In response to "Hooked" from The Escapist Forum: It really is a soothing game, there's so much to explore and swim around it can put completionists off track, but then on a game where you are supposed to chill out and enjoy the ride it doesn't really matter.
I remember when I was showing off this game to a group of friends, we usually gather up in a group of 5-ish and everyone plays a bit with anything we have access to, and one in the group wanted to try. Me and the other person who were interested in the game were having a blast on the first section of the game, until at last we couldn't ignore the rest of the guys mocking the game for not getting what it was all about.
For a medium that's supposed to take you anywhere you wish it sure needs to break some boundaries.
A lot of people don't realize that the ocean, once you get far enough from our safe, familiar shores, is a friggin' alien world full of creatures unlike anything you'll find in the shallows, let alone on land. Lauren Admire's "Science!" column has several times touched upon the strangeness you'll find several thousand feet below the surface, and it would be awesome if a game like Endless Ocean gave us the option to peek at a virtual recreation of it.
In response to "Plant No Other Tree" from The Escapist Forum: I think that algorithms are definitely part of the process of reducing the time and costliness of creating 3D games. However, a warning against relying on them too much should be expressed.
SpeedTree isn't perfect. I was playing Oblivion only the other day, and I know that one big flaw I see is that many of the trees, at least in Cyrodil, are tall and old. Very few are short, or new. You see these great oak forests which have little to no undergrowth.
When I see a fully generated rainforest, which I'll recognise as realistic from my extensive experience of rainforests along Australia's Eastern Coast, with all four strata of emergents, canopy, understory, and forest floor generated in a way that none of the trees clip over each other, interacting properly, then I'll know that SpeedTree has done it. Until then, this system might be good for a start in making a nice forest, but I think that designers should tweak further than the process that SpeedTree provides.
What is especially exciting is that SpeedTree is only the tip of the iceberg. I expect that if the games industry knows what it's doing, there will be fast design systems like these for character morality, buildings, factional alignment, updating, and saving. One day, imagine if these systems could update themselves across all the games that use them, empowering modders and possibly designers to patch new graphical effects and environmental interactions into old games. Now there is a tantalising prospect.
The trees in Oblivion were so good that for months, maybe even for years after playing it, looking at real trees or walking in a real park would make me think of Oblivion, and make me want to play it
However, ever since Oblivion, forests made with SpeedTree look about the same. I cant expect two trees of a single species to look different, that's not what i'm saying, I'm saying that artists try to make imaginative settings with different character and object models, different environments and such, but to save time they put SpeedTree in the middle of all that and it does not fit. It looks like you ripped a forest from a different game and put it into yours, and its natural and realistic look clashes with your otherwise original fantasy or sci-fi design.
I don't blame them for doing it, and it's true that if you put a little effort into SpeedTree you can make it look original, like in the Shivering Isles expansion for Oblivion, and i haven't even noticed that Dragon Age and Batman Arkham Asylum use SpeedTree. But you can also make great looking trees that sway in the wind without ST, take a look at Guild Wars pre-searing Ascalon, beautiful, natural looking trees that fit the setting perfectly...