New/old directions


As usual, it’s been quite a while since my last update. I’ve been expanding on some concepts that I’ve had, which will add a lot of depth to the game. It’s turning out to be quite an expansive world, but of course it’s also becoming much more complex to create. What was going to be the whole game is now about 2/7ths of it. Although I’ve added a lot of difficulty for myself, it’s very exciting. A lot of smaller ideas are starting to really blossom out and take form.


One of my more recent goals has been to focus on specifically making the game for people, not for gamers. In my experience, the usual first person pc game controls (WASD and mouselook) tend to be hard for non-gamers to adapt to, and these people usually give up quickly. Rather than thinking of the controls as being from a first-person perspective, I’m trying to think of them as from an observational perspective. I haven’t given much if any creative thought to controls in the past and I think they deserve a lot more.


Further, I’ve been working on making the controls something that the player is forced to actively think about at times, while not requiring any pre-attained skill. I want the controls to be something that every player will think about, but not something that anyone will give up over. Going along with this is the idea of simply not explaining anything to the player. The theme relates to discovery and the uncovering of knowledge, so it only makes sense for this them to pervade even the physical controls. Or at least attempt to, it’s still unclear how far I’ll go with this.


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Theatre Progress: Research and Formulation

After another bout of research, visible progress on The Theatre is again gaining some needed momentum. I hit a point a couple months ago where I had to figure out some fundamental aspects of the game–namely, the seven variations for the seven planets–but I was totally at a lost for what to do.  The worlds of the seven tiers/mythological references of Camillo’s theatre I had figured out for a while, but in L’Idea, Camillo doesn’t really directly discuss the planets.  A long-needed delving into Kaballah (Camillo associates eight of the Sefirot with the seven planets), and an introduction into Pythagorean thought provided exactly what I needed to begin the visible work again.

I’m hoping to have some video soon, but I may need to separate and recombine various elements first. The Unity files are in a bit of a mess right now.

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The Poetics of Video Games: Realtime Dreams and Memories

One of the most interesting things to me about 3d games and virtual worlds is that no matter what, they’re always experienced through a two dimensional medium. Even with 3d glasses or virtual reality goggles, the third vector of space is inherently an illusion. Video games are essentially light refracted through a 2d surface to create the illusion of 3d space.

Illusions, however, can still be experienced. Barring a full-blown reality-overtaking eXistenZ virtual reality, video games can never fully be phenomonologically experienced as fully as reality. In video games we have only our sense of sight and sound. Touch is a small part, but it is a static touching which is quickly forgotten.

Most important is our sense of spatial awareness. Essentially, it’s how we relate our selves to the spaces which we inhabit, and, well, simply our awareness of  spaces. I find it something at once both simple and incredibly complex. I believe that this is a key component of dreams and memories (which are essentially the same thing, and I will use the two interchangeably). Our five classical senses are of course intrinsic and trigger memories through association, but spatial awareness is at the core. Ultimately, it is our sense of place and the impressions that places make upon us that we remember.

The poetry of video games is that they can activate this same sense of spatial awareness that is core to the impressions we have of being in physical spaces. Video games are dreams or memories experienced in real time. As I said before, virtual worlds cannot be experienced as fully as reality, and neither can dreams and memories. My memory of my childhood home is fragments. The memory isn’t a fully tangible reality that I can visit. This is the magic of memories, and it is the magic of video games. Perhaps, in a way, video games are a poetry to the prose of architecture.

This is not, of course, to say that memories are the same as video games, but rather that they share the same poetic attributes of fragmented impressions. Of course, every art medium shares this poetic ability, but video games can do it in a new way. Video games simply open up new possibilities for poetic expression. These possibilities are incredibly exciting to me. My goal is to create dreams and memories that can be experienced in realtime by light refracted through a 2d surface.

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Back to work

Work on my own refractions of Camillo’s Theatre is beginning again. I recently finished reading An Examination of ‘L’Idea Del Theatro’ of Giulio Camillo […], which is proving indispensable, and I just finished a first pass of organizing the theatre–which apparently was actually named Il gran theatro delle scienze–as described in L’Idea del Theatro onto a grid for clarity.

The english translation of L’Idea is of course extremely useful, but the rest of the dissertation was quite enlightening and indeed necessary to read in order to understand the workings of the theatre and L’Idea itself, which was not at all written to be a published explanation of the theatre. As Lu Beery Wenneker states, it was an oral summary intended only for a man (the Marchese del Vasto) who had already had the whole thing explained to him in detail. It was actually somewhat against Camillo’s wishes, but his protege Muzio convinced him to do it. Additionally, the dissertation clears up a lot of errors and incorrect assumptions that other scholars such as Frances Yates and Richard Bernheimer have made on the subject.

L’Idea del Theatro is quite confusing. It’s essentially a list of images, some of which are not explained, and some of which lead Camillo on long and sometimes tiresome tangents. On my first pass of reading it, it seemed disorganized and mistake laden, but with mapping it out it comes together rather nicely. I found only one mistake, made on the final day, which is pretty impressive considering that the vastness of the work and that L’Idea was orated from memory.

The most striking thing overall, which I guess should be obvious, is how complex Camillo’s work was. It appears that he more or less piled everything he wanted to into this system without a mind for simplicity and clarity. I’m still not sure, however, if this just how it appears. I suspect that as I study my grid, it’ll start making more sense.

My task now is to distill the theatre into something less symbol-based and more poetic. My current thought is that I’ll pick a number of the key images within the theatre and visualize them, but the idea is to use them as more true symbols, i.e., reflections that can be understood and felt intuitively, rather than intelluctualized references to various mythological stories. It’s a grand challenge, but to paraphrase Charles Mingus, making the simple complex is easy, but making the complex simple takes creativity.

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Research Time

This came in the mail yesterday:


This is the 1970 dissertation which contains the only English translation of Camillo’s L’idea del theatro. As far as I know, it’s the best collection of research into Camillo that exists. The author actually went to Italy for a year to uncover sources pertaining to the Camillo and his ideas. There’s a lot beyond the translation as well, all of which should prove fruitful. I paid quite a bit for it, but even skimming through it looks like it’ll definitely be worth it.

I’m hoping I’ll be able to dedicate a lot of time to digging into it in the coming weeks. I’m not sure how much “corporeal” work I’ll put into the game while reading; I’m afraid that actually reading L’idea will radically alter my ideas.

Last night I decided to totally re-think how the interaction with objects in (and out?) of the Theatre will work. I have some new ideas which I’m much more excited about than the pseudo-Amnesia style interaction that I’ve been trying to do unsuccessfully since Katabasis, so I might continue with those while reading. At this point I just feel like I should be spending more time researching now that I have the text at hand.

And just because, here’s a clip I recorded of the audio while moving through the exterior world of the Theatre. I’m pretty happy with how it’s sounding for now. The tones depend on where you are in relation to certain objects.

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Theatre Update: New Areas

Thought I’d post some new progress screenshots since I haven’t posted anything in a while.

Some, especially the last one, are teases for more expansive areas.

In non-visual news, I finally decided to purchase the only English translation of Camillo’s L’Idea del theatro, which exists in a Ph.D. dissertation from the 1970s. I ordered a soft cover bound edition from ProQuest (the only source for it), which was rather expensive, but it should be worth it in the long run. I’m trying to hold off on constructing the mechanisms of the Theatre until I get my hands on that.

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Virtual Wilderness (Theatre Progress)

It’s been a little while since I posted a visual progress update for The Theatre, but I’ve been making a good amount of progress. I’ve been focusing almost entirely on the area outside the theatre itself (the “external”). It’s changed quite a bit since my last update.

The terrain is becoming much more robust, with a lot more interesting features. I still have quite a bit to add, but it’s coming along nicely.

Posted in environments, Giulio Camillo, progress, The Theatre | Tagged , , | 2 Comments