[ODE] ODE-GIMPACT performance and advices

Jean-Sebastien Guay jean-sebastien.guay at polymtl.ca
Sat Oct 28 07:30:12 MST 2006

Hello Pierre,

I understand your position, but my e-mail was just aimed at trying to discuss
where things are going. We all know what past games did, but what will the
future games want to do? I find this kind of thought fascinating.

I want to tell you that yes, currently I'm doing research at the post-graduate
level, but I have a great interest in the concrete game design perspective
also. I have done a few "one-man" games and such, as well as a few hobby games
with some friends; also, my goal after my Masters is to be an engine designer
and developer. So while for my Masters, I'm looking more into the future and
taking an idealistic standpoint on some things, I still try to think about how
these ideas could apply in the real world within a reasonable timeframe (say,
3-5 years).

> Now it's getting interesting..... this is a recurrent topic among some
> people here. It's really typical: basically the guys with an academic
> background want to make "everything dynamic", in search of a unified
> solution, to be like "in the real world". On the other hand the guys with
> actual game experience tend to say "forget it, that's a red herring" (for
> both technical & gameplay-related reasons). It's theory vs practice.

As I said, I really wear two hats... And yes, making everything dynamic is
idealistic. But I still think we'll get there, and at least it's a nice goal to
aim for. If we didn't have such goals, there wouldn't be a Siggraph every year,
with all those incremental improvements that guys in actual game programming
jobs can use! :-)

> > In the real world, everything is dynamic.
> Not really. In the real world, the walls around me never move, and so far
> nobody blew in hole in them :)

But if I want, I can take a crowbar or a bulldozer and break the wall down.
That's my point. It isn't always dynamic, but if I want I can do whatever I
want to it.

> And of course, you can't have a linear level with key
> events unfolding a story, if the player can just do anything anywhere in any
> order.

Many recent games put you in the environment and let you do what you want. Good
examples are the Grand Theft Auto series, Oblivion, Just Cause, etc. Imagine
those games if you could break down walls to get into a building... In those
kinds of games, the more ways the game lets you achieve whatever goals it gives
you, the more you feel empowered as a player.

> The most recent useful stuff was probably the
> precomputed radiance transfer , which is, uh, precomputed :)

I'm glad you brought that example. PRT was published in 2002. That's a long time
in Computer Graphics. In particular, I am working on combining PRT with some
other techniques to make it not precomputed anymore!

> I don't think too much liberty is good for story-telling, as I wrote above.
> Key events have to happen for your story to unfold. If the player, by his
> uncontrolled actions, prevents those events from happening, well, you're in
> trouble. For example it is usually not possible to kill a key NPC in a game,
> otherwise the story ends. It is not realistic (in the real world he wouldn't
> survive your BFG, right?) but making it immortal is still the right thing to
> do for your story.

As providers of tools, I don't think we can start telling the game designers
what they can and can't do. We have to give them as much liberty as they need
to make the kind of game the gamers want. Having total (ok, not total, but a
lot of) liberty means that if you want less, you can always restrict it. But if
a game designer wants to do something and the tools don't allow it, that's bad.

It's just another point of view. As I said, I understand where you're coming
from, but I happen not to agree, regarding what we should be shooting for.

As for your example, IMVHO making an NPC immortal is a crutch, because if the
player really cares about the story he won't *want* to kill him, so you don't
need to make him immortal. But some games still do it, and I've had to reload a
few times because I'd killed an essential NPC by mistake in a game that didn't
do it. It's a pros/cons situation and depends what kind of game you're making.

> Maybe too much realism is just not good for games. The real world is pretty
> boring. In the real world, your character would never run like this for
> hours, carrying his heavy weapons, without stopping, resting, slowing down,
> etc. Too much realism is good for simulations, but not always good for fun.
> And games are usually about fun, right?

Another way of thinking about what I said above is that you can always make
things "surreal", but in some settings reality is the starting point, and if we
can't even reproduce reality how can we make things surreal?

For example, if I'm playing a Superman game, I expect to be able to break down
*any* wall or blast them with my eye-lasers (whatever they're called :-).
That's part of the fun of being Superman.

> Things are always going in the
> "more dynamic objects" direction, I agree with that. But I just don't see
> the static stuff vanishing soon, both for technical & gameplay-related
> reasons.

That's all I'm saying. Sorry if I made it seem like I want everything to always
be dynamic. That's overly idealistic, as I said before. A more realistic
standpoint would be that if you want to make "lots of things" dynamic, you can.
If you don't want to and it isn't necessary for your game, then don't, because
there are really good optimisations you can make for the static case.

My position is just to give the best tools possible to the people making the
games, and then they can decide what they want. Restricting tools is
restricting creativity IMHO.

Sorry again for being a blabber mouth... I hope you understand that we have a
lot of common ground in our opinions.

Have a nice week-end,

Jean-Sebastien Guay     jean-sebastien.guay at polymtl.ca

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