LifeTree: a Game Concept By Charles Cameron HipBone Games I have been thinking about designing a game which emphasized

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.

visual. or Philosophical Tree. moving a leaf-cursor -.or all of the above -. at which point the player would have arrived at or be identified as a specific "great" human -. but between philosophies. ie those specific parts of the tree -. (ii) a representation in verbal. which is as lifelike and treelike as modeling can make it. the Oak Model. maps the diversity of human thoughts and actions onto the specific limbs and branches of that Model. splitting and branching to maximize the success of the tropism. mathematician or explorer. fear. The first. with little "sunlight": because the branch is a low one. and the player was confronted with one or another type of human apathy. (iii) an image of her Immediate Neighborhood as leaf. or of the clothes of a Regency gentleman of leisure. The player chooses again. along the "trunk". or a geometric figure. ie a view of the leaves immediately close to her present location *at the same point in the tree's development*. Taken together. and is lifelike and treelike.a poet or emperor. the player is given: (i) an image of the One Path she has chosen as it has developed so far.along which she has already come. frustration. *not* the complete Model.or a highly differentiated "place in the sun" was achieved at the end of a series of branchings. To make sure that last point is clear: the tree of branching choices corresponds to two trees with identical topologies. This image is abstracted from an organic 3-D representation of the whole tree. or a phrase or two from Jane Austen. diagrammatic or musical terms -. but which also serves as a diagram of her particular set of past choices and branchings. This choice mimics the phototropic manner in which trees do in fact send out "feelers" in search of sunlight.At each branching. 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. Gandhi's hand loom. twig -. The second. block -. an image of battle. but reveals an analogous placement within the Philosophical Tree as the game progresses. Some choices are poor ones. ie after approximately the same number of branchings. is the specific lifelike tree model through the limbs and branches of which the player travels. branch. Her next choices are choices between patches of sunlight. gradually getting larger as the game progresses -. The gameplay is within the Oak Model. call it the Oak Model.. The philosophic quotes and images here contain a note of frustration or despair. might be extended over many moves without splitting.this is small at first. resentment.of the Neighborhood she is now in.into a space in the Immediate Neighbornhood window among the neighboring leaves which affords maximum light. limb. smaller branch. a chart showing the last few days on the futures market. minimum shade. . I won't go into the details here of how the earliest segment of play. in human / philosophical terms: a law of science if she is in that part of the tree which branches towards the sciences.. a baseball cap.trunk. Sartre: "hell is other people". This image too is derived from the Model. and also serves as the diagram of her particular set of present options and possible branchings. or the choice turns back somewhat towards the center of the tree. 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".

and defer here to my betters) not very complex at all. but would only be accessible at the conclusion of a successful "playing" of the game. leading to an equivalent set of branchings. challenging. clicking further to see another specific "great human" -. at the choice of sun or water. would be as sophisticated and detailed a real life sim of an actual tree as the state of the art allows. 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. then fading away. fear. ie the Model Oak. aggression. The game can be replayed as many times as there are new branchings to explore. or played once and then viewed as a small "virtual encyclopedia" and consulted. A search engine for names. with "minerals" and "dampness" as the sought for values. The coding for the cursor. Elements and Requirements: The mechanism of choice would be a simple one.everything from the common human variables of anger. hope.At this point. and its branchings and extensions would constitute the "map" of possible choices. where on the Philosophic Tree you would wind up. with another set of choices and branchings? perhaps making the choice of "water" at the outset. texts. And her choices would then be: • do you wish to return to the seed. the representation of "neighborhoods" and the search "for a place in the sun" would be complex. with the choice coding (I imagine. Reward and Continued Play: The player would then be rewarded with her first sight of the Model Oak. and play another game. together with a brief biography and assessment of her or his greatness. The graphical representation of a tree. and I believe as they say "original".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. held in frame for as long as she desired. with the mapped specifics of the Philosophic Tree -. and in never knowing while navigating the Oak Model. . images etc could be provided. and a sample of his or her work in digital form. the name and identity of this "great" human would be revealed. 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.

texts.. controlled -. land based. and give good value for each individual "round" of gameplay. I don't think we know.but if we reached a sufficiently interesting level of complexity and still had room for more.quiet and introverted. there are two additional elements I would like to introduce: The notion of "gusts of wind" would apply to the Model Tree. Lastly. in terms of the inherent conflict -. sporting.The toughest part of the non-programming game design work as I see it would be in the mapping of "all" -. fascinating.. models.. This would also require striking a balance between light and shade -.thus strengthening the game's point that there are many human choices. graphics etc on a CD ROM.which may at first sight seem to follow utterly contradictory and irreconcilable directives.. as a randomizing factor at the point where a choice of "place in the sun" is being made at the neighborhood level.ie between fruitful and frustrated human outcomes. with the sense that *many* choices and *many* styles of human choosing -. Similarly on the Philosophical Tree. images etc to represent them. so that the humanly "disappointing" choice that.fields of human endeavor onto the structure of the Model Oak to create the Philosophical Tree. while covering a wide variety of possible "outcomes" -. Further Considerations: (i) additional wrinkles: As far as I know.. or (b) could be represented along with the necessary programming. it would be neat -. can and do lead and in fact have already lead to the astonishing. (ii) variants and spinoffs . materialistic to spiritualistic. tradition based. pessimistic to optimistic. disgust based. hope based.. dream based -any and all of which may on occasion prove fruitful to the one who chooses them. passionate. and contained areas of sheer misery in fact -. for instance.but optional -. and on occasion a choice which seemed to ensure plenty of sunlight would prove to be in shade when the randomized "wind" shifted. poetic. scientific. with important precursors in the "history of ideas" rather than in the realm of computer games.. realistic to idealistic. I think we could get really quite complex.in tree terms -..but the rich variety and profusion of highly positive outcomes nevertheless greatly rewarded repeated players. 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. thus allowing players to dig into the world of knowledge as deeply as space permits.to have representations of the "clash of ideas" represented at each neighborhood and level of choice. this is an innovative idea. loud and active. and the choice of appropriate "great" persons. and to human society as a whole. how many branchings (a) exist in your average good solid oak tree. so that the game was by no means *always* a happy one. bookish.ie a wide representative sample of all -. say. cash based. 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. boundless diversity of human genius.

data etc would be devised for age.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. aged anywhere between ten and a youthful ninety. 2010 from BS 2000. to work closely with a congenial team on the overall game design. graphics. (iii) my own part in all this: I'd like. 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 -. Perhaps there could be a collaborative online play option. contributing what insights I might have to improve the "detailing" of the game with possible and permissible boundaries. 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 -. and other possibilities. edit and polish the manual / companion book. And I'd probably like to write or at least design. I'd be happy to write up the detailed game design docs in collaboration with the appropriate team members.the Breuers and Bleulers along with the Freuds and Jungs. learning what I could from the programmers and artists. so to speak. . in which simplified choices. I would also like to be part of any and all aesthetic choice-making from interface design through packaging. obviously. the Salieris along with the Mozarts. The part of the game I'd most want to reserve for myself -. I also see derivative books..in a sort of "great conversation" like that carried on down the centuries by the greats (and the disaffecteds) themselves.. (b) games might be devised where individual "trees" stood in for major disciplines. Harpo and Groucho rather than just the Marx Brothers. I envision that success would lead to "secondary" games (a) for the kids / educational market.The "principal" game would be pitched at the intelligent but not necessarily bookish human.and grade-specific use. model. perhaps a "not so trivial pursuit" card game. 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).

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