Shape-Shifting Tables, Revisiting old concepts, Non-games / by Andreas Kopriva

Good day everyone and welcome to another blog post in which I'll be sharing some stuff I did quite some time ago, along with some recent developments in the tech world which look pretty cool. Furthermore, I'll briefly touch on 'non-game' games as I recently played through 'A Beginner's Guide' and I HAVE AN OPINION! 

So without further ado : 

SHAPE SHIFTING TECH

As mentioned in another post relating to architectural form exploration and my experimentation with kinetic architecture (which in turn was partly motivated by MIT's own architectural experimentation with reactive structures, so we've come full circle), the concept of shape-shifting structures fascinates to no end! 

In this presentation, Sean Follmer illustrates the results on experiments done at the MIT Media Lab which revolve around building actuator driven reactive panels which can react to environmental and/or user based actions. 

For example, a table which will raise and lower certain parts of its surface to accommodate the placing of the user's cell phone, laptop etc or the presentation and sharing of physical representations of architectural data (such as that generated via BIM modeling) regarding a suggested work via extruding the various elements in 3d space to create a more tangible model. 

Stuff like that looks pretty amazing and I can only imagine what the technology will look like in a few years time when more actuators would be added to increase the resolution. 

One could argue that perhaps Augmented Reality based interfaces may make this redundant, as similar data can be realized through overlays on a physical space. Check this presentation using Microsoft's Hololens for example : 

Sure, it involves wearing that headset, but with the same advancements that the tangible shape-shifting surfaces would be privy to, a headset would be prone to minituarisation with each iteration leading to something that wouldn't be larger than a pair of glasses or even a contact lens interface further down the line.

Nevertheless, it's all exciting stuff, and I'm particularly happy to be living in a time period where what used to be sci-fi based dream is slowly becoming reality!

 

Revisiting Old Ideas

As I grow and mature as an individual, I find that my perspectives change in terms of creative endeavors. I find I'm becoming a bit of a hoarder in everything I may draw or quickly model, primarily because I do it much less than I would hope to due to life.

Every now and then I go through old sketches and ideas, seeing them with fresher ideas. I also end up considering potentially new ways in which to take those ideas, primarily due to the skill development that, probably, occurred over that time. 

So I'll stumble across a quick sketch I may have done say 4 years ago - like maybe of this guy here :

I dreamt of flies and spools of syrupy string

I dreamt of flies and spools of syrupy string

... and based on the work I've doing lately with getting back into Zbrush modeling I'm now considering turning the above concept into a model, which could then be turned into a product through the magic of 3d printing.

Now I'm not suggesting that one should never be exploring new avenues or hold every little idea to the highest level, but it is kinda cool to revisit older ideas every now and again.

Another example is an idea I had around 4-5 years, which revolved around fusing human anatomy with living spaces for a race of other individuals. I've written about this ages ago and its still something that I think of every now and again. At this stage however, I have began acquiring the base skills required to actually start fleshing it out. So, I may take a sketch like the one below :

Mountain Face....

Mountain Face....


..and create a whole 3d environment based on this concept. That's pretty much the whole point here - keeping a general log of files is not only a good way to track your progress, but it also allows one to develop older concepts with newer skills.

 

Non-Games can be Pretty Awesome

I have read diatribes, theses, goddamn essays lambasting the whole 'indie-art project' video game genre that gained popularity a few years back.

I guess these projects surged in popularity due to titles such as the Stanley Parable and Gone Home, both of which didn't actually include much traditional gameplay as such. Personally, I find myself appreciating these type of games more and more over time, primarily because there are only so many gameplay variation mechanics you can expose yourself to before repeating yourself.

People of my age bracket, 30-40 years old, we've been playing games for quite some time now. I remember playing games when I was like 2-3 years old at the local arcade, hoisted up by my parents so I could reach the controls. I've been playing games for almost 30 years at this point - having invested a huge amount of time throughout to a large variety of games.

The above is not to illustrate showing off but to provide context. I have played countless of fighting games for example, from the original blocky spectacle of Virtua Fighter to the original Street Fighter which was terrible! Your Samurai Showdown's, Art of Fighting's, Tekkens, etc - done, gone through them.

What you kinda realize through this long-term exposure, is that gameplay mechanics, for the most part have probably peaked in terms of a few genres. For example, nowadays, you don't really get broken FPS games - and I'm not talking about balancing issues in terms of multiplayer or overpowered weapons, I'm talking gameplay being flat-out broken. There are always exception, but there appears to be a good baseline now in place for pretty much all genres.

So yea, personally, at this point, I'm a bit tired of gameplay. I prefer something else - something more experimental, or more personal which may make me think or see things in a slightly different way.

When I first 'played' Dear Esther for example I was delighted. There was nothing to do except wander this haunting landscape and experience a pre-determined narrative.

Game-wise there was nothing there. No skill required, no end-game goal. Nothing. But I ended up appreciating that 2 hour experience a whole lot more than quite a few of the triple-A titles released that year. Primarily because it felt personal - it felt like a poignant, serious conversation with a friend who was taking me on a journey of depressing discovery.

The same applied to the only game I had the chance to play lately, 'The Beginner's Guide'. I loved The Stanley Parable, from the original mod to the final product and even the creatively constructed demo, I found it to be a fantastic exploration of tropes, psychology and story-telling.

The Beginner's Guide is a different spin on that idea. You still have a narrator in place, but you're presented to a scenario outlining a psychological exploration of a game designer, through interacting with his 'game' attempts over time.

It's a beautiful structured experience, with some very clever twists and ideas hidden in its 2 hour run-time, but most importantly it made me think of things. In fact I found myself relating to both of the characters within the game - both the unreliable narrator and his thought process and interpretation AND the designer whose games you're playing through. Having an interactive experience approach concepts such as the idea of creating for creativity's sake, or just concepting ideas which won't lead anywhere, or the whole activity of searching for additional meaning where there isn't any, made me feel a little bit less alone.

That's the primary reason why I'm finding myself preferring these games to pretty much everything else out there. At this point, I'm not looking for gameplay as such - I've had enough of that - thousands upon thousands of hours. I'm looking for that conversation, for that externalisation of an idea, a thought, a fear or a memory. For something a bit more structured, a bit more personal, instead of the derivative, safe nonsense being churned out year in year out to generate more and more money. 

Just enough already... if the developers of these games ever check this page, I'd like to just sincerely thank you for sharing. I appreciate it.

So there ya go. Rant done for the time being. Will rant again shortly. Take care!