Thread: Deus/Machina Ghost/Shell

Deus/Machina Ghost/Shell

  1. #1

    Deus/Machina Ghost/Shell

    Depth - DE, like Ghost, managed to develop a plausible continuity between the modes of relationship of the concrete given world and the info-world. The manner in which the gamer/JC becomes progressively more embedded in info-powers is only part of the story. The constant opportunities for interaction with other people, their intentions, manners, writings (from pastpresentfuture), to messages (from people/machines, AI) but also to things - not necessarily useful - with logo's and associations, even the capacity to fill Manderley's office with cats...so that there is a rich spectrum between natural communication and code...and all this wrapped up in 'conspiracy'/redemption, so that a) one always senses a purpose/intention, from brickwork to plasma-screens, from mistakes and wit to the inability of code to handle ambiguity, from mice and greasels to gangs, corporations, 'civilisation', with the result that b) all of given reality is both mobilised and made uncertain, because c) again like Ghost, the movment from mechanical to spiritual resides in 'animation'. AI is not scalable, so we have 5-hour games with impecable grafix that demand spectacular hardware instead of 20-hour games that demand imagination.

  2. #2
    I'm not really sure what you were getting at, but i think it's interesting to point out somewhere that DX and GitS have curiously parallel endings, with the uniquely formed intelligent AIs Helios and the Puppet Master respectively merging with the main character at the end of their respective storylines. (Ok, so in DX it's only one ending, but still...)

    It's probably more since they share similar roots in cyberpunk, but anyway. Any DXers watch GitS? (either the movie(s) or the most excellent TV series?)

  3. #3
    That's a good insight about the Puppet Master and Helios. However, underlying both DE and Ghost is the tension between the richness of the given world and the possibilities/limitations of the info-world (for the moment determined by code)...in general a tension between narrative/drama and the recent descriptions of fundamental physics (which have shifted from matter and energy to information and energy). Both DE and Ghost manage to find a vehicle by which this tension - what is real - is fundamental not only to the story but to all the details... Ghost 1 is a more rich story than Ghost 2, but Ghost 2 is more innovative visually than Ghost 1. In Ghost 2 Oshii and his animators have found more lyric ways of manifesting this tension...it requires an obsession with the details of animation (manual v cg), where the in-between nature of mechs/cyborgs/puppets/pets/dolls etc. implies a more full reality than simply being able to take more hits or leap further or upload messages/data. Indeed the trailer for DE3 seems to have come from the scene at the end of Ghost 2 made of nothing but finely-crafted shells and luminous fibres.
    My crack at the end about recent games - even the research, detail and beauty of HL2 is wasted on gameplay no more imaginative than the old arcade games - was meant to suggest that DE3 might spend its resources more like DE1...on the content. Not a new idea, I realise; but I think it is one of the key reasons DE1 was so unique and good. Instead of firefight porno (Halo/Crysis), or yet another contest against the madman with a lab (alien or otherwise...the Bond generation), or the ever-tedious ghouls lumbering out of the darkness, we got a myriad of intrusions in the given world and its constituencies - from mole people to big pharma/nano-tech. The cast of characters and things was rich, diverse, and often witty (furnishing Madame Chang's flat, the Hopper gas station so isolated no car would go there...though the chateau was a lost opportunity); and the conversation/dialoge/texts were well beyond Hollywood one-liners. The scenes exploiting the banality of the given world were as crucial to the overall effect as was the element of choice (even if the latter made the save files huge for the time). The debates around interactivity and art are often fruitless, but DE1 allowed choice to penetrate to the trivial and this made everything carry the ambivalence of a detective story - is this pen a clue or just a pen - and it allowed the gamer to be more than another bot (and the bots/NPC's became endowed with more life than the code actually allowed). DE1 was a bit clunky (supply crates, obvious texture-maps, pre-physics, the 'stiffs' without collision detection, the need for lockdowns, hilite boxes around interactive items, the tetris subgame for assets, always night, etc.); but I valued the exposure to the game-code as part of the tension between concrete and info worlds. If it's going to take 3 years to develop a game, I'd prefer it were spent on developing the 'depth' of content rather than on photo-unreal graphics or other secondary gimmix...David Lynch meets Oshii.

  4. #4
    Actually I think they sidestepped the 'AI capability' issue in Deus Ex (a side effect of needing continuity for all DX1 endings in IW). Though you can merge with an AI at the end of the game, it's completely unclear what the consequences are. It's possible this merging leads to the collapse, by design or by accident. However in both it's a major theme.

    Though it's worth mentioning (for people who haven't seen/read any GitS) that AIs are depicted as being much more capable in GitS than they are in DX, and augmentation is much more widespread and accepted (quite the reverse of a main DX3 theme). In fact, in GitS the un-augmented (/uncyborged) are looked down upon.

  5. #5
    minusOne - yup: sidestepped the mating with Helios (and why did Simons not need the big tower to do the same), or a lost opportunity. The trailer for IW suggested a world with post-coital powers...though these sorts of things are hard to do well (boing physics on Zen in HL1 had its moments, portals with or without Native Americans on the other side are still most interesting as 3D switches). DX1 had a good line in broken AI - though not quite in the same league as months of effort on 4.5 secs of falling bot in Ghost 2 - along with interupted alliances, errors, general breakdown, nano-plague and so on.

    Completely agree the spectrum between enhanced characters and pets or things in GitS is more developed than in DX, though I see something between respect and nostalgia for humans, at least on the part of the good-guy cyborgs in GitS. The customary Manga salvation from (post-bomb) hi-tech through children is fairly subliminal in GitS (K's 'shell' at end GitS 1, 'cute' dolls in GitS 2) by comparison with the themes of loyalty, commitment, friendship, alliance, enemy, corruption, etc....problem of 'morality' in a cyborg/prosthetic world....