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I wish to address the low re-usability of game technology (at least provide a theoretical solution).

I'm considering an approach using a semantic game format, effectively decoupling the story and logic of games from its presentation and art. I can see a few immediate advantages:

  • Completely platform independent games (think SCUMM games)
  • Optionally: presentation independent games (cheaper and more flexible)
  • Game editors can provide different specialized game construction UI's, but producing the same game format. (think bytecode)
  • Game engine technology (voice synthesis, facial synthesis, skeleton animation etc. etc.) can be reused across games as a part of (or extensions to) the semantic game format/language.
  • Game art and game technology can be licensed extensions, paid by game distributors, independent of client platforms.

Apart from the huge resources needed to establish such a game format/language, are there any theoretical limitations that should stop this concept?

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Everything you list already exists, and is commonly used. When it's not used it's because it's too expensive, too slow, someone has a better idea, or because it doesn't fit the game (animations in many genres are not effectively decouplable from AI and game mechanics without worthless data duplication). – user744 Nov 29 '10 at 12:28
My vision is that this would transform game production into a collaborative effort as well as a competitive one. Companies could earn money on game technology without producing games, even collaborating with other similar companies. In a way this should just be a more sophisticated alternative to common programming languages in the game industry (even though its conceptually different). – Steinbitglis Nov 29 '10 at 12:34
Your vision came to pass starting a decade ago. – user744 Nov 29 '10 at 12:35
The closest thing to a semantic game language I have seen is the "Quest Markup Language". – Steinbitglis Nov 29 '10 at 12:46
I don't mean your ill-defined vision of "semantic games", which seems to be either worthlessly unrealistic or just good data-driven practices, the latter of which already exists. I meant your "companies [earning] money on game technology without producing games, even collaborating with other similar companies." That's the current state of things. – user744 Nov 29 '10 at 16:11
up vote 4 down vote accepted

I can't imagine working in an environment like that and getting the results I want.

Either you're expressing things on such a high level that everything starts to feel the same (because you're not providing enough detail to be different), or you're going into so much detail that you might as well be working in a more expressive system.

As Joe said, separating the "model" and the "view" of games isn't that easy. AI is coupled to animation. Animation is coupled to gameplay (for example, reload speed of weapons). Art and design are tied together. You have a prop in a level and it serves many purposes: correctly fitting in with the style, fitting in with the theme, and being the correct height for cover.

Not to mention the fact that graphics are still an arms race. Separating the game from the hardware might seem like a noble goal but it isn't going to fly in the AAA console world where you want to take as much advantage of the platform as possible.

Maybe it might work for a tiny subset of games with a known problem set in the hobbyist market. I could see this working in, say, a DND-style RPG world. But for games in general, no.

That's not to say that the existing tools don't need help. There's lots of work that needs to be done there. I just don't see that direction really helping the majority of games.

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I guess you're right about AAA games. And I imagine the games would easily feel the same. But I can imagine a few projects where this platform would be perfect :-p. Thanks for the warning though. I'm glad it's just thought play so far. – Steinbitglis Nov 29 '10 at 16:13

So instead of coding the game using a real programming language, you have to code it into a new very specialised language that as of now nobody knows.

I can't picture *anyone* willing to do that.

Even if someone for some weird reasons would accept to do that, development will sooner or later crash against something that that language does not implement, or does not implement it well.

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I agree that this is a huge challenge. So far the best solution I can come up with is an editor like Scratch, which I managed to learn and create a small game with, within the hour. In general, this problem should at least be addressed within the development environments. – Steinbitglis Nov 29 '10 at 13:03
Real programmers don't want to use editors. Real programmers don't want to use arcane languages. That's the point. Even if you could magically create your system just snapping your fingers, it would not be a system many people would like to use. – o0'. Nov 29 '10 at 16:53
Oh I really do not intend to make any arcane languages, that is for sure. But there is a beautiful thing about this though. It would be possible to provide a traditional compiler with do-it-all flexibility (using your favorite language), even though you would be back to plain old programming/scripting then (+ portability). – Steinbitglis Nov 29 '10 at 17:16

Decoupling a game from its hardware is hard, most games dont even trust the operative system it runs on to provide functionality. How is this not like a java openGL application bundeled with some libraries(platform independant)? I think maybe the assumption that there is low re-usability in game development is wrong.

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One difference is that the developer need not provide any graphics (or choose any at all). Another is that java is not a good semantic game language. But you are right, there are several similarities – Steinbitglis Nov 29 '10 at 12:43

Cross-platform Game Maker???

It sounds like you're just describing a suite of really well integrated libraries with scaffolding and language binding for some special intuitive language. This applies to Torque2d, DarkBasic, Game Maker, and many other tools. What's different about your idea? Scratch looks like another variant on Carnegie Mellon's Alice or Game Maker.

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I think Torque 2d looks like it could do a lot of the same stuff, but it does not provide any framework for semantic content. It's just code -> binaries. If I had previously created an effective implementation of say a board game, I should also be able to create a framework that would let others specify similar board-games, but this time, semantically or at least without duplicating my implementation. I haven't said it's doable though, that's what I'm trying to find out. – Steinbitglis Nov 29 '10 at 16:25
I cannot figure out what you mean by "semantically" in that sentence. – user744 Nov 29 '10 at 16:32
Game rules are code. Whether that's C code or some other language is irrelevant; you can't simply plop down a set of nouns with no verbs and have a game. Almost no game engine keeps the things you have described in its core code. This is not a new idea, and we don't need to further abuse the poor word "semantic". – user744 Nov 29 '10 at 16:50
This "complex tool" is the same "make my game!" button that everyone who has never made a game thinks is possible, this time clothed in some bizarre use of the word "semantic". It's either not possible, or already exists. You can argue that the existing tools have flaws and need more features and polishing, but you can't pretend you have some new development paradigm and if we'd just listen to your crank ideas we'd be making games an order of magnitude faster/easier/better. – user744 Nov 29 '10 at 17:17
"You won't find anything new walking the same old tracks, will you?" - For many people here, your discussion is the same old tracks. There's no more silver bullets. Fred Brooks said it 25 years ago, none have turned up in the meantime, and it goes double for games because we have both code design and design design. – user744 Nov 29 '10 at 18:21

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