3/18/2016 - What Is a Game?
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We probably all have a pretty good intuitive notion of what a game is. The typical term "game" encompasses games like chess and Monopoly, card games like poker and blackjack, casino games like roulette and slots, military war games, on-line computer games, various kinds of play among children, and the list goes on. In academia we sometimes speak of game theory, through which multiple agents select strategies and tactics in order to maximize their gains inside framework of a well-defined pair of game rules. When used in the context of console or computer-based entertainment, the saying "game" usually conjures images of a three-dimensional virtual world having a humanoid, animal or vehicle because main character under player control. (And for the old geezers among us, perhaps it produces in mind images of two-dimensional classics like Pong, Pac-Man, or Donkey Kong.) In the excellent book, A Theory of Fun for Game Design, Raph Koster defines a game to be an interactive experience that gives the player with an increasingly challenging sequence of patterns that they or she learns and eventually masters. Koster's asser-tion is that the activities of learning and mastering have reached the heart of what we call "fun," just like a joke becomes funny at this time we "get it" by recognizing the pattern.

Game titles as Soft Real-Time Simulations

Most two- and three-dimensional video games are examples of what computer scientists would call soft real-time interactive agent-based computer simulations. Let's break this phrase down to be able to better understand what it implies. In most video games, some subset in the real world -or an imaginary world- is modeled mathematically in order that it can be manipulated by way of a computer. The model can be an approximation to and a simplification of reality (regardless of whether it's an imaginary reality), which is clearly impractical to feature every detail down to the amount of atoms or quarks. Hence, the mathematical model is a simulation of the real or imagined game world. Approximation and simplification are a couple of of the game developer's most powerful tools. When used skillfully, a greatly simplified model can sometimes be almost indistinguishable from reality and much more fun.

An agent-based simulation is but one in which a number of distinct entities known as "agents" interact. This fits the description of most three-dimensional computer games very well, where the agents are vehicles, characters, fireballs, power dots and so on. Given the agent-based nature of many games, it should come as no surprise that most games nowadays are implemented in an object-oriented, or at least loosely object-based, programming language.

All interactive video games are temporal simulations, and therefore the vir- tual game world model is dynamic-the condition of the game world changes with time as the game's events and story unfold. A relevant video game must also react to unpredictable inputs from its human player(s)-thus interactive temporal simulations. Finally, most game titles present their stories and answer player input immediately, making them interactive real-time simulations.

One notable exception is incorporated in the category of turn-based games like computerized chess or non-real-time strategy games. But even these types of games usually provide you with the user with some form of real-time graphical user interface.

What Is a Game Engine?

The phrase "game engine" arose in the mid-1990s in experience of first-person shooter (FPS) games just like the insanely popular Doom by id Software. Doom was architected using a reasonably well-defined separation between its core software components (such as the three-dimensional graphics rendering system, the collision detection system or even the audio system) and the art assets, game worlds and rules of play that comprised the player's gaming experience. Value of this separation became evident as developers began licensing games and retooling them into services by creating new art, world layouts, weapons, characters, vehicles and game rules with only minimal changes on the "engine" software. This marked the birth of the "mod community"-a group of individual gamers and small independent studios that built new games by modifying existing games, using free toolkits pro- vided with the original developers. At the end of the 1990s, some games like Quake III Arena and Unreal specified for with reuse and "modding" in mind. Engines were made highly customizable via scripting languages like id's Quake C, and engine licensing grew to be a viable secondary revenue stream for the developers who created them. Today, game developers can license a casino game engine and reuse significant areas of its key software components so that you can build games. While this practice still involves considerable investment in custom software engineering, it may be much more economical than developing all the core engine components in-house. The road between a game and it is engine is often blurry.

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Some engines create a reasonably clear distinction, although some make almost no try and separate the two. In one game, the rendering code might "know" specifi-cally how to draw an orc. In another game, the rendering engine might provide general-purpose material and shading facilities, and "orc-ness" could possibly be defined entirely in data. No studio constitutes a perfectly clear separation between your game and the engine, that is understandable considering that the definitions of the components often shift because the game's design solidifies.

Arguably a data-driven architecture is exactly what differentiates a game engine from your piece of software that is a game however, not an engine. When a game contains hard-coded logic or game rules, or employs special-case code to render specific forms of game objects, it will become difficult or impossible to reuse that software to make a different game. We have to probably reserve the term "game engine" for software which is extensible and can be used as the building blocks for many different games without major modification.

Clearly this is simply not a black-and-white distinction. We are able to think of a gamut of reusability onto which each and every engine falls. You are likely to think that a game engine could possibly be something akin to Apple QuickTime or Windows Media Player-a general-purpose piece of software capable of playing virtually any game content imaginable. However, this ideal has not yet been achieved (and could never be). Most game engines are carefully crafted and fine-tuned to perform a particular game on a particular hardware platform. And even the most general-purpose multiplatform engines can be extremely only suitable for building games a single particular genre, like first-person shooters or racing games. It's safe to assume that the more general-purpose a sport engine or middleware component is, the less optimal it can be for running a particular game on the particular platform.

This phenomenon occurs because designing any efficient software program invariably entails making trade-offs, and people trade-offs are based on assumptions about how the software will be used and/or concerning the target hardware on what it will run. As an example, a rendering engine that was designed to handle intimate indoor environments probably won't be very good at rendering vast outdoor environments. The indoor engine might use a binary space partitioning (BSP) tree or portal system to ensure no geometry is drawn that is being occluded by walls or objects which can be closer to the camera. The outdoor engine, however, might use a less-exact occlusion mechanism, or none in any respect, but it probably makes aggressive using level-of-detail (LOD) techniques to ensure that distant objects are rendered which has a minimum number of triangles, while using the high-resolution triangle meshes for geome-try that is close to the camera.

The advent of ever-faster computer hardware and specialized graphics cards, together with ever-more-efficient rendering algorithms and knowledge structures, is beginning to soften the differences between your graphics engines of genres. It is now very easy to use a first-person shooter engine to construct a real-time strategy game, for instance. However, the trade-off between generality and optimality still exists. A sport can always be made better by fine-tuning the engine for the specific requirements and constraints of your particular game and/or hardware platform.

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