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how choice leads to diversity, how strife is a necessary part of the branching of human choices, how there is beauty and what we might call cooperation even in the striving, and how the farther reaches of human diversity -I'm thinking here of the Einsteins, the Mozarts -- are bearers of individual wisdoms, though their wisdoms may at times appear to be in conflict. I would like to do this using the "image" of a tree. Gameplay: The player starts with a wish to continue: this is the given of the game, the drive on which it proceeds -- the natural curiosity we all have. Call him or her "she", meaning the human player. She knows the game is called LifeTree, perhaps that it is about life and choice and human greatness, and very little more. Her immediate visual introduction to the game, both on the packet and in the "roll those credits" opening, is the imagery of trees: an oak in late spring, oaks in winter huddled together in a copse, a poplar, quaking aspen, monkey puzzle, cottonwood, detail of an oak's trunk and boll -- I trust that's the right word for an eddy-like formation -- leaves falling in the classic New England fall, a leaf on a river, a boy child's glee in leaf-as-boat passing down a small garden waterfall, tree stark against sky, dappled light on green leaves, spreading roots of a banyan, leafmold of an old forest floor, a beech forest like a cathedral, a weeping willow, an Oxford student emerging through the fronds of the weeping willow so that we see the bench she sat on as she was reading the book she still clasps, finger marking her place, wind in trees, wind in a runner's slomo hair perhaps, a schematic of branching plotlines, an architect's detailed blueprint for one specific oak, a single acorn in the hand. At the end of the credits, a choice: water, sun. The gameplay is to choose -- and to follow therefore a single trail along the branching lines of one specific tree, let us call it The Oak, and the player's path One Path. On first playing, the player has little sense of how many or few branchings constitute One Path, now of how many paths are possible within The Oak. Let us assume our player chooses "sun", in which case she travels, not necessarily knowing it but perhaps guessing, up the trunk and along the limbs and branches -- a leaf waiting and wishing to happen. She is jockeying for her own "place in the sun" by avoiding the shade of the leaves along nearby branches.
might be extended over many moves without splitting. Her next choices are choices between patches of sunlight.of the Neighborhood she is now in. The second. moving a leaf-cursor -. (ii) a representation in verbal. visual.trunk. in human / philosophical terms: a law of science if she is in that part of the tree which branches towards the sciences. these visuals and texts and soundclips constitute a small cross-section of what would be found in a multimedia encyclopedia: "all human life is there". maps the diversity of human thoughts and actions onto the specific limbs and branches of that Model. the player is given: (i) an image of the One Path she has chosen as it has developed so far. or Philosophical Tree. or a geometric figure. Taken together. at which point the player would have arrived at or be identified as a specific "great" human -. diagrammatic or musical terms -. with little "sunlight": because the branch is a low one.. a chart showing the last few days on the futures market. branch. call it the Oak Model. The philosophic quotes and images here contain a note of frustration or despair. (iii) an image of her Immediate Neighborhood as leaf. an image of battle. is the specific lifelike tree model through the limbs and branches of which the player travels.a poet or emperor. minimum shade.or a highly differentiated "place in the sun" was achieved at the end of a series of branchings. a baseball cap. Some choices are poor ones. twig -. *not* the complete Model. block -.or all of the above -. Gandhi's hand loom. limb. Sartre: "hell is other people". or the choice turns back somewhat towards the center of the tree. This image is abstracted from an organic 3-D representation of the whole tree. This choice mimics the phototropic manner in which trees do in fact send out "feelers" in search of sunlight.At each branching.. along the "trunk". The first. the Oak Model. fear. splitting and branching to maximize the success of the tropism. nor describe the ways I'd want to "map" the broad spread of human knowledge onto the Philosophical Tree: but the choices would continue until either the absence of light (complete shade) rendered further progress impossible. which is as lifelike and treelike as modeling can make it. . and is lifelike and treelike. ie after approximately the same number of branchings.along which she has already come. To make sure that last point is clear: the tree of branching choices corresponds to two trees with identical topologies. or of the clothes of a Regency gentleman of leisure. resentment. and the player was confronted with one or another type of human apathy. The player chooses again. but between philosophies. and also serves as the diagram of her particular set of present options and possible branchings.this is small at first. This image too is derived from the Model. or a phrase or two from Jane Austen. mathematician or explorer. The gameplay is within the Oak Model. but which also serves as a diagram of her particular set of past choices and branchings. I won't go into the details here of how the earliest segment of play.into a space in the Immediate Neighbornhood window among the neighboring leaves which affords maximum light. ie those specific parts of the tree -. frustration. smaller branch. but reveals an analogous placement within the Philosophical Tree as the game progresses. gradually getting larger as the game progresses -. ie a view of the leaves immediately close to her present location *at the same point in the tree's development*.
and its branchings and extensions would constitute the "map" of possible choices. challenging. with another set of choices and branchings? perhaps making the choice of "water" at the outset. Elements and Requirements: The mechanism of choice would be a simple one. and I believe as they say "original". would be as sophisticated and detailed a real life sim of an actual tree as the state of the art allows. together with a brief biography and assessment of her or his greatness. aggression. texts. and in never knowing while navigating the Oak Model. .At this point.or indeed to go to any other point in the Philosophical Tree's development? or to quit? • • • Game satisfaction: The satisfaction would be in learning. fear. the representation of "neighborhoods" and the search "for a place in the sun" would be complex. with the mapped specifics of the Philosophic Tree -. where on the Philosophic Tree you would wind up. The coding for the cursor. The game can be replayed as many times as there are new branchings to explore. with the choice coding (I imagine. the name and identity of this "great" human would be revealed. with "minerals" and "dampness" as the sought for values. images etc could be provided. And her choices would then be: • do you wish to return to the seed. and "great works" rather than "great individuals" as the endpoint? or would you prefer to click on an area of the Model Tree and see that Immediate Neighborhood in closeup. ie the Model Oak. leading to an equivalent set of branchings. Reward and Continued Play: The player would then be rewarded with her first sight of the Model Oak. A search engine for names. and defer here to my betters) not very complex at all. at the choice of sun or water. hope. frustration and apathy in the lower and inner branches to the names of many of the individual "greats" at the outer limits of the tree -coming slowly up and holding long enough to be seen and grasped but not memorized. and a sample of his or her work in digital form. then fading away. held in frame for as long as she desired. The graphical representation of a tree. but would only be accessible at the conclusion of a successful "playing" of the game. and play another game. clicking further to see another specific "great human" -.everything from the common human variables of anger. or played once and then viewed as a small "virtual encyclopedia" and consulted.
there are two additional elements I would like to introduce: The notion of "gusts of wind" would apply to the Model Tree. as a randomizing factor at the point where a choice of "place in the sun" is being made at the neighborhood level.. for instance. pessimistic to optimistic.to have representations of the "clash of ideas" represented at each neighborhood and level of choice. it would be neat -. and to human society as a whole. thus allowing players to dig into the world of knowledge as deeply as space permits.. models. how many branchings (a) exist in your average good solid oak tree. graphics etc on a CD ROM. and contained areas of sheer misery in fact -.ie between fruitful and frustrated human outcomes. scientific.quiet and introverted... it would be neat if there was room to add further hypermedia "levels" of information and comment to the "great persons" at the end of every game path.ie a wide representative sample of all -. Further Considerations: (i) additional wrinkles: As far as I know. controlled -. this is an innovative idea. fascinating.. loud and active. Lastly. while covering a wide variety of possible "outcomes" -. or (b) could be represented along with the necessary programming. I don't think we know. land based.thus strengthening the game's point that there are many human choices.in tree terms -. with important precursors in the "history of ideas" rather than in the realm of computer games. with the sense that *many* choices and *many* styles of human choosing -. and on occasion a choice which seemed to ensure plenty of sunlight would prove to be in shade when the randomized "wind" shifted. so that the humanly "disappointing" choice that. This would also require striking a balance between light and shade -. texts. poetic.but optional -.which may at first sight seem to follow utterly contradictory and irreconcilable directives. tradition based. so that the game was by no means *always* a happy one. and give good value for each individual "round" of gameplay.fields of human endeavor onto the structure of the Model Oak to create the Philosophical Tree. images etc to represent them.. (ii) variants and spinoffs .but the rich variety and profusion of highly positive outcomes nevertheless greatly rewarded repeated players.but if we reached a sufficiently interesting level of complexity and still had room for more. disgust based. cash based.The toughest part of the non-programming game design work as I see it would be in the mapping of "all" -. passionate. Similarly on the Philosophical Tree. bookish.. sporting. hope based. I think we could get really quite complex. in terms of the inherent conflict -.. dream based -any and all of which may on occasion prove fruitful to the one who chooses them. realistic to idealistic. boundless diversity of human genius. a son makes not to go into his father's electronics business but to strike out on his own and study jazz piano or ballet or microbiology would be "notated" at the appropriate branching. materialistic to spiritualistic. and the choice of appropriate "great" persons. can and do lead and in fact have already lead to the astonishing. say.
in which simplified choices. contributing what insights I might have to improve the "detailing" of the game with possible and permissible boundaries. so to speak.hopefully with a writer / colleague and an assistant / researcher and with plenty of "idea bouncing" with other members of the team -would be the design and detailing of the Philosophic Tree.in a sort of "great conversation" like that carried on down the centuries by the greats (and the disaffecteds) themselves. and other possibilities. graphics. though I only see it at the moment in terms of a chat area where players could roleplay the "greats" (or the dismal / frustrated / what have yous) that they've become -. . data etc would be devised for age.. I'd be happy to write up the detailed game design docs in collaboration with the appropriate team members.. the Salieris along with the Mozarts. model. (b) games might be devised where individual "trees" stood in for major disciplines. I also see derivative books.The "principal" game would be pitched at the intelligent but not necessarily bookish human. learning what I could from the programmers and artists. and would hopefully contain "room" to please the knowledgeable player and to instruct her in some depth in the rudiments of disciplines other than her own (see hypermedia "levels" comment in the previous paragraph). so that a "science" tree or a "sports" or "arts" tree might be mapped onto the entire original Model Oak with consequently higher "detailing" then being possible -. I envision that success would lead to "secondary" games (a) for the kids / educational market. perhaps a "not so trivial pursuit" card game. Perhaps there could be a collaborative online play option. Harpo and Groucho rather than just the Marx Brothers. edit and polish the manual / companion book. And I'd probably like to write or at least design. 2010 from BS 2000.the Breuers and Bleulers along with the Freuds and Jungs.and grade-specific use. I would also like to be part of any and all aesthetic choice-making from interface design through packaging. obviously. to work closely with a congenial team on the overall game design. (iii) my own part in all this: I'd like. aged anywhere between ten and a youthful ninety. The part of the game I'd most want to reserve for myself -.
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