Sumotori Dreams

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Stumblebum Physics

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Suggested By:
babel fishless

Sumotori Dreams is a) a goofy but minor little game that's fun to watch but not precisely fun to play, b) an impressive physics implementation in very tight form, c) an illustration of why the demoscene is still relevant: Take your pick.

In Sumotori Dreams, two "sumo wrestlers" who are actually congregations of cubes rectangular prisms, looking something like the old Rock'em Sock'em Robots toy, begin in a circular arena and try to push each other over. The one left standing wins. You don't "control" them, exactly; they are autonomous, AI-controlled characters who try to balance themselves (poorly); the only things you do are use up-arrow to walk forward, backspace to initiate a push at your opponent, and enter to initiate a harder shove. A match typically lasts about ten seconds before one, or both, stumble and fall (with nice, clunky sound effects). After the fall, the characters autonomously (no further input allowed) try to stand up and bow. If they're too close to each other, the bow can, in fact, cause them to bash into each other and fall down again.

From a game perspective, this is the gaming equivalent of a Three Stooges routine -- short, crude physical comedy.

Why is the physics impressive, given how stumblebum these characters are? Keep in mind that even in games "with physics," the behaviors of characters are not actually governed by physics. Behaviors are either "animated" (with some artist laboring over a hot work station deciding what "bone motions" are necessary to create that fluid sword-draw you see on screen), or created by motion capture (with some actor wearing a black suit with lots of ping-pong ball halves pasted all over it drawing a sword, and the mo-cap system recording the motions, which then get replayed in the game). A behavior would actually be governed by physics if we were simulating the play of muscles, the weight of the limbs, and so on -- a rather difficult programming challenge.

To put it another way, game characters may look very fluid, if well animated; but you can't take the code that moves them and use it to move a real-world robot.

Sumotori Dreams is actually trying to do that -- to animate not a human, of course, but a blocky biped with actual weight, and have it self-balance and move in a believable (if humorously crude) way.

The demoscene was originally about pressing hardware to the limits with visual effects amazing in an era of single-digit megahertz processors; in an era of gigahertz processors and 3D videocards, that's not particularly relevant any more. But what is relevant is using algorithms in unexpected ways to create experiences no one has seen before -- and that's certainly what Sumotori Dreams does.

Anyway, play this thing -- it won't hold your interest for long, but it will likely make you laugh. And there's actually something impressive under the skin.


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Striders in HL2

This looks interesting. As far as I recall from pre-release interviews, the movement of the striders in Half-Life 2 are at least partially governed by physics. Specifically, the animation of their legs will correctly follow uneven terrain and they will dynamically duck under head-level obstacles. Also, Lucasarts' Euphoria engine does this more extensively:

There's another really impressive demo available elsewhere with Indiana Jones struggling to stay standing on a rickety suspension bridge with rocks falling around him.

Fun fun fun !

I played this with a friend, and it's real non-stop fun. The drinking may have added to the fun, but still, a lot of it came from the game. I'm sure.