Reading Tarn’s interviews makes me always want to become a video game developer.
“But if it were something harder, like, what if the price of teleportation is uncontrolled nausea for a week and you lose a quarter of your blood, or something like that? I don’t know how much blood people can live without. But you’re just completely out of it for a week or a month. There’s still cases where teleport is valuable. So then you need to teach them sort of a cost/benefit analysis type thing. Which, I don’t want to be too flippant, but it’s not much different than having a different movement value for a forest than a grassland. There’s a cost to this movement, and the cost is, ‘how much do I value my blood? And how much do I value not being sick all the time?’”
The flip side of this is that once you see Dwarf Fortress for graph traversal and topological sort, it loses a lot of its magic.
Physics story time!
In quantum mechanics, there’s this thing called the Schrödinger equation. As an extremely oversimplified description, it says that you can describe the entire quantum in terms of the “Hamiltonian” operator. It’s a nonlinear partial differential equation, so really messy to work with, but hypothetically you can reduce everything in quantum mechanics, classical mechanics, chemistry, biology, weather patterns, etc to solving the Hamiltonian. That doesn’t mean, though, that it’s easy. Here’s roughly where we are in terms of complete solutions.
Even with a single unified equation, you very quickly hit systems where you’re pretty much stuck. And that’s just three particles! Once you give up analytic solutions, you’re now in a world of emergent phenomena, where small quantum rules avalanche through a system and lead to bizarre macro-level properties. For example, if you model a metal as a free sea of electrons and add a slight force coming from the ions in the lattice, you suddenly get “forbidden zones” of electron energy, aka band gaps. Then that cascades to make insulators and semiconductors possible, which cascades into transistors, which cascades into, well, computers. So a very slight change in the electron model gives you a universe where I can ramble about my undergrad classes to a complete stranger who may or may not be on the other side of the world.
Dwarf Fortress might just be graph traversal and topological sort. Glass is just a bunch of harmonic springs. Weather is just Newton’s equations spread over a lot of particles. Doesn’t mean that we understand it, can predict it, or don’t find it mysterious and full of wonder.
Funny, that the same 1-2-3 pattern holds just for Newtonian gravity an orbits.
Single object in empty space: trivial.
Two objects: Kepler’s laws hold precisely.
Star-planet-moon: Well, up to some approximation…
Three stars of comparable masses: oh no not this.
But does having a simple structure underneath weaken or strengthen magic-ness (especially if the details in the next level are carefully thought out)? After all, a digital clock is less magic than a digital clock running on Conway’s Life.
That’s probably a matter of perspective.
Is that different from seeing human relations as applied decision theory?
Which immediately suggests that Tarn should add in irrationality and biases to dwarf logic… assuming he hasn’t already.
Losing my blood probably will hurt a bit immediately and may have serious long-term impacts, but those are quite a bit more difficult to measure so let’s assign that negative value at 1/10th its actual cost.
To be fair, we don’t know that the Universe we’re currently in isn’t much more than graph traversal and topological sorts.
What is the source for that, if I may ask? Not that I doubt you, but I’d be interested in explanations of how DF works under the hood.