• I always love developers showing their working, and none more so than Valve. Here are ten dense minutes on the teleportation mechanics in Half-Life: Alyx. I like this because you're not just seeing some opinions; they're showing glimpses of the research and testing that informed those opinions, as well as early prototypes, coupled with being a studio with some really deep time invested in VR; it's fascinating seeing them come to their conclusions. Also, as ever, I love seeing how bit a role sound is in presence.
  • "At last week’s Game Developers’ Conference I delivered a talk titled “AI-driven Dynamic Dialog”, describing the dialog system used in Left4Dead, Dota, and basically all of Valve’s games since The Orange Box." This is a brilliant talk – really worth going through the PDF for. In a nutshell, it's how the Left4Ddead conversation works – something I tried emulating with my Twitter bots a while back – but also sheds light on how I could have sped up some of the decision-making code on Hello Lamp Post. It's also good on what designing (andwriting) for this kind of work looks like. Might have to write something longer on this.
  • "If most of the value is now in the initial creative act, there’s little benefit to traditional hierarchical organization that’s designed to deliver the same thing over and over, making only incremental changes over time. What matters is being first and bootstrapping your product into a positive feedback spiral with a constant stream of creative innovation." (Michael Abrash is scary smart, at Valve, investigating wearable computing, but this line – about the value of being first and being innovative – was the most important here for me.)
  • "An 11 minute documentary exploring the merits and impact of pixel art, animation and chiptune music." Nice interviews, careful, and thoughtful.
  • "Our original inclination was to put game content under "~/Library/Application Support/Steam", along with the other support files Steam uses. The problem is that uninstalling an application is meant to be as simple as dragging it from the Applications folder into the Trash. However, uninstalling Steam this way will leave all of your game content on the drive, which could easily be quite a few gigabytes of wasted space. Our solution was to put the content in a very visible and often used location so users could easily find and delete the game data if they didn't want it anymore. That's right, we chose the Documents folder specifically because it was visible and often used — the very reasons users don't want it there." Well done, Valve, for explaining this in the short term, and providing a solution in the long term. (And: their thinking wasn't so woolly, really).
  • "The route of the [Metropolitan] line between Paddington and Bayswater (opened in 1868) necessitated the demolition of 23 and 24 Leinster Gardens, situated on a long, upmarket terrace of five story houses, and it was decided to build a 5ft-thick facade which matched the houses either side of the break."
  • Back in 2006, early on a Saturday morning, artist Julien Berthier installed a new door in the city of Paris—but it was a fake door, leading nowhere, on an otherwise empty wall in the 3rd arrondissement… Unbelievably, Berthier adds, "Almost 4 years later, the address still exists. Regularly graffitied it is even cleaned by the city service.”
  • And, with their 119th update, Valve helpfully included the list of all their previous patches, as well. Just look at the amount that's changed – and how swiftly. A proper, living game (unlike the stillborn 360 version). Can't wait to play it on the Mac; it's almost like a different game to the one I played at the beginning.
  • "Ben Gimpert is a friend of the Open Library. He and I got together over lunch a few months ago to talk about big data, statistical natural language processing, and extracting meaning from Open Library programmatically. His efforts are beginning to bear some really interesting fruit, and while we work out how we might be able to present it online, we thought you might be interested to hear what he’s been up to." Answer: good things. Ben is awesome, and this work sounds great. (I can't quote a suitable passage, so George's intro will have to do).
  • A few short tips on find; one of the bash tools I use least, and should probably use more.
  • "Diller, Brill, and Murdoch seem be stating a simple fact—we will have to pay them—but this fact is not in fact a fact. Instead, it is a choice, one its proponents often decline to spell out in full, because, spelled out in full, it would read something like this: “Web users will have to pay for what they watch and use, or else we will have to stop making content in the costly and complex way we have grown accustomed to making it. And we don’t know how to do that.”"
  • "I see Valve Software today holding the same position in the overall media landscape that Marvel Comics occupied in the early-mid 1960s. In both cases, we have two experienced studios, neither the mainstream-recognized giants of their fields, who made an unusual decision: they chose to spend the creative capital gained from prior commercial success to quietly revolutionize their respective medium's dominant genres, rather than take the safer path of grinding out more derivative sameness."
  • Ben Zeigler's notes on Bunge's Jaime Griesemer's talk at GDC, all about balancing. Sample quotation: "It can be tricky to balance, because designers can misinterpret competence (getting good at a weapon) with the weapon being balanced. We CANNOT use our intuition at this stage because it will lie to us. Changes will have to be done in larger batches, and we need to avoid bias effects." Really, the whole thing is jampacked with interesting stuff (not all of which I agree with, but most of it is very good indeed).

Changelog of the day

16 August 2009

From the TeamFortress 2 Classless Update:

Added a color blind option to add a Jarate icon above enemies who are busy accepting a terrifying existence where they have no dignity.

That’s Jarate, the Jar-based Karate, if you weren’t aware.

Yep, still in love with Valve.