Brandon Boyer

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It’s been near exactly two years since Darwinia and Defcon developer Introversion first revealed their official “next game” (not including multiplayer expansion Multiwinia), with a debut video showing its initial real-time cityscape generating algorithms.

Fast forward to now and, surprisingly, we still have very, very little to go on beyond what we knew then: apart from its familiar vector-beam design, the ongoing blog entries showing Subversion‘s progress have been just as opaque, bar optimizations of those algorithms, and a fractal descent showing ever more detail at the building-by-building level.

We learned in March that part of this is understandable, if not deliberate, when programming head Chris Delay admitted that “we genuinely don’t know what’s going on,” but (he’d said earlier) “every day I work on it I’m even more convinced – this is the big one, Introversion Software’s Magnum Opus, and it’s going to be the best game we will ever make.”

And so every scrap of information, as with Delay’s most recent blog post, becomes a desperate hunt for anything that might take us that one level deeper into their mindset. In it we learn that Subversion’s progress is now focused on systems of standardized components: “Sensors, Actuators, Emitters, and Controllers,” and while we don’t get much in the way of narrative, a sense of its sandbox possibilities (and, as its name might suggest, an espionage-tinged flavor akin to Introversion’s debut title Uplink) is certainly starting to gel:

…smash one of the Actuators with a hammer, and one of the doors will stay where it is, while the other door continues to open and close. Smash one of the outer sensors and the Actuator will push the door of the end of its slide. Cover the motion sensor with a plastic bag and it wont send any detection messages to the computer, leaving the doors closed. Stick some chewing gum over the inner proximity sensors and they will think the doors are already closed, thus the control computer will leave the doors open.

Push a bin in-between the two doors and they will close on it, and sensors on the insides of the doors will detect this obstruction, and the doors will open slightly, then try to close again. The doors will be stuck in an open/close/open loop, constantly hitting the bin and re-opening, just as you’d see in real life. Cut any of the signal wires, or short-circuit them to set a high or low value. Or just plug straight into the control computer and tweak the status variables in memory, making the system do whatever you want whenever you want. None of these are activities or opportunities that I have explicitly created, but all are possible because I’ve simulated the system in sufficient detail. The possibilities for amazingly complex systems and interactions – from Introversion AND from the Subversion community – is kind of breathtaking.

The blog post contains more in-game shots and video of working systems — the previous twelve ‘It’s all in your head’ entries in the archive will give more of a sense of the scale and the magnitude of the game, while we all patiently await further concrete detail.

It’s all in your head, Part 13 [Introversion]

The art of vector-war – Offworld
Introversion playing with fire with unbeatable DEFCON AI – Offworld

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