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4D Ducks. Ideas for Strange Games.

A new painting today. Four-dimensional Ducks. I started with an abstract painting with seven globs. I made efforts to make the globs look different from each other, and to have intricate, three-dimensional forms.

“Four-dimensional Ducks,” by Rudy Rucker, 30 x 40 inches, October, 2011, Oil on canvas. Click for a larger version of the picture.

And then I started thinking of the globs as cross-sections of four-dimensional creatures. And then I realized they should be Carl Barks ducks, rotating in and out of our space. Four-dimensional ducks. I may yet tweak this painting a bit more.

As always, you can find more info on my art at my Paintings page.

I’ve been editing a volume of my electronic journals that runs from 1990 – 2002. Interest-ing and nostalgic. So many things have sunk into my deep memory, but, now, when jogged, they come back up. Nice to be editing these hundreds of thousands of words, and in some sense improving my past. Eventually I’ll publish some volumes of journals in small press and/or as ebook.

Here’s six game ideas from 2001 I came across today, some a bit stale, some still unused…

(1) Cellular automata. A surfing game with non-linear continuous-valued cellular automata to emulate the waves. Stanislaw Ulam worked on continuous-valued CAs for simulating partial differential equations. See my CAPOW program for surfable CAs.

(2) Artificial life. We haven’t pushed hard enough on having the phenome, or body shape, mirror the genome, or parameter strings. That is, the appearance the creature should directly emerge from the parameter-string “genes” that your program is evolving. I was trying to do this with my old Boppers program.

(3) Chaos. Chaotic motion is the most beautiful. You can easily get it by hav-ing a few counter-acting forces, such as 3D pendulum with a few virtual magnets. Forget about pre-programmed motion paths and let your game characters move chaotically. Trust the gnarl. See for instance, the Magnets module of the Autodesk Chaos program.

(4) The Fourth Dimension. It’s time for more four-dimensional games. After all, Doom was like a 3D version of the old 2D game Pac-man. Let’s go up another level. A 4D maze of tunnels. And the lovely, higher-dimensional polyhedra—and the globby cross-sections of hyperspace beings.

(5) Fractals. Simple idea: hide a gem in the Mandelbrot set let the game player look for it. Zoom into the right spot—are you hot or cold. Interesting scenery on the way. Would be even more interesting to work with a 3D version of the Mandelbrot set, with the 4D Cubic Connectedness Map, or with other far-out variations. Way gnarly.

(6) Space curves. I once spent some time working on smooth and twisty “kappa-tau” space curves defined in terms of smoothly varying curvature and torsion parameters. The goal is to have virtual reality with real-feeling flight. This hasn’t been nailed yet. I want to fly, and I’ve never been able to do it except in dreams. The right way to fly might be to use curvature and torsion. Your controls adjust these parameters, rather than the mere direction of flight. That could be how actual birds do it. Also consider Craig Reynolds’s still-unsurpassed Boids as an approach to flight simulation. Swooping in a wheeling flock.

12 Responses to “4D Ducks. Ideas for Strange Games.”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Love the painting.

  2. DM Says:

    Lord, love a duck.

  3. Alex Says:

    Ducks Deluxe! One of your best for sure. Looks done to me.

    The 4D Maze game sound like one I would buy.

    Something based on simple 2D CA would be nice,
    like a Tetris puzzle type game.

    Did you see Drop7 on the iPhone and iPad? It’s a great ‘gnarly’ number puzzle game. The randomness really works with this game.

  4. Justin Patrick Moore Says:

    I’ve been thinking about games a lot myself lately, but since I’m not a programmer, not really computer games. Specifically, I’ve been cogitating on the Glass Bead Game. I’m sure you’ve read Hesse’s novel, haven’t you Rudy? Through a lively online discussion of the book I was lead to a some examples of people who have developed there own ways of playing the Glass Bead Game etc. I love the way people use to find similarities between different fields of knowledge. In this regard one of the things I’m writing is an article showing analogies between people in the occult & esoterica subcultures and those in the hacker/maker subcultures, and where they overlap.
    Have you ever tried coming up with your own version of the Glass Bead Game?

  5. Rudy Says:

    Alex, just now I did in fact tweak the beaks. A CA game would be nice, maybe something like a lava lamp. Haven’t seen Drop7.

    Justin, I read part of Glass Bead Game in grad-school…it is after all somewhat mystical and in some sense about mathematics, seemingly up my alley. But then I didn’t get back to it, maybe will try again. Certainly being a computer hacker is a bit like being an adept at some occult rite. Imagine how weird the hackers would seem if there actually WEREN’T any physical computers around that we can see! The harsh yoga of the physical machines do enforce a level of rigor that you won’t find in all esoterica.

  6. Justin Patrick Moore Says:

    You’re hinting at the natural world computation stuff you wrote about in “The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul”… I’ve dipped into that tome, but haven’t read the whole thing. I very much enjoyed what you did with those ideas in “Postsingular” and “Hylozoic”. And I’m looking forward to Nested Scroll’s when the trade edition comes out from Tor (though it would be nice to treat myself to the limited edition). So I think it is nice that you’ll hopefully be publishing some of your journals as well.

    I’ve been an avid journal keeper myself since I was in the sixth grade… Journals are to the writer what a sketchbook is to a visual artist.

    Also, while on the subject of games, have you read “Finite and Infinite Games” by James P. Carse. I’ve been dipping in and out of that book for the past year. (Working at a library has me in a state of constant bibliomania, and usually engaged in reading multiple books. Of course I can’t read them all at once in real time, but I go back and forth between several!)

  7. Free Huey, Dewey, and Louie Says:

    Unca Donald, maybe we shouldn’t have eaten those mushrooms!

  8. Rick York Says:


    Just for fun,

    Look for today’s episode (4 October),


  9. Brendan Says:

    Yeah, Rudy, I usually dig your paintings, but this one is probably my favorite. Particularly gnarly. Love the reds. (You can see why I’m not an art critic).

  10. Ross Says:

    I’m with Brendan: “Four-dimensional Ducks” is my favorite Rudy Rucker painting.

  11. Nick Says:

    It strikes me that the two Portal games are a step on the road to 4D gaming. You quickly learn to think beyond the third dimension, so that two points being physically distant in 3D space doesn’t present itself as any kind of obstacle – in fact it’s jarring when the game enforces that kind of spatial limitation.

    Playing Portal and Portal 2 frequently reminds me of reading The Fourth Dimension and How to Get There in my teens.

  12. Geebert Says:

    And I love that photo with all the rectangles in diff textures. Enlarged print for Xmas pleez.

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