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Will Wright Talks Research, Astrobiology 44

Yesterday saw Will Wright give a keynote ostensibly called 'The Future of Game Design'. The creator of the Sims took the opportunity to address two of the topics that went heavily into the background work on his current title: Spore. Mr Wright was attempting to make the point that lots of research in the pre-production phase of the project is one of the best ways of knowing what it is you're setting out to do. Folks at Kotaku, The Game Chair, and Game Girl Advance have some notes from the talk. Read on for my own brief impressions from the event.
The key idea I took away from the event is the level of intelligence Wright possesses. I always knew he was *smart*, but the man went almost a full hour, racing from topic to topic, at a speed that was almost breathtaking to behold. I initially started taking notes but the man just moves so dang fast, I eventually gave up and enjoyed the experience. He went from the Fermi Paradox, to Drake's Equation, to Panspermia to the Rare Earth theory in a series of four slides, only pausing very briefly to explain what he was talking about. Rather than confusing the audience, lots of the elements he brought up were totally understandable just within the context of his talk. He really hit his stride after the thirty minute mark, and actually managed to talk even faster than he'd started off. It was sort of like watching a manic college prof teach an entire semester-long class in an hour.

He did talk about Spore a good deal in there, detailing how all of the Astrobiology and research were distilled down into usable ideas for game environments and creatures. This was a talk, though, less about games and more about the joy of learning. Will Wright's gift as a speaker is to make his audience excited about something they may never have considered before, simply by the sheer amount of enthusiasm he exudes. I heard some shifting in chairs towards the end of the talk, but despite the highly technical nature of the presentation the Civic Auditorium was still packed when the event ended. Like the Battlestar event, Wright's talk only peripherally talked about games, but it managed to be all the more valuable (I think) to the audience as a result.

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Will Wright Talks Research, Astrobiology

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  • No video or audio yet? I loved his speech last year. I'm very interested in hearing about his thoughts on Rare Earth, especially how he related it to Spore in his speech. Does anyone know of a link to a full write-out or video or other media?
  • smells like I.D. (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by Goldsmith ( 561202 )
    For a second there, I thought you were talking about science. You know, testable theories... never mind.
    • Re:smells like I.D. (Score:3, Informative)

      by Spaceman40 ( 565797 )
      Astrobiology (the study of the potential of life on other planets) is more statistics than testable science; the idea being that if you can figure out exactly what is required for intelligent life, you should be able to figure out the probability of each requirement occurring in a large system (like the universe). From that probability, you should be able to estimate the number of intelligent alien societies (using Drake's equation). Interesting stuff.

      Guesses for this galaxy range from 1.25 (including our
      • Another thing you need to understand is, look at the rapid advances in tech, how long do you think an electromagnetic society would last in any given alien culture. For us, its only been going on for what 100 years? Now extrapolate that, electromagnetic communication is getting more and more specific, and soon(define soon however you want) we may even break into communication devices operating on a quantum level, how long do you think a society will last using communication methods that you can observe over
        • Ideas straight out of Kurzweil's The Singularity is Near. I completely agree with the argument that not seeing the evidence might just be that we don't know what to look for, but then you have to deal with the idea that if other civilizations exist at a completely higher level of tech than we are, why haven't we noticed them? Why haven't the effects of such a society been seen?
  • Maybe he should talk less and get his game finished. Spore's been getting hyped for quite awhile now, with multiple talks and demonstrations. Although a neat idea, it's not as revolutionary as people think. The central wow factor in the magnitudes of scale, zooming out from the very small (spore) to the very big (galaxy), is very old news and comes from an original short by Charles and Ray Eames called "The Power of 10" (it may precede them, but that's as far as I have traced it back), and a similar shor
    • Right, because having the player design (in a physical sense) their own species and then procedurally extrapolating from that the behavior and attributes of said species, the civilization it would create, and the planets that civilization would terraform and launch colonies on is sooooo 2005. Gosh, there's so many games that have implemented this already I can't even think of them all or take the time to list them at this particular moment. Let's face it - compared to "sandbox" games like GTA, where I can
    • Wright freely admits to being influenced by "Powers of Ten." The trick is, that's a movie, but Wright is making a game. It's one thing to make a movie of powers of ten; it's another to make an entire sandbox universe that users can interact with based on it.
    • Wright is a game designer, and I'm guessing the game design is pretty much complete. So I don't think we'd get Spore any faster even if he didn't spend an hour speaking at GDC.
  • Google Video has a video of Spore's gameplay demonstration. []

    Hey, we all take these 'revolutionary game' ideas with a bit of salt, since we've been let down so many times in the past, but... still, that was a pretty damn awesome demo. Sooner or later, someone is bound to actually come up with a brilliant game.
    • If it comes out with that evolutionary sandbox mode (where you get to modify your creature), I'm sold. Honestly, just screwing around with procedural animation will be worth it, especially when most new games are just old ones with better graphics.
      • Not only do you get to modify your creature in that mode, but you also get to modify other things in similar ways, like the buildings your creatures build.

        As someone who spent hours in City of Heroes' character creator, I forsee myself playing with the editor more than with the game.

        • I forsee myself playing with the editor more than with the game.

          Looks like we'll be sharing that timesink with Tycho [] (of Penny Arcade):

          I could tell things were going to go off the rails almost immediately, when [Gabe] suggested that I stop screwing around with the character generator. That's not something I do. If anything, I've been known to keep on screwing with them - I mentioned a few months ago that the character creator in City of Villains had practically become the game. But elaborate character creat

  • "Will Wright Talks Research, Astrobiology"

    This is news?

    I'm sure when Will's hungry we'll be subjected to:

    "Will Wright Talks bagels, cumquats"

    Or when at a stripper club:

    "Will Wright Talks Boobs! Buttocks!"

    Or when drunk:

    "Will Wright Talks Blarforg Splabbappo!"

    I can't wait Slashdot - don't let me down.

  • not so much to learn about his games, or even his ideas about what make a great game. It is to learn that *anything* can be used to inspire/guide game design. Too often developers set out to make a game and just look at the competition to figure out what (not) to do. That leads to this kind of thinking: "well, game 'X' let you do backflips, so we'll let you do TWO backflips!!" followed by many pats on the back for being 'revolutionary'.

    Even if you don't like Will Wright's games (he has a fascinat
  • as much as he talked.. I wasn't convinced it all lead to a fun game. Everything he went over with the game made it seem like what the player does doesn't really matter.

    It looks like you can create any half assed creature and it will survive long enough to build cities; that it doesn't really matter how you build your creature.

    You can custom design buildings where the design has nothing to do with what it does - add a mushroom looking thing here for what?
    The game looks interesting and I suppose will

It is not for me to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence. -- The Earl of Birkenhead