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Greg Rice

The Flock Official Thread

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Project Lead: Greg Rice

From the opening moments of a baby bird hatching out of its egg, learning to find food, and ultimately taking to the skies, The Flock will take players on a dramatic journey across the planet. Along the way they'll be confronted with many of the perils that face birds during migration from unpredictable weather to groups of hunters. With controls that aim to really nail the feel of a bird in flight, players will soar through beautifully rendered 3D landscapes drafting off of each other to save energy and make better time in hopes of finishing their journey and arriving safely with the rest of their flock.

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Hey guys, this game would be rad. Like that awesome dream you always had as a kid where you were flying over a beautiful forest. You guys had that dream too, right? Let me know if you have questions and I'll answer them right here in this fancy forum thread!

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This could be incredible if done right. I really hope it gets more votes, best of luck, Greg!

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This game needs to happen. I love the idea of a loose-objective game that simulates the feeling of flight. The idea of a casual and atmospheric multiplayer reminds me of Endless Ocean 2 on the Wii.

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I cast my vote for this project, as it sounded like the best game concept of the bunch to me. I was torn, though, as to whether I should vote for the best concept or the most realistic project. I have to be honest, this does not sound like the best concept for a two week project. The card games are probably the most realistic two week projects of the bunch. However, I see no-one else went with the realistic projects, either, so what the hell, I might as well go for my favorite concept, too, I guess.

edit: I just realized I can vote for however many games I want to. I had assumed, as I imagine many others had, too, that I could only cast one vote.

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I cast my vote for this project, as it sounded like the best game concept of the bunch to me. I was torn, though, as to whether I should vote for the best concept or the most realistic project. I have to be honest, this does not sound like the best concept for a two week project. The card games are probably the most realistic two week projects of the bunch. However, I see no-one else went with the realistic projects, either, so what the hell, I might as well go for my favorite concept, too, I guess.

edit: I just realized I can vote for however many games I want to. I had assumed, as I imagine many others had, too, that I could only cast one vote.

Thanks for the confidence man! There are actually a few things that might make this easer than you would think. Most importantly, the prototype would only need one character model. You could alter the patterns on the bird to add variety to the visuals, but the modeler could just make one awesome bird!

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I think I played this game in 1987.

Little known fact: the second player could control the birds.

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These choices are getting tougher with each thread I read through.

I'll just say that I have long imagined a game like this. Nothing crazy or outrageous, just simple flight and the peace of it. And while I thought about a virtual forest of sorts with all kinds of animals, it's the bird flight that was most appealing. It's hard to find games like this. Moreso co-op games that aren't about shooting up a squad of other dudes.

Journey is a recent example of a quiet, cooperative experience, and when I read this I imagine something similar. Not up there trying to shoot up bird dudes (maybe peck at 'em I guess, for that bit of drama), just fly alongside them and enjoy the journey.

Good luck, Greg.

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I reckon this game would be awesome if it combined the amazing graphics of Flower with a multiplayer experience of cooperation.

Very promising. Good Luck Greg!

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Out of the bunch this one was the one that caught my attention more than the rest. It's different and I think it would be quite the experience to play.

Good luck!

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Yep, you guys are right on track with the thatgamecompany references. They're totally an inspiration!

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This is a really cool concept. I hope it comes back in some forms, even if it doesn't win.

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Greg, this idea is super cool!

I've always loved birds and became fascinated by flocking at one point. I'd love to go to a place like Otmoor in England some November and see all the starlings.

There is a fairly simple algorithm for modeling flocking behavior called the "Boids" algorithm, created by Craig Reynolds an early computer graphics researcher:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boids

Basically, each member of a flock tries to get or stay close to its fellows, but not too close, and face in the general direction those around them are facing.

Last year I made a sketch in Processing that uses an implementation of the algorithm:

http://vectorpoem.com/floq

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I had to vote for this because it's so different.

I mean sure I want a space station but to be part of a flock of birds!

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Those flocking videos are flocking amazing.

A few things I think make the idea for Flock really compelling: it's about something outside of the game world. It wouldn't just be a fantasy, or a set of rules, it would be about something that exists independently of the game. I think a game like Flock would make me think about birds in ways I haven't ever done before. It would guide my imagination in a totally surprising direction. I've been a marine, a jedi, and a god in games; a man and a woman; a robot, a car, and a spaceship; but I can't remember ever being anything like a real bird. I love the idea for this game and would be delighted to see it developed.

And the title could be the basis for endless bad puns!

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Guys, check out this incredible video I found:

[vimeo]31158841[/vimeo]

I actually pitched a game at the start of the year in which a big component was flocking movement. I used this exact video! It was a big inspiration (also, filmed on the river Shannon which isn't *too far from where I grew up in Ireland).

Some great starling shots in the Tree of Life if you haven't seen it, and Winged Migration is a film that would probably be a good touchstone too.

Definitely voting for this, for feel and the possible art. Love it. Lots of interesting directions to take it. I still want to return to my somewhat related game concept in my spare time once I finish some other projects, so this makes me wistful. :P

Good luck Greg!

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This idea is fantastic and by far my favourite, though it may be a bit serious in comparison to previous DF games. What about taking this idea to a couple of flock experts/researchers at a university and develop something in collaboration with them and some other developers in your spare time? It would be a shame if the idea got shelved because it didn't make it due to internet voting.

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I love good looking nature games, like Endless Ocean which was mentioned. If this can be done with realistic graphics, it could be great. But that's also the part I'm worried about, that it will end up not looking good enough.

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Hey guys, this game would be rad. Like that awesome dream you always had as a kid where you were flying over a beautiful forest. You guys had that dream too, right? Let me know if you have questions and I'll answer them right here in this fancy forum thread!

Hey Greg!

I think it's an amazing concept. And yes, I totally had that dream many, many times when I was young. The flying was so... different and amazing than flying in a plane...

I could see this project go really really well (like the journey has, oh my god was this game amazing...) and I would definitely buy that game. So I instantly gave you a vote but I think you should let us in in some more details (if you already have some).

But what exactly are your plans with this concept? Is it always "just" flying or will you have to land? Search for food?

I'm eager to hear more :)

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I love the idea a lot, Greg! Top 5 pick when I saw the initial video. When you were talking about it, I thought back to thatgamecompany's first construct when they were still in college, Cloud. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_(video_game) )

I loved how it centered on just the sensation of flying that you get in a dream. Have you played it, Greg? What kind of 'drama' will the ducks face on their trek from the frozen north, south to Cabo?

EDIT Maybe I should read the previous posts before getting ahead of myself and reposting previously asked questions because i'm dum. Sorry!

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Greg, I must say THIS is the game I want to win. Some of the other games may have more core/mainstream appeal, but this game idea just rocks. I had almost word for word this idea for a game the past two summers whenever I saw flocks of birds (murmurations and other flocks) perform maneuvers like in the video you linked. I really hope this wins, because I've been wanting this game to exist for years now.

Good luck. :)

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I actually really like the concept of this game. In a market saturated with lord of the rings and star wars, a game like this that explores a new topic is something that should exist on principle alone. Even if it doesn't make top four, you did a good thing just by pitching it, and I hope you pitch more things like it.

I mentioned in one of the other amnesia fortnight threads that one of the things that made me unsure about this game is that I wasn't sure I entirely understood the concept. I definitely understand the part about it being essentially a sort of migration simulator, but I was curious what some of your ideas were for introducing goals and challenges.

You've mentioned a couple of them in your initial post, but I think one thing that might give me pause in just comparing this idea to a game like Journey is that Journey has the benefit of letting the player walk and climb over things, examine them from different angles, interact with them, and so on. The idea of being a bird in flight is enjoyable because flight is enjoyable. It's relaxing. But are you at all concerned that it might turn out to feel like the flight equivalent of Desert Bus? I'm wondering what the more moment-to-moment experience would be like, if you're ready/willing to talk about that. (I understand that it's WAY early, so maybe not. That's totally cool.)

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When it comes to flight games/simulators I always found myself wanting to fly close to the ground to see what level of detail had been provided, not to mention the more acute sense of speed that was evidenet at lower altitudes (imagine the terrifying experience of flying in an airliner at normal cruising speed just above the ground!). With birds, the speed issue is less important.

Sure, very high up can be calming/meditative in a way, but that's largely the way we experience long-haul flights anyway, except in cramped and noisy space with peanuts everywhere.

But what I always enjoy on any flight is looking out at the surroundings right after takeoff and just before landing, when you see the buildings, roads, cars and general bustle of the ground from an altitude that you almost never get to see beyond some tall skyscrapers. That could compensate for any feeling of monotony at too high an altitude.

In game design terms, this naturally generates the immense problem of graphic detail. Unless the whole journey was filmed with a high-def stabilized camera at medium-low altitude in fair/good weather ("send the interns!") - which would turn the whole experience largely into a film rather than a large, interactive space.

Just some random thoughts, not necessarily applicable to this project, which invites lots of other cool aspects I'd like to see realized - such as utilizing the fact that birds such as geese flying in V-formation have a system of switching positions in order to share the load of being in front, which pays dividends to all by reducing the total amount of energy to be 70% less than would be needed on a solo flight... and so on.

That, and it would be fun to press the 'H' key to [H]onk!

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A few more details for those who are asking! I'm definitely imagining that the entire game would not be played in the air. Players would need to land to get food, rest, and just check out cool little chill spots along the way. As for the drama, I'm thinking there would be scripted moments like storms, polluted cites, and hunters that the player would need to navigate through. Oh and there will most definitely be honking! That will be your main source of communication!!

Thanks for all the love here and in Twitter guys! Remember, it's for the birds!!

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I would love to have such game, but I don’t think that can be pulled off. Here goes some of my concerns about this idea.

“From the opening moments of a baby bird hatching out of its egg, learning to find food, and ultimately taking to the skies”

That’s a lot of different things to sweep through and not all of them that interesting (for average player). Or was that removed from idea, because I don’t hear anything about that later on. And how does we add the multiplayer here? Does first part of birds story is singleplayer, which unnotably turns into multiplayer when it’s time to “go home”? Or focus only on birds, which live in groups all the time?

“Like that awesome dream you always had as a kid where you were flying over a beautiful forest.  You guys had that dream too, right?”

I can fly in dreams now too, without big effort, so that has nothing to do with being kid, and yes I had.

“With controls that aim to really nail the feel of a bird in flight”

This is where I really need to throw some stones on Your idea, without offense of course. So which one of us know how birds feel while flying...? And why should someone assume any similarity to people flying in dream? Is that the same feeling for everyone? Shouldn’t in that case it be easier to make a game about person flying around for some reason, without touching birds theme? Or was that simply a metaphor for “any flying”, so called “birds view”.

You can’t actually recreate the feeling of wind flowing around your body. Freedom of movement is implementable, but just flying actually isn’t that interesting, at least for me. There are some neat things to live through.

You are deliberately flying slow calming rounds high above the ground, no need to waste your energy, and Your screams are hearable deep into the canyon where Your eyes are scanning for the slightest motion of ones it could fear off of their daily tasks. You are the king of these snowy mountains and lush forests down there.

One small motion down there and you will pull your wings close to body and fall down like an arrow. No, not like an arrow, like a hunter, shaped for millions of years, which has locked it’s deadly weapons on target which will probably have no time even to notice Your shadow, before it’s too late.

Or if it’s storm near see to run into uplifting stream of air, stretch Your tired wings to the fullest, close one of Your eyes and let the wind to take You on it’s shoulders, while You rest for the next stormy breeze to crash into you with chilly cold wind and spatter from waves hitting the cliffs. You are big enough to just float above there, but other one, down there is fighting for his life, there near the sea where waves clash one with other. Fighting, by constantly falling out of your sight in darkness and then again shooting up to the gloomy sky, or is he just playing, playing Russian roulette with his own young life?

Or jumping from one branch to another in deep forest where missing an inch will make you fall, or more like spur up to another branch to try again and where forest kings gloomy eyes are watching you for a chance to start a race for life through maze of branches, where your small size isn’t too much of a help against his acrobatic maneuvers.

Jumping from bird to bird is fun too :)

It’s rather hard to describe in words, so should probably be as hard to convey via game. Well there is of course the standard flocking, interesting too, but more based not on flying skills (except for small birds a bit), but more like interactions between flock members.

Closest way to put enough variations in gameplay here would probably be to split game in episodes/missions with some sort of joining narration in between.

For at least minimal similarity there should be some sort of airflow simulation system.

Now about the multiplayer migration as such. To keep some 50+ players correctly aligned and not stressing out with keeping their position correct there would be need for some sort of system that pulls player to some concrete place so that flock is correctly aligned, and only when player presses controls it moves out of that place and fly’s where he need.

Secondly, as some already mentioned, there would be need for taking into account resting (lowest energy usage in middle) and protection from predators ( as count and as seeing eyes) to be main mechanics to force creation of flocks. As for example some predators fly together with their prey, always fresh meet, which transports itself, without your effort.

Talking about eyes. Birds vision != human vision. Humans have highly binocular, frontal 170° vision, as view of eyes overlap. Most of the migrating birds has 320°+ vision without capability to correctly measure distance (except right in front) + vision of magnetic field for migrating birds (not really a vision, more like capability to sense direction). Binocular frontal vision is mostly for birds like owls.

Gonna end on this note, but there are a lot of other things to consider if making birds flying, not people :) And I hope I will not be banned for writing too much.

Thanks for idea, Your effort is very appreciated. I hope this doesn’t sound too offensive.

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