Monthly Archives: March 2008

Transparency on the Other Side of Agency

At Grand Text Auto, Andrew Stern has reopened a discussion that ties into my last podcast. In that episode, I asked whether an NPC that ignored the player’s input but gave the illusion of reacting could still be called “interactive.” In his post, Stern asks a question about the other extreme. How can we allow the player to understand how the NPC’s mind works without blatantly exposing the logic?

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Ludus Novus 010: ELIZA Is Dead

Is the illusion of player agency as good as real player agency? Isn’t a video game just a simulated game master? Is the Chinese Room a good game? If the author is dead, what about the algorithm?

The music for this episode is “The Acorns. Seedin Time in The Oak Room.” by Loveshadow, and is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 license.


  • John Searle’s Chinese room

The Good Kind of Quick-time

Alec Meer of Rock, Paper, Shotgun has “a blind, silly prejudice” against quick-time events. Those are the reaction-testing interactive cutscenes that I discussed way back in Episode 001. A cutscene pops up, but (surprise!) you have to press a button or get eaten by a dinosaur.

I like the idea of quick-time events. Cutscenes usually feature the player character doing something interesting, and instead of taking that away from the player, quick-time events let you participate, even when the actions being performed are ones that aren’t part of your normal interface.

I’ll admit that the implementation of quick-time events can be a bit slipshod, but unlike Meer, I’m excited by their inclusion in a new game. In this case, it’s the FPS Aliens: Colonial Marines. There are events in FPSs that are cool, but don’t fit into the standard gameplay. Wrestling. Diving out of the way of things. Conversing. As long as the events don’t break the immersion – and I argue that it’s possible for them not to – I’m all for random button-presses to survive a cutscene. From Meer’s description of how A:CM is implementing them, I’m going to have to try this game out for myself.

Ludus Novus 009: Extra Life

Death in games is usually a mistake. In these four indie games, it’s an intended part of the experience.

The music for this episode is “Make You Cry” by Jonathan Coulton, and is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 license.