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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Progress report:
Page 1 and Page 2 are complete.
Subject has started work on Page 3.



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Monday, December 24, 2007


"Where do ideas come from?"

Famous creative people are often asked that question, and they never have satisfying answers. Whoever's asking the question feels like there's some great repository of inspiration that they haven't found.

But it's the wrong question. Artists get their ideas from everything they see. A writer might get an idea for a short story by looking at a toaster. Even if he happened to remember that that's where he got the idea from, it wouldn't mean anything.

The right question is "How do ideas come?" And you're in luck, because I happen to know the answer to that.

Ideas come from imitating elements, correcting mistakes, utilizing available tools and fulfilling needs.

They might not look like much, but all creativity is based on these four simple principles.

This is when you look at something and say "I could do that!".

You see a person in the Real World, with a personality that surprises you. You see an opportunity: "I could entertain people with these characteristics!". So you write down a story, about a person who is defined by those traits that you found interesting.

You watch a movie, and analyze its structure. "Hmm.", you say, "That's really not so complicated!". So you use that structure yourself.

You see a pretty sunset. You say: "I could impress people with those colors!". So you draw a painting of the sunset, or use its colors on something else.

This is the least impressive kind of inspiration. If someone notices that you took an idea from somewhere, they redirect some of their admiration from you to whoever you got the idea from. So you've got to be subtle in your imitations. Imitating format or technique is fine. Imitating very vague ideas is fine. Imitating individual characteristics is fine, but not if you imitate too many all from the same place. (Better to take just a little bit from here, and a little bit from here, and a little bit from here…)

Imitating impressions you get from nature, or phenomena which aren't controlled by individual people (such as politics or society), is perfectly acceptable. You can also repeat yourself, especially within a single work. (This suggests to the audience that you know what you're doing.)

This is when you look at something and say "I could do that better!".

When you see a good idea badly implemented, you start thinking about what it should have done.

You analyze your dissatisfaction, to see where it went wrong. Maybe there's a flaw in the creators' thinking, maybe you just personally disagree with their approach. Either way, you end up with an idea you like better, and which you wouldn't have come up with without being dissatisfied in the first place.

(I think it's important to be exposed to things you don't like, so that you can learn from them.)

You hear a story of pure good vs. pure evil, and it leaves you cold. You think about what you want from the story that you're not getting. Maybe you're looking for people to relate to, and they're too simple and un-human. So you come up with variations on the characters which make them more flawed, or more like people you know in life.

You see all the problems with society, and start analyzing the problem. Through this analysis, you might come up with an idea for a better society.

Sometimes the ideas you come up with are better than the ones you're rejecting. Sometimes they're not, because they've got all sorts of problems of their own. Either way, it's nice to try.

Utilizing tools
This is when you ask "What can I do?".

You have a paintbrush. You have a canvas. You draw a line. The only reason you drew that line is because you wanted to do something with that paintbrush and canvas.

It is possible to have inspiration in a vacuum. If you just fool around with your tools enough, eventually you'll (by accident) find something you like doing with them.

By "tools" I don't just mean literal tools, I also mean techniques and potential subjects.

Basically, this is like a baby throwing toys around to see what happens. The artist tries everything he can, whether or not he thinks it'll be good, whether or not he thinks he'll enjoy doing it. Just by trying things for the sake of trying things, he'll find a good idea.

This type of inspiration is how you'd write a rhyme. You've got a sentence you'd like to start from, and you need to continue it somehow. You don't know how, so you just throw words around in your head until you come up with one that rhymes. Then you fill in the rest of the line. If that doesn't work, you throw around more words and repeat. If you're still not satisfied, you try something else for the first sentence and start over. With patience, you eventually come up with something that works.

Every time the technology available to artists improves, it sparks a lot of inspiration in a lot of people. The artists try to think of every possible usage of the new tool, whether or not there's any reason for it, and eventually one of those many ideas seems like a good one.

This is not a reliable method of inspiration, but often it's all you've got.

Fulfilling needs
This is when you ask "What should I do?".

It's the easiest kind of inspiration, probably because we're all so experienced in it from dreaming. You're missing something in your life, so you invent it.

You're lonely, so you write a story about people you'd like.

You find the world confusing and uncontrollable, so you make a painting with a clear and simple order to it.

Often you'll come up with the idea for a work of art just so that you can show yourself what sort of art you'd like to experience.

Or you might see that other people would like to experience a certain type of art. You might see an opportunity there, and come up with an idea to satisfy them. But this takes more effort and results in a weaker idea than if you focused only on yourself.

So there you have them, the rules of creativity. Now, I'm hardly the most creative person ever, so I might be totally wrong. If so, I hope you'll comment with an example of creativity which is not an application of these principles. But I'm pretty confident that all inspiration follows the same patterns.

So let's say a writer looks at a toaster. That's where he gets an idea from, which doesn't matter at all. But how does he get an idea?

First of all, he's bored. So he tries to think of all the possible things one might do with a toaster. (Utilizing tools) One of the many bad ideas he has is that people might strap them to their heads, and shove in bread whenever someone starts a conversation with them. That way, if the person talks for too long he gets hot, burnt toast shot into his face. (Fulfilling needs) The writer then decides he likes the idea of regulating the length of conversations. So he imagines a society where there are penalties for long blabbering. (Imitation of the previous idea) But something about that leaves him unsatisfied. He decides it's too much like a utopia, and devises a group of rebels dedicated to the cause of never-ending jibber-jabber. (Correction) He writes an amusing story about their efforts.

That's how an idea is born.



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Progress report:
Page 0 is complete.
(Page 0 is a very simple page.)
Work on Pages 1 and 2 is 62% complete.
(Total Pages: 0 To 50)



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Sunday, December 16, 2007

♫ Some Day Myself Will Come… ♫
A Fairy Tale

───────Timeline 1───────
Back in the days when I was younger and wilder, I had many dreams to fill my thoughts with.

I dreamt of programming a perfect replica of human intelligence. I dreamt of single-handedly creating hit science fiction movies. I dreamt of crafting educational software to put the school system to shame. I dreamt of writing "quests" the likes of which the world had never seen. I dreamt of gaining the respect and admiration of those who looked down at me.

But none of these fantasies possessed my imagination like the dream of my future self coming back to get me. So strong and constant was this wish that I didn't think of it as a fiction, so much as a destiny. I would never speak of this with anyone, but deep down I knew that at any one of those banal, pointless days, he would come for me.

Over and over I imagined how it would play out. He'd show up, a handsome adult, and declare simply: "I'm you from the future." Then I would ask him for the secret password, never written down and spoken to no one, which he would speak at once. (This was little more than a formality, as I would know as soon as I saw him.) And then he'd take me away to his studio and show me the tools and techniques he'd developed, so that I could join him for the rest of the journey. And in this way each of us would find the missing part of ourselves.

The days were empty and hated. Each one was exactly the same as the last. And through it all I waited, but my future self never came to the past.

The years have passed. What was once a near-certainty is now just another unfulfilled promise, like all those I've made to myself. And as the childhood schedules have faded away as well, I don't need to dream as often as I used to. But still I have not forgotten.

And so it will be that when I am thirty-seven, a man of little ambition and less achievement, I will go back in time to meet myself.

───────Timeline 2───────
I came to myself when he was eleven years old. He asked for the password, but I didn't remember it. So he asked me questions for three days (to give him ample time to consider what they should be), and I answered to the best of my ability. (This satisfied him.)

The relationship began with gifts. I first gave him a Nintendo 64 with Ocarina of Time, to point him in the right direction. Then Super Mario 64 to inspire, Banjo-Tooie to build his worldview up further, and Rayman 2 to break it down. Also Conquests of the Longbow to inspire, The Secret of Monkey Island to build his worldview up further, and Myst (and its sequel) to provide an alternative. Also Metroid II, and also Super Mario Bros. 3, and also Babylon 5, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Bone, and Uncle Scrooge, and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, and many others over a period of twelve months.

He enjoyed the gifts and found his life enriched for them. But he was the sort of person who would always disagree with those around him, so he was disappointed in me from the start. He was expecting a hero, and I was only a man. But he loved me unconditionally.

And it was partly because of this that I learned discipline! He taught me to get my work done, because it is much easier to teach than to do for oneself. Every time he saw me, the first thing he asked was: "What progress have you made?". And I usually had a good answer for him, because I loved him and hated to disappoint him.

Meanwhile, I taught him to be a better person. Whenever he acted shamefully (which was sadly often), I'd criticize him for it. And he hated to disappoint me, so he'd always change.

But this was too good to be true, because his parents started to worry. Surely their boy should not be spending so much time with an old hermit! So I was forced to divulge my true identity to them. Unfortunately they didn't believe me, and nothing I said could convince them. So they forbade us from seeing each other.

One night, he ran away and found me. Against his objections, I brought him right back home where his parents were panicking. Getting him back was not enough for them, and they brought the matter to court. I couldn't let myself be found invading a foreign timeline, so I ran away.

The trip seemed to have been a failure, but not entirely. I had learned a new dedication which I applied to creating all the games I'd imagined when I was younger. Now I live in loneliness and disappointment, but this is a small price to pay for fulfilling a destiny.

This is not the end of the story. My younger self found new motivation from the disappointing future he witnessed. It gave him a fresh determination to do what I did not, and apply in practice the lessons he learned in principle from training me, thereby becoming a prodigy in game design. He and I have shared a long writing correspondence in secret, in which I point him in the right direction for smooth programming and we both share ideas.

And so both of us will eventually become very successful gamists in our own rights, and with fairly different styles. Soon he will have the opportunity to join me again, and together we will live and grow and create and be happy.

But I will die before my time, a result of a lifetime of ignoring my health. He will be heartbroken and go back in time to meet himself once more.

───────Timeline 3───────
He showed up when he was fifteen years old. The young self didn't ask for a password, having forgotten it himself. Nonetheless, the password was given. And that password sounded so familiar it raised many childhood memories, thus verifying the man's identity.

The boy was ecstatic- he'd waited so long, he'd just about given up hope! But here he was, the answer to his dreams, the one who would bring him to his destiny!

The relationship began with a long demonstration of the games we had made. The boy wondered at the absence of Squeak (an RTS he'd planned with Tuvia), of which the man had no memory at all. But he listened to the idea of it and concluded that it focused too much on theme and not enough on rules. The boy listened to these words and learned.

Myself taught my grandself more. He taught him every aspect of gamism- design, programming, music, writing tips. The two of them bounced ideas off of each other. And they were never lonely again.

The parents were told only that an old gamist was training their son. They were worried at first, but when they saw what their boy was producing they were proud.

And what games they were! We had made games that fulfilled our wildest dreams, but our imaginations had limits. But this version of us, introduced to games with the very promise that everything is achievable, had those borders removed right from the start! From then on, he objected to everything his older self suggested, because he was sure he knew better. And he did. He reached heights I can barely comprehend.

Through it all, they were the closest friends anyone could possibly hope for.

But it can't last. Myself will die long before his time, a result of years of obsessing too much over his health. And my grandself will go back in time to meet himself once more.

───────Timeline 4───────
In just a few months now, he's going to appear.
He'll show me his life's work and make me his peer.
He'll tell me the password, and together we'll go
Away to his newly formed games studio.
There, he'll assemble two competent teams
Giving both of us free rein to follow our dreams.
All of these games (plus the old ones) we'll sell
At just enough to pay our programmers well.
We'll watch as the world builds on what we've presented,
Thus proving that our legacy is cemented!
That makes for four timelines, which seems like enough,
So we'll fire our workers and pack up our stuff
And with just one look backwards we'll head out the door
Of the present, to travel through time just once more.
This time it's forward, to the future Earth
To meet all the games which our ideas helped birth!
We'll think and explore and be driven to laughter.
Through it all, we will live happily ever after.




You write very well.


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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Progress report:
Subject "Mory" has created 3 test programs involving character "Smilie".
Test2: identified as repeat of Test1.
Subject "Mory" has created 2 test programs involving character "Smilie".
Subject has used the functions in Test1, Test3 to construct a framework.
Subject claims program "Smilie" will be built in this framework.
We do not recognize validity(statement), but cannot disprove it at the present time.



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