dynamic map

In dynamical systems, a bifurcation occurs when a small change made to the parameter values of a system causes a sudden qualitative or topological change in its behaviour. The name “bifurcation” was first introduced by Henri Poincaré in 1885 in the first paper in mathematics showing such a behavior.

Even in simple systems such as the logistic map, bifurcations can arise and introduce chaos. A rough description of chaos is that chaotic systems exhibit a great sensitivity to initial conditions. The animation depicts a cobweb diagram of the logistic map and shows its chaotic behavior.

Doom - A Modern Perspective

Doom. We all know it, most of us have played it. It is arguably the most enduring first person shooter to ever be released. But what about this almost absurdly simple game has made it such a pillar of gaming culture? Why is it that someone raised in the 128-bit era era such as myself can so thoroughly enjoy this game 22 years after its original release?

The Narrative

As I’ve previously stated, Doom is an exceedingly simple game and it’s narrative reflects that. To briefly summarize:

You’re a space marine stationed at a research station on the Martian moon Phobos. The ostensibly boring assignment takes a turn when secret experiments in teleportation result in an outpouring of “something fragging evil,” killing everyone on Phobos and causing Deimos (The other Martian moon) to disappear entirely. After fighting your way through the Phobos base you find yourself teleported the missing missing moon Deimos. Much to your horror you discover that Deimos is now floating above the surface of Hell itself. You climb down from the moon onto the surface of Hell and find the Spider Mastermind, which orchestrated the entire invasion. Upon defeating it, you return home to Earth, only to find that the demons have reached it first, slaughtering billions and forcing the remaining humans to flee their home.

TL:DR You’re in space and demons start attacking and you kill them, then you follow them to hell to kill them more, then come back to Earth where they’ve been killing everyone and you have to kill them even more.

The game is clearly not out to craft a moving story by any stretch. In fact, the final episode of Doom, “Thy Flesh Consumed” hardly has any narrative significance whatsoever.

Imagine trying to find a way to use narrative to explain why the player would venture into a tiny room filled with Barons of Hell and Cyberdemon, with an invulnerability sphere to tip the scales in Tricks and Traps (Doom II, MAP08). It simply doesn’t make sense in terms of narrative, yet the narrative isn’t what drives the game, allowing for such experimentation in level design.

Ultimately, Doom’s story feels like an afterthought. The visuals and gameplay clearly take precedent, and while I would normally despise a lack of a plot such as this, it really works in the game’s favor. Doom doesn’t rely on narrative to drive the player. The lack of narrative forces the then-advanced visuals, intuitive map design, and perfectly tuned mechanics into the spotlight.

The Mechanics

Doom’s inherent simplicity extends beyond its narrative (or lack thereof). This is apparent in the gameplay itself. The game was originally programmed for MS-DOS and only offered simple movement and horizontal aiming by keyboard inputs. More modern versions of the game offer mouse aim support and can be further expanded upon with fan made mods.

Movement controls are incredibly responsive even by the standards of modern AAA titles, allowing for skilled players to avoid damage as much as possible. The high speed and agility offered by the movement mechanics coupled with aim assist (remember this was originally a DOS game with only keyboard support) promote a very aggressive, yet delicate approach to combat. The mechanics combine the precise and disciplined movement of say, fencing, with the relentless and forceful melee of a bar fight. This allows the game to be forgiving and even easy at lower difficulty settings, yet challenging to an almost brutal degree at higher difficulty settings.

The game simply feels good to play, whether you’re dead set on killing everything in the level, speedrunning, or just have a couple hours to burn and wander the maps at your leisure.

The Visual and Sound design

Doom was cutting edge at the time of release. Maps had dynamic lighting, enemies and weapons had multiple more animations than ever, and the textures offered a level of fidelity unheard of at the time. Having said that, this is hardly the CryEngine we’re talking about. Doom isn’t a pretty game by modern standards, but the relative lack of visual fidelity really works to the games benefit.

To compare to a more recent title: Imagine Minecraft without it’s blocky, heavily pixelated textures and general lack of graphical quality. If Minecraft were a more photorealistic game, it simply wouldn’t offer up as much potential for player expression and imagination.

Doom works in a very similar fashion. The lack of fidelity lets the player’s imagination fill in the gaps, allowing for the game to have a far more twisted and chilling effect than could ever be achieved by anything that could be explicitly created at the time. It allows the maps to suddenly shift from clean artificial facilities and labs to distorted and nightmarish landscapes without skipping a beat.

Even the weapons the player carries and utilizes take full advantage of the technology available to great effect. When you fire a shotgun you can feel the power behind each shot you fire, you can see the damage being dealt by the chaingun as rips through hordes of demons. Speaking of demons, the enemies themselves serve as an important aspect of the overall feel of the game. The pain sprites the show when taking damage, the movements they make when attacking, and the gory death animations all help you to truly feel the power of this empowerment fantasy all without distracting the player with excess effects and detail.

When it comes to sound, Doom changed the game for the fledgling FPS genre. Compare it to it’s predecessor, Wolfenstein 3D, and you’ll be able to hear the difference in that regardless of volume Doom is simply louder and more visceral than Wolfenstein ever was. Conventional weapons and explosives in Doom are jarringly bassy, while the more science fiction weapons such as the plasma gun and the now famous BFG9000 are piercing and somewhat high pitched. All the while the hisses, moans, shrieks, and bellows of enemies and the player character still aren’t drowned out in the all the noise.

Closing Thoughts

Ultimately, Doom is a rare kind of game we don’t see much anymore. It shares a lot more in common with modern indie developed games than any of it’s FPS contemporaries. It pushed boundaries and found itself situated into a formula that worked, and has continued to work for over two decades. The mechanics, level design, and aesthetic style all perfectly intermingle to form a cohesive whole more complete and fully realized than most AAA titles today. Doom stood out at launch, and it still stands out today.

Doom is dear to the hearts of so many players, young and old, casual or hardcore, and it’s the completeness of the game that makes it that way.


Leap Motion Hack 02 - DirectX 11

Coding project by evvvvil is a real-time generative music visualizer controlled with hand gestures via a Leap Motion sensor - video embedded below:

Made in vvvv, HLSL and C# by Mangosh Prunier aka evvvvil. 100% audio-responsive real-time generative 3d graphics, no post-production, entirely controlled by leap motion.
Features: Custom audio responsive extrude geometry shader, custom audio-responsive particle system with geometry instancing & particle rotation, dynamic animated cube maps, multi-pass rendering with correctly occluded glow, real-time text effects, 3 track audio analysis.
How it works: Keytab gesture to start/pause extrusion, circle gesture to rewind. Red cubes react to DRUMS, extrusion reacts to BASS and blue circles react to NOISE.


Ah, forget it, I’m gonna ramble.  Spoiler-free, for your convenience.

Fates is excellent.  It may stand in contention for the best FE ever made.

Mechanically, I have no complaints.  The Dual System provides so many opportunities to do ridiculous things like attack -> pair up -> transfer -> dual strike -> transfer -> proc dual guard -> transfer -> separate -> heal.  The balance between attacking and defending puts you in intensely rock-paper-scissors scenarios where the right move involves predicting what the AI is going to do and moving to counter it.

Menus are generally easy to navigate, with the one misstep of My Castle’s Wireless menu (the crystal ball).  Some of those options are a little confusing, but you learn them in time.  On Normal, the game will teach you how everything operates as you play, while on higher difficulties, characters will simply chime in with dialogue hinting at it, and you still have the Guide option if you get truly lost.  The game goes out of its way to be accessible, which is good, because this game is complicated.

The map design is “gimmicky” in the sense that there’s almost always something to consider about it.  Dragon Vein spices up the formula by making the map dynamic in a way that can be controlled by the player (and the enemy).  Map diversity is strong.  Well done overall.

The weapon diversity is incredible.  Understanding how every weapon works is crucial for wielding them…and defeating them.  A slew of Generals can become a string of pansies if you know that you can bait them into equipping Spears and the go ham(mer) on them with impunity.  With weapon durability gone, the decisions you make are more often based around what you can do with a weapon set across multiple turns on the same map as opposed to “but will I need this Beast Killer more on Ch 19?”  It’s both more and less planning in a cleverly balanced way, so kudos to IS.

Sound design: consistently good.  The tracks are beautifully orchestrated, and, for example, the last three maps of Birthright have such emotional diversity that they reinforce the plot elements wonderfully.  The first few lines of Lost In Thoughts All Alone are repeated frequently throughout the game, but the treasure of experiencing the song in full (and remixed, at times) is infrequent enough to make you appreciate it when it happens.

My Castle really is a better base.  It allows you to do all the things you would do in previous titles, as well as participate in additional mini-events that are split between random occurrences and regular ones.  The player is free to use it as much or as little as they wish, and that’s exactly how it needs to be.

It wasn’t just my successes that felt good; playing the game felt good.  Losing felt good, because every time I failed, I learned something.  All told, I had to reset around 20 times, but more often it was because I overextended myself than the game deciding that a specific moment would be a good time to drop an inopportune critical (which happened three times).  My Castle feels good as just a space to relax outside of battles, and the aesthetic presented meshes with that, so you can just hang around and wind down if the last battle really riled you.

There’s still so much more to learn about this game that will occur over months and months which will solidify just how this game ranks against the others, but I hold fast this belief: it’s a contender.

If you’re a series vet: Buy it

If you’re a newcomer: Buy it


(Ba)Kongo cosmograms 

Although specialists use “emblem”, “symbol” and related terms for Kongo cosmograms (dikenga), they stress that whether performed, found, or inscribed, all map complex, dynamic relations systems of knowledge. The sign is thus the tip of philosophical iceberg, and like these floating accretions, always emergent (dingo-dingo) above and below the Kalinga waters. Multidimensional “dikenga ideology” interconnects the perpetual solar round; course of all well lived life; relationships of person to community, ancestors and future generations; give-and-take of debate; political structure of local and larger polities; responsibilities of leaders and specialists’ and relationship of humanity to other creatures and land all with modes of transformation from one state of being to another.

Although “symbol” is a handy portmanteau term, the dikenga is not a unitary symbol analogous to Christian cross or national flag. Nor are some rendering more “pure” than others; rather variations attune to diverse contexts and purposes without which the dikenga could not exist or persist. Although variants like the diamond shaped metopic spot representing the soul on the foreheads o niombo figure, and the yowa do signal particular identities in appropriate contexts depends on being reducible to the identities or any single trajectory of meaning. Rather, an ensemble of practices, meaning, and the recombinant intuitional forms comprise a nexus or personal and group identity. Also, therefore, the dikenga is not tied to any given set of intuitions. Indeed, the key premise of dikenga ideology is that nothing ever survives “intact” because nothing ever survive in a fixed form.

Also, given extensive pre- and postcolonial Bantu migrations, wars, traumas in individual lifetimes, and the vast reach of related terms and concepts in Africa and the America, it stands to reason that people have used mnemonic signs to help them continually remane a recognisable world. An enduring moral compass, the dikenga offers guidance for peaceful and violent times alike. From an “Africanist perspective” then, the cosmograms attests to the significance of Kongo and Bantu thought, often in terms cognate with other African cosmologies. From a diasporic perspective it sums up a vast resource pool on which captives could draw to confront oppression in strange lands they worked to make their own.

Standing Female figure  (by the Lumbo a Bakongo subgroup/tribe) Arts of Africa collection South Gallery, Brooklyn Museum

“This figure’s arms and its diamond and cross insignia refer to the “four moments of the sun”—dawn (birth), noon (life at its fullest), sunset (the end of life’s journey), and, finally, for those who lead exemplary lives, a second dawn (rebirth)”

  • The Kongo Cosmogram in Historical Archaeology and the Moral Compass of Dave the Potter by Grey Gundaker[Historical Archaeology]