In response to "Lab Coats and Lunatics" from The Escapist Forum: Well the image of scientists in media is further complicated by our modern age. We use them as the vessels to carry plot. People value natural explanations for phenomenon more now than ever before, as a consequence media has to explain the extraordinary events that occur in an exciting story in a realistic way. Perhaps it is more that people care about realism, and back in the day when people believed in magic, etc. such supernatural elements were good enough in fantastical story telling.
Scientists are perfect for a more realistic story. Hence why science is often the enemy, but also the force of good.
I think a good example of how science has changed how we approach story telling is with zombie horror. Can you think of a recent zombie movie/game that had a supernatural explanation for a zombie outbreak? It used to be the norm, some sort of dark magic, pact with Satan, some sort of power beyond scientific understanding. Now it is almost always some sort of science/research gone wrong (with the exception of aliens, but even then often a scientific explanation of the zombie tech is at least hinted).
As for myself, I am a biologist. I find issues of how certain religions view our field more pressing a concern. But it is interesting to note how the world thinks I and others in the field work. From video games to television with the cooly dark lit labs with multi-colored fluids it is fun to witness. I mostly find myself asking, 'why don't my labs look that cool?'
I think this presents one of the great opportunities of gaming. We learn better when we play with something - as a general rule - so illustrating scientific principles in a fun way is a really great opportunity to get people interested in a subject that can have a high barrier to entry.
We need more people like Jeremy C. Smith and Peter Irvin, who make games that push the boundaries of game design, and I mean real game design. When someday, someone makes a real phisics engine, remember, Peter Irvin and Jeremy C. Smith did it first.
Because what today's developers call "physics engines" in games, are anything but. Those are spectacle engines, designed to amuse and entertain the players, and not to simulate real world physics or interaction. Think about it, all a now popular physics engine does, is simulate some kinetics and statics, and that's all. Dropping a box onto a seesaw makes the other end go up, wee! I blew up the supports, and now the building collapsed and some debris flew around, awesome! I fired my gun and now the wall is dotted with small bullet-hole and blood-splash textures, cool! That's BS!
What about other parts of physics, like thermodynamics, friction, wind-resistance, or what about simulating liquids, vapor, real solids or anything in-between? Today's graphics engines are virtually no better than the BUILD engine, only prettier, more capable of fooling the senses, but there is no real simulation underneath. When people die, they collapse like a sack of potatoes, not like a human being, and only get superficial injuries. The ones that try to model torn limbs, resemble a sack-puppet, not an injured human. Solids are still wire-frame boxes with 2D textrues on them, liquid or water simulation is exhausted in surface ripple effects and explosions are only superficial kinetic energy, no heat, no burning, no matter-state changes, nothing. Not to mention interacting with the game world is anything but realistic. In Source based games, the things you pick up just float in the air before you, and you can pick up and carry virtually anything that is not nailed down disregarding dimensions, weight or any other factors. The "simulation" only turns on when you drop the stuff. Many other engines do the same thing, or simply won't let you pick up anything.
All in all, today's physics engines are a joke, nothing more, only there for spectacle, but have very little to do with actual physics. If Irvin and Smith could make a simulation that accurate, that could fit on one side of an audio casette, why can't today's developers make a real physics engine?
Interesting. I was hoping the article would be about Spiderweb's Exile series, but this one preceeds it by 7 years. :)
A good read though - the limitations of hardware on design choices is a far cry from today's development circle, where time and manpower are the only resources, resulting in most sloppy programming more often than not.