Truck Dismount by Jetro Lauha (2006)


http://jet.ro/dismount/

Truck Dismount is an excellent demo in the genre of physics games; a genre which harnesses powerful programming techniques to elicit visceral game play experiences. Wikipedia defines this category as including ‘computer and video games and simulators where the principal element of game play involves laws of physics; for example, predicting paths of moving objects, colliding objects, or estimating structural integrity. Excluded are games such as flight simulators or cue ball games where physics are simulated but are not the most defining factor of the game play, or the “selling point” of the game’.

A strategic example of this style of game, Truck Dismount focuses game play interaction on the provision of Graphical User Interface tools like optimisation sliders to allow user control of the kinetic properties driving the physics engine. These tools facilitate exploration of the experiential potential of rag-doll physics, a procedural animation and simulation technique used to realistically represent the movement of a character under the influence of physical force. Truck Dismount employs an innovative process to facilitate this experience, whereby the player first configures, or authors the world’s physics, and then sits back to view
the results. Action and experience are linearly separated resulting in a more studied meditation on experience as the ragdoll crumples and flashes red to emphasise bodily damage. Perhaps surprising for proponents of embodiment, passivity to the slow-motion reaction heightens player identification with the virtual character’s corporeality. While the player concentrates on the corporeal effect, a strong identification with the virtual experience occurs, one which does not require the player to consciously perceive that they embody the crash test dummy avatar – the most common method by which identification with virtual experience occurs in first and third person computer games. Truck Dismount leverages the filmic convention of signifying corporeal authenticity through bodily danger to achieve this result.

Whilst maximising destruction of the crash test dummy character ‘DJ’ is the aim of the game, there has been little criticism of the violent aspect of the game scenario. DJ’s obvious crash-test dummy visual style somewhat limits association and humanisation of the character, as does his lack of AI. These visual qualities help reduce the possibility for players to associate guilt with their indulgence in the destruction of human life; despite the simulated real world physical properties of the character’s motions. The simplistic visual style also aids the comedic aspect of the game. Game developer Jetro Lauha made aesthetic decisions within the code as well as the graphics. Whilst modelling the rag-doll from physics primitives Lauha limited the amount of required joints to improve processor usage, creating a careful balance between the game’s believability and performance.

Albeit a simple extrapolation of the genre, Truck Dismount makes visible the immense potential of the dynamism of physics engines in computer games. Dismount Levels is a follow up to this work that offers users world editing tools. The strong fan base for high-quality physics games has resulted in many mods of Truck Dismount. More information about physics based games can be obtained from Fun-Motion.com

By Rebecca Cannon