242: Returning From Exile

Returning From Exile

Long before "physics engines" or "AI ecosystems" were familiar to gamers, a couple of British programmers created a game that practically defined those concepts. John Szczepaniak speaks with Peter Irvin, co-creator of the BBC Micro game Exile.

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Nice. Exile, even old, seems very interesting.

I hope the port works, maybe they could remake it for a modern console!

Sounds great, I'm looking forward to playing it on my phone.
I was actually thinking about halfway down the first page that Exile should totally be ported onto the iPhone, I was pretty pleased when I got to the end of the third page.

PC version would be nice for those of us without iPhones. I still have my C-64 version of this game and really want to go back to some version of it and complete it some day.

I played that game for hours back on my old BBC B, but never completed it.

"De...stroy! De...stroy!" still one of the most gripping gun battles in any video game I've played before or since!

Interesting. I was hoping the article would be about Spiderweb's Exile series, but this one preceeds it by 7 years. :)

A good read though - the limitations of hardware on design choices is a far cry from today's development circle, where time and manpower are the only resources, resulting in most sloppy programming more often than not.

Imagine this game made with the Cryengine.

DAAMN.

We need more people like Jeremy C. Smith and Peter Irvin, who make games that push the boundaries of game design, and I mean real game design. When someday, someone makes a real phisics engine, remember, Peter Irvin and Jeremy C. Smith did it first.

Because what today's developers call "physics engines" in games, are anything but. Those are spectacle engines, designed to amuse and entertain the players, and not to simulate real world physics or interaction. Think about it, all a now popular physics engine does, is simulate some kinetics and statics, and that's all. Dropping a box onto a seesaw makes the other end go up, wee! I blew up the supports, and now the building collapsed and some debris flew around, awesome! I fired my gun and now the wall is dotted with small bullet-hole and blood-splash textures, cool! That's BS!

What about other parts of physics, like thermodynamics, friction, wind-resistance, or what about simulating liquids, vapor, real solids or anything in-between? Today's graphics engines are virtually no better than the BUILD engine, only prettier, more capable of fooling the senses, but there is no real simulation underneath. When people die, they collapse like a sack of potatoes, not like a human being, and only get superficial injuries. The ones that try to model torn limbs, resemble a sack-puppet, not an injured human. Solids are still wire-frame boxes with 2D textrues on them, liquid or water simulation is exhausted in surface ripple effects and explosions are only superficial kinetic energy, no heat, no burning, no matter-state changes, nothing. Not to mention interacting with the game world is anything but realistic. In Source based games, the things you pick up just float in the air before you, and you can pick up and carry virtually anything that is not nailed down disregarding dimensions, weight or any other factors. The "simulation" only turns on when you drop the stuff. Many other engines do the same thing, or simply won't let you pick up anything.

All in all, today's physics engines are a joke, nothing more, only there for spectacle, but have very little to do with actual physics. If Irvin and Smith could make a simulation that accurate, that could fit on one side of an audio casette, why can't today's developers make a real physics engine?

Playbahnosh:
Lots and lots of words

They're not making a real physic engine because it would be moot in terms of game play value to calculate the energy requirement of water evaporating off of your character and it's cooling effects after a swim. Oh sure they might make a physics engine that could show -lets say- how water would splash when different shaped objects is thrown into it, but the time/money needed for such and endeavor would be incredible in comparison to the slightly more immersive world you're building. I'd love for at least some sort of weight/bulk algorithm to be made for boxes, but even then the changes you propose seem like waaaay too much of a dream to me.

Also: Played Exile on C64. I was three years old. The game was a bit overwhelming for me at that time :)

Sounds like a pretty fascinating game. Though perhaps it might be considered more interesting for what it can do if you notice, than how it grabs your attention and holds it.

MNRA:

Playbahnosh:
Lots and lots of words[1]

They're not making a real physic engine because it would be moot in terms of game play value to calculate the energy requirement of water evaporating off of your character and it's cooling effects after a swim. Oh sure they might make a physics engine that could show -lets say- how water would splash when different shaped objects is thrown into it, but the time/money needed for such and endeavor would be incredible in comparison to the slightly more immersive world you're building. I'd love for at least some sort of weight/bulk algorithm to be made for boxes, but even then the changes you propose seem like waaaay too much of a dream to me.

Also: Played Exile on C64. I was three years old. The game was a bit overwhelming for me at that time :)

I agree, for the most part. Today's graphics engines are really only valued in terms of gameplay value, and not in terms of reality. Still, they call them "physics engines" and they boast "ultra realistic simulation and graphics", where it's a totally false statement. But I disagree with the assertion, that a real physics engine would not add a tremendous amount to the gameplay value.

See, there are simple physical formulae to calculate the energy needed for water to evaporate, and also for the amount of heat transmission when a hot body is immersed in cold water, and I don't think it would be too difficult to (at least meagerly) indicate the effects of these changes on screen. Say, you are a brave knight, fighting in a dungeon, Oblivion style. Suddenly, a Lava Monster springs from the shadows and you pull out your trusty sword to start to hack away at him. Now, if your sword is not made of some heat resistant alloy, it will get red, glowing hot, and sizzle. Now you tell me, wouldn't that be just awesome? However the sword also becomes brittle and may break or even melt under extreme temperatures, and if you are not wearing an insulated gauntlet, the handle will burn your hard and you might even inadvertently drop the weapon if it becomes too hot. Or, say, you are in the jungle, and fall into water, when you are coming out, you could see the water evaporating from your hands and weapon.

I know, all this will not get included in games, not because it's hard to accomplish, but because it's just too much hassle for the player and the designer. They can make eye-candy much easier with over-animated explosion effects and blood splatters, monster design and whatnot. But when you really think about it, some of the real physical effects could add large amounts to the immersion factor. For example, when in Dragon Age: Origins, your armor and weapons get more and more bloody, and stay bloody. It just gives you a sense of greatness, that you fought real living monsters, that have blood in them, and you fought so much, that you are literally covered in the blood and chunks of your fallen enemies. Or in Bioshock 2, when you splash around in water, the little droplets stick to the visor of your helmet. I know, it might be annoying for some people, but it really helps the immersion, and shows that you are really in a friggin scuba suit.

I say, we need more of this. If not really physics simulation per say, but at least we are getting there, slowly.

[1] really? Heh, you should see some of my other walls of text posted on this board ;)

Playbahnosh:

MNRA:

Playbahnosh:
Lots and lots of words[1]

They're not making a real physic engine because it would be moot in terms of game play value to calculate the energy requirement of water evaporating off of your character and it's cooling effects after a swim. Oh sure they might make a physics engine that could show -lets say- how water would splash when different shaped objects is thrown into it, but the time/money needed for such and endeavor would be incredible in comparison to the slightly more immersive world you're building. I'd love for at least some sort of weight/bulk algorithm to be made for boxes, but even then the changes you propose seem like waaaay too much of a dream to me.

Also: Played Exile on C64. I was three years old. The game was a bit overwhelming for me at that time :)

I agree, for the most part. Today's graphics engines are really only valued in terms of gameplay value, and not in terms of reality. Still, they call them "physics engines" and they boast "ultra realistic simulation and graphics", where it's a totally false statement. But I disagree with the assertion, that a real physics engine would not add a tremendous amount to the gameplay value.

See, there are simple physical formulae to calculate the energy needed for water to evaporate, and also for the amount of heat transmission when a hot body is immersed in cold water, and I don't think it would be too difficult to (at least meagerly) indicate the effects of these changes on screen. Say, you are a brave knight, fighting in a dungeon, Oblivion style. Suddenly, a Lava Monster springs from the shadows and you pull out your trusty sword to start to hack away at him. Now, if your sword is not made of some heat resistant alloy, it will get red, glowing hot, and sizzle. Now you tell me, wouldn't that be just awesome? However the sword also becomes brittle and may break or even melt under extreme temperatures, and if you are not wearing an insulated gauntlet, the handle will burn your hard and you might even inadvertently drop the weapon if it becomes too hot. Or, say, you are in the jungle, and fall into water, when you are coming out, you could see the water evaporating from your hands and weapon.

I know, all this will not get included in games, not because it's hard to accomplish, but because it's just too much hassle for the player and the designer. They can make eye-candy much easier with over-animated explosion effects and blood splatters, monster design and whatnot. But when you really think about it, some of the real physical effects could add large amounts to the immersion factor. For example, when in Dragon Age: Origins, your armor and weapons get more and more bloody, and stay bloody. It just gives you a sense of greatness, that you fought real living monsters, that have blood in them, and you fought so much, that you are literally covered in the blood and chunks of your fallen enemies. Or in Bioshock 2, when you splash around in water, the little droplets stick to the visor of your helmet. I know, it might be annoying for some people, but it really helps the immersion, and shows that you are really in a friggin scuba suit.

I say, we need more of this. If not really physics simulation per say, but at least we are getting there, slowly.

You have very interesting points, and I, too, would like to see more realistic experiences on games (the lava monster thing is just great, reminds me of pen-and-paper RPGs).
But, you also mention that industry seems to prefer the gameplay value of graphics, as a critic. And I disagree with that, in terms that the main purpose of this media - games - is gameplay, and not realism. Reading the article about Exile, my first toughts were to ask on thsi board, "ok, but is it fun to play?" (wich I will probably find out by myself, in an emulated future) , because there are many games who attempt to simulate things so perfectly that end up like those spreadsheet-manager games, and I think that misses the point.
And, IMHO, a good, well-designed gameplay, with no bugs or slow0downs makes the experience way more immersive than tiny details that the player will ignore on his second play of the game.

[1] really? Heh, you should see some of my other walls of text posted on this board ;)

zamble:
You have very interesting points, and I, too, would like to see more realistic experiences on games (the lava monster thing is just great, reminds me of pen-and-paper RPGs).
But, you also mention that industry seems to prefer the gameplay value of graphics, as a critic. And I disagree with that, in terms that the main purpose of this media - games - is gameplay, and not realism. Reading the article about Exile, my first toughts were to ask on thsi board, "ok, but is it fun to play?" (wich I will probably find out by myself, in an emulated future) , because there are many games who attempt to simulate things so perfectly that end up like those spreadsheet-manager games, and I think that misses the point.
And, IMHO, a good, well-designed gameplay, with no bugs or slow0downs makes the experience way more immersive than tiny details that the player will ignore on his second play of the game.

Yes, too much realism may, indeed, kill a game. Since we play games to escape reality, and not to re-live it on the screen in our free time, it's pretty counter productive to try and simulate every physical detail. But some detail is pretty preferable in terms of immersion (like the Lava Monster and heat effects), and may add huge amounts to the fun factor of a game. It really all depends on the players, on how much reality they are willing to accept into their games. There are people who enjoy, as you put it, "spreadsheet-managers", but there are also people who would prefer more arcade-like games, that have little to do with reality but are very fun to play.

I think the key is finding the right balance between realistic effects and arcade gameplay elements. To my sadness, gamers nowadays tend to prefer the latter.

Great article! Brought back a lot of fond memories from my Amiga days :)

I think Im more exited about the release of this game than any other one this year. (oh wait, Fallout New Vegas. NVM.) I live in the States, so I've never heard of this before. I think I might just go find that emulation! Hmm...I wonder if anyone has ever made a version in flash...

I played this a fair bit when I was around 7, it was still a bit much for me to handle. It was fun and I remember it very fondly.

Ah, Exile. I played that with my Amiga for hours and hours. I think Exile - The Nameless and Capsized are worth to look at all those who liked Exile.

 

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