A Hype Bubble and a Pin

I have grown to dislike all kinds of excessive hype. I think I’ll go as far as to calling it an allergy, because it seems that every time when I’m exposed to it, I quickly develop negative feelings towards the target of the hype. For consumers over hyping serves little to no purpose, but it amps up expectations that only a few products can meet, still lots of people from journalists to tech enthusiasts go regularly completely bonkers over something that simply is not that cool. For journalists it’s easy to figure out, for example a lot of gaming magazines make huge money off of 8-page exclusive previews of games that eventually end up turds. As for people not making money off hyping, I think the phenomenon could be related to change addiction of which I have written here a while back.

For this sessions bubble I have chosen the fledgling motion control UI’s – unintuitiveness and poor performance shall act as the pin.

Nintendo Wii was the first super successful motion control system, and we can’t hear the end of it. After six years and millions of sold consoles, Wii seems to be the go-to example for people prophesizing the era of motion control UI’s. Sadly they miss one relevant aspect of Wii’s success story, the console failed miserably. Despite selling a shitton of consoles, the game catalogue of Wii is unbelievable poor. Basically it failed to deliver the very thing it promised – good motion control based games. This of course proves something of game developers’ creativity, but also implies that motion control is after all not that intuitive and adaptable.

Microsoft’s Kinect is the fresher messiah of motion control, this time around without remotes of any kind. Kinect also launched with spectacular awe – huge hyping from the media, geeks and gamers paved the way to yet another disappointment. The fastest selling consumer electronics appliance of all time, and no one can make a half-decent game for it. And the Xbox menus with it – geez – as intuitive as riding a rabid hippo backwards while wearing a blindfold that’s crawling with spiders.

The whole evolution of our arms, hands and disposable thumbs has happened to enable us to fiddle with objects of different shapes and sizes. Because of this, it’s no wonder controlling things with little to no touching feels unintuitive and imprecise. We did not need motion controls until Nintendo made a fortune on Wii.

If I had tried to poke this hype bubble with motion controls, I’m sure I would’ve caught my eye instead. Attention UI developers – I want to press buttons!

Words That Maketh Art

“Hey Chief, you okay? You playin’ corpse or you puttin’ the blinds on the Dusties? I thought you were a deader for sure.”

The iconic opening words of Planescape: Torment, the game that despite its age always pops up when talking about game scripts and whether games should be considered as art. The sentence is so captivating it’s almost irrelevant that the speaker is Morte, a bodiless skull floating in midair, or that the player character is also sort of a distinguishable fellow to say the least. It’s well known that the opening sentence is the most important set of words in a book, so judging by the quote above Planescape could be the best book you have never heard of. However the otherwise great novelization of Planescape starts with a line or two about the game intro and thus just misses perfection.

If we dissect the Planescape dialect we quickly find one major contributor to the mesmerizing feeling. The magic comes from the pseudo-familiarity of the words, your brain signals you that you understand the words but then again you have no idea what they mean in the context. The use of rare slang words supplemented with carefully crafted made-up words create a lingo that’s strangely familiar in an other dimension kind of way. For a game world of dimensions and planes, it’s spot on.

The awesome glossary of Planescape provides a much better starting point for a fantastic journey than most “real” authors could ever hope to achieve. The fact that the themes and concepts of the game are on par with the text is no small feat. Ideas like the dead-book, clueless primes, planes and the whole multiverse are so compelling, it’s sad that the game mechanics are somewhat clunky and awkward. However Planescape: Torment is a rare gem and should be experienced by fantasy fans, so try the novelization at least – it’s free!

Yes, in essence this post was about a single quote. I like words.