static picture but a moving image.

At the time something of the kind could have been contrived in the way video installation became a gallery staple in the 1980s. Today the technology is cheap and available enough to make moving pictures on the walls of your home an everyday reality. The most it appears to be used for thus far, however, is as a rather tacky replacement for photo albums and the old home movie projector.

What if, instead of photos of your dog and videos of the grandchildren, a screen on your wall opened onto an ever-changing vista of another world? How would it be if a roving camera panned across fields and plains, followed strange creatures through towering forests, swooped above the bustling streets of cities?

How would it be to watch them carrying on their imaginary lives without intervention or interruption? With the procedural techniques currently being employed to build vast enterprises like No Man's Sky and the artificial intelligence codices promised by Storybricks, could we not have something far closer to virtual worlds than anything we've yet seen?

What's more, freed from the costs and constraints of having to provide either gameplay or narrative, all of the development funding and effort could be directed at world-building. Sitting squarely within the visual arts rather than storytelling or gaming the result could be something designed to give pleasure, provoke thought and stir emotion simply by being observed and experienced, not by being played.

I'd Kickstart a project like that.

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