Tag Archives: usc

Graduation

And that’s pretty much all I have to say about that.

“Occupy Cinema” at USC

Some of my favorite lyrics in, really, any song ever seem to apply here:

“Our ambition will televise the revolution. And it’ll sell more fucking commercial spots than the Super Bowl, the Olympics, the World Series, and the tragedy du jour combined.”

In short:

The co-opting of a raw, real protest movement by students of an expensive private university is, at the very best, lacking in self-awareness, and at worst, pretty disgusting. Maybe these films will shine an amazing light on current social issues. This being USC? I’m not getting my hopes up.

I don’t want to hear defenses or speculations. Unless the entirety of this screening series is about dropping out and applying one’s talents to helping the real problems of the real disenfranchised, it’s a shallow grab at something edgy from a student body continuously and relentlessly sheltered from everything the movement is about. You aren’t occupying shit, far less cinema. Sagan, do masters students really come this pretentious?

Edit: And despite totally revising this rant, if I find out who came up with this title, I’m still eating your liver.

“FOOOOOOOX!”: Kojima’s FOX Engine impressions

(photo credit: metalgearsolid.be)

So after seeing my #KojimaUSC livetweets show up in a Belgian blog, I decided it might be apropos to comment on what I saw myself.

For Those Just Joining Us

One of the things Kojima Productions devs have been working on is a new game engine, FOX. Last night, when Hideo Kojima visited the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California (that is, my school), he brought with him the first demo footage of the engine to be screened by anyone outside Konami.

Officially, we weren’t allowed to photograph or record any of this video. I respected this and kept my documentation to written remarks. Unofficially, well… look at the header image at that article I linked. That’s it.

The footage we were shown largely used assets from pre-existing games (MGS4 and Peace Walker, mostly), so Kojima stressed that the graphics should not be seen as a reference for what the engine can actually do. What he really wanted to emphasize was the GUI and how it can be used.

What I Liked

Kojima reiterated several times that because the GUI was so sophisticated, it was basically coding-free level design. Enemy AI seemed simplistic in the demo but still suggested you could do easy things without needing to write a string of code. It’s all organized graphically with the system handling most of the messy details (collision detection, etc) on the fly, in real time. We saw a designer set a roaming enemy unit in motion and adjust the terrain as he was walking, without so much as a hiccup.

The other intriguing thing to me was that it allowed you to stuff your levels full of rich graphical detail with very little effort. We saw a lot of asset duplication, rotating identical shapes to make them seem unique, and that sort of thing, but the layer upon layer of details from terrain to grass to atmosphere and lighting effects, all reportedly thrown together by someone in half an hour, suggested that not only is there a truckload of stuff for a level designer to play with, but you can make gorgeously atmospheric environments.

In short, it’s like LittleBigPlanet 2‘s Create mode, except less cutesy-poo craft world and more third/first person shooter.

What I Didn’t Like

This concern has been creeping up on me since watching the presentation last night, and it’s neatly summarized in my previous sentence.

There isn’t a lot you can actually do with it.

Kojima spent a lot of time taking us through features for first- and third-person, action-oriented, three-dimensional play spaces with gun reticles and guys in body armor. What I didn’t see is what you could do with the engine that wasn’t related to those things. Nothing for building narrative content, nothing for playing with dimensionality, nothing for non-violent conflict resolution (sorry, tranq darts and CQC knockouts don’t count). We saw limited AI and gunfights, basically. And chest-high walls (well, boulders, really) for cover-based combat.

So it’s a wargame simulator, and a wet dream of one. The enthusiasm was palpable in that theater, and even for someone like me, with very little dev knowledge, it was very exciting. Especially the promise that this was being geared as a training and easy-access dev tool for students and indies! But for a developer like Kojima, who has consistently emphasized innovation and individuality, what we saw was a tiny, tiny sandbox for playing in.

I am going to tentatively hope that the engine’s GUI is more versatile than what the presentation let on. It’s a prevailing attitude (among certain sectors of game academics, at least) that games are about space and the exploration within them–and as a gigantic space-maker with all the messiness of collision detection and simple object behaviors written out, FOX is very, very fascinating. But I wanted to see it pushed, and I don’t just mean graphically.

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