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The Secret of Scribblenauts

| 16 Jun 2009 23:40

Scribblenauts wowed E3-goers with its "if you can imagine it, it's in the game" approach to puzzle solving. But how exactly did 5th Cell get everything from Albert Einstein to a kraken into this game?

The central mechanic of 5th Cell's DS game Scribblenauts is extraordinarily simple, but completely unbelievable. The objective of the game is to solve a series of puzzle levels, and to do so, you pull up a keyboard and type in a word, and that object will appear and be usable in the game. Type in ladder and there's a ladder, type in spaceship and there's a spaceship. There are tens of thousands of words and objects, according to 5th Cell, barring vulgar things, copyrighted things and proper nouns.

This is how you end up with a game where you can summon God Himself to battle a giant squid, or conjure a time machine so you can travel back to the Jurassic and then ride a T-Rex back through the time machine into the future, where you use the T-Rex to stomp on a horde of robot zombies.

So how exactly did 5th Cell manage to squeeze seemingly every object imaginable into this game? There's no magic trick here, just a whole lot of work. "We actually had five people and all they did is they went through dictionaries and Wikipedia and encyclopedias, and anything you can think of, and that's all they did for six months, everyday, during the week," Jeremiah Slaczka, creative director, said.

The sheer amount of objects in the game is one thing, but the fact that each of them work - the bulldozer pushes things, the skateboard skates, Death destroys life - is even harder to fathom. How exactly 5th Cell pulled this off seems like a feat beyond my imagining, but it sounds like it had something to do with how the game was programmed at its core.

"With the technology we basically said we're going to take all the base things like fire and temperature and gravity and physics and we're just going to put it down there, and the game's going to take and all that know what to do with it," Slackza said. "We don't have to program anything, so if a bear's hungry and wants honey, we don't have to program that, it's going to know it already."

[Via G4]

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