October 17, 2013

poWaKeys for Maya

Having been a professional 3D modeler since 1991*, I've learned how important it is to have a fast and fluid shortcut setup. Also being a designer (which includes usability and ergonomic factors), along the years I've developed my own input system, which I now adapt to all 3D applications that I use which allow this kind of customization. Until Maya 2013 my implementation of the system was limited to what the software allowed, since it still lacked many key functions I've grown used to in Modo and Lightwave. Thanks to Maya 2014 adoption of the excellent Nex plugin - rebranded to Modeling Toolkit - I felt it was time to wrap it all up in a full new implementation of this input model, which I call poWaKeys. Besides simply remapping shortcuts, PoWaKeys also include simple yet powerful Mel scripts of my own authorship, which make using Maya for modeling and Animation as easy and swift as possible.

All shortcuts are described in the package's included readme.txt, divided in functionality sections. Third party freeware Mel script authors are also properly credited, just bear in mind that most included versions are modified or extended for poWaKeys usage.

Of course this would amount to nothing if you couldn't see it in action to learn its actual workflow, so I've put up a video tutorial on it:

Even if you don't want to use poWaKeys because you're so used to your own setup, the video is also a nice tutorial on Modeling Toolkit itself, if you want to learn about it.

Enjoy, it's 100% freeware! If you find it useful, I'd love to hear what you've been using it on. Reach me on twitter: @brenoazevedo

Download Link

* I say in the video I've been on it for 14 years. I lie, it's 22 years actually. Ahem.

April 15, 2012

CST PC-TRAC 1550 Trackball Review

Trackballs! Awesome pieces of hardware neglected to oblivion... by everyone that never used one or never suffered from RSI. Believe it or not, people prefer or need to use them up to these days – and where there’s a market, there’s a product; or some, in this case. Clearly Superior Technologies (CST) is the owner of the former “MicroSpeed” famous brand of trackballs which made its name back in the 80s. Design wise not much has changed since then, probably due to the fact that MicroSpeed got many design prizes for their curved profile ‘trademark’. The quality of their components is absolutely impressive though, surely the best under the industry/military grade trackballs, and fact is that only a handful of brands (like iOne) still build consumer-grade opto-mechanical trackballs. Only the ones who experienced the amazing smoothness and “momentum” of those bearings under a nice billiards-sized, decently heavy ball, knows how huge a difference in feel and continuous motion it makes to the trackball control and precision. Back in Quake days, I would never lose someone once under my shaft range. NEVER. Some opponents called the device "cheating" in live game tournaments I won a tad too easily. I guess that's why they call it a "track" ball :) Gaming affairs aside, the fact that only CST (that this reviewer knows of) has continue upgrading its opto-mechanical trackball technology is remarkable and worth of applause. Nevertheless, this review is about the not-so-upgraded – but still quite affordable and competent – PC-TRAC 1550 model, so let’s go for it:

  • Large Sized Ball – makes for fine control
  • Heavy Ball – makes for even better control and prevents unwanted movement
  • Half-Height Ball Case – Easy and predictable 180-degree spins in FPS games!
  • Did I mention that ball rolling under your fingers feels almost as good as sex?
  • Low DPI – 400 DPI is just not enough for modern-day display resolutions
  • Tall angled profile – Tends to arch your hand upwards, may lead to wrist strain
  • Buttons too small on sides – Adds needless thumb/pinky stress to click them
  • Third/Middle button in front – Too hard to reach

Bottom Line: Compared to the ‘industry leader’ Kensington Expert Mouse, the PC-TRAC 1550 wins in the control and feel department, loses some points in the ergonomics department and is not very suited for modern gaming due to its low DPI (dots per inch) resolution, which translates to choppy rotations on-screen with decent sensitivity settings. The new L-TRAC models most probably solves this last issue with their 1600+ DPI settings. Nevertheless, CST would probably be better revamping its 30-yo design with a wider and longer (depth) profile so hands can be a bit more relaxed on heavy usage and fingers don’t get crammed up at the sides of the device with a regular three-central-fingers-on-ball operating posture. For regular computing and its very occasional side-button clicking though, the 1550 is a sure bet.

Score: 8/10

April 12, 2011

Visual Scripting and Coding for Games

Recently a new visual coding extension/component for the Interactive Content and Game Development platform Unity (my engine of choice) has been announced. It's called uScript and its promotional videos are quite enticing. I've been using Unity for years, coding some C#, and since its beta I've been using Playmaker extensively. I've also checked Antares Universe, a competing component to uScript, although not to the same extent. So I'll make a quick rundown of not only the advantages of the tool but also how I see the whole situation involving OOP/coding, visual coding and FSM editors for game development - from a designer point of view with some solid coding background. Hopefully this is an interesting and mid-ground perspective that might interest some of you.

- OOP (Object Oriented Programming). Encapsulation and Properties are great, inheritance and polymorphism suck - for designers trying to read code at least. Having to read cold lines of text is already sufficient to pull a designer's mind away from the code, now having to keep multiples text files open and hopping back-and-forth among them just to understand exactly what a piece of code is supposed to do is something that, even as someone with a degree in the area and used to OOP underlying concepts, I personally despise. If you're used to notepad or notepad++, forget it, things become extremely hard to understand and usage is very susceptible to a plethora of bugs as you struggle with function names and definitions which are "somewhere else". To properly code with OOP you're pretty much *forced* to use Visual Studio and preferably Resharper just to understand what's going on, and as much as coders tout it I still find those solutions awkward and ineffective to fully grasp the power of object orientation. I find I can fragment (factor) code chunks much more while visualizing it much better using Playmaker than with pure Visual Studio + Resharper (and/or Visual Assist X).

- Visual Coding (Kismet, Antares, uScript). First and foremost, let's get something straight: if you don't know how to create a flowchart to describe game logic you're not a real designer, you're like a writer with good ideas that don't necessarily need to be feasible. So, supposing you are a designer, what's left to do? From a designer/developer PoV, I want to be able to "transcribe" my game logic flowchart to the computer, setting up commands and parameters with drop down menus to get the right fields, instead of typing a name and doubtfully hoping it's the right property or variable. VS/Resharper already gives you that possibility, so all that's left is to know what's the correct syntax to get loops and routines working as we want. Visual Assist does have code snippets that help a lot with this. So, supposing you have the right tools and don't try using the harder OOP concepts, you can describe your logic inside Unity quite easily. That's why some people make fun of Visual Coding claiming "it's already too easy to code in Unity". What they don't realize is how easier it is to create and visualize high-level and complex logics with a visual tool, due to their frequently non-linear and parallel nature.

That said, whenever I see some "real production" example of Visual Coding only one thing comes to my mind: Graph Maze. I've yet to be proved wrong (and that's not even possible since it's completely subjective) that coding something in Visual Studio + RS/VAX isn't easier than assembling the same logic in Antares Universe. Existing Visual Coding tools don't "scale up" well, when that should be specifically their number one advantage, helping the dev have a higher level control of what's happening and when. Too many games nowadays work okay during Prototype stage and fail to become real games simply because they've been built "from the leaves to the trunk". Developers focus too hard on getting the core mechanic(s) of the gameplay prototyped and fail very hard to integrate it smoothly into a higher level control of the gameflow. When that happens iterative development becomes prohibitive since you haven't planned for scale and modification. It's like trying to define a basketball game starting from the weight and size of the ball, instead of from the size of the field and number of players. You might eventually make it, but it's completely upside-down. In that critical aspect the current visual coding tools approach doesn't help at all, since it's mostly focused on small-scale behavior which is more adequate for traditional, linear coding.

- Visual Scripting (Visual FSM). Finally, there's the concept inherited from process engineering, of Visual composition of Finite State Machines. That's what playmaker uses, and it's definitely a game changer for game developers for the way it makes them think on a higher level and practically "teaches" them to compartmentalize their logic - low level logic blocks in linear text code fashion (actions) and high level logic in non-linear visual blocks (states). The way Playmaker encapsulates and present those actions in each state is ingenious, the more you work with it the more you feel like that's how an OOP editor should work. Nevertheless, it's a paradigm shift, takes some time to grasp, yet the more developers get used to that new way the more they'll realize how superior it is to the "old way". That's not to say that specific tool it's devoid of flaws though, it still lacks some nested/subFSM entity to better encapsulate tiny dependent states and clean up the view of larger FSMs, it lacks some more intra-state algorithm-ish actions (which, although demoted by the author for breaking the concept of FSMs, can be quite handy when used wisely) and better visualization tools. For instance, there's no way to open two FSMs side by side right now, so for any larger design you'll definitely want to use some pencil-and-paper or visio-like tool before implementing anything in PlayMaker. There could be more helpers like event/transition shortcuts (although it has 'global events' which can be used for that) and the ability to selectively turn some transition lines to circuit and others to bezier - currently there's only a global setting for that.

I'm not afilliated with Hutong games in any fashion by the way, but in my opinion if you can only afford one visual logic plugin for Unity, Playmaker is the right option for any serious Unity developer. If you want/need sidekick products to help it as action-generators, great, but really consider checking Playmaker's built-in action code samples, how clean and readable they are - 'look ma, no polymofo-whatever'! Trying your hand at a bit of copy+paste coding shouldn't hurt, not to mention the public actions library is only going to increase as time goes on.

Now, not saying I'd expect that to actually happen, since I know how hard it is, but if uScript has a function to convert its logic graph to standard C# code ready to be used as an action.. I will fricken buy this thing

March 04, 2011

"Messiah's Crash Course" Video Tutorial Released

Got 40 mins? Then I can show you how to kickoff with the amazing 3D render and animation package, Messiah Studio, which has just dropped temporarily in price from US$399-599 to US$10-40 (!!) in the remarkable "Dare to Share" promotion by its developer, pmG. This made the relatively unknown yet great software win many adoptors, but that ain't no good if all this new people hasn't got how to learn it quickly and easily. So I've decided to jump on the bandwagon and create three videos (totaling 42 mins) showing some of the very early steps when running the software the first time and learning its ways as quickly and objectively as possible - a crash course.

Instead of repeating what's already explained in the many videos available on pmG's site (, like how to create and tweak a bone deformer or how to use the MDD file format, in these videos I've tried to fill some of the gaps for Messiah newcomers. There's also a clear focus on actually bringing in animation and deformation data from Messiah to other 3D packages, showing how Messiah can, with its recent FBX (Filmbox) export option, smoothly integrate with most other 3D applications. I show Lightwave and Maya import workflows in the videos, but the same principles apply to MotionBuilder, SoftImage and any other software which accepts the almost-ubiquitous Filmbox file format.

It's worth mentioning that the weight map creation from Messiah's procedural weighting is nothing short of stellar, for that one feature (getting you rid of weight painting!) learning it will already provide a big boost to your animated character production speed. Being able to use those amazing skin weights with other incredible solutions like Maya's Dual Quaternion Skinning and Lightwave's IKBooster is the icing on the cake.

Last but not least I quickly go through the process of importing the Messiah-generated animation into the excellent Unity real-time engine, including the position and adjustment of cameras.

Interested already? One last thing - the tutorials are free! So run and grab it while the promotion lasts.. nah, just kidding, this will keep with its incredible low price - ie. US$ zero ;) Enjoy!

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Project Files:

Unity Project Files

January 17, 2011

LightKeys for Lightwave 3D Released!

I'm proud to publicly release the free "LightKeys", an enhanced Navigation and Shortcuts System for Lightwave 3D. It was born out of the need of having similar navigation and item manipulation shortcuts across different 3D applications. As more and more 3D packages and applications adopt the Maya Standard for viewport navigation (Alt+MMB = Pan, Alt+RMB = Zoom), having to switch your mindset to the Lightwave style (Shift+Alt+LMB = Pan, Ctrl+Alt+LMB = Zoom) became a huge hassle for anyone using any other 3D application. To the point that I've seen many Lightwave experts using the navigation icons in the corner of the viewports, probably just to get away from the "navigation disorientation" that results when you try to switch away from the ubiquitous (and highly intuitive, as a matter of fact) Maya navigation standard.

Along the navigation shortcuts change, LightKeys also provides a production-proven shortcuts configuration set with highly increased ergonomy. Basically all the main Lightwave Layout features are accessible from the left side of the keyboard, making the software's operation much more speedy and confortable.

Here's a tutorial video that I've put up to show how to install, configure and utilize it, if you're in doubt if this is for you or not skip to the final 3-4 minutes of the video, where I demonstrate how I use it in production:
Click here to watch it on YouTube (HD)

 Screenshot of the LightKeys Tutorial Video

Apologies in advance for the accent, pronunciation and grammar mistakes, here in Brazil English is anything but a native language! :) I hope you enjoy it, comments and bug reports welcome as usual. Soon I'll be making a version for Lightwave Modeler and add enhancements to the Layout version as well.

PS.: Today is my birthday but the present is yours, LightKeys is absolutely free to use!

Update: 0.98 version released (8/27/12), with full support to modeler. Modeler config still WIP. Enjoy!

Click Here to Download

December 31, 2010

Lightwave 10 Minireview


It's true, the 3D sofware market is ruled by Autodesk. People complaining that Maya's humanIK is a half-hearted, hacky implementation of what MotionBuilder does so well, are right. People complaining that Maya doesn't get better modeling tools because of 3DSMax, people complaining that 3DSMax's CA tools are kinda lame compared to what you get in Maya, and even who complains that nothing in Maya or Max hold a candle to what Softimage's ICE technology can make - also have a point. Sadly for the evolution of the industry, there's no longer any 3D software war out there, whoever thinks so is making a fool of himself. It's basically all Autodesk property now, they can do whatever they want with it - including make sure that these softwares keep as segmented as possible, so as to maximize sales of all the packages for each client. Does that make any commercial sense to you? That considered, there is only a handful of full-featured contenders out there against the Autodesk "one company to rule'em all" approach - Cinema4D, Houdini and Lightwave 3D being the most notable ones. Among them Lightwave is, by far, the most mature platform, with no less than two decades of technology development to back it up.

I'm personally as much of an "ancient lightwave user" as anyone can be, having been a beta tester of the software (0.9beta or so) back in the joyful Amiga 500 days. I still have fond memories of the old lightwave-list, I think we had just 10-20 posts per day back then, and the developers (read: the two coders) had the opportunity to reply to each one of us. Good ol'times.

Although it seems like yesterday to me, twenty years have passed since then, and in that period of time Lightwave took many forms and shapes. It went from "the Video Toaster 3D program" to an obscure 3D PC software right after leaving the Amiga platform, to a "niche" top studios 3D application, responsible for the amazing effects of many great TV and movie productions. As evolved as the platform eventually became, the fact is that Lightwave's 9.6 release (early 2009) didn't offer as many enhancements as the community, both amateur and professional, expected. This has split the community apart sensibly, since most started using other 3D packages, either in parallel with Lightwave or substituting it altogether. The fact that the Autodesk-standard FBX file format importer/exporter wasn't as compatible as it should isolated Lightwave even more from the other 3D tools, a critical mistake in an Autodesk-owned 3D world. It was simply less of a hassle to move the whole pipeline to Maya, Softimage or 3DSMax.

By the way, I know this is not exactly short, yet I call this a mini-review because to fully review such a vast application like Lightwave anyone serious about it would take at least a couple months, and the resulting review would be 5x bigger than this. Instead I'll be mostly focusing on the main improvements and what has changed in the software that can actually make artist's lives easier. During this review I'll also make some comparisons between Lightwave and Maya, not only because the second is the other full-fledged 3D application that I'm most intimate with, but also because Maya is the major-3D-studio app of choice, making it a kind of a benchmark.

        Character Animation Improvements

Character Animation has long been considered the achiles heel of Lightwave 3D. Version 9.5 included multiple enhancements in this specific area, but poor documentation and the lack of more advanced tutorials to perform high-quality rigging in Lightwave - like the ones you can easily find for Maya in the likes of Digital Tutors and Gnomonology videos - ended up making wannabe Lightwave character animators "knowledge orphans". It literally took man-years and a number of talented and resourceful Lightwave artists to fully decypher things like the inner differences between joints and bones, or how to properly integrate IK and the arcane IKBooster interfaces seemlessly enough for production purposes. Thanks to the efforts of these brilliant lightwavers, nowadays there's little to nothing that can be done in Maya or Softimage that can't be done easier/faster in Lightwave. IK/FK switching, for instance, is a default animatable setting in Lightwave's IK, while Maya riggers waste precious time to have the same setting in their rigs. Even so, there's still a lack of "official" resources for most of the Lightwave CA affairs, and training material is relatively scarce. Nevertheless, the Lightwave community forum is probably the most warm and welcoming 3D community in the scene, it's very easy to find intelligent and extensive discussions about pretty much any topic, just as it's very common getting help from the biggest experts in Lightwave. Ah, the beauty and warmth of un-bloated communities.

Back to the CA matter, Lightwave's approach to skinning is remarkably different from that of other programs, and probably its biggest highlight. You can interactively rig anything instead of having to fiddle with weightmaps for hours before getting any kind of decent deformation. For instance, while testing a rig, I've deleted a handful of unmapped joints right in the middle of the animation process. It all simply worked as expected - or unexpectedly, if you consider the "norm" of other 3D CA tools except for Project:Messiah. Pose deformation (like a bulging muscle) can be easily achieved both procedurally and interactively using the built-in SoftFX component - also exceptionally competent for advanced effects like soft bodies and hair physics.

This all sounds great, but it's nothing new to be honest, it's just an intro for this final paragraph if you're not aware of how things work in the lightwave-world. The point is, the biggest drawbacks in Lightwave for Character Animation up to 9.6 were: 1) the slow deformation speed, making the animation process slower and tedious than it should and requiring workarounds like proxy meshes and 2) The half-baked FBX import-export plugin, that couldn't really handle some advanced settings. I'm glad to say that this is now all in the past. Not only is the deformation speed much much faster, on par with Maya 2011, but the FBX plugin has been vastly enhanced, providing seamless integrations with MotionBuilder (aka Mobu) if you require its Human IK rigging or advanced mocap editing features. It's worth to note that Lightwave does have some nice Mocap editing features with its IKBooster component, for most applications that might be enough and free you from the steep Mobu purchase cost. As for raw animation deformation performance MotionBuilder is still the king of the world, but it's worth mentioning that Mobu has no real-time subdivision capability, nor a magnificent VPR that shows you interactable x-ray bones overlaid on top of a fully rendered scene.

    The renderer

For those inexperienced with Lightwave 3D, if I could describe its rendering in short I'd say something like "The only full 3D package's native renderer worth using". Compared to the other major players (Maya, Cinema4D, 3DSMax and XSI) native renderers, it's ridiculously superior. Sure, some will rush and say Mental Ray is now native for Maya for instance - I beg to differ. Some advanced plugins require major tuning to work properly with Mental Ray, and even when they do the result is largely different from the native renderer. When I say "major tuning" I mean "generous chunks of time wasted tweaking shader node networks and playing trial-and-error with slow and zero-feedback non-native renderers".

I still remember the days when Lightwave 3D sold one license for each fPrime license sold, and not the other way around. fPrime was the first of its breed, not exactly a VPR since it has no actual viewport overlay. You usually had its window opened as an instant render feedback while manipulating scene itens in the main application window. This worked really well, but it wasn't completely compatible with everything Lightwave had to offer, like Hypervoxels (for advanced volumetric particle effects) and even the most advanced shaders provided in the latest v9 releases. Slowly Worley Labs caught up with most of it, but most of the time you ended up wasting some of your time in the end with actual Lightwave renders, which was a bummer.

And here's Lightwave 10 VPR. Trust my words, nothing I've ever seen compares to that. Coming from a huge struggle in a complex Maya scene just trying to tweak textures and get the intended results, this is seriously night and day difference. The performance is outrageous, humbling even the mighty Modo interactive renderer, and that goes without saying that Modo (even with the just released 501 update) has no character animation tools. VPR is able to outperform even the regular Render, which got huge speed buffs on its own - and, most importantly, whatever you get from VPR is exactly what you get out of Lightwave render buffers. Oh, the joy!

If you want to consider some alternative viewport real-time renderers (VPR) for Maya, you'd better be warned that you won't have a high success ratio with 3rd party plugins. Of course you might get lucky, that's just an alert so you're not caught with your pants down when the client asks some specific effect and you think that shiny new real-time render plugin will save the day and make you look good. It might work for all you need in one or another scene, but hardly with the interactivity you'd want under a tight deadline. Alas, that means a great chance of missing that deadline and end up looking bad instead. My point is that having an 100% native VPR engine is not just amazing, it sets a new mark for consistency and reliability. You won't get this, for instance, out of the spanking new Arion or Octane render engines, the first being quite limited in terms of what it can render so far, and the second using some tricks to speed up rendering, tricks which will not only lower your render quality, but which generally lead to different preview results than what the final renders deliver.

One glitch I used to have with the otherwise outstanding LW renderer was with the crispness of the antialias. It either didn't AA well, or it did a way too soft AA. For photoreal rendering this is generally desired, but for toony rendering you really want some extra crispness to reach a more "Pixar-like" look. I got extremely pleased with the software new AA modes, including Lanczos and Mitchell Sharp filtering, I got very nice MentalRay-AA-like results with marginal render time increases.

One of the most glaring of this low-cost powerhouse renderer limitation - which has made many jump the boat off to boring pastures - is the lack of render passes. Render passes, the ability to output separate images with isolate diffuse, specular, shadow, etc, with a single render might seem unnecessary to the hardcore old hats (again, like me), but once you enjoy the pleasure of precisely tweaking every minor shade of your render in post production (After Effects, shake, etc), it's really hard to look back. Unfortunately, this important feature hasn't got into Lightwave 10, at least not natively. That said, there ae some limited buffer exporting features in its lastest incarnations, individual render buffers which can be vastly extended by some third party tools and libraries - all well worth researching.

        Technology and Extensibility

It's important to mention that Lightwave 10 still uses the ancient original LW inner code structure, and inherits some of its limitations. The touted "CORE" technology announced last year still hasn't culminated in a full product mature enough to fully replace the current tech product, so Newtek wisely decided to migrate some of the key CORE improvements to Lightwave 9.6 and release it as Lightwave 10. It really takes time to re-invent the huge wheel which Lightwave has become, something that Newtek has vastly downplayed considering its initial release schedules. Yet this re-invention is much needed to allow things like an integrated editor - instead of two separate yet inter-communicating applications - and finally a modeling environment on par with the polyon-crunching leaders, namely Modo and 3DSMax.

Nevertheless, what seems like a drawback some times it's a huge advantage. The consistency and backwards compatibility of the Lightwave engine means you've got a ton of free and cheap plugins and lscripts (Lightwave's lower-power "MEL" equivalent) developed along all those years, most of them working and of huge help up to this day, be it for modeling, animating or special effects.


Newtek really expected to have a decent Lightwave Core release before the year's end. This wasn't possible, but at least they are to praise for avoiding the Autodesks low standards of releasing and charging users for pre-beta software in desperate need for Hotfixes that'll only come out months later. Maya 2011 anyone? It's hard to believe that even the much needed "component editor" in Maya wasn't fully operational when that program was released, and even after a couple hotfixes and one service pack that's still the most unstable and crashy major 3D application in the business. Trust me, even the finicky Modo 401 seems stable compared to it. In the other hand, Lightwave 10 has been stable for months now, and its version "10" wasn't released almost one year ahead of 2010. Ahem.

The fact is, on such a saturated and monotonic business environment, for Lightwave to recover some of its share - and, hopefully, gain new ground to assure further development - it can only rely on its new and unique features, besides what it already offered. Lightwave is a true fully integrated solution with CA tools, hair, rigid and soft dynamics, without any 3rd party plugins required, coupled with excellent quality renders - no MentalRay or V-Ray required for you to scratch your head about which material or shader works and which doesn't. VPR is an outstanding addition which completely revamps the way and the frequency in which we artists shape up the final resulting image - which, in the end of the day, it's all that matters. The new built-in 'Linear Workflow' lighting system is yet another powerful weapon in the Lightwave arsenal to achieve this exact purpose, and artists will surely take huge advantage from it.

To sum things up, this is the most powerful, most complete and most innovative Lightwave release in many years, fully honoring its traditions of the past when Allen Hastings and Stuart Ferguson were still leading the boat, pushing the 3D envelope and being the first to release high-end and industry-defining technology like radiosity, particle voxes and subdivision surfaces for personal computers.

It's great to have you back in your new shining armor, Lightwave. Such a warm feeling!

July 21, 2010

Movies, games, media et all

As posted in a reply to this blogpost in Gamasutra:

We should cut it off once and for all. Simply put, it's utterly pointless comparing games to films, just as finding frustration or looking for culprits in games not being able "so far" to achieve the same high level of public acceptance or academic recognition. They're on absolutely different leagues.

When you go watch a movie, you lay down on your couch or back at your chair and you relax. It's a passive endeavor and, no matter how much the film provokes the viewer, it'll keep being so. Nothing you can, as a viewer, do may impact the story ending - it's storytelling in its purest form. That's what our brains are used to in terms of enjoying storytelling, it provokes a deep-rooted form of pleasure related to learning. The possibility that such pleasure can be caused by language communication and not only by visual or sensory experience is the one best differentiator that we as a species have from the other lifeforms in our planet. In the same token, reading a book is so much more thought-provoking and adequate for the primal story-telling receiver experience than movies. Shapes and forms are created by your mind, an exercise generally leading to images derived from experiences and visual elements we've been exposed to along our lives. That brings each block of text you read, each new scenario described, many steps closer to "pre-acceptance", simply because your brain accepts as good representation anything it has stored or created on its own.

Compare these two media experiences to the gaming experience for a second and you'll easily realize how absurd such comparisons are. Games are interactive, like it or not if they're not interactive they're not even games to start with. Not only you need the proper mindset to be willing to interact - which also means accepting the possibility of failure doing so - but it's also a much more demanding activity, be it perceptually or sensorly, generally both.

Even as a former hardcore gamer, many times I find myself choosing to watch a movie over playing a game not because current games aren't like this or like that, it's because a movie it's an "easier" experience - and all I want to do is relax and be (usually) granted a nice experience.

We as game makers have to invest such an insane amount of time just to make the interaction with the game media we're providing easier/smoother, to make sure all possible angles of action are "believable" or acceptable by our intended target audience (and don't think for a second that movies don't have to do the same), that it's easy to get lost on that and put aside or forget some or many essential content and experience enriching elements to the media.

My point is that with game media, we're not just trying to reverse-engineer one mind so that we can shape up a proper experience for a vast spectrum of possible actions a certain player might take in a given situation - a task incredibly hard on its own, ask any psychologist. No, we're trying to do it en-masse! While we don't accept the fact that that's a ridiculously harder endeavor than film-making or any other non-interactive media, we'll keep feeling bad about the industry results as a whole, and trying to point fingers to why we're "falling short". In fact, as much as there's room for improvement, we're far from that. Lack of understanding of our own media is our main downfall.

We don't need multiple new and amazing 'auteurs' to improve the situation - we might need entire new generations to come, with different responses to stimuli written in their 'mental firmware', to even dream about peaking in our business. And that's one of its brightest and most motivating beauties :)