Meant to be Broken?

In response to “Lab Coats and Lunatics” from The Escapist Forum: Well the image of scientists in media is further complicated by our modern age. We use them as the vessels to carry plot. People value natural explanations for phenomenon more now than ever before, as a consequence media has to explain the extraordinary events that occur in an exciting story in a realistic way. Perhaps it is more that people care about realism, and back in the day when people believed in magic, etc. such supernatural elements were good enough in fantastical story telling.

Scientists are perfect for a more realistic story. Hence why science is often the enemy, but also the force of good.

I think a good example of how science has changed how we approach story telling is with zombie horror. Can you think of a recent zombie movie/game that had a supernatural explanation for a zombie outbreak? It used to be the norm, some sort of dark magic, pact with Satan, some sort of power beyond scientific understanding. Now it is almost always some sort of science/research gone wrong (with the exception of aliens, but even then often a scientific explanation of the zombie tech is at least hinted).

As for myself, I am a biologist. I find issues of how certain religions view our field more pressing a concern. But it is interesting to note how the world thinks I and others in the field work. From video games to television with the cooly dark lit labs with multi-colored fluids it is fun to witness. I mostly find myself asking, ‘why don’t my labs look that cool?’


I think this presents one of the great opportunities of gaming. We learn better when we play with something – as a general rule – so illustrating scientific principles in a fun way is a really great opportunity to get people interested in a subject that can have a high barrier to entry.



In response to “Returning From Exile” from The Escapist Forum:

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?


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.



Recommended Videos

In response to “Unknown Quantities” from The Escapist Forum: Nice discussion of the placebo/nocebo effect. I think I would have referenced the first study by Jon Levine that showed the naloxone/placebo relationship back in 1978. There was another study from the Benedetti group (2001) that shows that post-op pain killers worked significantly better if patients knew they were taking them. Give them the drugs without them knowing, and they didn’t work nearly as well. That was pretty cool, relating placebo to something that could be immediately clinically useful.


I logged on just to say similar to what sayvara has said, though I think I would have been a little more succinct. One point I want to reiterate is that a theory in science, is not what people usually think. It starts out as an idea that is tested, but after sufficient factual support, it becomes something more substantial. Essentially it retains the title of a theory, only because further refinement to the definition can take place. Core elements will likely never be replaced, evolutionary theory, the theory of relativity are not going to change substantially, they are far more solid than you portray in your article. I don’t know if you have something against science, or fundamentally doubt it, but you do it a great disservice by portraying theory the way you do. I don’t expect you to know it if you aren’t serious about the pursuit of science, but as a journalist I hope you’ll listen.

The remainder I’ll abandon as someone has already gone into depth on this. But I have to say the opening of your article I found almost offensive and a little destructive. People who aren’t studied will read a published article and think it’s true pretty often. That isn’t to say a given article is or isn’t, but science doesn’t need vagaries eroding people’s confidence any further, which is why I felt it necessary to comment on that part of your article.



In response to “Arsenal Freedom” from The Escapist Forum:

C J Davies:
Arsenal Freedom

Just as speculative fiction foretold computers and the Internet, some of the weapons in today’s shooters might just end up in tomorrow’s armies. C J Davies profiles some of new military advancements that may have been inspired by videogames.

Read Full Article

I’ve heard of quite of few of these innovations, and I love how they work. For example, the trophy system acts through using radar to fire counter-projectiles at the RPGs before they hit, causing the round to explode before penetration (you can see it working on Honey Badger in the beginning of “Exodus” in MW2). However, I can do you one better: there’s a real laser cannon developed by Israel.

It’s called the MTHEL which stands for Mobile Tactical High Energy Laser (though in the video it lacks the M) It works by firing a microwave laser at any airborne object, such as a missile or artillery round, and exploding the charge or fuel supply in mid-air. I can hazard that this could potentially even destroy enemy planes on their way to a target.


Now I’m having a hard time deciding which weapon is more badass, a giant satellite laser, or a satellite that drops giant metal poles at 7000 MP/H. I hope some game developer read this article, ’cause I can’t wait to to try it out.

As for the robotic drones; I doubt technology will be able to emulate human insight and intuition, at least not in the near future, while these aspects are vital things to have in combat. More research funding will probably be poured into making tanks even more indestructible, instead of advanced robot AI, and I’m okay with that.


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