Welcome to Issue 32!
Welcome to the “Design for Games” issue of your free Digital Art Live magazine. First up is an interview with the lead guy at Wildfire Games, makers of the popular indie desktop game 0. A.D.. The game is vividly set in the Ancient World and ranges from the misty British Isles all the way down to Ancient Egypt. In the second interview the leading science-fiction author Neal Stephenson talks about his role as Chief Futurist at the augmented reality company Magic Leap, and much more. And finally we interview the maker of World Creator, the new landscape sculpting software that interfaces very neatly with the Unity game engine. This last interview is accompanied by our short review of the latest build of the World Creator 2 software.
Game design is pushing boundaries in all sorts of ways, from indie-student experiments and attempts at ‘re-educational’ games, to the blossoming field of mobile AR, to interactive gamebooks (exemplified by games from Inkle), and beyond. These days digital art even intertwines with ‘traditional’ table-top RPG games, from the artwork and maps in the game’s books, to 3D-printed game pieces.
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We talk with the lead developer at Wildfire about the big free game called 0 A.D, vividly set in the Ancient World.
“The single player game against the AI is a fun and challenging experience. Defeating the computer is no mean feat. We are looking forward to proposing a single player historical path in which you can relive the great military campaigns”.
We present an in-depth interview with the leading science fiction novelist, who is also the Chief Futurist at Magic Leap.
NOVELIST | FUTURIST
“When a new platform comes along there’s this ‘window of time’ during which nobody knows yet how to make money from it… and during that time you may have an opportunity to try a bunch of weird new stuff!”
World Creator 2 is a GPU procedural terrain and landscape generator, that renders in real-time. We talk with the developer.
“I personally cannot wait to see the first game where the terrain was made with World Creator, or to sit in the cinema with friends watching a blockbuster movie where I know that the terrain was made with World Creator.”
Also in Digital Art Live….
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Part Interview text with NEAL STEPHENSON
DAL: Neil, welcome. As well as being a leading science fiction author, you also embed yourself among those who are doing cutting-edge work in the front lines of gaming, getting in there with people the companies like Blue Origin and more recently Magic Leap. Which is a good fit with this “Design for Games” issue of our free magazine. But first, to help unfamiliar readers learn more about what you’re well known for, could you talk about your recent Seveneves novel? It has some big hard sci-fi ideas that will immediately grab readers, I think.
NS: Yes… in this kind of writing people will believe anything that’s on the first page. Then, once you’ve gotten more than about 10 or 15 pages into the book and laid out the logic and the ground rules of the story, then people become very stern judges of consistency. So beyond that, if you start breaking the rules that you set the beginning of the book, you will hear about it. And… so in the first sentence of my recent hard science-fiction novel Seveneves the moon blows up. And I never explained why, so we’ve got that out of the way…
DAL: Yes, that’s certainly a big idea…
NS: I actually sat on the idea and story for several years, did different treatments you know… trying to see if people in the TV or movies or games would be interested in doing something with this idea. And then a few years ago I just decided — what the hell. I always do this in the end, I always do the same thing which is I just sit down and write a novel after I’ve exhausted all of the other possible ways of proceeding.
DAL: Right, well that’s a second good tip for our readers right there. Thanks. Explore the media possibilities first, before committing to a more solo manner of storytelling. But there was more…
NS: Yes, the other big idea in Seveneves is that what happens is that the aliens are us. Basically the human race genetically fragments into a number of sub species [once we’re in space] and that then sort of they develop after that for thousands of years and they’re still side by side. Some of them stick to themselves and they don’t like hanging out with the others, but some of them are more prone to intermingle.
At the end of that five thousand years we’ve got that cool situation with a bunch of alien species who all speak English and are still able to interbreed with each other.
Of course, you know, this is a traditional idea of a lot of science fiction stories, notably Star Trek. But I was trying to flip that around and say that the more plausible way that this would develop would be that we would use in situ materials [in the inner solar system] so… asteroids… pieces of the moon… and use these to build space environments to our specifications. Those
environments would be very settled and organized, like living in Singapore while the [Moon-rock pounded] earth below in this version becomes kind of the wild crazy frontier that then has to be re-explored and settled.
DAL: Plausible. I can see how that could easily have been a videogame. Thanks. And readers should know that we haven’t give huge plot spoilers here. The novel runs over 10,000 or more years, I think.
NS: But we may be able to start realizing that universe in media. We’ve got some conversations going on about bringing Seveneves to the screen.
DAL: Great, well good luck with that. Turning more to games, you’re working with Magic Leap, on the idea that there’ll be a point where we can physically perceive a different reality from somebody else… if our senses are partly mediated by ubiquitous AR.
NS: I would say the point of working with any kind of media — be it AR or VR or conventional media — is to give the user something that in some way is more rewarding or more interesting than the practical reality that’s out there. And so I think I mean this is a very old distinction, that you know… it goes back to Aristotle. So… history versus poetry. And media gives us a way to create not just history, but to create poetry. To create things that partake of ‘the imaginary of art’. But I’m sure we’ll also have very practical minded applications. But ones that people are going to get excited about are the ones that could have a more poetic form, in the sense Aristotle meant. Not strictly realism, but based on some